11.5.20

Devastating Report on ‘Disinformation Campaign’ Hampering Virus Response

60 Minutes aired a devastating segment detailing how “a political disinformation campaign” spreading from a political loyalist to the White House hampered the work of a top coronavirus researcher working for the U.S. government.

Scott Pelley hosted a segment Sunday night saying the Trump administration and the Chinese government have both been “less-than-honest” in their political maneuvering throughout the health crisis. Pelley especially focused on Peter Daszak, a virologist whose research and funding have been “undercut by pandemic politics.”

The segment began with a look at Daszak’s history of studying viruses, along with his concerns expressed in 2003 that the global community is unprepared for the emergence of a radical new virus that could devastate the planet. Since that prediction, Daszak became president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit scientific organization that has worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the past to study pathogens originating from bats.


Pelley reported that a “political disinformation campaign” caused EcoHealth to lose their funding from the National Institutes of Health just two weeks ago. That came after Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a Trump loyalist, falsely claimed in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson that the NIH gave the 3.7 million dollar grant to the Wuhan Institute. Gaetz also pushed the claim on his Twitter page, with news outlets picking up the allegations.

“There never was a $3.7 million U.S. to the Wuhan lab,” Pelley reported. “But the falsehood spread like a virus, in the White House, and without verification in the briefing room.”

Pelley clarified that the grant in question was designated for EcoHealth, and the Trump administration reauthorized and increased funding for the organization just last year. Pelley and Daszak discussed the “puzzling” timeline of the grant’s sudden cancellation — and the NIH declined to elaborate on the decision to CBS.

Pelley went on to note Trump’s praise for China’s efforts against the virus in the early stages of the pandemic, the president’s scientifically-unsound statements throughout the health crisis, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s confounding statements on whether he believes the virus was manmade. Trump has suggested the virus emerged from a Chinese lab, though he has not produced evidence to prove it, and Dr. Anthony Fauci shot the theory down last week.

The segment concluded with Daszak’s lament that “this politicization of science is really damaging” and “the conspiracy theories out there have essentially closed down communication between scientists in China and scientists in the U.S. We need that communication in an outbreak to learn from them how they control it so we can control it better. It’s sad to say, but it will probably cost lives.”

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