Fox News berated as fake news hub spreading conspiracies about COVID-19

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/16 19:18:40

US media outlet Fox News recently published a report hyping the old conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus was made in "a Wuhan laboratory" by citing "anonymous sources" without even explaining how the sources acquired the information. Known as a hub for fake news about coronavirus, Fox News's latest report was criticized by overseas netizens and experts for demonstrating a new low of "lack of professionalism" in journalism. 

The news report, titled "Sources believe coronavirus originated in Wuhan lab as part of China's efforts to compete with US," was released on Fox News on Thursday. Reading through the report, readers can see that the serious accusation made against the Chinese government is based on "multiple sources who have been briefed on the details of early actions by China's government and seen relevant materials."

How and when did these anonymous sources obtain these details? Such information needed to assure readers of the authenticity and authority of the sources is not lacking, nor did the Fox report mention why the source requested anonymity. 

This is not the first time Fox News has reported the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab. Back at the beginning of February, Fox News aired several stories of US Senator Tom Cotton's claims of the virus being made by Chinese scientists at a secret Wuhan lab for "biological warfare."

Chinese netizens and experts ridiculed Fox News's Thursday report as being a 2.0 version of Tom Cotton's conspiracy theory, and some of the details have already been debunked by scientists in China and worldwide. Reading the news is like reading poorly manipulated propaganda made by Hong Kong secessionists, which were full of fabricated information and ulterior accusations without facts, they said. 

The latest report was not without innovations, though. 

This time, it alleged the virus originated from a Wuhan lab not as a bioweapon but "as part of China's effort to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States."

 And the sources "believed" that "patient zero" worked at the lab.

In February, after Fox News's reports on Tom Cotton's conspiracy theory, The Lancet released a joint statement saying, "We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin." It also praised the work of Chinese health professionals as "remarkable." Prominent public health scientists signed the statement.  

The origin of the virus is a scientific question that has not yet been answered. Some people in the US believe the conspiracy theory and see Wuhan as the origin, while there are also people around the world who think the US might be the origin. There should be more scientific research done on the virus to find where "patient zero" is and how the virus can transmit to humans, Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the Global Times. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a press conference on Thursday that the question of the origin and transmission of the coronavirus is a scientific one that should be left to scientists and medical experts. Any remarks about the virus originating from labs are groundless, he said. 

Dividing the blame 

Staff members talk beside the virus culture/inactivation area of a vaccine production plant of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in Beijing, capital of China, April 10, 2020. Photo:Xinhua

Xin Qiang, an expert from Fudan University, said that hyping up such conspiracy theories after so many scientists said the virus has a natural origin is not only stupid but also low. He floated the possibility that Fox News is helping the White House test the waters. 

The journalistic professionalism of Fox News has long been in question, but it has kept a tight pace with administration, and the Thursday report seems like a move to guide some US citizens and the next round of hyping, he said.

The scene at a recent White House news conference seems to confirm what Xin said. When asked about a media report of the virus escaping from a Wuhan lab, Trump said, "We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened."

Some Chinese netizens also mocked Fox having become Trump's imbecilic propaganda machine.

The failure of the US in dealing with the pandemic is so obvious that it seems too hard to pass the buck, so it is now trying to divide the "blame" into small parts, passing it to China, the Democratic Party, the World Health Organization and the media, Li said. 

The US presidential election is scheduled to be held in six months, as the US faces a surge of confirmed COVID-19 cases. More than 64,000 people were confirmed to be infected as of press time, with the death toll reaching 28,579 on Thursday.

Spreading conspiracy theories to blame China has been a common trick played by Fox News. By citing anonymous sources accusing China and releasing fake news without verifying facts, Fox News's ulterior intentions of slandering and attacking China have been wide revealed, experts said. 

Fox News has never been responsible as a media outlet in reporting the coronavirus pandemic, including warning of the government's  incompetence in dealing with the virus. This can be called moral guilt, and now it is trying to shift the blame to China, said Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

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