From the newscast that brought you the infamous Bill and Hillary Clinton interview, Dan Rather’s fake news on George W. Bush, and one Obama love letter after another, CBS’s 60 Minutes added a new chapter Sunday to its embarrassing history by peddling Chinese coronavirus propaganda.
Throughout the lengthy report, Scott Pelley dutifully touted one piece of fake news after the next, including a deceptively-edited clip of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (hours after NBC had their own kerfuffle).
Pelley largely relied on EcoHealth head Peter Daszak, who’s worked with (and defended) the Wuhan Institute of Virology to peddle the tiresome premise that scientists aren’t political and only want facts.
The nonsense started from the get-go as Pelley bemoaned EcoHealth losing an NIH grant as “the kind of politics which might seem ill-advised in a health crisis” and that “President Trump is blaming China’s government for the pandemic.”
Our friend Ryan Saavedra had a devastating takedown at the Daily Wire and began with Pelley’s cowardice in downplaying China’s failures: “Both the White House and the Chinese Communist Party have been less than honest and so, in China, and in the U.S., the work of scientists like Peter Daszak is being undercut by pandemic politics.”
For the sake of space, be sure to check out Saavedra’s entire piece, including his ten-point takedown of the above claim.
Pelley ensured that China wasn’t the villain, but instead were the President, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Newsmax’s Emerald Robinson.
To reiterate because it’s so farcical, EcoHealth and the Wuhan lab were painted as Avengers looking out for mankind (even though the initial genetic sequence was made available in January) (click “expand”):
DASZAK: We’re a nonprofit research organization that focuses on understanding where the pandemics come from, what’s the risk of future pandemics and can we get in between this pandemic and the next one and disrupt it and stop it.
PELLEY: In China, EcoHealth has worked for fifteen years with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Together they’ve catalogued hundreds of bat viruses, research that is critical right now.
DASZAK: The breakthrough drug, Remdesivir, that seems to have some impact on COVID-19 was actually tested against the viruses we’ve discovered under our NIH research funding.
PELLEY: And so that testing would not have been possible ---
DASZAK: No, it would not.
PELLEY: --- if it hadn’t been for the work that you did with the NIH grant?
PELLEY: But his funding from the NIH, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was killed two weeks ago by a political disinformation campaign targeting China’s Wuhan Institute.
PELLEY: On April 14th, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz claimed China’s Wuhan Institute had, "birthed a monster." Gaetz is a vigorous defender of the President. He’s been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly threatening a witness against Mr. Trump and he led a protest to delay impeachment testimony.
GAETZ: The NIH gives this $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They then advertise that they need coronavirus researchers. Following that, coronavirus erupts in Wuhan.
PELLEY: There never was a $3.7 million U.S. grant to the Wuhan lab. But the falsehoods spread like a virus in the White House, and without verification, in the briefing room.
ROBINSON: There’s also another report that the NIH, under the Obama administration, in 2015 gave that lab 3.7 million dollars in a grant. Why would the U.S. give a grant like that to China?
DASZAK: [T]he idea is that we know that viruses that affect people and pandemics tend to come from wildlife, so our strategy is to go to the wildlife source, find out where the viruses are, and try and shift behaviors like hunting and killing wildlife that would lead to the next outbreak. We also get the information into vaccine and drug developers so they can design better drugs.
Saavedra also exposed how, again, Daszak and Pelley lied as the above parties were citing an April 11 Daily Mail item, so it wasn’t conceived on the dark web.
It should also be stated that Gaetz’s impeachment actions had nothing to do with the virus.
Next, Pelley almost did the right thing in citing a Washington Post column detailing concerns U.S. Embassy staff made two years ago (in a diplomatic cable) about the lab’s safety protocols.
Sadly, he chose to stay a Chinese Communist Party hack by boasting that they “the cable….emphasized the Wuhan Institute is critical to future outbreak prediction and prevention.”
Josh Rogin’s Post column cited a U.S. official who summarized the cable as “begging people to pay attention to what was going on,” so that sure doesn’t sound like everything’s squeaky clean.
Pelley tacked on a throwaway line about a key doctor who “was silenced by local officials” before dying from the virus, but that’s as far as Pelley went. He then pivoted back to Trump-bashing, trusting China’s official death toll, and misleading viewers on Pompeo’s statements about the virus (click “expand”)
PELLEY: In February, the Chinese did allow a visit by an international team of experts, including American scientists.
TRUMP: We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China.
PELLEY: Initially, President Trump praised China, but in the following weeks, testing in the U.S. failed to catch up to the need, vital equipment was short, bodies filled refrigerated trailers, and science was continuously challenged.
TRUMP: And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute and is there a way we can do something like that by injection?
PELLEY: As the U.S. led the world in illness and death, the White House moved the focus to the Chinese government.
POMPEO [on ABC’s This Week, 05/03/20]: That’s where this began.
PELLEY: Last Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to resurrect a debunked theory that the virus was manmade in China.
POMPEO: Look, the best experts so far seem to think it was manmade. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point.
PELLEY: But he did have reason. Days before, the director of national intelligence said there was "wide scientific consensus the virus was not manmade."
MARTHA RADDATZ [on ABC’s This Week, 05/03/20]: Your Office of the DNI says the consensus, the scientific consensus, was not manmade or genetically modified.
POMPEO [on ABC’s This Week, 05/03/20]: That’s right. I --- I agree with that.
PELLEY: The same day Pompeo tried to have it both ways, President Trump repeated the theory of a Chinese lab accident.
Predictably, Pelley’s claims were false. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted that “CBS cut out the portion of Pompeo’s remarks where he clearly acknowledges that he agrees with the intelligence community assessment.”
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus went further, slamming CBS as having “intentionally misled its viewers” and sought “to obfuscate the Secretary’s core point” about the culpability of the Chinese government.
They’re lengthy, but here were Pompeo’s full comments (click “expand”):
RADDATZ: Your Office of the DNI says the consensus, the scientific consensus was not manmade or genetically modified.
POMPEO: That's right. I -- I -- I agree with that. Yes. I've -- I've seen their analysis. I've seen the summary that you saw that was released publicly. I have no reason to doubt that that is accurate at this point.
RADDATZ: Okay, so just to be clear, you do not think it was manmade or genetically modified?
POMPEO: I've seen what the intelligence community has said. I have no reason to believe that they've got it wrong.
RADDATZ: And --
POMPEO: Martha, you have to put this in context. Here's -- here's what's -- here's what's important, Martha. Here's what's important. The Chinese communist party had the opportunity to prevent all of the calamity that has befallen the world. And here we find ourselves today -- you and I were talking about it. We haven't seen each other physically for a long time. That's true of people all across the world. This is -- this is an enormous crisis created by the fact that the Chinese communist party reverted to form, reverted to the kinds of disinformation, the kinds of concealment that authoritarian regimes do. Had those scientists been operating in America, they would have put this out. There would have been an exchange of ideas and we would have quickly identified the kinds of things that needed to be done in response. Instead, China behaved like authoritarian regimes do, attempted to conceal and hide and confuse. It employed the World Health Organization as a tool to do the same….I think the whole world is united in understanding that China brought this virus to the world.
The Chinese highlight reel concluded with Daszak and Dr. Elodie Ghedin assisting Pelley in a strawman that those who argued the virus didn’t originate in a wet market have said it was created in the lab then released into the public.
That’s not true. Instead, intelligence sources and news reports have suggested that it was possible that improper lab precautions led to the virus inadvertently leaking out.
60 Minutes chose China over America and nuance, so we’re left with a devasting journalistic failure.
But according to Pelley, it’s Gaetz who spearheaded “dishonest and negligent allegations” while poor EcoHealth “is now facing layoffs.” In the words of Daszak, the “really damaging” “politicization of science” and “conspiracy theories” attacking China that “will probably cost lives.”