Mar 30, 2020 - World

Trump on coronavirus misinformation from China: "Every country does it"

President Trump brushed aside allegations that China — as well as Russia and Iran — are spreading misinformation about the origin of the coronavirus during a 64-minute call with "Fox & Friends" on Monday, telling the hosts that "every country does it."

Why it matters: Multiple verified Chinese government Twitter accounts have promoted different conspiracy theories, and Chinese foreign ministry deputy spokesperson Zhao Lijian suggested that the virus come from a U.S. military lab, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reports.

  • China's ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, told Axios' Jonathan Swan that he stands by his belief that it's "crazy" to spread such rumors about the virus.
  • The country's strategy is a clear departure from Beijing's previous misinformation tactics and signals its increasingly aggressive approach to managing its image internationally after the first outbreak in Wuhan.

The exchange: The president criticized the Washington Post instead of addressing the misinformation campaigns, suggesting without evidence that the paper spreads false information.

  • "They do it, and we do it. And we call them different things, and, you know, I make statements that are very strong against China, including the 'Chinese virus,' which has been going on for a long time. I mean, I wouldn't say they were thrilled with that statement," Trump said.
  • "Hey, every country does it," he added on the topic of misinformation.
  • Host Brian Kilmeade pushed Trump on the topic, saying, "I believe they're doing it. Mr. President, you know that China has already done this."

The big picture: China has also embarked on a massive humanitarian relief campaign and is giving other countries fighting the coronavirus medical supplies, accompanied by a major propaganda blitz.

  • China's campaign is in part to deflect blame for its early coverup of the epidemic and to show itself a more reliable partner to countries than the U.S.
  • A plane from Shanghai arrived in New York Sunday morning carrying 12 million gloves, 130,000 N95 masks, 1.7 million surgical masks, 50,000 gowns, 130,000 hand sanitizer units, and 36,000 thermometers.

Go deeper: Trump suggests keeping coronavirus death toll to 100,000 would be sign of success

Go deeper