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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

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers — New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

The Robinhood M&A rumor mill churns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Robinhood's valuation is now just over $11 billion, a fraction of where it traded in August and below that of its last private round of funding. Cue the M&A mongers.

Why it matters: It's not just Robinhood—falling values of growth-oriented tech stocks have raised speculation that formerly high-flying fintechs could be snapped up by more well-capitalized buyers.

1 hour ago - Health

Student's death renews calls for schools to stock opioid overdose drug

Photo: Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A Connecticut student's death has renewed calls for schools to stock and administer naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Why it matters: U.S. drug overdose fatalities reached six figures in a 12-month period for the first time in November, and synthetic or natural opioids were the cause of a majority of the overdoses.