On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned disinformation campaigns from China, Russia, and Iran that aim to “disparage” U.S. efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
A reporter asked Pompeo whether there is “any particular locus for this disinformation.”
“It’s pretty diffuse, unfortunately. But we’ve certainly seen it come from places like China, and Russia, and Iran, where there are coordinated efforts to disparage what America is doing and our activity to do all the things that President Trump has set in motion here,” Pompeo responded.
China’s Communist Party has blamed the U.S. for the virus, claiming that the coronavirus originated in the U.S., not in China. Trump has pushed back against this narrative by repeatedly referring to it as the “Chinese coronavirus.” Pompeo himself called it the “Chinese virus” early in his remarks. Yet many left-leaning American media outlets have repeated the Chinese propaganda line that calling the virus “Chinese” is racist.
In order to combat this disinformation, Pompeo suggested the American people should “go to trusted sources for their information.” He also said American officials have confronted the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian governments over the disinformation campaigns.
“We’ve made clear, we’ve spoken to these countries directly, that they need to knock it off, that we don’t approve of it,” the secretary of State said. “This idea of transparency and accurate information is very important.”
He went on to insist that confronting misinformation is not about retribution or politics but about saving lives.
“There’s been some discussion about China and what they knew and when they knew it, and I’ve been very critical. We need to know immediately, the world is entitled to know. The Chinese government was the first to know of this risk to the world and that sets a special obligation to make sure that that data gets to our scientists, our professionals,” he said.
“This is not about retribution,” Pompeo explained. “We need to make sure that, even today, the datasets that are available. … We talk about the absence of datasets, not being able to know what to do, and so when you see a delay in information flowing from the Chinese Communist Party, every moment of delay… creates risk to people all around the world.”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.