A New York Times report this week criticizes pro-Trump media figures who downplayed the threat of coronavirus. Fair enough.
But it is worth examining how mainstream media outlets treated lawmakers who were warning about the virus and about China’s potential malfeasance early on.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), for example, encouraged President Donald Trump in January to implement a travel ban from China. He told CBS’s Face The Nation on Jan. 26 that China had a “record of dishonesty and incompetence” in combating health crises and cautioned that while Washington was consumed with Trump’s impeachment trial, it was the viral outbreak that was the “most important story in the world.”
Citing Cotton, a Politico report in early February warned that a travel ban and quarantine measures “could undercut international efforts to fight the outbreak by antagonizing Chinese leaders.”
Cotton also argued that the virus might have originated at a Chinese biochemical lab in Wuhan that sits near the seafood market where Chinese officials initially claimed the disease originated. The New York Times accused him of spreading a “conspiracy theory,” writing that it was “the sort of tale that resonates with an expanding chorus of voices in Washington who see China as a growing Soviet-level threat to the United States, echoing the anti-Communist thinking of the Cold War era.”
“Right wing media outlets fan the anger,” Times business correspondent Alexandra Stevenson wrote on Feb. 17. Presumably, the right-wing outlets providing a megaphone for this conspiracy theory were different from the ones that were dangerously minimizing the threat of the illness. – READ MORE
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