Whenever Donald Trump, who is too busy to watch television, feels jilted by Fox News—when, say, it is insufficiently enthusiastic in its praise, or maybe when a host interviews a Democrat—he casts his eye toward a younger, more gushing cable news mistress: the One America News Network.

OAN is the kind of channel that gave Rudy Giuliani three hours to hock his batshit Ukraine conspiracy theories, completely unchallenged, in December, then another hour in February. It’s the kind of network whose lead story—based on a Rassmussen poll, of course—is that 55 percent of Americans don’t believe Trump’s totally racist use of the phrase “Chinese virus” is racist.

And it’s the kind of network that, on Saturday and Sunday, aired an “investigative special” called “Exposing China’s Coronavirus: The Fears, The Lies, and The Unknown,” in which host Chanel Rion—also the network’s chief White House correspondent, because they have one of those—suggests that the novel coronavirus might not be from China at all. Instead, it might have come from a secret laboratory right here in the Triangle.

[Cue ominous music.]

From Media Matters, which pays attention to OAN because Donald Trump really, truly does:

“As support, Rion cited Greg Rubini, whom she described in the special as ‘a citizen investigator and monitored source amongst a certain set in the D.C. intelligence community.’ There is no evidence that Rubini is a ‘monitored source’ for anyone but Rion. He has pushed wild ‘deep state’ conspiracy theories on Twitter, where he has over 100,000 followers.

“Rubini has said that the novel coronavirus ‘was GENETICALLY ENGINEERED as a Bio-Weapon at the Univ. of North Carolina BSL-3 Lab.’ He has also said that it was spread from North Carolina to China, Italy, and elsewhere in the United States by the ‘Deep State’ in a plot ‘to destroy the Trump economy.’ … 

“But it was in the final segment that OAN’s coronavirus special went completely off the rails. Rion cited experts who had expressed doubt that the virus originated in a seafood market in the city of Wuhan, China, and then she took that doubt to mean that it must have originated elsewhere. Saying that there are some “interesting clues” in the United States, Rion pointed to a laboratory in North Carolina.”

I mean, watch for yourself: 

Back to Media Matters: 

“Rion is pushing a debunked conspiracy theory. It circulated last week in Britain’s Express tabloid, after which experts repeatedly debunked it and the Express even ran a correction. The Express’ source was a guest on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show, Francis Boyle, who alleged that the coronavirus was a bioweapon created in Wuhan. … Rion went in a slightly different direction. She cited a 2015 study from the National Institutes of Health, titled ‘SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronavirus pose threat for human emergence,’ and used its links to the University of North Carolina to suggest that the novel coronavirus was created there. … 

“[Rion] concluded by implying that Chinese scientists, after purportedly helping to create the virus in North Carolina in 2015, then released it from a laboratory in Wuhan near the end of 2019.” 

UNC-Chapel Hill did not immediately respond to the INDY’s request for comment on these very serious allegations from a very serious journalism outfit, but you know what the Deep State is like. 

Worth mentioning: The Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at UNC Medical Center had developed a COVID-19 test based on World Health Organization protocols before the state lab did. It was held up, however, by red tape from the Food and Drug Administration. 

“The necessary validations for the emergency authorization are time- and cost-prohibitive,” clinic director Dr. Melissa Miller told NBC’s Today Show last week. “We are way behind.”

The good news is that the test was finally approved on Monday, and it takes just four hours to produce results. It is “available only for inpatients at UNC Medical Center, UNC REX Hospital, and UNC Health affiliate hospitals across North Carolina as well as a select number of UNC Health clinic locations.”

But let’s conclude with Trump and Rion, who had this absolutely gobsmacking exchange at Trump’s coronavirus press conference today. (We swear to God this is real and you are not hallucinating.) 

Donald Trump: “O-A-N. Very good. Thank you very much. You treat me very nicely.” 

Rion: “Thank you. Do you consider the use of the term ‘Chinese food’ racist—” 

The Most Powerful Human Being on the Planet: “No—”

Rion: “Because it’s food that originates in China and has roots in China?”

The Man Leading Us Through a Pandemic: “No. No. I don’t think it’s racist at all.”

Rion: “On that note. On that note. Major left-wing news media, even in this room, have teamed up with Chinese Communist Party narratives, and they are claiming that you are racist for making these claims about Chinese virus. [Trump looks at front row, mouths, “You?”] Is it alarming that major media players, just to oppose you, are consistently siding with foreign state propaganda, Islamic state radicalism, Latin gangs, and cartels? And they work right here at the White House with direct access to you and your team.” 

The Leader Who Didn’t Choose the Moment, the Moment Chose Him: “It amazes me when I read the things that I read. It amazes me when I read the Wall Street Journal, which is always so negative. It amazes me when I read The New York Times, I don’t, you know, I barely read it. We don’t distribute it in the White House anymore and the same thing with The Washington Post. Because, you see, I know the truth, and people out there in the world, they really don’t know the truth. They don’t know what it is. Uh. They use different slogans and different concepts for me almost every week trying to catch something. Last week it was all chaos. You see me, there’s no chaos. I have no chaos.”

As this precise moment, the president—we could not make this up if we tried—looked like this:

President Trump, facing the biggest public health threat since the 1918 influenza, then continued whining about the media for another two minutes, in response to a question from a “journalist” who had, days earlier, alleged that a UNC lab had unleashed the coronavirus on the world, prompted by a thread from some dude on Twitter.  

We are so screwed.  

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at jbillman@indyweek.com.

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10 replies on “Trump’s New Favorite Cable News Network Thinks UNC Created the Coronavirus in a Lab”

  1. You’re citing ‘Media Matters’?!? I hope you do go out of business for peddling such lopsided, incomplete ‘reporting’. “Yellow Journalism”, if you can call it that. Your next job should be at CNN, if they’re still in the business of putting out propaganda. They’re losing readers and employees with their brand of ‘news’.

  2. If it started out in China why can’t it be called the “Chinese” virus?? Hmmm…maybe it SHOULD be called the “North Carolina” virus??

  3. “OAN is the kind of channel that gave Rudy Giuliani three hours to hock his batshit Ukraine conspiracy theories…” yes, because you’re the kind of media outlet who blasts Trump and conservatives with high-school language, and so are much more reliable and trustworthy. You lost me at that point. ANY time one body has to start out by mocking, blasting, blaming another, i.e. a rival, you’ve completely discredited yourself. I would LOVE to see a return to real journalism – impartial reporting of news, not these ridiculous, whiny op-eds poorly peddled as such.

  4. BBC 28 January 2020
    The US has charged a Harvard professor and two Chinese researchers based in Boston with assisting the Chinese government.

    Harvard department chair Charles Lieber is accused of lying about his connections, while the researchers were charged with being foreign agents.

    Mr Lieber allegedly accepted more than $1m in grant money from the Chinese government.

    Harvard University called the charges against him “extremely serious”.

    In a statement, the university added: “Professor Lieber has been placed on indefinite administrative leave.”

    Who else was charged?
    Prosecutors said Yanqing Ye, a Boston University robotics researcher, concealed the fact that she was in the Chinese army.

    Ms Ye is accused of falsely identifying herself as a student and also continuing to work for the People’s Liberation Army, while completing a number of assignments in the US.

    Cancer researcher Zaosong Zheng was arrested at Boston Logan International Airport with 21 vials of biological samples in his bag. Prosecutors allege he was planning to return to China to continue his research there.

    What were the alleged connections?
    Court documents allege Mr Lieber, who has worked as the head investigator at the Lieber Research Group at Harvard University, received more than $15m (£11.5m) in grants from the US National Institute of Health and the US Department of Defence.

    Recipients of these grants have to disclose any conflicts of interest, including financial support from foreign governments or organisations.

    However in 2011, allegedly without Harvard’s knowledge, Mr Lieber joined Wuhan University of Technology in China as a scientist.

    According to the court papers, he also participated in the Thousand Talents Plan, a programme that aims to attract foreign research specialists. The US has flagged the programme as a security concern in the past.

    From his role at Wuhan University of Technology, Mr Lieber was given a monthly salary of $50,000, in addition to living expenses of up to $158,000.

    The filings say he was also given more than $1.5m to establish a research lab at Wuhan University of Technology and, in return, was expected to work for the university, applying for patents and publishing articles in its name.

  5. Get the F out of my State Dipshit. F U Jeffrey. The last place your lame ass should be, is in the publics ears. Get off Trumps ass. You are a Million times worse.

  6. I can’t believe you didn’t mention that the photo purporting to be “Greg Roubini, a citizen journalist” is actually a still photo from the 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey’, picturing actor Keir Dullea as astronaut David Bowman.

  7. To say calling this virus a Chinese Virus is “racist” is totally insane! YOU may be screwed, but the American people aren’t. We are blessed to have this President, and as soon as this crisis is over, you will see!

  8. RE; “President Trump, facing the biggest public health threat since the 1918 influenza, then continued whining …..We are so screwed. ”
    —-BUT….So too, may Trump be ‘screwed’.
    Among the consequences of this pandemic is a near-constant display of the absolute WORST part of Donald Jackass Trump; (no–not his ignorance, or arrogance…) HIS EGO.
    Witness his need to praise himself…. “I`m doing A GREAT JOB!”…. “I see myself as A WAR PRESIDENT”…..”I was calling this a pandemic before anybody was” (this last just a day after he proclaimed how “This took everyone by surprise…No one saw it coming”)
    Now, remember; that monumental Ego of his is now cut-off from his usual Gestalt of Praise; THE TRUMP RALLY. He cannot get a crowd together to TELL HIM how great he is. (…and the fact that this man has never stopped rally campaigning since 2016 should tell you something about the external validation feeding needs of his egotism)
    Further; no jetting off to Mar-a-Lago for golf and meet-n-greet-eats with moneyed admirers!

    Poor, poor pitiful Trump; cut-off from all that ego-feeding and forced to deal with a crisis that requires him to actually BE ‘So Presidential’.
    He cannot lie Covid-19 away.
    He cannot ignore Covid-19 away.
    He cannot slap a snarky nickname on it to belittle it and please his base….
    Because THEY have Corona virus too.
    My guess is that Trump will become increasingly irritable, peevish, and get that pouty-little-boy look on a daily basis. He will snark at anyone who is not praising him–but not like his norm; this will be an even greater level of Snotty Donny. (we are beginning to see him now)

    Personally; I like to believe that not all of My Fellow Americans are as clueless and easily gulled as they were in 2016 about Donald Trump. I think We The People`s exposure to ‘War president Trump’ is going to add up negatively for him in the next election….

    Assuming that we HAVE the next election.

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