Trump and His Allies Are Pushing an Outrageous Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory

The president’s persecution complex takes center stage amid a global health crisis.

Stefani Reynolds/ZUMA

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As the world scrambles to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak—which as of Friday has infected at least 83,000 people in 53 countries—President Donald Trump and his allies are busy pushing the conspiratorial narrative that press coverage of the epidemic is aimed at destroying him. The apparent attempt to politicize the global health crisis is likely to fuel investors’ concerns that the Trump administration is woefully underprepared to tackle the rising threat of coronavirus in the United States.

The effort first started Monday when Trump—without evidence—accused the media and Democrats of hyping the coronavirus in order to make the situation look “as bad as possible” and tank the stock market. Since that tweet, Trump’s allies and conservative news personalities have followed suit. Here’s former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on Laura Ingraham’s show Thursday night:

Grabbing the baton the next morning, Pete Hegseth echoed the message on Fox & Friends, though he insisted he was doing so only reluctantly.

“I don’t want to say this, I don’t relish the reality, but you start to feel—watch the Democrats, watch the media—like they’re rooting for coronavirus to spread,” Hegseth said on Friday. “I don’t say that flippantly, but they’re rooting for it to grow, they’re rooting for the problem to get worse, they’re rooting for mysteries, unknown cases, quarantines, towns, for it to become an absolute national crisis for one reason and one reason alone.”

But the conspiracy theory extends well beyond the walls of Fox News. On Friday, during an appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney accused the media of exploiting the virus to hurt Trump.

“The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think, ‘This is going to be what brings down the president.’ That’s what this is all about,” he told the audience. Mulvaney also repeated Trump’s efforts to downplay the threat. “It’s not a death sentence, it’s not the same as the Ebola crisis.”

Mulvaney was one of several senior administration officials—including members of the president’s coronavirus task force—to appear at the conference this week, further fueling questions of whether the Trump administration is taking the threat seriously.

If you’re wondering if the coronavirus could soon warp into a 2020 rallying cry, well, Team Trump already has it covered:

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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