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CBS News’ ‘60 Minutes’ With Scott Pelley Slammed For Making Numerous False, Misleading Claims On Coronavirus Response From Trump Administration
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15: Scott Pelley attends CBS 2013 Upfront Presentation at The Tent at Lincoln Center on May 15, 2013 in New York City.
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Top government officials slammed CBS News’ “60 Minutes” after co-host Scott Pelley ran a segment on Sunday night that contained false and misleading claims on certain aspects of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China.

The segment begins by falsely suggesting that the United States federal government has “been less than honest” about the coronavirus pandemic just like the Chinese Communist Party.

Some of the actions taken by the Chinese communist government to hide the truth about the coronavirus pandemic that started in their country include:

  • Silenced doctors and journalists that tried to alert the world to the pandemic.
  • Shutdown the Shanghai laboratory where the coronavirus genome was first shared with the world.
  • Repeatedly lied that the coronavirus was not transmissible from person-to-person. This includes lying to World Health Organization on January 14 when it claimed that the coronavirus could not be spread from person-to-person when it had evidence that it could back in December.
  • Threatened numerous nations that have been critical of its propaganda campaign and who have called for international investigations into China.
  • Clamped down on allowing any coronavirus research from being made public.
  • Spread false information in the U.S. that was intended to cause panic inside the U.S.
  • Have repeatedly lied about the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in their country, according to top U.S. intelligence officials, estimates from top think tanks, and other foreign governments including China’s own allies. China also has a history of lying about the extent of outbreaks that originate in their country. U.S. officials say that China did this because it bought them time to hoard medical supplies from around the world, which is a well documented fact. China also reportedly blocked U.S. companies that manufacture in China from shipping medical supplies outside of China. China then shipped faulty medical supplies all over the world.
  • Refused to allow CDC and WHO officials into China for months to learn about the coronavirus and to help contain the outbreak.
  • The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance — which is comprised of intelligence agencies from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand — concluded in a research document that China engaged in “the suppression and destruction of evidence” and pointed to “virus samples ordered destroyed at genomics labs, wildlife market stalls bleached, the genome sequence not shared publicly, the Shanghai lab closure for ‘rectification’, academic articles subjected to prior review by the Ministry of Science and Technology and data on asymptomatic ‘silent carriers’ kept secret”.
  • Have falsely claimed that the U.S. military brought the coronavirus to Wuhan.

Any attempt to suggest that any democratic country engaged in a level of dishonesty that is comparable to China is egregiously false.

The “60 Minutes” segment then transitions into talking about scientist Peter Daszak, who is president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance. EcoHealth Alliance is an organization that focuses on helping identify where potential pandemics will originate and ways to stop them from happening.

The reason that Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance are featured in the segment is because the Trump administration recently cut funding to them after reports surfaced that found that the U.S. government was giving money in the form of a multi-million dollar grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Pelley said:

…funding from the NIH, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was killed, two weeks ago, by a political disinformation campaign targeting China’s Wuhan Institute.

On April 14, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz claimed China’s Wuhan Institute had, quote, “birthed a monster.” Gaetz is a vigorous defender of the president. He’s been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly threatening a witness against Mr. Trump and he led a protest to delay impeachment testimony.

Matt Gaetz on “Tucker Carlson Tonight”: The NIH gives this $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they then advertise that they need coronavirus researchers. Following that, coronavirus erupts in Wuhan.

There never was a $3.7 million U.S. grant to the Wuhan lab. But, the falsehood spread like a virus, in the White House, and without verification, in the briefing room.

Pelley deceptively made it appear as though Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) remarks on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” were the genesis of the claim.

The claim originated in a report from The Daily Mail on April 11, a fact that Pelley did not tell viewers. The claim was also not completely false, as some of the money was found to be going to the Wuhan lab.

Daszak noted that EcoHealth Alliance does do important work by going out and finding viruses in animals that could infect humans and getting those viruses to other scientists who do extensive research on the samples.

“So, our strategy is to go to the wildlife source, find out where the viruses are, and try and shift behaviors like hunting and killing wildlife that would lead to the next outbreak,” Daszak said. “We also get the information into vaccine and drug developers so they can design better drugs.”

“60 Minutes” claimed in its title and in a tweet that the Trump administration’s decision to cut funding to EcoHealth Alliance “jeopardiz[es] possible COVID-19 cure.”

Daszak stated that the company gets the “information into vaccine and drug developers so they can design better drugs.” After the segment, Daszak tweeted that EcoHealth Alliance’s goal was “to find genetic sequences of coronaviruses in bats & to get these into the hands of people who design vaccines & drugs.”

The laboratory at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical published the first genome sequence of the coronavirus on January 5, and the U.S. government was already working on a vaccine in January.

Pelley goes on to praise the Wuhan Institute of Virology, saying that it was “internationally respected” and that State Department cables sent to Washington, D.C., in 2018 said that the lab was “critical to future… outbreak prediction and prevention.” Pelley downplayed the warning contained in the cables as the State Department was “concerned” about a lab not having enough trained researchers.

Here is how Washington Post reporter Josh Rogin, who broke the story, described the State Department cables:

What the U.S. officials learned during their visits concerned them so much that they dispatched two diplomatic cables categorized as Sensitive But Unclassified back to Washington. The cables warned about safety and management weaknesses at the WIV lab and proposed more attention and help. The first cable, which I obtained, also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic. …

The research was designed to prevent the next SARS-like pandemic by anticipating how it might emerge. But even in 2015, other scientists questioned whether Shi’s team was taking unnecessary risks. In October 2014, the U.S. government had imposed a moratorium on funding of any research that makes a virus more deadly or contagious, known as “gain-of-function” experiments. …

Sources familiar with the cables said they were meant to sound an alarm about the grave safety concerns at the WIV lab, especially regarding its work with bat coronaviruses. The embassy officials were calling for more U.S. attention to this lab and more support for it, to help it fix its problems.

“The cable was a warning shot,” one U.S. official said. “They were begging people to pay attention to what was going on.”

The only thing that Pelley even mentioned about China was that the Chinese communist government silenced one doctor who tried to warn about the outbreak which is a distortion of how China responded to the pandemic, as China’s cover-up continues to this day.

“Initially, President Trump praised China,” Pelley said, although he failed to note that China has forced other countries to praise it in order to get medical supply shipments after it hoarded a vast amount of world’s supply of medical equipment. “But in the following weeks, testing in the U.S. failed to catch up to the need, vital equipment was short, bodies filled refrigerated trailers, and science was continuously challenged.”

Again, Pelley’s claims here are misleading. The U.S. has conducted more coronavirus testing than any other country, China hoarded medical supplies, the U.S. used the Defense Production Act to ramp up needed equipment, and White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that President Donald Trump has listened to all their scientific recommendations and put them into action.

Next, Pelley promoted Chinese communist propaganda by claiming that the U.S. has “led the world in illness and death.” First, the U.S. has the most confirmed cases because it has done by far the most testing and because it is honestly reporting the cases. China on the other hand has lied about the outbreak in its country. Estimates from U.S. officials, foreign governments, and top think tanks all say that China has the most coroanvirus cases and deaths of any country in the world.

Pelley continued, “Last Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pomepo attempted to resurrect a debunked theory that the virus was man-made in China.”

However, that’s not really what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said when he appeared on ABC News’ “This Week” on March 3 with Martha Raddatz. The following is an excerpt of their exchange:

RADDATZ: Do you believe it was man-made or genetically modified?

POMPEO: Look, the best experts so far seem to think it was man-made. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point.

RADDATZ: Your Office of the DNI says the consensus, the scientific consensus, was not man-made or genetically modified.

POMPEO: That’s right. I agree with that. Yeah, I’ve seen their analysis. I’ve seen the summary that you saw that was released publicly. I have no reason to doubt that that is accurate at this point.

RADDATZ: Okay. So just to be clear, you do not think it was man-made or genetically modified?

POMPEO: I’ve seen what the Intelligence Community has said. I have no reason to believe that they’ve got it wrong.

Again, based off what Pompeo said, it appears that he initially misspoke because he then immediately said that he agreed with the U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessment that the coronavirus was not man-made and he doubled down on that statement when asked a second time. Pompeo offered more insight to his remarks three days later, on May 6, which Pelley did not mention.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus slammed Pelley on Twitter, writing: “[CBS News] intentionally misled its viewers with a report Sunday evening that failed to accurately portray the clear intent of Secretary Pompeo’s remarks to Martha Raddatz on ABC News regarding the origin of the virus in Wuhan, China.”

Ortagus continued, “They failed, too, to air his comments to the press from last Wednesday that provided even more clarity on the issue. This reporting — intending to deceive — seeks to obfuscate the Secretary’s core point: the Chinese Communist Party continues to refuse calls for transparency, thereby compounding its cover-up, and further risking American lives.”

Pelley then tees up Daszak and Dr. Elodie Ghedin to try to debunk the claim that the coronavirus came from a lab by obfuscating the fact that there is a difference between claiming that the coronavirus was created in the lab vs. saying that it came from the wild, was brought into the lab to be studied, and was accidentally leaked.

Ghedin tried to dispel the notion that the coronavirus was engineered in the lab, which is not a claim that any serious person is making.

Daszak tried to claim that “there is zero evidence that this virus came out of a lab in China”; however, he fails to note that there is not any evidence that it came from a local wet market, which is the only other theory that has been floated. Intelligence officials have said that China destroyed lab samples and bleached wildlife market stalls, which means that if there was any proof it has likely been destroyed.

Furthermore, a top U.S. official told The Washington Post: “The idea that it was just a totally natural occurrence is circumstantial. The evidence it leaked from the lab is circumstantial. Right now, the ledger on the side of it leaking from the lab is packed with bullet points and there’s almost nothing on the other side.”

Trump slammed the segment on Twitter, writing, “[CBS] and their show, [60 Minutes], are doing everything within their power, which is far less today than it was in the past, to defend China and the horrible Virus pandemic that was inflicted on the USA and the rest of the World. I guess they want to do business in China!”

Federalist co-founder Ben Domenech ripped Pelley and CBS News on Twitter, writing, “Because a lot of [CBS News] and [60 Minutes] personnel follow me, every single one of you is a tool of the Red Chinese for saying this unless you openly reject this falsehood. This is simply a lie. CBS should apologize and retract.”

Domenech continued, “This is not what Pompeo claimed. And the belief this walked out of a lab is not partisan, it’s about China’s lax protections. Describing that as conspiratorial is a concession to the CCP. Scott Pelley was dismissed from his CBS role in part because he had TDS and made every story insanely anti Trump. This is of a piece.”

Political commentator Stephen Miller added: “These networks have entire teams of people who watch 4Chan and Reddit and Facebook for conspiracy shit and in the meantime stand by while their own colleagues sell basic untruths. It’s mindboggling they don’t get one leads to the other. Or they do and don’t care.”

New York Post Editor Sohrab Ahmari tweeted: “That’s not what @SecPompeo said. At all. This is a falsehood that just happens to serve Chinese propaganda purposes. Of all the past few years’ utterly deranged and false anti-Trump “reporting,” this might be the most pernicious specimen.”

Pelley, who was previously fired by “CBS Evening News” and was reportedly not honest about why he was fired, has a history of making outrageous claims about Republicans, including in 2017 when he suggested that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who was shot at a baseball practice by a far-left extremist, was somewhat responsible for the attack, saying that it was “to some degree, self-inflicted.”


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