The Biden administration’s new “disinformation” czar was cited favorably by the Chinese Communist Party in 2020 for her criticisms of proponents of the hypothesis that COVID-19 emerged from a Wuhan lab, which she dismissed as a pro-Trump talking point.
The episode is another example in which Nina Jankowicz, the newly named executive director of the Department of Homeland Security’s new Disinformation Governance Board, either labeled claims as disinformation that were later found to have credibility or gave credence to assertions that were later discredited. Most notably, she also backed Trump dossier author Christopher Steele and cast doubt on the Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 election.
Jankowicz was cited in an April 2020 BuzzFeed article titled “Scientists Haven’t Found Proof The Coronavirus Escaped From A Lab In Wuhan. Trump Supporters Are Spreading The Rumor Anyway.”
The outlet reported that, according to Jankowicz, “the claim that the Wuhan Institute of Virology could have been the origin of the novel coronavirus left the fringe and entered the American conservative mainstream in early April.”
She was quoted as saying the theory emanated from the Epoch Times, a right-wing media outlet connected to the Falun Gong movement, which is harshly repressed in China, that released an April 7, 2020, documentary video on the origins of the virus.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
“All these campaigns are preying on people's desires to know more about the situation,” Jankowicz said. “It bothers people that we can't pinpoint where this virus came from.”
Jankowicz suggested that the lab leak theory helped the Trump administration find a scapegoat.
“It becomes more politically convenient for Trump and his administration the further we get into this maelstrom, especially in comparison to the Chinese response,” she said.
Chinese state-run media repeatedly cited Jankowicz’s comments.
China Daily, owned by the CCP’s Publicity Department, published two nearly identical pieces in early May 2020, one titled “U.S. right-wing media fan virus origin rumor” and the other “Western officials, researchers cast doubt on China lab virus leak theory.”
The first story asserted that “the U.S. right-wing media and supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump have fanned the latest round of speculation that the novel coronavirus of COVID-19 came from a laboratory in Wuhan.” The CCP attacked the “right-wing media machine,” including the Washington Examiner.
The CCP said, “Jankowicz said that putting the blame on a Wuhan lab helps the Trump administration find a scapegoat. It becomes more politically convenient for Trump and his administration, she said.”
The Chinese state-run China News Service also published a May 2020 piece including the same lines about Jankowicz as the other Chinese outlet.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment in the summer of 2021 stating that one U.S. intelligence agency assessed with “moderate confidence” that COVID-19 most likely emerged from a lab in Wuhan.
The ODNI released an April 30, 2020, statement noting that “the Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.” It added, “The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”
Jankowicz didn’t like that the ODNI had mentioned that it was looking into the lab leak possibility, lamenting on Twitter, “The statement would be helpful if it ended before the ‘whether’ clause and just stated the IC will investigate how the outbreak began. As it stands it gives credence to all the internet conspiracy theorists claiming COVID is a bioweapon.” She included a frowning emoticon.
When the reporter who shared the ODNI’s statement pointed out that it clearly indicated the intelligence community did not believe COVID-19 was human-made, Jankowicz replied, “If only most of the people who are spreading disinfo had your reading comprehension skills and trust in government!”
Jankowicz touted a late April article and tweets from BuzzFeed reporter Jane Lytvynenko during a May 5, 2020, video discussion for the Wilson Center.
The article was titled “Past Coronavirus Research Grants Are Being Used To Smear Anthony Fauci. The National Institutes of Health has given millions of dollars to scientists studying coronaviruses. That funding didn't cause the COVID-19 pandemic.” It also claimed that “right-wing media and conspiracy theorists have seized on a series of grants” in order to “undermine” Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and asserted that “the grants appear to have nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic.”
“A search for, I think, ‘Dr. Fauci and donation to Wuhan’ because there’s this conspiracy theory that he donated to the Wuhan virology lab, which then, you know, created the alleged bioweapon that is COVID-19 — false, patently false,” Jankowicz said in reference to a Lytvynenko tweet. “But when you search for ‘donation’ versus when you search for ‘grant,’ you get an entirely different set of Google results. And of course, a grant was made from the CDC to the Wuhan virology lab years ago in order to do some cooperative research on infectious diseases. But when you search for ‘donation’ and ‘Fauci,’ you get a whole host of conspiracy theories.”
The grants weren’t from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but rather from the National Institutes of Health, where Fauci works, and they weren’t all from “years ago.” EcoHealth has received tens of millions of dollars from the U.S. government in recent years, including a few million dollars from the NIH, and it passed along at least $600,000 in U.S. funding to the Wuhan lab. The 2019 NIH grant to EcoHealth was only suspended in 2020.
Peter Daszak, the leader of EcoHealth, maintained a long working relationship with Wuhan lab “bat lady” Shi Zhengli and sent her lab U.S. government funding. Daszak was also part of the World Health Organization-China team that dismissed the lab leak hypothesis as “extremely unlikely” in early 2021. He also helped organize a February 2020 Lancet letter that dismissed the lab leak as a conspiracy theory.
Jankowicz was asked by the International Observatory of Human Rights in late April 2020 about what kind of “fake narratives” related to COVID-19 had been spread, and she replied, “People who think the United States released this virus, that it was created in a lab. There are other folks that believe that China created it in a lab to cripple the United States.”
Jankowicz wrote in the New Statesman on April 3, 2020, that “disinformation extends beyond would-be cures” and as an example wrote that “politicians both foreign and domestic attempt to assign blame for the virus, which they alternatively claim was created in a lab, was released to disrupt global trade, or unleashed to undermine elections.”
She tweeted that month: “News Guard identifies Facebook ‘superspreaders’ of COVID-19 disinformation.” Many of the “examples of COVID-19 Misinformation” listed in the report were people who “falsely claim that COVID-19 is manmade, manufactured in a lab.”
Facebook had labeled the April 2020 Epoch Times documentary as “partly false" for allegedly pushing “the unsupported hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 is a bioengineered virus released from a Wuhan research laboratory.”
The Big Tech giant seemingly relied upon a “fact check” by Health Feedback, with the author being someone who had worked at the Wuhan lab. The fact check said, “Scientific evidence indicates virus that causes COVID-19 infection is of natural origin, not the result of human engineering.”
The report added that “the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 is a bioengineered virus released or leaked from a Wuhan research laboratory relies on scientific claims that are either unsupported or false."
The Epoch Times said at the time that “with the Chinese Communist Party having destroyed evidence and prevented research into the origin of the virus, it’s very difficult to draw any definitive conclusions.” The outlet added that “the fact check conflates the idea of ‘lab origin’ with ‘engineering’ — a coronavirus (one of many held at these specific labs) could be under research but not a product of bioengineering.”
The fact-check article author, Danielle Anderson, had worked at the Wuhan lab herself.
“I ... have collaborative projects with the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Anderson had revealed. “I have worked in this exact laboratory at various times for the past 2 years. I can personally attest to the strict control and containment measures implemented while working there. The staff at WIV are incredibly competent, hardworking, and are excellent scientists with superb track records.”
Jankowicz’s claim that the lab leak hypothesis only entered into the conservative mainstream because of the Epoch Times video in early April also doesn’t withstand scrutiny.
On Feb. 16, 2020, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas appeared on Sunday Morning Futures on Fox News and discussed the Wuhan lab possibility.
The Washington Post wrote a story the next day claiming that “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus fringe theory that scientists have disputed.”
Cotton responded with a lengthy Twitter thread that was covered widely, saying an accidental leak from the Wuhan lab was among the possible origins of COVID-19.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also tweeted about the lab leak possibility as early as the end of March 2020 when sharing a Washington Times piece.
BIDEN DISINFO CZAR PROMOTED CHRISTOPHER STEELE
Jankowicz said in March 2020 that “labeling COVID-19 ‘the Chinese virus’ or ‘the Wuhan virus’ is endangering people.” She said in April 2021 that “for a nation that has often indulged in terming COVID-19 as a ‘Wuhan flu,’ the parallels in ‘political amnesia’ between the U.S. and China are unsettling.”
Jankowicz did co-author an Army War College paper in the fall of 2020 in which she said China “sought to cast doubt on the origins of the disease by sowing multiple explanations” and that the CCP’s efforts “promoted U.S. culpability for the coronavirus” by laying the blame on the U.S. military.
The State Department told the Washington Examiner last year that the United States “condemns the PRC’s false, baseless, and unscientific claims which undermine the spirit and purpose of an impartial origins investigation.”