As coronavirus continues to spread across the world, some of president Trump’s biggest supporters have taken the opportunity to spread a conspiracy theory that’s pretty dangerous in itself.
The president’s supporters are obviously worried about what a potential outbreak could have in store for his approval ratings and the economy. With the 2020 election not too far away, they’re spreading the idea that coronavirus is all a conspiracy that’s been made up to hurt Trump’s re-election chances.
Global financial markets have been sliding for several days over concerns about the fallout from the virus. Trump is clearly annoyed about this, because he went on Twitter and moaned about it. Guess who he blamed? The media.
Yet there is no evidence that federal health authorities are overstating the threat of coronavirus. Nor is there any evidence that this is a conspiracy theory by the “deep state” or Chinese government (which are two of the main conspiracy theories that are circling online).
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh aired his fears that the virus was being “weaponised” against Trump earlier this week. He accused the “drive-by media” of over-hyping the threat posed by the virus in order to tank financial markets.
Limbaugh, who was awarded the presidential medal of freedom by Trump, compared the virus to the "common cold", which isn’t too different to the president comparing it to the flu.
Other Trump supporters have blamed foreign governments.
In a 29 January blog post, America First Policies, a pro-Trump nonprofit co-founded by Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, criticised the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization for not doing enough to raise the alarm about the outbreak. It wrote:
The World Health Organization is a case study of how the Chinese Communist Party infects supposedly apolitical institutions.
Given that Trump's political ascendence happened in conjunction with several conspiracy theories – from birtherism to Hillary Clinton running a child sex trafficking ring out of a Pizza parlour – so it's unlikely that this trend of making up extremely damaging theories will end soon.