At his coronavirus press briefing on Thursday morning, Donald Trump took an unusual question from a reporter who once appeared to support a conspiracy theory claiming that the government’s top scientist on the pandemic response team actually funded the creation of the virus.
Toward the end of the briefing on Thursday, Trump took a question from Chanel Rion of the pro-Trump One America News Network. The network late last year aired a “documentary” created by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, which purported to show that the impeachment case against Trump was fabricated. Rion also hosted the network’s presentation of that documentary.
When called upon in the Thursday briefing, she asked a question about Chinese food.
“Do you consider the term ‘Chinese food’ to be racist because it is food that originated from China?” the OAN White House reporter asked Trump.
He replied that he did not believe the term “Chinese food” was “racist at all,” as quoted by The Daily Beast.
The question appeared to be prompted by Trump’s repeated use of the term “Chinese virus” to refer to the coronavirus. Critics have said that the term is designed to stigmatize Chinese people and has led to a rise in hate-related attacks against Chinese Americans, according to a CNN report.
But the president has denied that his use of the term is “racist” and claims that he described the virus as “Chinese” only because “it comes from China, that’s why. I want to be accurate,” as quoted by CNN.
Though Trump himself says that the virus originated in China — and scientists agree with that statement — Rion on her OAN broadcasts has advocated a conspiracy theory that the virus was actually created in a North Carolina laboratory, according to a report by Media Matters For America.
She suggested that the virus was created as a “bio-weapon” during a two-part OAN special entitled Exposing China’s Coronavirus: The Fears, The Lies and The Unknown. The conspiracy theory has been widely debunked by experts, but has frequently recurred on social media and on OAN.
Here’s the OAN reporter a few weeks ago with Trump at Mar-a-Lago pic.twitter.com/fs2hC4JXwx
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) March 19, 2020
In the special, Rion favorably cited “expert” Greg Rubini, whose credentials are uncertain, though he has over 100,000 followers on Twitter. Rubini has claimed that the supposed development of the coronavirus in North Carolina was funded by Anthony Fauci — the top infectious disease expert at the National Institute of Health, who has become one of the Trump administration’s most prominent spokespersons in their coronavirus response. Fauci is pictured with Trump in the image at the top of this page.
Calling him “Little Tony Fauci,” Rubini — whose theories were endorsed by Rion in the OAN special — has baselessly accused the 79-year-old scientist of funding the creation of the virus to “destroy the Trump economy” and prevent his reelection, according to Media Matters.