Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Bannon And Chinese Billionaire Spread Coronavirus Conspiracies

During the February 21 episode of his radio show War Room: Pandemic, former White House adviser Steve Bannon hosted Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire and fugitive who employs him, without disclosing their business relationship. In the episode, Guo claimed, without evidence, that he has “no doubt” the coronavirus is “man-made” and that it’s “ridiculous” for people to claim otherwise.

As BuzzFeed News and other outlets have noted, Bannon has significant financial ties to Guo, known as “Miles Guo” on War Room: Pandemic and by multiple other names elsewhere.

Axios reported in October that in August 2018, Bannon and Guo inked a $1 million deal for Bannon’s “strategic consulting services” for a year. Axios’ report noted that a second contract, which was set to begin August 2019 and had at the time of publication not been signed, was for another $1 million and listed specific duties that included Bannon serving as a senior editor for Guo’s news outfit, G News.

During the February 21 episode of Bannon’s show Guo said he has “no doubt” that COVID-19, the World Health Organization’s name for the coronavirus at the heart of a global pandemic, is “man-made.” 

As noted in the BuzzFeed report, G News has made false claims about COVID-19, including that China is on the precipice of admitting that the virus “leaked” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology located in the city where the coronavirus outbreak first occurred. In a recent two-part video posted to the G News website, Guo also claimed that the Chinese Communist Party “is spreading the virus around the world.”  

BuzzFeed also noted that the exiled Chinese billionaire is a “critic of the ruling Communist Party” and has a checkered history in both China and the United States, including “accusations of both financial and sexual misconduct, including a rape allegation from a former assistant.” Guo denies the allegations, the report added, and claims they are “politically motivated.”

Bannon Spreads Conspiracy Theories About Origin Of Coronavirus

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has pushed a debunked theory about the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China on his daily radio broadcast War Room: Pandemic. The claim echoes fake news pushed by G News, a website that has reportedly paid him at least $1 million for consulting and offered him a position as senior editor. 

War Room: Pandemic launched on January 25 as a spin-off to War Room: Impeachment, Bannon’s rapid response operation defending President Donald Trump during his Senate impeachment trial. Since the new show began, Bannon has repeatedly pushed the false narrative that the coronavirus was leaked from a covert biological weapons program at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which includes a secure research facility where scientists study highly contagious and infectious diseases.

The unfounded narrative that the coronavirus was engineered and leaked from the lab has been wholly rejected by experts, with The Washington Post labeling it a “fringe theory,” PolitiFact calling the claim made in the G News article “false,” and Foreign Policy describing it as “an outbreak of nonsense.” Rutgers University professor of chemical biology Richard Ebright told the Post that “based on the virus genome and properties there is no indication whatsoever that it was an engineered virus.”

But evidence is no object when Bannon is on a mission to propagandize. On the podcast, Bannon has repeatedly cited stories by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times that suggest, based on speculations from a single source, that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is researching biowarfare, and that the coronavirus was engineered and leaked from there. Bannon kicked off the show’s inaugural episode by interviewing Gertz to promote his flimsy reporting.

BuzzFeed recently reported on Bannon’s ties to G News, a digital media outlet launched by Chinese billionaire-in-exile Guo Wengui that has also published two false stories about how the coronavirus was first introduced to residents of Wuhan. One G News story falsely alleged that the Chinese government would imminently confess that the virus was genetically engineered and leaked from a lab near the densely populated city. The other included a document purporting to validate a conspiracy theory that the Chinese military spread the disease on purpose.

Bannon’s contracts with the project were first reported in October by Axios, which showed that he had signed on to serve as a consultant for one year starting in August 2018 and was to be compensated at least $1 million. Axios also reported on a second, unsigned contract that specified Bannon would serve as a senior editor for G News starting in August 2019. According to BuzzFeed, “Guo and Bannon frequently appear together in videos on G News that attack the Chinese government.” (According to The New York Times, Guo described his connection to Bannon in a 2018 interview: “We both naturally despise the Chinese Communist Party. That’s why we’ve become partners.”) Episodes of War Room: Pandemic are also cross-posted to the G News website.

From the January 25, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

STEVE BANNON (HOST): Bill Gertz from the Washington Times, Bill Gertz had an amazing piece in the Washington Times about the biological labs that happen to be in Wuhan.

The episode also featured J. Kyle Bass, a China critic and hedge fund investor with connections to G News owner Guo, on the same day that Bass tweeted out a CBC article from July 2019, falsely claiming that “a husband and wife Chinese spy team” smuggled viral samples out of a Candian research facility to Wuhan. “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, who tweeted the CBC link that day with the same unsubstantiated claim, was also a guest on the episode. 

Later in the show, Gertz and Bannon delved further into the thinly sourced theory. Despite admitting that “we have no evidence that this current coronavirus leaked from that institute,” Gertz speculated that “it’s certainly possible that this outbreak of this animal virus could have come from one of their biological weapons labs.” The U.S. Department of State has raised concerns regarding China’s compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention, but has not affirmatively identified the existence of such a program.

From the January 25, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

STEVE BANNON (HOST): Bill, can you briefly summarize the article that you did yesterday? Talk about these biological labs that are in Wuhan and what aspect do you think they may have in this crisis?

BILL GERTZ: Sure, yeah, good to be on the show, Steve. This is a significant development in the sense that what I’ve identified is the sole declared facility in China capable of handling deadly viruses. In other words, this is the place where they do all of their civilian research. And I spoke with a former Israeli military intelligence officer who studied the Chinese biological warfare program and he says that this institute is clearly linked to this covert Chinese biological warfare program. Now, we have no evidence that this current coronavirus leaked from that institute, but in China and the way secrecy works and the lack of controls, it’s certainly possible that this outbreak of this animal virus could have come from one of their biological weapons labs.

There’s also a second facility in Wuhan that’s also linked to the biological weapons program. Again, that’s a secret program that last year the State Department in it’s annual report on arms compliance stated fairly bluntly that they believe that China is engaged in a covert offensive biological weapons program.

Gertz returned to the show on January 27, claiming, “Obviously, the question of their covert biological weapons program should come into play here.” Bannon replied, “Your point is that there are no coincidences” related to the coronavirus, and the lab facility raises “certain suspicions.”

From the January 27, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

BILL GERTZ: Obviously, the question of their covert biological weapons program should come into play here because, you know, there is only one declared hospital, research center, laboratory in Wuhan — in all of China — and it’s in Wuhan, capable of dealing with this level 4 of infectious diseases. And then you have then —

STEVE BANNON (HOST): Your point is there are no coincidences, if the level 4 [facility] that was built by the French for them in 2007 is in Wuhan, then that leads to certain suspicions.

GERTZ: Absolutely. This has, you know, the Chinese have to respond to this.

Bannon’s guest Dr. Steven Hatfill, an expert who previously worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, told the host repeatedly that the theory about coronavirus leaked out of an infectious disease research facility was incorrect, adding, “You know, I’m sitting in an SL4 laboratory right now, and there is no way you could get anything out of here. There’s no way a bad guy could get in.”

From the January 29 edition of War Room: Pandemic:

STEVE BANNON (HOST): Today, The Washington Post is out there, mocking and ridiculing The Washington Times, Bill Gertz, one of our colleagues reporting about the Wuhan level 4 laboratory, saying it’s a fringe theory, that anything could have come out of that laboratory, et cetera. We’re not trying to make an assertion that they were building a biological weapon. But given the fact that there’s now no direct link at least as shown today between patient zero and the market, it maybe some that’s later. How do you think this thing started?

DR. STEVEN HATFILL: I think it was natural. You know, I’m sitting in an SL4 laboratory right now, and there is no way you could get anything out of here. There’s no way a bad guy can get in. The people around me are of the highest professional caliber, both mentally, technically, emotionally, and every other consideration. I’m sorry but I kind of downplay the fact that this came out of a BW laboratories.

BANNON: Well, I think that’s fantastic. I think people need to hear that. I think that’s great. And why do you come to this conclusion?

After this exchange, Bannon ignored Hatfill’s expertise and returned to his irresponsible speculation, declaring that “there are no coincidences.”

From the January 29, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

STEVE BANNON (HOST): Now, people will tell you that’s also where biological warfare are done, those types of places. That’s why there’s so much focus — Bill Gertz’s articles in the Washington Times focus very much on this level four lab that is in Wuhan, right. And I’m not a believer, as you know, I’m not a conspiracy guy, I always tell you it’s out there in plain daylight. The party at Davos, the way they roll is right up in your grill and there are no coincidences.

On February 1, Bannon again asked Hatfill about the theory, and again Hatfill rejected it:

STEVE BANNON (HOST): Also Zero Hedge, who I’m a huge fan of, Zero Hedge has had this analysis of what the Chinese lab and the two Chinese — the Canadian lab in I think Winnipeg, that there are now issues — one of the Chinese scientists took some of the viruses back to Wuhan. I’m not a conspiracy theory guy, not a deep state guy, never have been because I say it’s all up there in your face, the party at Davos, the way the whole thing rolls is in your grill you just have to see it. But there are no coincidences. 

These are the elite institutions in the world the french built one from the ground up for the Chinese, it just randomly happened to be in Wuhan, right? And relatively in geospatial terms relatively close to the market, a mile or two. There’s been tons of things, they’re using HIV serum to cure people there. This report comes out and it’s been tweeted out all over. Bill Gertz, Washington Times, done some good reporting. The Post calls it a fringe kook theory Miles Guo put something up, said he had a report from inside the CCP and Politifact saying he’s lying so it’s all over the map.

But in your assessment, at what you see in [INAUDIBLE], I asked you to look overnight at this,  where do you think we stand as people know the information today? Is this something that’s naturally occurred? Do you think there’s a possibility in what you read so far that it gives you even a scintilla that this could be some sort of weaponization thing gone wrong that somehow got out of the lab.

DR. STEVEN HATFILL: From what I’ve looked at I think the authors of these papers are overreaching a bit. Now that said this is an odd virus its genome. It’s got a very, very, long, very different from the other SARS virus.

Now, the unsubstantiated theory is being repeated by U.S. government officials in a position of power to take action. According to a report from Business Insider, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) pointed out the proximity of the outbreak to “China’s only bio-safety level four ‘superlaboratory’ that works with the world’s most deadly pathogens to include, yes, coronavirus.”

Why Democrats Should Drop Identity Politics Now

The public dislikes identity politics big time. Right-winger Steve Bannon rejoices when Democrats try to sell themselves through special appeals to race, gender, ethnicity or sexual identity. When Democrats dwell on identity politics, “I got ’em,” he said. “(W)e can crush the Democrats.”

Identity politics is dated and even ignored by many in the groups being pandered to, as Kamala Harris’ low poll numbers among African Americans suggest. After the California politician attempted to smear Joe Biden as racially insensitive in the first Democratic debate, Biden’s high support among African Americans did not go down at all.

Blacks represent more than half of South Carolina’s Democratic primary voters. A recent Monmouth University poll puts Biden’s support among black Democrats at 51 percent! Harris is at 12 percent. Many of these voters were obviously looking past Harris’ opportunistic attack, but you wonder how many actually resented it.

Some of you may have been following a heated race for the Democratic nomination for district attorney in the Queens borough of New York. Tiffany Caban, a 31-year-old public defender of Puerto Rican origin, was pitted against Melinda Katz, a 25-year public servant in Queens. A former member of the state assembly and city council, Katz now serves as borough president.

The excitement came from it being a possible repeat of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s dethroning of a powerful Democrat in local politics. (Caban is a fellow democratic socialist.) Like former Rep. Joe Crowley, Katz was tarred as a member of the Democratic machine, portrayed as a hotbed of moneyed interests.

Looking at their records, however, both were exemplary liberals. Katz herself had challenged the Queens organization, pushing it in more progressive directions. And she remembered the struggle of breaking into what was then an “old boys’ club.” Anyhow, whether they won or lost, neither Katz nor Crowley deserved to be trashed as racially unenlightened.

There was little difference between Katz’s and Caban’s platforms. Katz had the endorsement of unions and prominent African American political leaders. One is Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whom AOC has threatened with a candidate of her own.

Under the thin veil of these progressive politics stands raw identity politics. When the vote totals first came in, Caban had an insignificant lead, given the 3,400 absentee and other ballots to be counted. Nonetheless, she immediately claimed victory as follows: “They said I didn’t look like a district attorney.”

Oh? Who said that? Surely, Caban was aware that the attorney general of New York, a statewide elective office, is held by Letitia James, an African American woman who is a lot darker than she is.

Caban’s other identity thing was being a “queer Latina.” My guess is that the number of Queens Democrats who gave a rat’s tail that she is gay is minuscule. The election of an outwardly homosexual candidate might be notable in some places. New York City is not one of them.

And since when is “queer Latina” a qualification for office? By the way, if we all voted our color, Barack Obama would never have become president.

The recount showed Katz to be the winner of the primary. Some have asked whether her victory represents something of a backlash to identity politics. Crowley probably lost because he didn’t take AOC seriously. But Katz’s supporters may have been on the alert to avoid a repeat.

A scholarly report titled “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” found political correctness, of which identity politics is a subcategory, to be widely unpopular. It is disliked by 82 percent of Asians, 87 percent of Hispanics, 79 percent of whites and about 75 percent of African Americans.

Identity politics is the enemy of Democrats. It’s time they dismissed its practitioners.

Report: Robert Mercer And Daughter Rebekah Have Dumped Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

President Donald Trump has reportedly lost the backing of one of his most generous 2016 donors: the wealthy Mercer family. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman is reporting that according to multiple sources, the Mercers won’t be supporting Trump in his 2020 reelection bid.

The Mercers supported Trump aggressively in 2016, donating at least $15.5 million to pro-Trump organizations and $10 million to the far-right and overtly pro-Trump Breitbart News. Billionaire Robert Mercer used the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica, which he co-founded in 2013, to promote Trump’s campaign — and after Trump won the general election, Rebekah Mercer (Robert Mercer’s daughter) became a senior member his transition team. The Mercers donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund.

But according to Sherman’s sources, the Mercers have become disillusioned with Trump for a variety of reasons. One of them has to do with former Breitbart News Chairman Steve Bannon, who the Mercers brought to Trump’s campaign in 2016; after Bannon left the Trump Administration in 2017 and was “exiled” by Trump, Sherman explains, that “drove a wedge between Trump and the Mercers.”

The Mercers, according to Sherman, were also upset when Bannon was quoted extensively in Michael Wolff’s anti-Trump book Fire and Fury and made some comments that were critical of members of the Trump family. An anonymous source close to the Mercer family told Sherman, “Bob and Rebekah both felt so burned by Bannon and the negative publicity.”

In 2017, according to one of Sherman’s sources, Robert Mercer was pushed out as co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies — which the source said was “really spooked” by the FBI’s investigation of Cambridge Analytica.

A former Renaissance Technologies executive told Sherman that in 2016, Trump wasn’t the Mercers’ first choice for a GOP candidate — they preferred Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas but decided to back Trump after he received his party’s nomination and felt he would be preferable to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “They never really liked Trump,” the source told Sherman. “Trump was just Bob’s play against Hillary.”

Another factor in the Mercers’ decision not to support Trump in 2020, according to Sherman’s sources, is Robert Mercer’s reclusive nature. Robert Mercer, allegedly, likes cats more than he likes people, and he believed he sacrificed his privacy because of his support of Trump.

A source close to the Mercers told Sherman, “Bob views all his political spending as a bad investment. This whole thing did not end up well for them.”

IMAGE: Billionaire Trump donor Robert Mercer.