Last month, Fox News host Tucker Carlson welcomed Chinese virologist Li-Meng Yan onto his show to share her shocking finding: China had engineered SARS-CoV-2 and unleashed it on the world. “With my experience, I can tell you, this is created in the lab,” Yan told Carlson. “This is from that template owned by [the Chinese] military and also, it was spread to the world to make such damage.”

As we wrote at the time, Carlson then admitted, right there on national TV, that he didn’t have the grounding to properly vet Yan’s claims. Instead, he referred the case to others. “This is when you wish for a functioning media, because what you just said completely changes everything we think we know about the pandemic that’s wrecking our country,” said Carlson, who urged Yan to keep talking: “So I really hope, sincerely, that you will be doing many interviews in American media and explaining this in much greater detail.”

Weeks later, the “functioning media” has spoken. In a story with four bylines and two contributors, CNN found what Carlson — a man who works at a network with billions in annual revenue — could not find, or had no interest in finding in the first place: Yan’s research was essentially a house of cards.

The debunking starts with the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, which on Sept. 21 published a searing refutation of Yan and her co-authors’ research, claiming that they cited “multiple papers in their reference section that have weaknesses or flaws”; that they “overstate the capabilities of deducing functional changes from genetic manipulation of coronaviruses”; that they “do not cite any references” to support the theory that SARS-CoV-2 is something other than a virus that jumped from an animal to humans; that “coronavirus research performed in a Chinese military research institute is not in itself suspicious”; and so on.

There’s much more: As CNN notes, Yan’s research papers published on Sept. 14 and on Oct. 8 bear the imprimatur of the Rule of Law Society and the Rule of Law Foundation, organizations backed by former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon and Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire sharply critical of the Beijing regime. Bannon, a longtime China hawk, and Guo have flogged the idea that the coronavirus is a Chinese conspiracy. That chatter, notes CNN, has surfaced on a Bannon podcast and the site G News, which carries the names of Bannon and Guo and which earlier this year spread the fake news that China was ready to admit that coronavirus crawled from its labs. G News, too, plays a prominent role in Yan’s work, as CNN discovered. “Yan’s papers bear a strong resemblance to blogs first published on G News,” notes the CNN report. “Yan’s papers contain paragraph after paragraph of identical theories and similar phrasing to the blogs, with some lines lifted nearly word for word.”

Science, meet propaganda.

Here’s a timeline that exposes Carlson’s lack of integrity:

  • Sept. 14: Yan and three other authors publish research suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 is the result of “sophisticated laboratory modification” instead of “natural evolution.”
  • Sept. 15: Carlson hosts Yan on his show.
  • Sept. 17: Carlson interviews Bannon, who cites Yan’s “amazing paper” and criticizes steps by Twitter and Facebook to suppress her postings. (Twitter suspended her account; Facebook slapped a “false information” label on the Sept. 15 Carlson-Yan interview.)
  • Sept. 21: The Center for Health Security publishes its analysis of Yan et al.’s research.
  • Oct. 6: Carlson invites Yan for a return interview, even though he’d already conceded he lacks the chops to vet her work. The news peg for this interview is that Chinese authorities had reportedly arrested Yan’s mother. The motivation behind the arrest, Yan tells Carlson, is her very own comments on Fox News. Carlson issues one of his stern advisories: “So what we’re watching is the death of free inquiry of science itself. We’re not endorsing your findings,” he tells viewers. “They are in the public, for people to assess. … Anyone can read them, but rather than debate them, we’re trying to squelch them and our scientific community is standing back and watching it happen.” There’s no mention of the Johns Hopkins rebuttal.
  • Oct. 21: CNN publishes its investigation of Yan’s work.

Fox News declined to comment to the Erik Wemple Blog. CNN, furthermore, asked Fox News why Carlson hadn’t disclosed Bannon’s involvement in Yan’s research. Fox News declined to address that one, too.

And even though Carlson urged Yan to do “many interviews” about her explosive work, she declined a CNN interview request “and did not answer repeated requests for responses to specific questions.”

Again: With a flick of its financial wrist, Fox News could hire investigative personnel so that a high-profile host like Carlson doesn’t look like a tyro when faced with the claims of a Chinese scientist. But hiring actual journalists committed to honest inquiry would derail the mission of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which is to use lies and wobbly information to scare people and demonize enemies of the Fox News state. Journalists just get in the way.

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