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Fact Check-Examining claims made about the COVID-19 pandemic in clip featuring rapper Pitbull

Flagged in Facebook’s efforts to combat the online spread of disinformation, posts show a clip of U.S. rapper and singer Pitbull suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic was planned due to the Event 201 by Johns Hopkins University, the World Economic Forum, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation being a rehearsal for what is happening now. The video also makes misleading claims about there being a patent for the novel coronavirus, pointing to an expired patent from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the isolated SARS-CoV-1, a different coronavirus that caused the 2002-2004 SARS epidemic.

One post sharing this clip can be seen here .

The clip in question comes from a September 2020 episode of the RevoltTv show “Drink Champs,” hosted by rapper N.O.R.E. and record label executive DJ EFN (www.revolt.tv/drink-champs). The full episode with Pitbull, which is nearly three hours long, is available here .

For the purposes of this fact-check, Reuters will address two major claims featured in this clip, as shown here in an edited Instagram video with nearly 20,000 views at the time of this article’s publication. Other claims made in the clip are opinions and out of the scope of this fact check.

EVENT 201

Around the 1:24 mark in the Instagram video (here), Pitbull expresses suspicion over Event 201, a real exercise that simulated the outbreak of an imagined coronavirus transmitted from bats to pigs on Brazilian farms before humans spread it globally by air travel (here).

Held in October 2019, the event was organized by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security alongside the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The simulation intended to highlight “important gaps in pandemic preparedness,” according to the Event 201 website (here).

The rapper describes the event as “a complete rehearsal of what we’re doing right now,” saying that it “was ran by the John Hopkins (sic) University, which is in cahoots with Bill Gates, Melinda Gates foundation.”

Conspiracy theories linking this event to the COVID-19 pandemic began circulated online in April 2020 amid global lockdowns intended to curb infections (here).

Johns Hopkins has since stressed that Event 201 was organized due to a “growing number of epidemic events” (here). It was based around a “fictional coronavirus pandemic” and designed to model preparations and response (here).

Previous Reuters fact checks addressing conspiracy theories around Event 201 can be found here , here and here .

CDC PATENT FOR A CORONAVIRUS

At the 3:20 mark in the Instagram video (here), the conversation turns to an alleged patent for the novel coronavirus.

The Instagram video shows the Google Patents page for the CDC’s patent for the SARS-CoV virus (here), the isolated human coronavirus that caused the SARS epidemic that emerged in China in 2002 (here).

It zooms in on the date April 25, 2003 and the patent number 46592703P, which was the CDC’s provisional patent application for the isolated virus, according to CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed.

In 2007, the CDC was granted patent number 7220852 for isolated human coronavirus SARS-CoV (here).

Coronaviruses are part a family of viruses that cause upper-respiratory tract illnesses. Over the past 20 years, three new coronaviruses causing serious widespread illness and death have appeared: SARS-CoV-1, which caused the 2002 outbreak of SARS in China, MERS‐CoV, which caused the 2012 outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome in Saudi Arabia, and SARS-CoV-2, which is causing COVID-19 ( here , here) , here ).

As explained here by McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, biotechnology companies amid the SARS outbreak sought to “protect the isolation of the genetic material of specific strains of this virus in order to exclude others from commercializing a testing kit or even a potential vaccine based on that virus.”

In response, the CDC filed their own patent on the isolated SARS virus, as well as its genes and its proteins. At the time, the CDC said it filed the patents to keep private companies from “monopolizing the field” (www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna3076748).

CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed confirmed to Reuters via email that the referenced in the video is expired, and that the CDC no longer patents isolated viruses.

As explained in a previous Reuters fact check (here), after Chinese authorities identified SARS-CoV-2 on Jan. 7, 2020, its genetic material (RNA) was sequenced. This sequence contains instructions for creating the virus’s proteins, which are the basis for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.

A representative for Pitbull did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

VERDICT

Missing context. Event 201 and the CDC’s expired patent for SARS-CoV-1 (the virus that caused the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak) are not proof that the COVID-19 pandemic was planned.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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