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Fact check: COVID-19 is not a hoax to eliminate Trump

This article was edited on June 29, 2021 to add paragraph 23 clarifying recent developments on the lab leak theory and to modify the verdict.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

A video falsely claiming that COVID-19 was planned to remove U.S. President Donald Trump from office has been circulating online.

The five-minute clip was posted to Facebook on Nov. 11 but was deleted a day later. Captioned “The Four Year Plan To Overthrow An Elected President”, it shows various photos and news clippings alongside a voiceover (other examples here  and  here  ).

The video expresses numerous claims and opinions, but this article only has the scope to address some of the primary allegations.

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC WAS PLANNED

The video alleges “plans for 2020 began immediately following the 2016 election” and “the COVID hoax was in the works years before the election of Donald Trump, but they started fast tracking it.”

Any suggestion that COVID-19 is a deliberately planned pandemic is false. The United States’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains the source of COVID-19 was most likely a large seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China (here).

There is no indication or publicly available evidence suggesting that the coronavirus was "designed". As of Nov. 12, 2020, the World Health Organisation reported more than 50 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,275,000 deaths (covid19.who.int/).

Reuters has debunked numerous claims that the coronavirus pandemic was planned here, here, and here.

ANTHONY FAUCI PREDICTED THE 2020 PANDEMIC

The video claims that nine days before Trump’s inauguration, U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said there is no doubt that President Trump will be confronted with a surprise infectious disease.

This statement is true, but it does not prove that the pandemic was planned. Conspiracy theories linking Fauci’s comment with the COVID-19 pandemic circulated online in May and were debunked by the fact-checking website Snopes (here).

Fauci was speaking at a Georgetown University forum on pandemic preparedness in January 2017 when he said: “There is no question that there will be a challenge to the coming administration in the arena of infectious diseases…there will also be a surprise outbreak.”

The speech is visible here and here.

Fauci did not specifically warn of a pandemic in 2020 but spoke generally about the dangers of infectious diseases. The Obama administration had experienced the 2009 swine flu pandemic (here), the 2015-16 Zika virus epidemic (here) and the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa (here).

BILL GATES WARNED OF A DEADLY PANDEMIC

The video claims that: “Two days after the President’s inauguration Bill Gates spoke at Davos and warned of a coming deadly pandemic.”

It is true that Gates discussed the risk of a global health crisis at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2017.

The billionaire philanthropist said: “I think an epidemic…is the most likely thing to cause, say, 10 million excess deaths, and that it’s pretty surprising how little preparedness there is for it.” The video can be seen here.

This comment is not evidence Gates was involved in the COVID-19 pandemic or in a plan to remove Trump from the White House.

Many instances of misinformation have referenced Gates and been debunked by Reuters (here).

THE VIRUS CAME FROM A LAB

The video alleges that Fauci became involved in studies to make viruses more infectious in 2017. This is true but does not prove that the 2020 pandemic was deliberately created or planned.

The U.S. government lifted a temporary ban on funding research where scientists made pathogens more transmissible in order to understand how they naturally evolve and could be used by others for biowarfare, according to a Reuters report from 2017 (here).

This research is unrelated to the origins of the 2020 pandemic. Many experts have said that the novel coronavirus originated in nature and was not man-made (here and here).

Vincent Racaniello, Higgins Professor at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia University, told Reuters via email: “There is quite an abundance of evidence…that make it very clear that SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) arose in nature, not in a laboratory.”

As stated earlier, the CDC explained the source of COVID-19 was most likely a large seafood and live animal market in Wuhan (here).

At the time of publication, many experts had said that the novel coronavirus most likely originated in nature and was not man-made (  here  and  here  ). In May 2021, a group of leading scientists said the theory that it was caused by a laboratory leak should be taken seriously until there was a rigorous data-led investigation that proved it to be wrong (here).

EVENT 201 PREDICTED THE PANDEMIC

To corroborate the claim that the 2020 pandemic was planned, the video lists “Event 201” as supporting evidence.

Event 201 was 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. The event was organised in October 2019 by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security alongside the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

According to the event’s website, the simulation intended to highlight “important gaps in pandemic preparedness” (here).

Conspiracy theories linking this event with the 2020 pandemic grew in April and were debunked by the fact-checking organisation Full Fact (here).

Event 201 highlighted the risks of a global outbreak but did not plan the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 IS LESS DEADLY THAN THE COMMON COLD

The video claims that: “Fear is injected into the brainwashed masses over a virus that is less deadly than the common cold.”

Claims that COVID-19 is less deadly than the common cold or seasonal flu have been debunked numerous times by Reuters (here, here, here).

Even though the majority of COVID-19 patients only experience mild or no symptoms, it is far more lethal than the common cold.

THE 2020 ELECTION WAS RIGGED

The video concludes that electoral fraud took place to ensure Trump could not win the 2020 U.S. election.

The speaker claims that: “Just when Trump surges in key states, the election is inexplicably halted.” Reuters has debunked claims that states stopped counting ballots and found votes for President-elect Joe Biden here and here.

The clip also alleges that thousands of mail-in ballots appeared “in the middle of the night all for Biden”. Reuters has fact-checked multiple allegations of voter fraud since election day, visible www.reuters.com/fact-check .

Experts say election fraud is vanishingly rare in the United States, where nearly one in four voters cast a mail-in or absentee ballot in 2016 (here) .

Other conspiracy theories surrounding the US election have been debunked by Reuters www.reuters.com/fact-check.

VERDICT

False. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic was not planned to overthrow Trump. Some experts agree the virus originated in nature, not in a laboratory, and there is no evidence of mass electoral fraud in the US election.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  reuters.com/fact-check/about.

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