Steve Bannon and a Chinese Billionaire Created a Conservative Media Sensation

Dr. Li-Meng Yan want­ed to remain anony­mous. It was mid-Jan­u­ary, and Dr. Yan, a researcher in Hong Kong, had been hear­ing rumors about a dan­ger­ous new virus in main­land Chi­na that the gov­ern­ment was play­ing down. Ter­ri­fied for her per­son­al safe­ty and career, she reached out to her favorite Chi­nese YouTube host, known for crit­i­ciz­ing the Chi­nese government.

With­in days, the host was telling his 100,000 fol­low­ers that the coro­n­avirus had been delib­er­ate­ly released by the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty. He wouldn’t name the whis­tle-blow­er, he said, because offi­cials could make the per­son “dis­ap­pear.”

By Sep­tem­ber, Dr. Yan had aban­doned cau­tion. She appeared in the Unit­ed States on Fox News mak­ing the unsub­stan­ti­at­ed claim to mil­lions that the coro­n­avirus was a bio-weapon man­u­fac­tured by China.

Overnight, Dr. Yan became a right-wing media sen­sa­tion, with top advis­ers to Pres­i­dent Trump and con­ser­v­a­tive pun­dits hail­ing her as a hero. Near­ly as quick­ly, her inter­view was labeled on social media as con­tain­ing “false infor­ma­tion,” while sci­en­tists reject­ed her research as a polemic dressed up in jargon…

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