COVID-19: New York Times Revives its Role in Chinagate

UPDATED: The paper of record is again laundering, without skepticism, U.S. intelligence meant to ratchet up tensions with China, just as it did with Russia, writes Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

During the saga of Russiagate The New York Times was the main vehicle for unnamed U.S. intelligence officials to filter uncorroborated allegations about Russia, presenting them as proven fact.

Just as the Democratic Party attempted to shift the blame from its disastrous 2016 loss to Donald Trump onto Russia, the Trump administration is now trying to shift the blame from Trump’s disastrous handling of the Coronavirus crisis onto China.

And The New York Times is once again the vehicle. 

In a front-page story on Wednesday, the Times reports as flat fact that “Chinese agents helped spread messages to millions of Americans about a fake lockdown last month, sowing virus panic in the U.S., officials said.”

One of the messages, which the Times said China did not create, but only amplified, was that Trump would lock down the entire nation. According to the Times, the message said: “They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters.” 

As in the Times‘ sordid history of numerous Russiagate stories, you have to read deep into Wednesday’s piece, in this case to paragraph seven, before you are told:

“The origin of the messages remains murky. American officials declined to reveal details of the intelligence linking Chinese agents to the dissemination of the disinformation, citing the need to protect their sources and methods for monitoring Beijing’s activities.” 

Any reputable journalism school will teach its students that you hold off publishing until you see the evidence underlying an assertion. This is especially true when quoting anonymous sources. And it is doubly true when these sources are intelligence agents, who have a long history of deception. It is part of their job description.

Reporters should by now be wary and demand proof after they had allowed intelligence officials to misuse them in misleading the public about the reasons to invade Iraq, and indeed about the later proven lies about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The Times story on Wednesday rather shamelessly revives and links China’s alleged misdeeds to Russiagate.

“American officials said China, borrowing from Russia’s strategies, has been trying to widen political divisions in the United States. As public dissent simmers over lockdown policies in several states, officials worry it will be easy for China and Russia to amplify the partisan disagreements.”

Using the Times

Intelligence agencies using the credibility of The New York Times to launder its tales to the public comes as bellicose language against China escalates through pro-Trump media. Jeanine Pirro’s rant on Fox News the other night is just one example. The Times on Saturday reported that a key Republican strategy was to blame China to deflect from Trump’s gross mismanagement of the Corona crisis.

Desperate to up his poll numbers with November looming, as he daily flounders at the White House podium, Trump himself has turned up the heat on China. “If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake,” he said on Saturday. “But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences” for the Corona outbreak.

That a president for which the Times has no love is ramping up pressure on China should give the newspaper pause about anonymous assertions coming out of Trump administration security services. It is not as if the Times reporters aren’t aware of how they could be used. Wednesday’s story contains this astounding admission: “American officials in the past have selectively passed intelligence to reporters to shape the domestic political landscape; the most notable instance was under President George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War.”

Six Sources

The Times says it spoke with six different anonymous intelligence sources for its story on Wednesday. But that is not difficult for intelligence chiefs to arrange.  Times reporters should have at least suspected that.

Government officials know reporters live for scoops and that they are particularly susceptible to anything that smells like one. 

But that puts the newspaper in the position of giving credibility to unproven allegations and of beating the drums of conflict. 

Now is the time for nations to cooperate–and that includes the U.S. and China–in defeating this historic pandemic. There will be time later to investigate how this virus originated and how governments responded to it. The early view is that hardly any government responded with the urgency required.

The last thing needed is to help seriously raise tensions between nuclear powers all in the name of a very dodgy scoop.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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30 comments for “COVID-19: New York Times Revives its Role in Chinagate

  1. Brockland
    April 26, 2020 at 23:20

    The real scandal here, is not China but what happened to the reserve healthcare capacity not only in the U.S., but the rest of the West. Much of this is a state-level responsibility.

    Everything was cut or not topped up to meet real demand to save money, such that even had COVID-19 not happened, a repeat of the 2017-18 flu pandemic (an estimated 80,000 dead in the U.S. alone) would have had about the same devastating results.

    Healthcare continues to collapse, with COVID-19 shutting down much elective health care and endangering patient and the public with reduced or plain absent health services.

  2. Mark Thomason
    April 25, 2020 at 15:27

    Perhaps the NYT never was a vehicle for the Democrats, but instead was always a vehicle for the “intelligence community.” It may not like Trump, but neither does the intelligence community. It didn’t like many Democrats either, when the intelligence community did not like them — hence the oppose people like Sanders and Warren despite their role as important Democrats who could defeat Trump, because their victory would not empower the intelligence community.

    That fits what we know of the NYT, in terms of where it gets its stories, and which stories it accepts without checking.

  3. Robert Emmett
    April 23, 2020 at 12:06

    Yeah, wouldn’t expect anything less than well-deserved acrimony for the Grey Hag on this site. Some of us still remember how the so-called paper of record withheld the “smoking gun” of King Geo the Younger’s use of mass surveillance until after the 2004 election. Who do you suppose is their target audience for this latest fake scoop? Could it be the newly woke crowd who now raise the NYrag as their gold standard in all things considered Russia bashing? Talk about fuddy-duddy.

    Today’s mass media is full of rope-a-dope tricks such as placing a tiny nugget of “truth” within a massive hairball of innuendo, exaggeration, disinformation and lies to be extracted at the exact right moment to gainsay those who would question the narrative du jour. Another well-worn deception is to let the lowest common denominator source set the dodgy agenda and then use that cue to follow the “news” as fits to serve their own agendas. Over the years, that often involves skewing reactionary and “forgetting” how to connect dots.

    You can see a prime example of this (also part of the current surge of anti-China propaganda) at that other bastion of unnamed sources, the WaPo. Blumenthal lays out how it’s done at The Grayzone Project re: allegations that the Wuhan Biotech lab released the virus. Funny though how there’s a yawning gap in the story about the hows & whys & wherefores of an actual shutdown of a similar Level 4 lab right in WaPo’s own backyard at Fort Detrick.

    “Dodgy scoop” made me smile. Are those served on self-licking ice cream cones?

  4. April 23, 2020 at 11:40

    China and Russia had better be keeping their powder dry. No telling how far this lunacy is going to go. With Pirro´s rant it looks like the crazies have been let out of the pen and is just the thing to get the mentally challenged in an up roar and demanding military action against China. I have no doubt that China can handle the American military in a conventional confrontation but if it goes nuclear all bets are going to be off. The Better Dead Than Reders seem to be riding high right now. Who knows they may just get their wish. The Pirros et all do sound like the woman in a bar just itching to get a fight going, and then screaming blue murder when her favorite gets the snot beat out of him. You just can never get them to shut up before the fight gets going. but the Pirros of the world never can quite get a grip around the fact that is proven over and over again, wars and fights are easy to start, but hard to finish and no one knows how they aill turn out. And given the lack of success of the American military in wars of choice since the Second World War I would be very careful if I was her of what I was wishing for.

  5. April 23, 2020 at 11:39

    As I understand it, we (our intelligence people) were aware of the “potential” threat of the virus before the Chinese leadership announced it to the world. China did announce it to the world and people can argue they should have done it sooner. But the failure, if we decide there is one, belongs to us in not acting on the intelligence. Why we didn’t is a matter worth investigating although what will be learned to prevent such future errors is unclear.

    Certainly, those who want to use this as a further wedge between us and China do not serve anyone’s interests other than the cui bono horde who benefits from such divisions.

    As others have stated our most serious virus is the one that causes who to seek confrontation with other governments whenever opportunity arises. It is a very destructive virus.

  6. DW Bartoo
    April 23, 2020 at 10:38

    It may be counted upon that ALL institutions in the U$ military empire will deliver the worst possible outcomes.

    The evidence for this assertion is voluminous and growing by the hour (quite as obscenely as the “wealth” of Jeff Bezos grows at the rate of $11 thousand every second).

    Frankly, one could hardly expect anything less from The NY Times.

    Be it war-mongering, hysteria-building, or sycophantic “official” propagandizing [now fully legal thanks to the sainted Obama, who also, it is alkedged, played a highly significant role in destroying the (now obviously) pathetic campaign of Bernie Sander, that Joe Biden, clearly suffering from dementia, and poster boy of the very neoliberal policies which elevated Trump to power, will be the Dem “standard bearer seeking the same power while promising to do nothing at all – about anything, which really IS the Standard Dem policy, U$ politics being about nothing but controlling the spoils and keeping the revolving-door/lobbying graving train rolling merrily along].

    Yet the real Powers That Be, cannot only count upon all the vaunted institutions from a pretend democracy and rigged political system, to a complacent, complicit, and criminally compromised MSM to parrot absolute idiocy, they may also count on a thoroughly infantile majority of the public to rally behind any war, of words, of weapons, even of nuclear weapons, simply because the U$ is exceptional, beyond compare, and constitutionally unwilling to learn anything from any other nation, society, or people.

    It is not merely the MSM which inculcate these myths of superiority, it is the entire educational system as well.

    It is not, necessarily, a conspiracy, it is simply conveniently and comfortably profitable to buy into the idiocy and pass it happily along.


    Actual facts?

    Not necessary.

    And most inconvenient.

    It might affect circulation.

    U$ian Idiocy is quite as communicable as the “novel” coronavirus.

    As my youngest daughter put it, “It’s a long story.”

    Just to test my wits, she then asked me if I got the joke.

    Yes, my dear, I got it.

    At some point, it is possible that most of us will …

  7. Skip Scott
    April 23, 2020 at 09:27

    Anyone who believes any news other than sports and weather that comes from their TV set or shills like the NYT needs to have their head examined. How can they keep believing proven liars?

  8. Voice from Europe
    April 23, 2020 at 08:37

    The Chinese reports to the WHO are clear and transparent and date from the end of January. Western MSM has no journalist worth that name !
    Just like the new anti Hydrochloroquine study that was reported is full of potholes just waiting for someone to be read.
    People please check the published reprints of IHU mediterranee.
    Hippocrates said: There are in fact two things, Science and Opinion. The former begets Knowledge, the latter Ignorance.
    Please people distinguish fact from opinion.

  9. Buffalo_Ken
    April 22, 2020 at 22:54

    For some time now all “mainstream media” is propaganda orchestrated at the behest of a few, and I suspect most here know this. Is there any denying it?

    True journalism is “swamp sinking” and one of the last direct action proponents of true journalism is dyeing in Belmarsh as we talk. Apparently, nobody in a position to do anything gives a flip and clueless & worthless magistrates go about their day-to-day agendas thinking “let the eat cake”.

    It is a bad omen. I hope somebody does something……to change the tide……that is coming.

  10. Tom Kath
    April 22, 2020 at 20:59

    Let’s cut to the chase. As incredible as it may seem, Trump is losing 2020. THERE WILL BE WAR, either to prevent that happening or because it happened.

    • Voice from Europe
      April 23, 2020 at 08:39

      Actually it is the establishment that has a history of war.

  11. GMCasey
    April 22, 2020 at 20:51

    I heard that the US military had its “Military Games in Oct of 2019 in …Wuhan. Who knew that the U.S. and China had military games. I looked it up on the Military Times, and they had an article about the games. So—-the US military returns home—-and Wuhan gets the virus. I am wondering what “games” that the US military was really playing. And as for the NY Times—I think it is quickly becoming the NY Crimes Against Real Journalism. It’s sad to see a long time newspaper lose accountability so quickly— and so easily..

    • KlcTan
      April 25, 2020 at 09:25

      They were either playing pocket billiards or spreading the virus.

      How did the US military knew in November 2019 that an epidemic was sweeping Wuhan changing patterns of life and business before the Chinese gov’t knew ?? Unless the US military inserted the virus.

  12. James Flint
    April 22, 2020 at 19:31

    “The Times on Saturday reported that a key Republican strategy was to blame China to deflect from Trump’s gross mismanagement of the Corona crisis.” Another take on this verbiage is that the intelligence agencies that helped plant this article was to blame China to deflect, not from any action undertaken by President Trump, but rather to help “cloud” USIAID funding of Chinese labs for “gain of function,” a nice scientific term, to allow the coronavirus to be transmitted more easily to humans.

  13. Mike from Jersey
    April 22, 2020 at 18:39

    The article states:

    “Any reputable journalism school will teach its students that you hold off publishing until you see the evidence underlying an assertion. ”

    But this was not a reputable newspaper.

    So, what did you expect?

  14. Yastreb
    April 22, 2020 at 18:31

    (In the Truth {Pravda} there is no News {Izvestiya}, and in the News {Izvestiya} there is no Truth {Pravda}.).

    Americans think it’s different here – yeah, I guess it is – it’s WORSE!

    People, be prepared to meet your God. And be prepared to mourn, for we shall soon see ALL the lies which we believed to be truths.

    • AnneR
      April 23, 2020 at 14:04

      Yastreb – Indeed worse, though less for the reality that propaganda, slanted “reportage” is the common currency of the “news” organs of both the USA and Russia (not to mention pretty much the rest of the world’s MSM), than for the fact that while Russians, from USSR days, knows to take everything in the media with some salt, to question the veracity of unsupported, dubiously supported claims, here in the US of A unsubstantiated, or porously backed, weakly supported “facts” usually expressed in Newspeak, slippery ways are very often accepted by the target audience, hook, line and bloody sinker.

      I mean – it’s the NYT, or WaPo, or The Atlantic, CNN, MSDNC, PBS, NPR; they would never try to mislead us. Would they? Gorblimey. One despairs, one really does.

      And *not* as if the gullible readers, audiences (largely composed of the supporters of the Dem face of the single-Janus party) have let Russiagate go, if what I hear on NPR (including its BBC World Service broadcasts) is anything to go by.

      China-gate – neither side of the single party can possibly let this opportunity to prevent the rise of China, stop this ancient culture’s challenging the “rightful,” exceptional(ly barbaric) world hegemon, USA, from maintaining its proper position at the top of the firmament however it is achieved.

  15. Tobin Sterritt
    April 22, 2020 at 17:03

    I spotted Yahoo News carrying this NYT hit piece today and was tempted to respond. Then I saw the general run of comments that read like the target audience it was meant for, and figured I’d be wasting my time. It might have been worth squandering five minutes, though.

    • Mike from Jersey
      April 23, 2020 at 08:44


      It is a scary situation. A lot of people actually believe the New York Times.

  16. April 22, 2020 at 16:51

    Joe ~

    Did you see this one in today’s NYTimes? The pot didn’t just call the kettle black…

    With Selective Coronavirus Coverage, China Builds a Culture of Hate: The state propaganda machine highlights other countries’ mistakes while suppressing China’s, fueling anger toward foreigners and domestic critics alike.


    • AnneR
      April 23, 2020 at 14:08

      O Society – well, bien sur. I mean we can blacken every people, culture, society, government (except those we install – that we never do, unless they stray from their [American] defined path) as much as we want, as often as we please and no one has the right to call us out on that, complain. Heaven forfend – we’ll bomb ’em, subject them to siege warfare (via ever tightening economic sanctions no matter how many children we kill doing this – “price is worth it” in’it?

  17. Donald Duck
    April 22, 2020 at 15:29

    ”Any reputable journalism school will teach its students that you hold off publishing until you see the evidence underlying an assertion. This is especially true when quoting anonymous sources. And it is doubly true when these sources are intelligence agents, who have a long history of deception. It is part of their job description.”

    True enough, but we are not talking about ‘reputable journalism’ – such a fuddy-duddy notion. We are talking about crude propaganda and a ruthless realpolitik. Assertion, anonymous sources, smears, lies, calumny and dancing to the tune of whatever the deep, state and national security play to us. We have entered a post-democratic age and we would be well advised to bear this in mind. The ruling elites are blatantly bereft of any type of moral scruples; Pompeo put it well, ‘lie, cheat’ an he might have added ‘whack’ anyone who gets in the way of the grand project. ‘Whack’ being mafia terminology for murder of ones opponents. Pompeo even looks like a mafia Godfather. Mafia ideology and methodology have permeated the structure and institutions of American society.

    • bjd
      April 22, 2020 at 17:00

      And thus articles like these –premised on the idea that the NYT is reputable– belong to the literary genre ‘fiction’.

    • AnneR
      April 23, 2020 at 14:17

      Donnie – Pompeo claims (proudly? loudly?) to be a christian but somehow he missed all of that stuff about helping your neighbor, turning the other cheek, taking care of the stranger (Samaritan-wise). Or avoided it like the plague.

      And given the really existing history of the USA – “mafia ideology and methodology” deriving, backed by profound supremacist racism has permeated this country since the Brits first landed and started grabbing the lands and killing the indigenous, then going to Africa and buying the Africans in order to profit from their sale and their labor… While overt slavery has ended (the US Fed and State prisons continue to gain from such prisoner slave labor) and theft of the remainder of Indigenous lands and resources is largely in the shadows, the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors pretty much remain alive and ill-meaning.

    April 22, 2020 at 15:17

    The New York Times: the house organ of America’s establishment.

  19. Sam F
    April 22, 2020 at 14:35

    The NYT story is also shaky because broadcasts to the US about a nationwide lockdown would have been implausible, discredited by simple denial, and might well reduce virus panic. The sources of such messages are easily counterfeited and therefore speculative, like the fake “Russian” messages from Ukraine, and far more likely to originate from beneficiaries than the MSM target du jour.

    • Bob Van Noy
      April 23, 2020 at 12:10

      Exactly Sam F and thank you Joe Lauria. We keep hearing the same scenario over and over with different characters. I recently read “The Poisoner In Chief” by Stephen Kinzer and I was stunned by the secret drug and mind control experiments of the 1950s and 1960s. Certainly it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that they continue. Also see the gray zone article “How a Trump media dump mainstreamed Chinese lab corona virus conspiracy theory” by Max Blumenthal and Ajit Singh.

    • Sam F
      April 23, 2020 at 19:19

      Good to see you back, Bob. The referenced article is indeed worthwhile.

  20. jaycee
    April 22, 2020 at 14:15

    Provable links from lockdown protests to domestic right-wing astroturf organizations.

    The fact-free claims of foreign interference seeking to exploit divisions or “sow chaos” is itself a domestic program to exploit divisions and and direct projections onto “the other”. It is directed by the federal intelligence agencies in collaboration with the major mainstream media outlets. The central “proof” of foreign perfidy is the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s Report on alleged Russian measures to interfere with America (released Nov 2018), which is one of the most vapid and factually barren “products” ever produced. The New York Times has asserted the Report represents established fact. It’s all, ironically, very Soviet.

    • DavidH
      April 22, 2020 at 20:19

      I get your point, jaycee, I think. The stuff in the Times is all “very soviet” (ironically)…by the old Soviets’ standards. That’s if their old system had had, in addition to domestic propaganda, an effective propaganda campaign abroad. Did they? I mean all this projecting on Russia and China (meant to be digested by the homeland) is accompanied by a considerable outlay for transmitted-outward propaganda. Did the old Soviet system really have an outlay as big as ours is now? For sure they had spies, but so did we.

      I’ll have to listen again to Tuesday’s Loud & Clear to know if Richard Wolff really was as down on Putin as I seem to remember. Geopolitically Putin seems to me to have been pretty much more fair than we have in the past, say, six or seven years. But, in terms of oil, all energy hegemons it seems follow sort of the same patterns of behavior. They want energy dominance for their group [they’ve got it], and in smaller theaters individual members will attempt to attain it for themselves. But, yes, concomitant is that they must agree some amongst each other just as crime syndicates must. This is a dimension of hegemony it is sad to contemplate but real. One would like to think Russia is more fair, but when it comes to oil Russia doesn’t really seem to pay much lip service to any shade at all of some global Green New Deal. And one would like to think China in general less hypocritical, but then you have McKinsey and Prince and that whole mess [we see they had things figured out better than us on SARS-CoV-2 but…while as an American maybe I have no room to talk…Snowden probably had a point that civilization could have done even better preparation than China’s “pretty good” preparation]. So, in thinking about all this you have to try I guess to name the overarching global paradigm and blame it. For sure the US is in it up to its neck. Maybe even we invented it, or invented the things that morphed into it. Everything Lauria wrote above makes sense, and once again we owe Consortium.

      Glad to see this written (not just me that believes it) “The early view is that hardly any government responded with the urgency required.”

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