Until very recently, it was standard operating procedure for most diehard fundies to wall themselves off from the rest of the world. That’s a big reason you hear a number of fundie politicians say things that the rest of us know are baloney. But it also results in the spreading of information that isn’t just false, but dangerous. One such example came earlier this week, when one of Donald Trump’s most rabid religious right supporters peddled a long-debunked claim that a massive epidemic started in a Chinese lab.
Soon after Trump’s upset victory, Youngstown, Ohio-based pastor Frank Amedia formed “POTUS Shield,” an ad hoc group of pastors who are united in their desire to “storm heaven” on Trump’s behalf and “raise up a shield of prayer and prophetic understanding” around him. Most of its prominent members are drawn from the ranks of the New Apostolic Reformation, an overtly fascist offshoot of the religious right that believes it can bring about the Second Coming by taking over the world.
In the three-plus years since, Amedia has shown that his moral compass is as warped as any Trump-worshiping pastor. This is a man who claimed that Robert Mueller was part of a cabal of “evil forces” attacking Trump. This is a man who would have us believe that exposing abuse of power is an act of “darkness.”
But Amedia recently went beyond standard Trumpvangelical agitprop. He gave succor to a conspiracy theory about the origins of the coronavirus outbreak. He did so on Monday’s edition of “The Strang Report,” a podcast hosted by Charisma magazine founder and publisher Steve Strang.
Just over eight minutes into the broadcast, Amedia told the audience about a high-level “P-4 lab” in Wuhan. Supposedly, this lab had originally been a joint venture between the Chinese and French governments in the aftermath of the 2002-03 SARS outbreak. Reportedly, the French pulled out when they learned Beijing was using this lab for purposes other than humanitarian ones like developing vaccines.
According to Amedia, Senator Tom Cotton has been “out front” in the effort to tell the world that the strain responsible for this outbreak was created in that lab. Just 24 hours earlier, Cotton told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that we couldn’t rule out the possibility that the virus was created as a Chinese bioweapon. No, this isn’t snark. Watch here.
Cotton has been rapped hard for peddling this line several times this month. But that didn’t dissuade him from telling Bartiromo that there was no way coronavirus originated in a Wuhan food market, as China has claimed. Noting that the food market was a few miles from the lab, Cotton believed “we have to at least ask the question” about whether the virus originated from the lab–especially given China’s “duplicity and dishonesty.”
Medical experts have denounced Cotton’s suggestion as hokum. For instance, Richard Ebright of Rutgers argued that there was “absolutely nothing in the genome sequence” of this strain that would indicate it was created in a lab. Vipin Narang of MIT agreed, saying that with no credible evidence to support this argument, “at this point it’s a conspiracy theory.”
But Amedia all but stood up and applauded, saying Cotton was “brave enough” to speak out even as the “left-wing media” has come after him. He believed that if this was true, “it tells us that lab and those labs” are being used for germ warfare.
It’s literally impossible to overstate how irresponsible this is. Amedia is openly peddling a conspiracy theory that doesn’t withstand the most cursory scrutiny. And Strang gave him a platform to do so. But then again, we shouldn’t be surprised to see this from the man who allowed a chest-beating anti-Semite to spew his bile in the interest of equal time.
The really outrageous thing is that thanks to the fundie bubble–the same bubble that has kept Trump’s support among diehard fundies at otherworldly levels–this hokum is going to stay in the conversation. Add this to the voluminous evidence that the religious right has poisoned our political climate.
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