Dem Rep Spreads Chinese Propaganda While Blaming Coronavirus Deaths on Trump

Wuhan Tianhe International Airport / Getty Images
April 5, 2020

An Illinois Democrat who accused President Donald Trump of killing Americans by lying to the public about the coronavirus also spread pro-China misinformation about the deadly disease during a townhall with constituents.

As COVID-19 spreads across the nation, Rep. Sean Casten (D., Ill.) has repeatedly attempted to blame Trump and Republicans for the death toll, accusing them of spreading fatal misinformation about the pandemic. Casten himself, however, has misinformed the public about China's role in the pandemic. When one of his constituents asked about the early Chinese response to the outbreak at a March 21 electronic town hall, the congressman refused to talk about the regime's coverup of the virus. Instead, he incorrectly said that China had successfully isolated the outbreak in Wuhan.

"China, to their credit, once they realize they had a problem, shut down the entire province that this was in and they seem to have largely isolated the cases in China," Casten said. "We have missed that window in the United States."

In reality, however, China has failed to isolate the cases in the province of Wuhan, the origin of the illness. The virus has spread to nearly every part of the country, killing thousands in distant provinces such as Guangdong and Zhejiang. And while China's self-reported data indicate the worst has passed, reports of funeral homes overflowing with urns have led critics to believe that the regime is grossly underreporting the impact of the pandemic. One media report, for instance, estimates China's coronavirus deaths are in the tens of thousands, as opposed to the officially reported count of 3,308.

"A *single mortuary* in Wuhan reportedly ordered more urns in two days than the Chinese Communist Party has reported total deaths in the whole country," tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) on March 29. "I'm sure you're shocked by evidence of Chinese lies."

During his townhall, a constituent asked Casten why China did not react sooner during the early days of the pandemic. In response, the Illinois congressman said the origin of the outbreak was irrelevant since "viruses don't know borders."

"The best estimate is that it did move into people from the wet market of China," Casten said. "But once that virus was out there, it's sort of trivial that it came from China."

In reality, China significantly exacerbated the coronavirus outbreak by initially downplaying its danger in state media outlets and punishing whistleblowers, doctors, and journalists who tried to collect accurate information about the disease. The delayed Chinese response to the outbreak—which only started in late January, more than a month since patient zero—has cost lives: One study found that if China started its response three weeks earlier, there would have been 95 percent fewer cases.

Casten's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Casten also asserted the United States shut down its pandemic response team in the National Security Council, a false claim repeated by many Democrats and mainstream media outlets. Trump merely consolidated several redundant teams, including those tasked with the pandemic response, into one office while retaining much of their original staff, according to Tim Morrison, who previously led the consolidated office.

Casten has frequently accused Trump and his Republican allies of disseminating misinformation about coronavirus. He went as far as to demand that media outlets refuse to broadcast the president's daily coronavirus press conferences, arguing that the briefings are "getting people killed."

"Media: stop spreading lies," he tweeted on March 27. "That includes the President's press conferences. They are getting people killed. I have constituents who are convinced this is a hoax and they need to go back to work. Take away his platform."

Published under: Coronavirus