The Brookings Institution, a US think tank, recently reported that in their podcasts, leading US conservatives are promoting false theories about the existence of US-supported biological weapons capabilities in Ukraine. According to the Bookings report:
March 23, 2022 Over a 10-day period beginning March 8—when U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said that the United States had provided funding to Ukrainian labs carrying out research to prevent the diffusion of harmful pathogens (not bioweapons)—13 popular political podcasters devoted segments in 30 episodes to the false theory that the United States had funded biological weapons research in Ukrainian labs. […] Overall, 30 podcast episodes in our data set repeated the false claim that the U.S. government funds biological weapons facilities in Ukraine. Of those, 27 episodes supported the bioweapons narrative. Three episodes aired the narrative without endorsing or refuting it. As of March 21, 2022, 12 of the 13 shows that gave credence to the conspiracy are in Apple’s Top 100 for the category “News.” Two of these shows are currently in the Top 10. Notably, while many prominent political podcasters on the right embraced the bioweapons conspiracy, at least one did not: The Ben Shapiro Show devoted a segment of an episode to debunking the narrative.
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According to Brookings, the following conservative podcasts have supported the US bioweapons conspiracy theory:
- Bannon’s War Room (Steve Bannon, far-right media strategist and former Trump advisor)
- The Charlie Kirk Show (leader of Pro-Trump youth organization)
- The Dan Bongingo Show
- Human Events Daily with Jack Posobiec (well known rightwing conspiracy theorist)
- The Michael Knowles Show
- Conservative Review with Daniel Horowitz (far-right conservative writer)
- Tim Pool Daily Show
- America First with Sebastian Gorka Podcast (media personality with ties to far-right and former Trump advisor)
- The Glenn Beck Program (media figure and conspiracy theorist)
- The Michael Savage Show
- The Rubin Report (Dave Rubin, leading figure of the “Intellectual Dark Web”)
In mid-February, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported that Russian media was claiming the United States was developing biological weapons in a network of labs in Ukraine. These claims have been echoed by Chinese officials and amplified by QAnon conspiracy theorists and conservative American political figures, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump Jr. Carlson’s comments, in turn, have been repeatedly amplified by Russian state-affiliated media outlets. A recent report by the Daily Beast highlights how US conservative and conspiratorial influencers have contributed to this Russian disinformation campaign.
Recent GIOR coverage on the US bioweapons conspiracy has included:
- In April, we reported on a study that found that Facebook had failed to label 80% of articles on its platform promoting the bioweapons conspiracy theory.
- In March, we reported that Russian propaganda about US bioweapon labs in Ukraine is copy-pasted from similar fake stories used to discredit legitimate biological research in Georgia and Kazakhstan.
- In March, we reported a clear overlap on Twitter between pro-Russian propaganda pushed by inauthentic accounts and genuine Chinese officials amplifying the US bioweapons conspiracy theory.