Fox News and far-right extremists continue to push debunked 'secret' American bioweapons lab conspiracy theory

Fox News and far-right extremists continue to push debunked 'secret' American bioweapons lab conspiracy theory
Sgt. Nicholas Shepherd, a practical nursing specialist, assigned to Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force 352-2, performs a swab test on a nursing home worker at the Royal Suites Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center in Galloway Township, N.J., May 5, 2020. Testing residents in nursing homes is crucial due to the high infection rate of COVID-19. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the whole-of-nation COVID-19 response. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Miguel Pena)
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The Russian bioweapon labs conspiracy theory has been debunked on multiple occasions but Fox News and far-right extremists are still pushing the false narrative. According to HuffPost, COVID-19 QAnon believers, COVID conspiracy theorists, and supporters of former President Donald Trump have come up with a new conspiracy based on non-existent bioweapons labs.

The supposedly secret labs are said to be "American biological warfare labs" located in Ukraine. Although the claims have been widely refuted by members of the scientific community, White House officials, and Ukrainian leaders, the continued circulation of this false narrative suggests far-right extremists in the United States "are willing to trust Kremlin propaganda over the U.S. media and government," per HuffPost.

Across the web, there are tons of disinformation campaigns. One Telegram post in the "Patriot Voices" group echoed Russian propagandist claims saying, “It’s not a “war,” it’s a much-needed cleansing." The user added, “Ukraine has a ton of US govt funded BioWeapons Labs that created deathly pathogens and viruses.”

“Can’t believe anything our government says!” another person wrote.

While much of the conspiracy theory is based on a false narrative, there is some truth to it that has been distorted. HuffPost points out, "Ukraine does maintain a network of biological labs dedicated to research into pathogens, and those labs have received funding and research support from the U.S."

Speaking via email with The Associated Press, Filippa Lentzos, a senior science and international security lecturer at King’s College in London, offered insight into the actual labs that do exist. “The labs are not secret,” Lentzos said in the email. “They are not being used in relation to bioweapons. This is all disinformation.”

On Thursday, March 10, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines also weighed in while testifying before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee as he criticized the Russian disinformation campaigns currently circulating online.

“Frankly, this influence campaign is completely consistent with longstanding Russian efforts to accuse the United States of sponsoring bioweapons work in the former Soviet Union,” Haines said. “So this is a classic move by the Russians.”

Milton Leitenberg, a senior research associate at the University of Maryland's Center for International & Security Studies, also slammed the flawed claims. “There’s nothing they don’t know about what’s taking place there, and they know that nothing of what they claim is true,” Leitenberg said. “The important thing is that they know that, unquestionably.”

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the delusional reports will wane. Andy Carvin, who works as a senior fellow and managing editor for The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, put things into perspective saying, “It’s a rinse-and-repeat cycle to hammer home these narratives, particularly to domestic audiences."

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