California GOP candidate tweets coronavirus conspiracy theories

A GOP House candidate in California has repeatedly tweeted conspiracy theories regarding the novel coronavirus, a fast-spreading flu-like disease that has spurred a wave of online misinformation.

The tweets, from Republican hopeful Joanne Wright, underline how widespread coronavirus-related conspiracy theories have become as even politicians tout debunked claims linking the disease to governments and public figures.  

Wright has tweeted multiple times over the last few weeks about the coronavirus, suggesting the virus may be manmade or even connected to prominent Democrats, the Los Angeles Times first reported.

ADVERTISEMENT

In one tweet, from Feb. 28, Wright questioned whether Microsoft founder Bill Gates is connected to the virus, a conspiracy theory that has made its way from the fringes of the online ecosystem to the center. She also tied the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, to Democratic mega-donor George Soros and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE

"Doesn’t @BillGates finance research at the Wuhan lab where the Corona virus was being created?" Wright tweeted, earning hundreds of retweets and likes. "Isn’t @georgesoros a good friend of Gates? Isn’t it always when @HillaryClinton tweets that fire and brimstone hits us? Check Gates Foundation and Clinton Foundation for stock sells." 

The day before, responding to a tweet espousing a largely debunked theory on the origins of the virus from Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonChinese official accuses US of 'pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War' Sunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Senate Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Planned Parenthood loans MORE (R-Ark.), Wright tweeted, "The Corona virus is a man made virus created in a Wuhan laboratory. Ask @BillGates who financed it." 

Wright did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Twitter does not explicitly ban coronavirus-related conspiracy theories, but it does seek to prioritize credible information about the disease as people search for information on its powerful platform. A search for "coronavirus" brings up a link to a COVID-19 fact sheet created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

ADVERTISEMENT

Searching "Joanne Wright coronavirus" on Twitter brings up a warning that reads "Know your facts" and links to the CDC.

Multiple lawmakers and Trump administration officials have contributed to a number of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus since it first began to spread several weeks ago. Cotton, for instance, has publicly questioned the disease's origins and suggested it was linked to a high-security biochemical lab in Wuhan, China. 

"We don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that,” Cotton said on Fox News in February. Public health experts have dismissed the possibility that it was manmade. 

The World Health Organization and CDC have been working closely with the top social media companies to amplify authoritative information about the little-understood disease as it spreads across the globe. And Silicon Valley giants have implemented their own policies to deal with the wave of misinformation.

Facebook has been cracking down on coronavirus misinformation across its services. Last week, it announced it would ban coronavirus-related ads if they touted bunk cures or attempted to "create a sense of urgency" about a virus that has already caused panic.

ADVERTISEMENT

Over the weekend, leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said the current risk of coronavirus to the American public is low.

Fauci said 15 to 20 percent of those who contract the coronavirus will need advanced medical care. He said the virus feels like a bad flu or cold, and the people at highest risk of death — the elderly and people with underlying health conditions — are the same populations that are likeliest to die from the flu. 

Cook Political Report currently rates California's 34th District as solidly Democratic for incumbent Rep. Jimmy GomezJimmy GomezHouse Democrat reintroduces bill to reduce lobbyist influence John Kerry: GOP lawmaker against coronavirus package 'tested positive for being an ---hole' Lawmakers highlight flights back to DC for huge coronavirus vote MORE (D). 

Updated 10:43 P.M.