A CNN report received widespread criticism after it repeated Chinese propaganda and cited a Chinese state media outlet as its source.
The CNN report’s lead paragraph originally said on Tuesday:
A Chinese naval flotilla headed into the Pacific over the weekend, evidence that the People’s Liberation Army Navy has done a much better job controlling coronavirus than the US Navy, according to a story posted on the PLA’s English-language website.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) tweeted: “Is @CNN actually publishing this #China Communist Party propaganda as news?”
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) April 14, 2020
One Asia expert, Isaac Stone Fish, tweeted : “I’m horrified that CNN published this. Its literally a Chinese propaganda story.”
I'm horrified that CNN published this. Its literally a Chinese propaganda story. "The People's Liberation Army Navy has done a much better job controlling coronavirus than the US Navy, according to a story posted on the PLA's English-language website." https://t.co/PScsaEDdKC
— Isaac Stone Fish (@isaacstonefish) April 14, 2020
Guy Benson, political editor of Townhall, asked: “How does this seriously get published as news?”
Honestly, how does this get published as news? pic.twitter.com/mq4AEnLK0H
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) April 14, 2020
The Trump campaign’s account asked: “Does CNN stand for China News Network?”
Yesterday, CNN published a story about how the Chinese Navy is reportedly doing a much better job controlling the #Coronavirus than the US Navy (according to what the Chinese military is saying).
Does CNN stand for China News Network?
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) April 14, 2020
The CNN report changed its lead paragraph to:
The coronavirus outbreak, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, has spread to more than 180 countries and sickened close to 2 million people, including more than 80,000 in China. Yet according to the Chinese government, not a single serving member of the country’s military has been infected.
The update was accompanied with an Editor’s Note that read: “This story has been updated to include Pentagon reaction and recent developments in the Western Pacific.”
Chinese state media outlets have highlighted claims from “experts” that the deployment of the Chinese carrier Liaoning and an accompanying strike group shows that it is more capable than the U.S. Navy, which has sidelined a carrier due to a coronavirus outbreak.
With four US aircraft carriers hit by #COVID19 and unsuitable for deployment, China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has done well in epidemic control work, experts said, as the carrier reportedly sailed toward the Pacific Ocean through the Miyako Strait. https://t.co/QF8SshE82N pic.twitter.com/09csQMYaBw
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) April 12, 2020
The report comes after the U.S. Navy sidelined the USS Theodore Roosevelt after an outbreak of coronavirus, and China sent a carrier strike group through the Miyako and Taiwan Straits.
Pentagon officials have not addressed the Chinese claims that its Navy is better at handling the coronavirus, but have said they are aware of China’s efforts to spread disinformation, such as that U.S. soldiers brought the coronavirus to China.
“We were very clear that this was unhelpful, this is moving the coronavirus issue out of an area of cooperation between the two militaries and into an area of confrontation,” said Chad Sbragia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China in a recent call with reporters.