Pompeo accuses China, Russia and Iran of spreading coronavirus disinformation

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed China, Russia and Iran for spreading disinformation about the coronavirus in a White House coronavirus task force briefing Friday as he asked Americans to make sure they are getting their information from reputable sources.

The comments from Pompeo are a continuation of what has been a tough stance from the secretary of state as the Trump administration has gone back-and-forth with China on who is to blame for the virus' spread. Trump has called the coronavirus the "Chinese virus" repeatedly, including Friday, referencing the disease's origins in Wuhan, China. That has drawn objections from both China itself and some left-leaning Americans who claim the terminology is racist.

"It's pretty diffused, unfortunately," Pompeo said of where the false information is coming from. "But we've certainly seen it come from places like China and Russia and Iran, where there are coordinated efforts to disparage what America is doing and our activity to do all the things President Trump has set in motion here."

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Earlier in the press conference, Pompeo implored Americans to seek information from dependable outlets, citing a falsehood peddled by China that the coronavirus originated with the U.S. military.

"Finally, I want to talk about the disinformation that people are seeing on Twitter, around the world," Pompeo said. "Some of it coming from governments, some of it coming from other individuals. I just urge everyone as they are seeing the information -- information that at one time suggested somehow this virus emanated from the United States Army -- this information about lockdowns that are taking place. Every American, indeed people all around the world, should ensure that where they turn to for information is a reliable source and not a bad actor trying to create a flow of information that they know is wrong."

Later in the briefing, Pompeo continued: "We've made clear we've spoken to these countries directly that they need to knock it off, that we don't approve of it."

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President Trump also addressed China's role in the outbreak during the task force briefing: As a reporter began asking Trump about what he has been calling the coronavirus -- the "Chinese virus" -- Trump interrupted her and went out of his way to praise Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"It's unfortunate that this got out of control," Trump said of the virus. "It came from China, it got out of control. Some people are upset. I know President Xi. He loves China. He respects the United States and I have to say I respect China greatly and I respect President XI."

Trump has largely refrained from criticizing Xi directly both during the coronavirus pandemic and throughout his presidency, but Trump has gone out of his way to refer to the coronavirus as the "Chinese Virus" in recent days as American officials, including members of his administration, have taken a tough stance against China on its apparent propaganda campaign to distract from the fact that its lack of transparency in the early stages of the outbreak significantly contributed to the virus' worldwide spread.

China also moved to expel a subset of American journalists from the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal earlier this week.

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On Monday, Pompeo called on People’s Republic of China Politburo member Yang Jiechi to push back on a tweet from the deputy director-general for the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Information Department. The deputy director-general, Lijian Zhao, tweeted that the United States military might be responsible for the coronavirus. He provided no evidence to that effect.

Additionally, several GOP lawmakers and officials, including Pompeo, have referred to the coronavirus as the "Wuhan virus" or the "Chinese coronavirus." Meanwhile, multiple members of Congress -- from both parties -- have introduced bills seeking to reduce Ameican dependence on Chinese medical supplies.

"The Chinese Communist Party threatened to cut off America’s access to vital drugs in the midst of a pandemic caused by its own failures," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in a statement announcing his version of a bill to move more of America's medical supply chain stateside. "It’s time to pull America’s supply chains for life-saving medicine out of China and make the CCP pay for contributing to this global emergency.