A New Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory With The Same Old Cast Of Characters

Anthony Fauci reemerges as the central villain in propaganda-fueled conspiracy theorizing about Ukrainian biolabs.
Anthony Fauci. Getty Images/TPM Illustration.
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In the QAnon universe, people like Hillary Clinton and George Soros are unbelievably busy. 

Their days are filled with funding immigrant caravans, being hanged at Guantanamo Bay, running child sex rings in the basements of basement-less pizzarias, paying people to protest former President Donald Trump’s election.

While the churn of new conspiracy theories in the QAnon universe is constant, the characters are often recycled. The same timeworn villains turn up again and again as the antagonists of new supposed crimes and schemes, even when their motivations beyond a general “behaving evilly” are foggy at best.

Anthony Fauci, now chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, is one of these figures. He was the initial face of the United States’ response to COVID-19, and denizens of the fever swamps have long claimed that he is implicated in a vast number of QAnon conspiracy theories. 

The conspiracy theorists fingered Fauci as the key player (alongside Hillary Clinton) working to use the COVID-19 pandemic to destroy the economy and undermine Trump’s reelection. There are many offshoots of that central theory in the QAnon world: Fauci actually made the virus; he was arrested for his part in the plot; he met up with former President Barack Obama and Melinda Gates in a lab in Wuhan; he was the original CEO of Moderna which was founded by Soros and invested in by Jeffrey Epstein.

Now he’s emerging again as the central villain in a new conspiracy theory percolating in the QAnon community and its distributaries, including Fox News.

The conspiracy theory gained traction when a QAnon Twitter account tweeted a graphic — originally posted to the fringe right-wing social network Gab — comparing maps of the Russian airstrikes to supposed “US biolabs in Ukraine.” 

This blossomed into a full-fledged conspiracy theory that Russian President Vladmir Putin, often assisted by Trump, is really just trying to destroy those labs where the U.S. and Ukraine are developing lethal bioweapons. Trump, the most prolific hero of these stories, may have even been warning us for months in code. QAnoners believe that Fauci, specifically, is using the labs to cook up a sequel to the COVID-19 virus — perhaps, as the Kremlin itself recently suggested, a bird flu. Something bad and infectious, at any rate.

Even for a QAnon conspiracy, this one is weak. It exists in the same universe where COVID-19 was also designed as a bioweapon in a U.S.-funded lab in China, and where all ambiguously termed “biolabs” are developing weapons. (In reality, many are devoted to the study of diseases, though none in Ukraine have the international rating reserved for laboratories studying the most deadly and infectious illnesses.) 

So far this month, the conspiracy theory has bled from the QAnon Twitter account to far-right media like Infowars and Steve Bannon’s podcast to Fox News, with an enthusiastic assist from the Russian and Chinese governments and their media organs.

“What I think is interesting about these biolabs — we deny, we deny, we deny. ‘It’s preposterous. Don’t waste any ink on it,’ ” Fox News host Jeanine Pirro said last week on The Five. “And yet, isn’t it interesting that we haven’t heard or seen Fauci in weeks?”

Her colleagues laughed, one interjecting “where is Fauci?”

“Why did he disappear?” she mused. “I’d love to ask him if he knows anything about that.”

“Give Fauci a rest, for goodness sake,” co-host Geraldo Rivera said.

“No, I don’t want to,” Pirro said. “Now it’s time for him to face some questions.”

For QAnoners, though, the supposed culpability doesn’t end with Fauci. The broader Biden administration is also involved in co-running the weapons development, in QAnon’s telling. Biden is an easy sell for the conspiracy theorists, given the long-running falsehood that he engaged in corrupt activities in Ukraine related to his son, Hunter, while vice president. 

This time, the jig was up when a Biden administration official “slipped up” during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week. The frontman for the deep state this time is Victoria Nuland, under secretary of state for political affairs. Ultra-contrarian substacker Glenn Greenwald is quick to point out, in his piece embracing the conspiracy theory, that she served in “Hillary Clinton and John Kerry’s State Department under President Obama.” 

In the exchange, characterized by Greenwald, Alex Jones and Fox News host Tucker Carlson as a bombshell, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked Nuland whether Ukraine has chemical or biological weapons. 

“Ukraine has biological research facilities, which, In fact, we are now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces, may be seeking to gain control of,” she said. “So, we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.”

This was tantamount to a full-throated admission by the administration for those buying the conspiracy theory. Her concern about Russian forces taking control of the facilities, Greenwald and Carlson posit, is proof-positive that these labs harbor weapons or materials to make them.

Before turning to Russian and Chinese officials parroting this propaganda, which Carlson aired, he made sure to cement the administration as an antagonist in this story. 

“When it turns out the people who represent us and run our government are lying to us and never apologize for it and doing horrific things in our names, then you have to open your mind a little bit and at least assess what other people are saying,” he said.

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