U.S. Republican Party strategists advised party candidates to politically weaponize the coronavirus pandemic for the party's benefit. The shameful policy, exposed in a new book on the pandemic, was designed to divert attention towards China and away from President Trump's woeful handling of the crisis.
The plan was contained in a secret 57-page dossier from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and authored by top Republican strategist Brett O'Donnell, who had previously advised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Senator Tom Cotton. The document reveals that senior Republicans doubled down on the conspiracy that the virus was released from a Chinese lab in order to divert blame from their deadly mistakes.
Details are revealed in COVID-19: The Greatest Cover-Up in History—From Wuhan to the White House. The book, written by authors Dylan Howard and Dominic Utton and published before the election by Skyhorse Publishing, is a meticulous global investigation into the coronavirus pandemic.
The authors write: "Not only was the theory that COVID-19 began life in a Wuhan lab a fake news tactic designed to draw the blame for America's dead away from the President and towards the Chinese Communist Party — but it was also employed as a deliberate and deeply cynical electioneering campaign strategy."
O'Donnell identified three messages for politicians to communicate in order to gain political capital from the deadly disease. These were that China caused the virus, that Democrats were "soft on China" and that Republicans would "push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic." Party faithful were told to describe the disease as "a Chinese hit-and-run followed by a cover-up that cost thousands of lives." The phrase "China did this," underlined, was repeated throughout.
The document also reveals zero faith in President Trump's handling of the crisis. Strategists realized that to try and defend it would be political suicide. Instead, candidates were instructed to deflect questions criticizing President Trump's handling of the crisis back towards China.
"Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China," the memo stated. In response to the accusation that blaming China for the pandemic incites racism, candidates were told to respond by saying that the Chinese Communist Party should be held accountable.
Candidates were also encouraged to repeat the conspiracy that the pandemic resulted from an accident in a Chinese research facility. Scientific evidence about the virus passing from animals to humans via the Huanan wet market was dismissed as "a cover story about people eating bats and pangolins to shield the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (both of which are near the market) from scrutiny."
Readers of the policy were urged to ignore scientific evidence about the origins of the virus and instead refer to a Fox News report as the basis for the assertions that the pandemic was caused by Chinese negligence.
O'Donnell declined to comment on the leaked memo, and an NRSC spokesman said: "We routinely send campaigns different documents and sources of information dozens of times per week. That's the role of the party committee, especially in these volatile times."