Donald Trump-supporting activists and anti-vaxxers created and spread a conspiracy theory blaming Bill Gates for manufacturing the coronavirus.

The bizarre and wacky lie gained huge traction on the Internet in part because it was given credence by a Republican congressional candidate.

A new book, COVID-19: The Greatest Cover-Up In History — From Wuhan to the White House, provides the first global investigation into the coronavirus pandemic, and traces the trajectory of the damaging conspiracy in a fascinating investigation.

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Authors Dylan Howard and Dominic Utton reveal that the origins of the conspiracy lie with the pro-Trump QAnon movement along with anti-vaccine activists. ‪On January 22, prominent QAnon agitator Jordan Sather — who has over 165,000 followers on Twitter and 227,000 on YouTube — tweeted: “The new fad disease called the ‘coronavirus’ is sweeping headlines. Funnily enough, there was a patent for the coronavirus filed in 2015 and granted in 2018.”

Sather followed it with: “This assignee of this patent was the government funded Pirbright Institute out of the UK. And would you look at that, some of their major funders are the World Health Organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

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The book, published before the election by Skyhorse Publishing, details how, ‪on February 27, Republican California congressional candidate Joanne Wright tweeted: “The Coronavirus is a man-made virus created in a Wuhan laboratory. Ask @BillGates who financed it.”

She later ranted: “Doesn’t @BillGates finance research at the Wuhan lab where the Coronavirus was being created? Isn’t @georgesoros a good friend of Gates?”

Both Tweets have since been deleted.

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The book gives fascinating insight into how fake news develops and how it hijacked scientific data during the pandemic. They reveal that the 2015 patent filed by the Pirbright Institute mentioned by Sather covered the development of a weakened form of a coronavirus that could potentially be used as a vaccine to prevent respiratory diseases in birds. As an avian coronavirus, it would only be effective for strains that originated in birds — and not COVID-19, which originated in bats.

Even when scientists from Pirbright explained the science and stated that the institute’s work on avian coronaviruses wasn’t funded by Gates at all, Sather continued the conspiracy. Within a week of his tweets, the institute’s patent listing had been shared more than 6,000 times across scores of Facebook groups with official-sounding titles.

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One group, calling itself United States for Medical Freedom, tweeted: “This is a man-made, patented virus with a vaccine in the works. Here’s the link to the patent.”

When confronted with the evidence, Sather doubled-down on the lies and tweeted: “You see how they try to implant thoughts into your head? Fear sells.”

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Worryingly, the tactic exposes how gullible people can be.

The authors conclude: “On May 20, a joint poll by Yahoo News and YouGov asked respondents: ‘True or false: Bill Gates wants to use a mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 to implant microchips in people that would be used to track people with a digital ID.’ 28 percent of US adults thought it was true. Amongst Republicans the figure was 44 percent; among Fox News viewers it was 50 percent.”

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