Australia and New Zeland. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

New conspiracy theories connected with COVID-19 are appearing daily. Some are being seriously discussed by serious news sources and personalities, causing them to appear more believable and to spread further. The spread of these theories is a result of the constantly changing news cycle, along with the fact that most people are at home with plenty of time. The Wikipedia article ‘Misinformation relating to the 2019-2020 Coronavirus Pandemic’ currently contains around 15,000 words from nearly 2,000 edits, clearly highlighting the constantly appearing theories and changes that are being made relating to the virus.

One such crazy theory goes like this:

“Barack Obama paid for a bat coronavirus to be developed in the George Soros-owned Wuhan Institute of Virology. The virus was brought to the US and kept until it was needed: Michelle Obama then personally spread it in Wuhan to discredit Trump and help Biden in the upcoming presidential elections.”

We show examples of this conspiracy theory below.

The most believable disinformation contains an element of truth. A fact or figure will be focused on, then implications drawn but never stated outright. Other commentators on social media can draw on these implications as evidence of a greater conspiracy. The recent controversy surrounding the ‘Wuhan Lab’, being the intentional or accidental spreading of the virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, provides the perfect example of how such theories spread.

What Legitimate News Sources Are Saying

China’s first biosafety level 4 laboratory was opened in the Institute in 2015, and legitimate sources say that already in 2018, the State Department sent cables expressing serious safety concerns regarding the Institute’s protocols for handling bat coronaviruses. It has come under investigation from the US State Department to assess the possibility that COVID-19 was accidentally leaked. Crucially for conspiracy theorists, the Institute was also partially funded by a US grant, beginning during Obama’s presidency and continuing up until recently under Trump’s presidency.

Examples of Conspiracy Theories

Example 1

Soros being a part owner of the company controlling the lab. “Councidental?” [sic] Screenshot

Example 2

An image linking the location of the lab to WuXi AppTec

There have also been claims that George Soros owns the Institute of Virology, which Politifact has stated to be false, saying he only owned a portion of WuXiAppTech, the company controlling the Institute. Conspiracy theorists have been quick to place personal blame onto either Obama, George Soros, or Bill Gates, claiming that this was part of a ‘master plan’, which resulted in the creation and leaking of the virus. This is evidenced by the two images above.

Example 3

Linking the Obama presidency to the Institute. “WOWZA.”

Many prominent people on Twitter have also been quick to chime in with often uncited claims regarding the source of the virus, and if sourced, drawing implications which are unable to be supported on the facts.

The verified account of Tim Jones – a former American Legislator – retweeted a Daily Mail news article regarding a US$3.7m grant in 2015 from the United States government to the Institute. Tim Jones uses this fact to draw a connection to the Obama administration in power when the funding began. The tweet submits the “Obama administration gave $3.7 million grant to #Wuhan lab that experimented on #coronavirus source bats”. This implies that the Obama administration essentially paid for the virus to be made via their grants, however, the article submits this grant was from the US National Institute of Health to build their BSL-4 laboratory. Thus, as the article does not mention Obama, Tim Jones is being disingenuous by implying, but not outrightly stating, that Barack Obama was personally involved in the grant, with no information to reinforce this assumption.

Example 4

Making Obama the face of coronavirus

Example 4 also ties into the tweet above, which makes reference to an article placing the blame on Obama, submitting he funded the research undertaken in the Wuhan Laboratory. However, the article fails to address that the funding has nevertheless continued under the Trump administration. Despite this fact, Obama is still being held responsible for the funding and for the creation of the virus.

People Taking Implications as Fact

Example 5

Public reactions to these implications

This tweet suggests, as Obama supposedly funded the Wuhan Laboratory, he was ultimately responsible for the outbreak as he ‘helped it happen’. This again, places the blame onto Obama with no facts or hard evidence to support such a bold assumption surrounding the initial source of the virus. As many other examples evidenced in this brief, the blame is continuously being placed on Obama.

Example 6

Deflecting blame for the virus response to Obama

The author of this tweet stipulates Obama was involved with the creation of the virus, evidenced through his grant given to the Wuhan laboratory, which is the alleged source of the outbreak.

Conspiracy Theories Spiral Out of Control

Examples 7 & 8 claim that Obama spread the virus on purpose to damage Trump’s re-election chances

Example 7

Example 8

The above examples highlight the many conspiracy theories that evolve in response to highly publicised and important global issues and how such theories can blur the lines between what information is fact or fiction.

From Flimsy Basis to Gospel Truth

From a kernel of truth, to implication, to questioning the narrative, to claims bordering on the absurd: so evolves a conspiracy theory from a very flimsy basis to something that its proponents claim as gospel truth. This is how, in the case of the ‘Wuhan Biolab’, a funding grant from the US government to a lab in China to upgrade its safety capabilities can evolve into the Obamas personally releasing a deadly virus in China to help Joe Biden defeat Trump in November.


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This article is part of the Online Hate Prevention Institute’s special focus on Coronavirus: Racism, Hate Speech and Fake News.