President Donald Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis has resulted in a surge of conspiracies across the political spectrum, including bonkers claims that the president is faking the disease or that masks don’t help stem the spread of the virus.
At least 12 Trump officials and Republicans who attended a Rose Garden event celebrating Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination have since tested positive for coronavirus, and several others who attended Trump’s debate prep have also tested positive. With the virus spreading among Trumpworld after these events that reportedly featured little to no mask-wearing or social-distancing, it was only natural that the right-wing media ecosystem would seek to explain away the “superspreader” incidents as actually being an insidious plot by Democrats to deliberately infect the president and his allies ahead of the election.
Since the president’s positive COVID-19 test, a number of pro-Trump media stars have, indeed, speculated as much.
Speaking to the president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. just hours after the president was hospitalized late last week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson—who has privately advised the president on several issues—repeatedly suggested that the timing of Trump’s infection was a “little weird.”
“So this has been floating around on a pretty wide scale since March, and your dad has been pretty much out there since March,” Carlson said. “He hasn’t been hiding anywhere. He’s been talking to people, a lot of people, and doing a lot of big rallies. Here he gets it a month before the election. It’s a little weird. How did he get it, do you think?”
Trump Jr., despite his well-known predilection for embracing unfounded conspiracies, attempted to brush off Carlson’s speculation, saying he wasn’t “sure where that would have come from” and that if Trump can get it, “probably anyone can.”
“The timing of all this is very, very—I’m sure, you know, nothing to it but it’s pretty weird,” the Fox host pondered anyhow.
“I’m not gonna get conspiratorial on that one,” the first son replied.
“I’m not a conspiracy guy in the slightest, just noting it’s a little strange,” the Fox star concluded. (Carlson’s claim that he’s not a “conspiracy guy,” however, is belied by his record of peddling unhinged theories on his show.)
While Carlson merely nibbled around the edges to imply the president might be the victim of an election-timed plot, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, went all-in on boosting the conspiracy claim—though he couched it in the classic “just asking questions” language of those who are not just asking questions.
“Still can’t find a Democrat that’s been infected,” Limbaugh noted at the top of his program on Monday. “I don’t know, folks. I just—I don’t believe in coincidence.”
Noting that two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee had tested positive for the coronavirus, Limbaugh complained that Democrats are trying to use the growing number of GOP infections to stop Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
“And they will pull out every weapon they’ve got to stop Amy Coney Barrett being confirmed,” he blustered. “And that’s what we were in the middle of here. That’s what this is all about.”
The right-wing talker went on to say that he’s long believed that there’s “no such thing as coincidence in politics” and that he doesn’t “think there’s a whole lot of coincidence going on here.”
Speaking with a caller later in the show, Limbaugh suggested the Trumpworld outbreak “could be a result of bioterrorism,” all while insisting he was not implying that “this is a bio-attack.”
Explaining that it would “be very easy to do it at the White House,” Limbaugh added that he was “leveling no allegations,” while gaming out the potential plot to infect Trump. “Aha—the Chi-Coms, the Chi-Coms,” he said after his guest suggested the Chinese could have launched an attack. “Well, let me just throw a couple things out to you, and see—these are just possibilities, these are not—whatever you think out there, folks, we are leveling no allegations. What about an infected swab that they are testing people with?”
“What about some person who has the virus but is asymptomatic and is walking around all of these places—getting close to people, breathing on them, touching them—and maybe a Republican, even,” Limbaugh continued. “What do you think about those two possibilities?”
An even more overt suggestion of a deep-state plot to infect the president, however, came from Greg Kelly, a former Fox News personality who now hosts a show on Newsmax TV, the little-watched right-wing cable network run by longtime Trump pal Chris Ruddy.
“Anybody at all a little bit suspicious of all these Republicans coming down with COVID-19?” Kelly blared on Monday night. “I mean, isn’t there at least the possibility of sabotage? Is there? Could there be?”
“I’m not the only one wondering about it,” he concluded.
Other fringe personalities—though ones with a large MAGA foothold—have also embraced the notion that Republicans and Trump were specifically targeted for the virus.
Failed congressional candidate and QAnon fan DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero, whose call to “#FireFauci” was retweeted by the president, offered up her thoughts over the weekend. “Trump was fine until the debate, where they set up microphones & podiums for him,” she noted at one point. “Incubation period is usually 2 - 3 days. He tests positive a couple of days after the debate. I put nothing past the left. NOTHING.”
“It's pretty peculiar that the China Plague somehow knows to target only members of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” she added. “Of the 53 GOP Senators, the three that got the virus are all on the Committee. So coincidental....or not.” (GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, who tested positive, is not on the judiciary committee.)
“Does anyone else find it odd that no prominent Democrats have had the virus but the list of Republicans goes on and on?” Tesoriero wrote in another tweet.
Far-right blog The Gateway Pundit, meanwhile, posted an entire article wondering why only Republican lawmakers had been infected. (The conspiracy-focused blog has been given White House credentials in the past and the president called on a Gateway Pundit reporter during a press conference this past summer.)
“We are not sure why this list is only Republicans but many Americans are concerned,” blogger Joe Hoft wrote, adding: “Hmmm – It is interesting that only Republicans, including the President, contracted COVID-19 after the debate last week.”