A video circulating online promoting the claim that coronavirus victims in China were being “cremated alive” was promoted by an organization employing disinformation specialist and white nationalist Steve Bannon.
According to Politifact, the video was posted on Facebook by a page calling itself “China Declassified,” where it received more than 46,000 views. But it was also published on YouTube by Guo Wengui, a billionaire emigrant from China to the United States who escaped the country in 2014 “in anticipation of corruption charges from the Communist Party”:
Since then, Wengui, who is a member of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, has become known for his criticism of Chinese leaders.
A watermark for G News, the media arm of Wengui’s company Guo Media, appears on the YouTube video. The site, which also employs Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist and former executive chairman of Breitbart News, has previously published misinformation about the coronavirus. Other conspiratorial websites, such as pro-Trump outlet the Epoch Times, have amplified the video on social media.
The video (which Politifact determined to be false) shows two people wearing surgical masks inside a car speaking Chinese. An unidentified woman sitting in the back then claims that she saw another patient put in a body bag, despite the fact that he was still alive when they did so.
“He’s still moving. His hands and feet were still moving when they covered his head,” she says. “They then tied up his hands and feet and wrapped him in a black plastic body bag and zipped it up.” She would go on to claim that the other patient, a man in his seventies, was wrapped in four body bags before being taken out inside a “boxlike” device. The woman also claims in the video that other patients were put through a similar process.
The video was also the subject of a story by the U.S.-based NTD News. In their story, reporter Juliet Song notes that the video “could not be independently verified.” The channel bills itself as “the trusted voice on China, daily publishing news you can’t find anywhere else'” saying on its website that it was founded by “Chinese Americans who experienced the realities of Tiananmen Square and the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, and the associated government censorship, disinformation, and propaganda campaigns.”
However, what its website does not mention is that it is part of Epoch Media Group, the same organization that owns the Epoch Times. In August 2019, Facebook banned the publication from advertising on its platform for buying $2 million worth of ads under the names of several different pages pushing claims supporting the Trump administration.
More recently, the Epoch Times promoted the false claim in February 2020 that eight Iowa counties had disparities in their voting populations. That post was not only debunked by fact-checkers, but the state’s Republican secretary of state, Ron Pate, publicly rebuked the organization and called on them to “stop this misinformation campaign immediately and quit trying to disenfranchise Iowa voters.”
We have contacted NTD News seeking comment on the video’s link to Bannon and its debunking but have not yet received a response.