Lead Stories – a so-called “fact-checking” outlet partnered with both Facebook and the Chinese Communist Party-linked TikTok app – has launched a campaign to defend Wuhan Institute of Virology collaborator Ralph Baric after The National Pulse unearthed his 2018 remarks outlining how to “make money” from pandemics.
Representing yet another conflict of interest, Lead Stories is funded in large part by Facebook, whose founder Mark Zuckerberg’s personal charity has sent six-figure grants to Baric.
As revealed by The National Pulse, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative awarded a $433,000 grant to Baric’s University of North Carolina Chapel Hill lab for coronavirus research.
One day after The National Pulse published the article revealing Baric’s how “to be prepared and make money in the next pandemic” slide, Lead Stories had the article removed from Facebook.
Despite The National Pulse article linking to the full video of Baric’s 2018 presentation, Lead Stories promptly issued a spurious “fact check” with the following rationale:
The full video confirmed that Dr. Ralph Baric, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was giving an academic presentation on the history and future of pandemics. It was clearly not “scheming.”
“Ironically, Dr. Baric’s prediction of profiteering through misinformation about a pandemic came true just two years later. But it was not Baric and his audience doing it,” the article, authored by Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke who has previously threatened National Pulse reporters, adds without any evidence.
Lead Stories’ defense of Baric – who has been described by the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s “bat lady” Shi Zhengli as one of her “longtime collaborators” – follows the platform partnering with the Chinese Communist Party-linked TikTok app. The outlet lists TikTok parent company ByteDance – whose founder has pledged to use the company to “promote socialist core values” – as one of its “main funding sources.”
The Chinese Communist Party has executed a whole-of-government propaganda campaign to discredit stories linking COVID-19 to the Wuhan Institute of Virology while promoting theories that the virus originated in a wet market.
Facebook executives including Zuckerberg have repeatedly attended China-based conferences sponsored by the entity spearheading the disinformation campaign: the Cyberspace Administration of China.
The National Pulse reached out to Lead Stories/Alan Duke for comment for this story. True to their anti-transparency form, neither Duke nor Lead Stories responded.