Bill Gates is in a tough position these days thanks to the conspiracy theorists that are spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and Bill Gates’ role in it. Mr. Gates has always been a vocal advocate of preparing for pandemics and even gave a TED talk back in 2015. He spoke of the potential high death toll a worldwide pandemic could result in. Now that COVID-19 is bringing the world to its knees, Gates has pledged $250 million to combat the disease and to develop a vaccine.
However, surprisingly, these two factors are the base of a ridiculous set of conspiracy theories that place Bill Gates at the origin of the coronavirus. They have escalated from online chatter to the stance of conservative pundits. The 2015 TED talk was named, ‘The next outbreak? We’re not ready.’ He discussed Ebola and talked about the factors that had helped to keep it from spreading worldwide. He said, ‘The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola. You can have a virus where people feel well enough while they’re infectious that they get on a plane, or they go to a market.’
And, indeed, here we are today with coronavirus that more or less sits in line with what Bill Gates had said. Using that talk and the fact that he has contributed $250 million to the disease, many right-wing conspiracy theories are actually touting Gates as the mastermind behind the creation of coronavirus. These theories sprang up in late January when a YouTube personality linked to QAnon claimed that Gates had knowledge of the coronavirus pandemic before it broke out.
Soon enough the propaganda was joined by Infowars which is a website being run by Alex Jones. He is a conspiracy theorist that has a firm belief that the Sandy Hook shooting was nothing but a hoax. He ran a piece that said that Gates Foundation ‘co-hosted a pandemic exercise in late 2019 that simulated a global coronavirus outbreak.’ However, a FactCheck.org clarifies, ‘There was, in fact, an exercise (called ‘Event 201’) that took place in October that was hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security — which the Gates Foundation participated in — that focused on emergency preparedness in the event of a ‘very severe pandemic.’ But it didn’t deal with 2019-nCoV [novel coronavirus], and it didn’t make real-life predictions about death tolls.’
All of this has led to many using the hashtag ‘I will not take a #BillGatesVaccine’. Previous Trump staffer Roger Stone said, ‘Whether Bill Gates played some role in the creation and spread of this virus is open for vigorous debate. I have conservative friends who say it’s ridiculous and others say absolutely.’
Bill Gates has not commented on this other than during a televised interview with Chinese broadcast channel GCTN. He said, ‘I’d say it’s ironic that you take someone who’s doing their best to get the world ready and putting, in my case, billions of dollars into these tools for infectious diseases, and really trying to solve broadly infectious diseases — including those that cause pandemics. But we’re in a crazy situation, so there’s going to be crazy rumors.’