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The Spectator claims “China forced Italy to buy back the PPE supply that it gave to China” - with no evidence

Latest update: 2020/04/07 00:40.

On April 5, 2020, prominent Italian virologist Roberto Burioni noted on Twitter that an article by Amber Athey on The Spectator (archived here on Archive.org) was claiming in its headline that “Italy gave China PPE to help with coronavirus — then China made them buy it back” and included statements such as the following:

After COVID-19 made its way to Italy, decimating the country’s significant elderly population, China told the world it would donate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help Italy stop its spread. Reports later indicated that China had actually sold, not donated, the PPE to Italy. A senior Trump administration official tells The Spectator that it is much worse than that: China forced Italy to buy back the PPE supply that it gave to China during the initial coronavirus outbreak.
‘Before the virus hit Europe, Italy sent tons of PPE to China to help China protect its own population,’ the administration official explained. ‘China then has sent Italian PPE back to Italy — some of it, not even all of it … and charged them for it.’

I answered his tweet (in Italian, below) by noting that The Spectator had published conspiracy theories such as “coronavirus was created in a lab” with pro-Trump, anti-media tones. I also recommended to be doubtful of the story unless it received strong corroboration.

I also noted that Athey’s article used the classic method of surrounding the (unproven) allegation with links to apparently related news items from reliable sources. 

I then remarked that the source of the core claim was an unspecified “senior Trump administration official” and that no other corroborating evidence was provided. I then noted that Amber Athey had made some very questionable anti-Semitic tweets.

The anti-Semitic tweets I’m referring to are these (as acknowledged by Athey). Due to their content, I refuse to transcribe them and I will only include them as a screenshot:

I also noted that Athey has been a contributor to Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller:

Tucker Carlson is one of the faces of Fox News, which for a long time denied that the pandemic could be a danger, went along with President Trump’s denialism and then made a spectacular about-face when the number of the dead tragically began to rise. Here’s an example.

I suggested that Athey could be contacted via her Twitter account, which I did:

Naturally I didn’t ask her to reveal the name of her source. Amber Athey replied as follows (and later deleted her tweets):






I haven’t heard from her since.

In summary: Athey stated that she was told that the story had been told in “foreign media” (i.e., her article is based on third-hand news), but that she was unable to find these foreign media sources. She then alleged that I had written “lies” about her and The Spectator (I didn’t).

But ultimately there is only one basic fact: to date, The Spectator has no hard evidence to back up its allegation.

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