Conspiracy theorists online believe that concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak are being overblown as part of a secret plot to damage President Donald Trump.
The debacle began this week when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that "disruption to everyday life may be severe" if the disease were to rapidly spread throughout the country.
The announcement and previous updates from the CDC, however, have enraged Trump, according to the Washington Post. Growing public concern over the coronavirus has negatively affected the stock market, leading Trump to accuse outlets such as CNN and MSNBC of purposely exaggerating the issue in order to damage the economy.
The two outlets, Trump claimed in a tweet on Wednesday, "are doing everything possible" to panic markets. The president's tweet, which misspells coronavirus, went on to also blame Democratic lawmakers.
Conspiracy theorists and defenders of the president have spread the same talking points as well, increasingly portraying the disease as a tool of the "deep state" to politically hurt Trump.
Rush Limbaugh, the controversial radio host who recently received the Medal of Freedom from Trump, took aim at Dr. Nancy Messonnier on Wednesday over the fact that Messonnier, who is a CDC official, is also the sister of former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Limbaugh went on to insinuate that Dr. Messonnier's warning could have been influenced by her relation to Rosenstein, who was involved in the special counsel investigation into alleged ties between the president's 2016 campaign and Russia.
"So you’ve got here the CDC urging Americans to prepare for a coronavirus virus outbreak..." Limbaugh began. "Okay. This person running this agency, who does she donate to? Well, her brother is Rod Rosenstein."
Limbaugh added that listeners should "do what you want with" the information.
"It may mean nothing. Might…Who knows?” Limbaugh said. "It’s just in that town, I’m telling you, everything is incestuous. Most of that town is establishment oriented or rooted, which means they despise Trump."
Other figures such as YouTube prankster turned conservative talking head Joey "Salads" Saladino claimed Democrats would "take Trump out of office" by exaggerating the disease's danger.
"I don’t think Coronavirus will kill us all, but I know the Democrats will use this scare to cause panic and crash the markets to take Trump out of office," Saladino said. "Dems have already admitted it!"
Mark Dice, a prominent conspiracy theorist and Trump adherent, also claimed that liberals would take advantage of the deadly outbreak in their efforts to topple Trump.
"Liberals are now hoping the #COVIDー19 coronavirus causes a global pandemic and crashes the stock market in order to point the finger at Trump for a 'bad economy,'" Dice said. "These people are sick (no pun intended)."
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Ut.) was also tied into the deep state conspiracy for suggesting that the Trump administration was unprepared for a coronavirus outbreak.
"Romney is screaming 'pandemic' to hurt the Trump economy by affecting the stock market, but we see what you are doing deep state snake Romney," said Dawn Michael, a popular pro-Trump Twitter user, and advocate of the QAnon conspiracy.
While the disease has been contained so far in the U.S., health officials believe that it's only a matter of time before the coronavirus spreads.
"Current global circumstances suggest it’s likely this virus will cause a pandemic," said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC.
Current statistics show that there have been 59 confirmed cases in the U.S., with a global total of 81,322. At least 2,770 people have lost their lives as a result of the disease.