2020 candidates Joni Ernst and David Young took to the internet Wednesday evening to answer questions from voters and provide their thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic, largely centering their talking points on China and the role critics believe their government played in worsening the public health crisis.
A majority of the 30-minute Facebook Live event was dedicated to the United States’ handling of COVID-19 outbreaks and how China worsened the crisis by allegedly lying to the World Health Organization and operating unsanitary “wet markets” thought to be the source of the highly contagious disease.
“You learn some really tough lessons during times like these, like a pandemic, and we’ve learned, I think, a big lesson that you can’t trust China at all,” said Young, a Republican in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, seeking to win back the seat he lost to Rep. Cindy Axne in 2018.
Ernst, running her first reelection campaign for U.S. Senate, in response to the question — “What ideas do you have/are considering for holding China accountable for their role in the pandemic?” — highlighted the bill she has sponsored to ban taxpayer dollars from being spent at wet markets and the bicameral letter she signed asking Congress to eliminate funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“Some people have suspected that it was either the Wuhan lab or those Chinese wet markets that started this current pandemic,” Ernst said. “We want to make sure that we are not sending taxpayer dollars into China and supporting those types of inhumane and unsanitary procedures. We could go on and on and on, of course, about China.”
The anti-China points raised by Ernst and Young track closely with a strategy memo recently issued by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, urging candidates to attack the “Chinese Communist Party” rather than respond to criticisms of how the Trump Administration has handled the crisis.
First reported by Politico, the 57-page “Corona Big Book” advises candidates: “China caused this pandemic by covering it up, lying, and hoarding the world’s supply of medical equipment” and “Democrats are weak on China,” among other talking points.
The memo leans heavily on wet markets and the unproven theory of “an accidental release by a Chinese research facility” to explain how the new coronavirus caught on and rapidly spread around the world.
It also says the U.S. is “too reliant on China” and suggests candidates talk about how they plan develop more pharmaceuticals in this country and bring back manufacturers.
China is Iowa’s fourth-largest trading partner, Ernst said.
“We have to focus very much on our trade and understanding that with their population they need those additional food sources,” Ernst said. “They really do need to have us moving goods into their country, but we need to leverage with them the fact that their bad behaviors cannot be tolerated. So, whether we go back to the drawing board in trade and work out some additional deals, we certainly could do that as well.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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