China's communist government funneled nearly $2 million over the past six months to major American newspapers to print propaganda ads that an advocate for accuracy in media says were distinguished as legitimate news articles.
According to a form Beijing filed with the US Department of Justice, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe all received tidy sums of money from Communist China over the last half-year to run ads favorable to the Chinese government. The ads were formatted to look like real news articles, with titles like "China getting outbreak under control" and "US spin on virus name rebuked."
"We know that China has taken quite a beating under the Trump administration with the tariffs and all of these other kinds of things," says Don Irvine of Accuracy in Media. "Plus they have some severe issues with their crackdown in Hong Kong; they need to find a way to create some good news."
Irvine adds that the papers did not necessarily agree to the deal for political purposes.
"Money is definitely a driving force behind this," he asserts. "We know how the newspaper industry has been suffering tremendously over the last 10 [or] 12 years, and it is kind of a thing where they're putting the dollars before ethical concerns."
The scheme funneled money through an English-language newspaper called China Daily to the various American papers and was part of a coordinated propaganda campaign out of Beijing.
Irvine says it would have taken a keen eye to spot the fakes.
"It takes somebody who's actually kind of in the business or knows a lot about news to be able to separate that propaganda from real news," Irvine notes.