Bill Gates was not expecting all the unhinged COVID-19 conspiracy theories

Bill Gates was not expecting all the unhinged COVID-19 conspiracy theories
Bill Gates didn't predict everything.
Bill Gates didn’t predict everything.
Image: Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times

By Rachel Kraus

After warning about the dangers of a pandemic for years, Bill Gates looks like the most prescient man in America. But there was one thing he did not see coming: the conspiracy theories swirling around the coronavirus epidemic, and the fact that he would be at the center of many of them. 

While giving an interview at the virtual health conference STAT Summit on Tuesday, Gates repeatedly skirted questions about how the anti-science messages of the Trump administration were affecting the coronavirus response. One question he did answer was whether he and America’s reassuringly straight-talking grandpa — Dr. Anthony Fauci — ever commiserated about the prevalence of conspiracy theories. Especially those concerning, well, them.

Gates shared that he was taken aback.

“The idea of these conspiracies — What is the purpose of the vaccine? Is it microchipping, population control? — that was so unexpected that I don’t think either Tony or I had great advice for each other, other than, hey, keep on giving that fact-based message,” Gates said.

A new analysis of COVID-19 misinformation, based on a representative sample of 1,040 U.S. adults, found that 13 percent of Americans believe the conspiracy theory claiming “Bill Gates is behind the coronavirus pandemic.” The report, published in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, also found 25 percent believe that “the coronavirus is being used to force a dangerous and unnecessary vaccine on Americans.” 

Those numbers and the general rise of conspiracy theories are certainly depressing. But at least Tony and Bill can talk it out with each other.

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