In an interview Tuesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed U.S. Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to the newsmakers line.
During the third hour, Senator Blackburn explained how she felt China is to blame for the coronavirus pandemic and detailed Senate Bill 553 which she and Senator Tom Cotton have co-sponsored holding China responsible for its dishonesty and lack of transparency.
Leahy: We are joined now by our good friend and Senator from Tennessee Marsha Blackburn. Good morning Senator Blackburn.
Blackburn: Good morning! I hope you are doing well and staying safe!
Leahy: We are staying safe. We are sheltering in the studio. (Blackburn chuckles) I’ve got my gloves and I go in and out with my mask. In a separate room our producer Katie is in her own room with glass separating us. We are being safe here. I hope you are being safe in Tennessee where you are now.
Blackburn: We are certainly doing our part to stay safe and all of our team. I’d like to remind all of our listeners that all of our offices and phone calls are being answered and we are working every single day.
Leahy: So, you have a message for China. Tell us about that.
Blackburn: Yes, I do. (Leahy laughs) China needs to be held responsible for this global pandemic. And I just finished reading a report that is in today’s Washington Post, go figure. It’s an article by Josh Rogin. He goes back into 2014 and 2015 and looks at the security of both of these labs in Wuhan, China and the concerns that our diplomats expressed over the security and safety of those labs.
And the world knows that this continues to be a point of discussion the Chinese contained to blame others. They blame us. They blame Italy. But they don’t take responsibility themselves for the outbreak. So we know that China because they hid information, they were not transparent, they tried to create blame with different entities and place blame. And now they’re going back and re-writing history.
What we know is that they are getting online and removing articles and reports and communications so that people do not know this was a problem at the Wuhan labs where they were researching coronaviruses. Where they were researching the next generation of viruses that would come after SARS in this coronavirus family.
Our message in Senate bill 553 is to hold China responsible and let them know that the US Senate realizes they were the problem in this and they’ve made a global pandemic worse. And we’ve seen those reports that if China had released their information earlier we would have had 65%-85% fewer cases.
Leahy: And there is also a report that the Chinese government has said now nobody can do any research into the origins of this Wuhan coronavirus.
Blackburn: That’s correct because they are wanting to re-write history and that the virus has expanded into over 180 nations around the globe. And everybody knows that it got its start in Wuhan, China. Now it looks like there is growing information that the lab, not the wet market, but the lab may have been the genesis and the wet market may have been the expansion or the accelerator on this.
Leahy: I’ve seen these reports as well and they are very troubling. In this bill that you are the co-sponsor of, what will be the penalty that China will have to pay for their dishonesty in handling this Senator Blackburn?
Blackburn: Well, what we’ve got is a series of things. The resolution that I wrote simply says that it’s the sense of the Senate that China caused this and China should be held responsible for this. The second thing that we are working on is returning our pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the United States.
Securing America’s medicine cabinet is bi-partisan. Senator Mendes out of New Jersey is my prime Democrat co-sponsor on this. What we are seeking to do is incentivize the return of manufacturing for the active pharmaceutical ingredients and bringing that production back into the U.S. so that we don’t get into another situation where we need a pharmaceutical ingredient to create a pharmaceutical compound such as we’re doing with the anti-viral and the vaccines for the coronavirus.
And then we also have a 100 million grant pool for institutions of higher learning that want to partner up with pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities and some of our nation’s pharmaceutical companies working for what we can bring back. This is a national security issue. It is a national stockpile.
Leahy: I noticed that you and Senator Tom Cotton have been really the leaders in the United States Senate as far as I can see in terms of push back against China. It’s a little unusual in the sense that you’ve only been up there for a year or so and you are a first-term senator. What have you done to expand your influence in this particular area to be one of the leaders in the United States Senate on the issue?
Blackburn: What has happened is that through my work in the House I continued to talk about needing to return our supply chain to the U.S. because China was stealing our intellectual property. They were trying to hamper the growth that we had in so many different areas of our supply chain. Look at what they’ve done with technology.
They are trying to use their technology Huawei to build out a global spy network. And we see them doing this all around the globe. I’ve been active in that. Active in expanding high-speed internet services domestically and in our companies winning this race of 5G and 5G deployment and setting the standards in these technologies. That is vital for us.
And we’ve seen China’s aggressiveness. We have also seen it in other supply chains. And as I’ve worked with research and development components of that that are in our state whether it’s in the auto industry or in the healthcare space. Or its in the technology space.
What you see is manufacturing that goes to China ends up infringing on those copyrights. They end up stealing that intellectual property. Look at the problems we have had with entities like Gibson Guitar. And entities like our entertainment groups and music that is piloted or stolen. See, this is all a part and parcel in China’s game plan.
They are not new at this. What you see is that same deception by the Chinese Communist Party being used in pharmaceuticals and healthcare. Thus you have them hiding information and not being transparent. Then trying at the end of February that they may withhold from us one of the active pharmaceutical ingredients we needed for the development of a vaccine. And then finally they decided to release that ingredient to us. Why are they withholding it?
They are the only place on the face of the earth that makes it. And that is the kind of vulnerability that we need to stop. Now, also with this, China owns over a trillion dollars of our debt. So what are we saying there? We are pushing to find a vehicle and a way to have China forgive or wave that debt. They have cost us a lot of lives, suffering, liable. Not to only our country but also to others. And yes indeed, China caused this. China should pay for it.
Leahy: I find it interesting that you and Tom Cotton and President Trump clearly see China as an adversary. Joe Biden actually doesn’t really see China as an adversary. He wants to continue to strengthen that relationship. Can you imagine a President Joe Biden?
Blackburn: No. I cannot. He has always been cozy with China. And as you know we have some on the left and some of the media on the left that have adopted this revisionist rhetoric.
Leahy: Absolutely. I refer to them as the Manchurian Media. (Chuckles)
Listen to the third hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Background Photo “Xi Jinping” by Global Panorama. CC BY-SA 2.0.