Pentagon Launches 'Rumor Control' Site to Combat False Virus Info

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The West Virginia National Guard provide assistance for COVID-19 swabbing for a facility in West Virginia.
Members of the West Virginia National Guard's CBRNE Battalion and 35th CST provide assistance for COVID-19 swabbing for the staff of a nursing facility March 23, 2020, in Morgantown, West Virginia (U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Davis Rohrer)

The Defense Department has officially launched a webpage on its website to dispel rumors and misinformation regarding the Pentagon's response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Dubbed "Coronavirus: Rumor Control," the Pentagon will provide its response to myths and fabrications about how the U.S. has responded as coronavirus cases continue to spread within the country and among the ranks, according to officials.

"In times of crisis, it's important to be transparent and push back on false narratives," Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told reporters during a briefing Wednesday. "As the secretary, chairman and senior enlisted adviser stated in their town hall yesterday, it's important to go to trusted sources for information.

"Last week, the department pushed back on a false conspiracy theory being promulgated by a senior official in the Chinese Communist Party, blaming U.S. Army soldiers for spreading COVID-19," she said, referring to the World Health Organization's name for the coronavirus. "This is not the only case of misinformation and disinformation springing up during this tense period of time. While we hope nations around the globe -- allies and adversaries alike -- will come together in this moment to be transparent, the Department of Defense will not hesitate to push back on misinformation."

Related: The Pentagon Says Troops Are Social Distancing. Why Do These Photos Say Otherwise?

One falsehood the Pentagon aimed to dispel early on is that it has implemented martial law -- or sole military control in replacement of civil authorities -- in response to the pandemic.

"In New York, Washington and California, the president has approved mobilizing National Guard troops under Title 32 status, which provides them full access to federal resources, but still allows them to be managed by the state government," according to the website, quoting Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

"To be clear, this is not a move toward martial law, as some have erroneously claimed. Our great National Guard troops are performing tasks such as supporting drive-through testing sites, conducting food delivery to protect vulnerable populations, and helping states plan and coordinate their local responses," Esper said March 23. "Allowing states to maintain control over their National Guard forces is the most effective way to manage their efforts, as it permits each governor to tailor the Guard's activities to best support the needs of their state."

Earlier this month, the White House warned the public to ignore rumors of a national quarantine for the virus, which were circulated by erroneous text messages.

"Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE," according to a March 15 post on the Twitter page of the National Security Council. "There is no national lockdown."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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