Trump Applauds ‘Corrected Fake News’ on American ‘Piracy’ of PPE

German politician remains unapologetic for false allegations
By Alan McDonnell
Alan McDonnell
Alan McDonnell
April 6, 2020Updated: April 7, 2020

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Thailand has confirmed that the United States did not divert a shipment of face masks bound for Germany from an airport in Bangkok, as falsely claimed on Friday by Berlin’s Senator of the Interior, Andreas Geisel. The left-wing German politician had claimed that in an “act of modern piracy,” 200,000 Germany-bound masks had been “confiscated” in Bangkok before being diverted to the United States.

According to Reuters, U.S. embassy spokeswoman for Thailand Jillian Bonnardeaux said that “The United States Government did not take any action to divert any 3M supplies that were destined to Germany nor did we have any knowledge of such a shipment.” Among other products, 3M manufactures N95 face-masks deemed essential personal protective equipment (PPE) for police, medical practitioners, and emergency services in the fight to control the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

“We remain concerned about pervasive attempts to divide international efforts through unsourced, unattributed disinformation campaigns,” said Bonnardeaux.

Geisel said Friday that the masks had been “confiscated,” and the allegations were repeated by both German and American media outlets before being retracted by Geisel’s office the next day. The office of Berlin’s Senator of the Interior said it was trying to find out how 200,000 masks destined for the city’s police officers had been delivered to the United States. The masks had been manufactured by American company 3M but had been ordered from a German wholesaler.

At a White House press briefing on Sunday, President Donald Trump said “There’s been no act of piracy. No, there’s been no act of piracy. It’s the opposite.”

A statement from 3M on Sunday referred to “inaccurate media reports” on the issue, and said the company will continue to correct misinformation on its manufacturing and distribution operations.

“3M has no evidence to suggest 3M products have been seized. 3M has no record of any order of respirators from China for the Berlin police. We cannot speculate where this report originated,” said 3M in the statement. “3M has extended an offer of help to the German authorities to try to determine if this false report is the result of fraudulent activity.”

Doubling Down

In an interview with Germany’s ZDF broadcaster on Monday, however, Geisel continued to insinuate that the United States may have been involved in the botched delivery.

When asked about his allegations that U.S. authorities had “confiscated” the delivery and his comments about “modern piracy” and American “Wild West methods” of procurement, Geisel was unrepentant.

“The fact is, we placed an order for 200,000 protective masks, we paid for this delivery, they were on their way to Berlin for the Berlin police force because we urgently need these breathing masks,” said Geisel. “And now regardless of whether they were confiscated, or whether they were cancelled and then diverted to the USA, or whether someone came with a briefcase full of money and diverted it to the USA, our protective masks landed in the USA, and that is not okay.”

“This illustrates the situation that exists there at the moment, and I believe that contracts must still be observed. So I have nothing to take back,” he said. Geisel said that his office was continuing to use all available channels to procure PPE materials, and that the city had “thankfully” been able to obtain a new delivery from China.

When asked if his statements meant he was continuing to point fingers at the United States—although it had not been confirmed that the United States was at fault—Geisel replied: “I don’t want to talk about the question of guilt: In any case, the fact is that the protective masks were diverted to the USA.”