If there’s one man who has been dragged through the mud throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s Bill Gates.
The billionaire Microsoft CEO-turned-philanthropist is making headlines for the wrong reasons these days. Conspiracy theorists, and surely plenty of laypeople, have placed much of the blame for the health crisis at his feet.
What’s astonishing about the myriad theories and allegations levied against him is the sheer dearth of proof coming from those making the claims. Simple fact-checking bears that out, as does the context of what he’s actually said relative to pandemics. Gates is intelligent to be sure, but he’s no prophet, and the more he comes up in relation to the coronavirus, the more divorced from reality his accusers appear to be.
Anyone assuming he’s a genocidal lunatic hellbent on culling whole populations should also consider the facts. Real, irrefutable facts. Stats, figures, documents, and yes, even his own words, to come to the conclusion that his pandemic warnings were warranted, and that he’s not likely to financially gain from anything he’s been doing.
Theories and allegations
Cataclysmic events often come with conspiracy theories. The erroneous connection between 5G networks and COVID-19, notwithstanding, the enmity aimed at Gates comes from different angles. Some of the theories include the following:
- His immense wealth and generous donations to the World Health Organization (WHO) are a front.
- Research funded by the foundation is actually earmarked for spreading the virus, or developing a patented vaccine where Gates can reap untold riches.
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded an institute that some claim holds a “patent” for the novel coronavirus.
- That Event 201, a pandemics exercise for preparedness held in 2019 that Gates was involved in what was a trial run for unleashing the virus.
- Gates intends to implant microchips in people through vaccination programs centred around this virus and other pathogens.
That may not be all of them, but they are the most common ones making the rounds. They’re serious allegations in their own right, yet when taken as a whole, they paint a picture of a megalomaniac determined to shape the world in a distorted image.
The reality is very different, and I’ll demonstrate that by going over each of the theories one at a time.
Where the money is going
It’s no secret Gates amassed his fortune as co-founder of Microsoft. His background in the tech industry, including the rise of Microsoft as the behemoth it is today, has been told many times, and he’s anything but a shadowy figure as far as his professional career goes. Since stepping down as the company’s CEO in 2000, he stayed on as chairman of the board of directors until 2014, and then vacated his board seat on March 13, 2020.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation started in 2000, the same year he stepped down as CEO. Its stated goal has been to expand and improve healthcare and battle poverty across the globe, where much of its funding comes from the Gates’ couple themselves. Along with them, famed investor Warren Buffett serves as the third trustee.
It’s been reported that Gates and his wife donated about $45 billion (U.S.) to the foundation up to 2019. Despite the generosity, he is still considered the second-richest person in the world behind Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. The main reason why is because he’s estimated to hold as much as 4.3 per cent of Microsoft stock, amounting to hundreds of millions of shares and tens of billions of dollars. The foundation also benefits from a trust worth billions set up to invest in other companies, of which the primary holding has been said to be Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. The irony is that, as an investor in Berkshire, Gates indirectly owns Apple stock, but that’s a story for another day.
The point is that the foundation raises a lot of money to dole out to what should be worthy causes. It has shifted much of its focus on the current pandemic, having contributed $250 million to the WHO to fight COVID-19 up to the end of April 2020. This article outlines much of the foundation’s strategy in dealing with the virus, but as of now, most of its war chest of funds is still there to be spent, with a particular focus on helping develop and manufacture a vaccine.
Gates has publicly stated that the “only way to get back to normal” is through a vaccine. In an interview on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he cited seven vaccine trials that would all get funding, even though it’s likely just two of them would be picked up. That effort will cost billions, especially to manufacture and distribute them by the hundreds of millions at a time. Almost certainly, some of that funding will go to waste on the vaccines that don’t pan out. He addressed that in the interview where he said, “A few billion in this, the situation we’re in, where there’s trillions of dollars… being lost economically, it is worth it.”
Not every company working on a vaccine is getting money from the foundation, as evidenced by how many potential vaccines are already in development. Even if a company developed one using the foundation’s funding, Gates won’t be assuming ownership of it. The donations don’t have stakes attached to them, meaning he won’t be a shareholder, or expect a financial windfall coming his way once a vaccine becomes viable.
Funding the Pirbright Institute and the ‘patent’
This theory was first disseminated by an article on the Humans Are Free website claiming the Surrey, England-based Pirbright Institute had patented COVID-19, thanks to funding from Gates and the acquiescence of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S.
The institute specializes in studying novel coronaviruses and zoonotic diseases, or those that transfer from animals to humans. It does hold a patent for a coronavirus that infects chickens, but there is no record of it holding anything related to COVID-19, or any sequence of it. In plain English, the patent it does have, issued in 2018, is for a weakened part of a coronavirus to use as a vaccine for birds and other animals affected by it.
To date, neither the Canadian Intellectual Property Office or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have issued any patents related to sequences of COVID-19. Nor have any other similar entities done so in other countries.
The Gates Foundation did give Pirbright two separate grants. The first in November 2013 on livestock diseases, and the second in June 2016 on work toward a flu vaccine. Since then, the foundation hasn’t provided any additional funding, and it’s evident neither side holds any sort of patent on the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19.
This was a tabletop exercise held in October 2019 at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, in a partnership with the Gates Foundation and World Economic Forum. Professionals and analysts from various backgrounds, like medicine, business and public policy, came together to discuss how institutions in those fields would respond to a coronavirus pandemic. It was referring to a general coronavirus, not specifically COVID-19.
It was an invite-only, closed-door affair, which has helped spur the theories around it. And while it was the third such exercise hosted at the centre, it was the first to include private sector business leaders, adding fuel to the alleged conspiracy.
The exercise posited that a highly infectious virus could kill 65 million people in an 18-month span. To be clear, the fictional virus used in this exercise was not COVID-19, but rather modeling inputs based “largely on SARS.” It was never meant to predict this specific pandemic, and has no correlation in timing beyond the coincidence of it being so close to the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China.
For years, Gates has been steadfast and consistent in his belief of a lack of foresight and preparedness for global pandemics that could threaten civilization. The TED Talk in 2015, and his most recent one posted on Mar. 25, 2020 (further down), echo many of the same fears, though he offers more insight in the much longer video.
Vaccines, microchips and invisible dyes
Gates has been accused of backing three different, yet indirectly related, conspiracy theories. One, that microchips would be implanted in people as part of vaccination programs. Two, that “digital certificates” and “tracking bracelets” are part of an ominous plan to restrict freedom of movement. And three, that an invisible dye ostensibly used for tracking vaccinations in underdeveloped countries is actually a façade for more draconian public policies at home.
First, the microchips. This theory has mostly been peddled by anti-vaccine groups and religious zealots, and probably stemmed from something he said in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). The exact line from Gates was, “Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered or been tested recently or when we have a vaccine who has received it.”
For the sake of context, his was a response to a question about how the pandemic would affect businesses. At no point in that Reddit AMA, or in any previous or subsequent appearance or correspondence, had Gates said anything about microchips. Those making the claim have also not presented any evidence to explain how a microchip could be embedded in a vaccine, much less how it could be implanted through a syringe, for example.
This leads to another tentacle in this multi-pronged accusation. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Rice University collaborated on a study in 2016 looking into how an invisible dye could be applied while administering a vaccine. The mark, while invisible to the naked eye, would be viewable through a smartphone. The Gates Foundation funded the study, thus connecting him to the theory, except it was never meant to yield any ability to monitor or track a person. It was only to serve as confirmation whether a child had been vaccinated or not in an effort to combat shoddy record-keeping in developing nations. It was also based on a theoretical approach, and no such methodology saw mass production.
That same Reddit comment also elicited plenty of reaction over the use of digital certificates and bracelets. Again, these are somewhat related to the microchip theory, though not from everyone touting them.
In the most recent TED Talk, Gates referred to certificates at about the 34:13 mark. His exact comments were:
Eventually, what we’ll have to have is certificates of who is a recovered person, who is a vaccinated person, because you don’t want people moving around the world, where you’ll have some countries that won’t have it under control, sadly. You don’t want to completely block off the ability for those people to go there and come back and move around.
Gates never mentioned microchips or a tracking regimen implanted in one’s body. The context of the statement referred to speeding up testing procedures through cheaper and abundant self-testing kits, plus therapeutics and antibodies that could treat the virus until a vaccine is developed. However, some have latched onto another comment he made in the same video that appears to have been edited out for some reason:
So eventually there will be this digital immunity proof that will help facilitate the global reopening up.
The interviewer also didn’t follow up on Gates mentioning certificates or elaborating on “immunity proof.” But he’s not the only one talking about that. Germany had been mulling over the idea of using “immunity passports” as a way to put people back to work who tested negative or had recovered from the virus. Such a plan hasn’t yet been put into action, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “too early” to commit to something like that in Canada because the science wasn’t conclusive on whether recovering from the virus confirms one’s immunity to catching it again.
The WHO also weighed in on this, saying it doesn’t know how much one’s antibody response would protect from reinfection. For his part, Gates did refer to certificates from an economic standpoint, though hasn’t said much about what they would look like. The idea of an immunity passport has nothing to do with tracking based on what different countries are considering. It’s simply a way to confirm your status relative to the virus when you have to show it to someone, which may be a major factor in opening up travel.
Gates touched on this in a Q&A format of the Reddit AMA, where he noted that countries who get COVID-19 numbers under control would likely have to decide on how to handle people coming in. Much like in other video appearances and written op-eds, he emphasized massive testing and self-isolation for the infected as the best ways to keep numbers low until therapeutics, and eventually, a vaccine is able to deal the virus a crushing defeat.
The bottom line
Based on the facts, as they are, there is no concrete evidence pointing at Gates as a purveyor of the gross misdeeds he’s being accused of. Even the “depopulation” conspiracy theories completely ignore the socioeconomic factors in birth and mortality rates in developing countries. Birthrates are the highest in some of the world’s poorest nations, as are mortality rates, where access to healthcare is either inadequate or too expensive. Gates’ work on vaccines and healthcare access in these regions predates even his work on pandemics, as is corroborated by various videos and articles related to those endeavours. The work of GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) also figures into that, though it is a public-private global health partnership, not an organization Gates owns.
All the allegations are made up of conjecture, speculation and opinion — presented as irrefutable proof. That’s not to say that Gates and the foundation shouldn’t be scrutinized. His past investments in genetically-modified food production through Monsanto (now Bayer), coupled with charity to for-profit companies does suggest he hasn’t fully avoided potential conflicts of interest.
However, none of that is a slam dunk that the man is committed to either mass control or mass murder. There’s no smoking gun confirming his role in either creating or fomenting the current pandemic, and there’s no paper trail (so far) implicating him in profiting from the fallout. Unless there is, it’s easy to conclude that the claims against him are false.