Matt Gaetz awkwardly caught citing Chinese propaganda to justify Ukraine aid cuts

Florida Representative Matt Gaetz may have left Tuesday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing more than a bit chagrined after a top Pentagon official called him out for an attempt to cite a Chinese propaganda outlet’s reporting as a reason to cut defence assistance to Ukraine.

Mr Gaetz, who has repeatedly called for the US to stop assisting Ukraine’s defence against the now year-long war against their country waged by Russian forces, was questioning Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Colin Kohl at the Tuesday morning hearing when he began asking whether the US has allowed American-made weapons to be wielded by the Azov Assault Brigade, a formation of the Ukrainian defence forces which Russian officials often claim to be a neo-Nazi militia for its use of runic symbols that were also used by the Third Reich. A provision in a 2018 spending bill actually prohibits US weapons from being used by that particular regiment.

When Mr Kahl said he had no information on whether US weapons have been directed to the Azov brigade, Mr Gaetz offered a report by what he described as the Global Times as evidence for his claim and asked to enter it into the Congressional Record.

Mr Kohl quickly interjected: "Is this the Global Times from China?"

Mr Gaetz first attempted to deny that it was, in fact, a report by a Chinese propaganda organ, but then admitted: “Yeah, it might be”.

The Defence Department official quickly told him that he does not “take Beijing’s propaganda at face value”.

Mr Gaetz, appearing a bit embarrassed, conceded the point.

“Fair enough,” he said.

The outlet Mr Gaetz attempted to cite, the Global Times, is an English-language tabloid published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party. Foreign Policy magazine has called the publication “China’s Fox News”.

In June 2020, the Trump administration, through the State Department, designated the outlet as a foreign mission operating in the US.

At the time, the department said it was making such a designation to clarify that the Global Times is a government propaganda organ rather than a legitimate state-sponsored news organisation in the mould of The Voice of America,Deutsche Welle, or the BBC.

David Stilwell, who was then the assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, said the Global Times and other designated outlets were “not independent news organizations” because they were “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by the Chinese Communist Party.