Atef Abdel Gawad, an Egyptian journalist based in Washington, D.C., said in a March 17, 2020 debate on Al-Alam TV (Iran) that it is illogical to claim that the United States is responsible for the spread of COVID-19 since the U.S. and its economy are severely affected by the virus and since if the U.S. had really spread the virus, it would presumably already have had a vaccine in order to protect its own citizens. He also said that unlike the United States, countries like Russia, China, and Iran have put no effort into developing a vaccine. Criticizing Gawad for "going off on a tangent," the show host claimed that according to sources in Germany's foreign ministry, U.S. President Donald Trump had offered to buy a German coronavirus vaccine for $1 billion on the condition that it could be used exclusively in the United States. Gawad said this statement is false and disconnected from the debate after the show host refused to say the name of the German official who leaked this information.
Atef Abdel Gawad: "Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the United States released this virus. Don't you know that the U.S. has been harmed the most by this pandemic, by the virus? Do you know what losses have been incurred by the stock markets and by the American airline industry? Did you know that President Trump himself is now talking about a possible recession? You are talking about a [country] that is suffering from this pandemic. Is it logical to claim that the same country spread the pandemic? Logically speaking, if the Americans were looking to spread the pandemic, they would first develop a vaccine that would protect their own citizens..."
Host: "Sir, our topic is the accusations by Moscow and Beijing that Washington is obstructing the fight against the coronavirus in Iran. Even Iran's request for aid from the IMF went unanswered, due to the pressure that was, and will be, exerted. In any case, this is our topic, so we should not go off on a tangent by talking about the source of the pandemic."
Atef Abdel Gawad: "Yesterday, in the city of Seattle in the northwestern United States, an experiment began on a new vaccine, and it was tested on 45 volunteers. Other tests will start in two weeks in the University of Pennsylvania to develop a vaccine that will protect people for only one month, in an attempt to buy humanity another month to develop a lasting vaccine. You are focusing on this lethal pandemic... You, and the foreign ministries of Russia and China, are talking about pointing fingers? This is all nonsense. When you are comparing [the U.S.] to the other countries, at least tell me if anybody in Russia, China, or Tehran is currently engaged in developing a vaccine that will protect humanity."
Host: "Just to give you an answer... I'm not a side in this discussion. I'm going to leave that to our colleagues here. But because you stooped to that language while talking to us, and said that what we are discussing here is nonsense... I don't think you can call this discussion 'nonsense'. But with regard to what you've just said, it was Germany that responded to Trump by saying that Germany is not for sale after Trump offered to buy the rights to a German vaccine against the coronavirus for one billion dollars, on the condition that it could be used exclusively in America. What would you call this? I'll leave it to you, but allow me to go back to the studio..."
Atef Abdel Gawad: "This is not true. This. Is. Not. True."
Host: "We rely on confirmed information that we receive, Mr. Atef. Germany has confirmed this. German officials have spoken about this. Let me go back to my guests..."
Atef Abdel Gawad: "Please remind me of the name of the this official."
Host: "I'm not about to tell you his name. I'll send it to you later."
Atef Abdel Gawad: "No, no. I want the name said on air, so that the viewers know."
Host: "I am unable to mention the name..."
Atef Abdel Gawad: "Forgive me for withdrawing from this debate."
Host: "It came from Germany. From the German foreign ministry, no less. Perhaps after the show we will send you the name."