Wash. Post Reporter Robert Costa: Trump Surrounds Himself With Conspiracy Theorists Like Ed Klein, Roger Stone, And Alex Jones
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Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump counts among his allies a stable of fringe right-wing conspiracy theorists who’ve made a name for themselves advancing conspiracy theories that include the myth that President Obama is a secret Kenyan Muslim, Lyndon Johnson assassinated John F. Kennedy, and the CIA is paying Beyonce to create mayhem. Trump’s conspiracy theorist allies also regularly wish violence upon political and media figures who they disagree with.
Warning: This post contains graphic language and sexual content.
The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin explained that because presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “‘whole frame of reference’” for his campaign strategy has been conservative media outlets and discredited conspiracy theories, he’s “obliterated” the line separating elected officials and “conservative mischief makers.”
Trump has long had a symbiotic relationship with conservative media. Fox News and other right-wing news outlets have built up his campaign and repeatedly defended his controversial policies and rhetoric while Trump has echoed their talking points and peddled their conspiracy theories -- most recently including the claim the Clintons were involved with the death of aide Vince Foster. Trump regularly surrounds himself with and lauds known conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, an infamous 9/11 truther, and Roger Stone, a notorious dirty trickster who alleges the Clintons are murderers.Trump has also courted and pushed the claims of discredited author and conspiracy theorist Ed Klein, whose conspiracies on the Clintons have been called “fan faction” and “smut.”
In a May 25 piece, Martin noted that Trump has obliterated “the line separating the conservative mischief makers and the party’s more buttoned-up cadre of elected officials and aides.”Martin also quoted Republican strategists explaining that Trump’s “whole frame of reference is daytime Fox News and [Alex Jones’] Infowars.” From the May 25 New York Times piece:
Ever since talk radio, cable news and the Internet emerged in the 1990s as potent political forces on the right, Republicans have used those media to attack their opponents through a now-familiar two-step.
Political operatives would secretly place damaging information with friendly outlets like The Drudge Report and Fox News and with radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh — and then they would work to get the same information absorbed into the mainstream media.
Candidates themselves would avoid being seen slinging mud, if possible, so as to avoid coming across as undignified or desperate.
Yet by personally broaching topics like Bill Clinton’s marital indiscretions and the conspiracy theories surrounding the suicide of Vincent W. Foster Jr., a Clinton White House aide, Donald J. Trump is again defying the norms of presidential politics and fashioning his own outrageous style — one that has little use for a middleman, let alone usual ideas about dignity.
“They’ve reverse-engineered the way it has always worked because they now have a candidate willing to say it himself,” said Danny Diaz, who was a top aide in Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, speaking with a measure of wonder about the spectacle of the party’s presumptive nominee discussing Mr. Clinton’s sexual escapades.
With Mr. Trump as the Republican standard-bearer, the line separating the conservative mischief makers and the party’s more buttoned-up cadre of elected officials and aides has been obliterated. Fusing what had been two separate but symbiotic forces, Mr. Trump has begun a real-life political science experiment: What happens when a major party’s nominee is more provocateur than politician?
Roger J. Stone Jr., the political operative who is Mr. Trump’s longtime confidant and an unapologetic stirrer of strife, called Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney “losers” for their more restrained approaches.
But that is precisely what has many Republicans, and some Democrats, nervous.
“He’s never been involved in policy making or party building or the normal things a candidate would do,” said Jon Seaton, a Republican strategist. “His whole frame of reference is daytime Fox News and Infowars,” a website run by the conservative commentator Alex Jones.
Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s former chief of staff, said Mr. Trump was making common cause with “the lunatic fringe,” citing his willingness to appear on the radio show of Mr. Jones, who has claimed that Michelle Obama is a man.
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The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi explained that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign strategy against Hillary Clinton is based on “conspiracy scrapbook[s]” written by discredited, “fabulist” authors and Trump acquaintances like Roger Stone, Robert Morrow, and Ed Klein.
Donald Trump’s “obsession” with disgraced conspiracy theories has been well documented, with Nuzzi spotlighting Trump’s acquaintances with Roger Stone, Robert Morrow, and Ed Klein. Stone is a plagiarist known for regularly spouting violent, racist, and sexist rhetoric, including calling Hillary Clinton a “cunt” and advocating her execution. Together, Stone and Robert Morrow dedicated a book they wrote to a Holocaust denier who blames Jews for the 9/11 attacks. And Morrow has written bizarre sexual fantasies about Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, and has wished death on Hillary. Additionally, Ed Klein, with whom Trump recently dined, writes discredited “fan fiction” about the Clintons which has been slammed by journalists from across the political spectrum as “smut”, “sewage”, and “junk journalism.”
In her May 13 article, Nuzzi explained that the discredited authors have “intentionally or not … written the foundational texts” for Trump’s case against Clinton, adding that these conspiracy theories have helped Trump change the narrative of the GOP primary:
Political observers have generally fared poorly over the last year when making predictions about the election, but I’d bet my muumuu that Trump takes the insights he gleans from the curriculum produced by Stone, Morrow, and Klein to a cable chyron near you—and sometime before the July conventions. He’s already started. Last week, Trump criticized Clinton for being a “nasty, mean enabler” of her husband’s affairs—a page, literally, out of the doctrine.
Stone, 64, is the white-haired, body-building, fashion-obsessed, sex-club-visiting former aide to Richard Nixon with a portrait of Nixon’s face tattooed between his shoulderblades.
Stone was introduced to Trump in the 1970s by Roy Cohn, Senator Joe McCarthy’s legal counsel, who mentored Trump politically. Stone remained in Trump’s orbit over the decades, advising him informally, before joining his presidential campaign in 2015. He left in August amid staff infighting (he butted heads, in particular, with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski), but he returned to the inner circle when Trump hired Paul Manafort, who’d been his partner at Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, a lobbying firm in D.C. that they started in the early 1980s.
Morrow, 51, is a towering and disheveled presence who dresses like a math teacher who’s fallen on hard times.
He lives in Austin, Texas and serves, much to the ire of the Travis County GOP, as the chairman of the Travis County GOP. He survives on an inheritance, and when he’s not rating anime porn on a scale of 1 to 10 on Twitter, he devotes his every waking moment to uncovering and perpetuating information—most of it highly questionable, to put it politely—about public officials.
Unlike Stone and Morrow, Klein’s… eccentricities… aren’t apparent on the surface. He doesn’t have a Twitter account where he ranks anime “boobies” like Morrow and he’s never posed for a photoshoot dressed up as the Joker from Batman like Stone. Without reading any of his work, you might think Klein is your average veteran reporter. Just a nice 79-year-old guy with a friendly demeanor on the phone, probably somebody’s grandpa.
Unless Klein wired his sources and his sources were Bill and Hillary Clinton, none of this is likely to be even kind of true. It’s possible Klein is a fabulist, or it’s possible he has terrible sources. It’s also possible that he’s a looney toon and the multiple sources he’s interviewed upwards of 70 times each are all in his head.
Who’s to say? If I were Ed Klein I might say I know that last thing for a fact.
I’ve written extensively about the possibility that Trump is a conspiracy theorist, and I maintain that’s likely. But likely, too, is the possibility that Trump is merely savvy.
It was just as voters were taking to the polls in Indiana—which had been perceived, a few days before the primary, as a competitive state for Ted Cruz—that Trump went on Fox News to ask why nobody was paying attention to a National Enquirer story alleging Cruz’s dad had been with Lee Harvey Oswald just before the JFK assassination.
And just like that, the narrative in the media changed from, Can Cruz Win Indiana? to Donald Trump Connects Cruz’s Dad to JFK Assassination.
Who knows if Trump believed any of it, and who cares? It worked. Cruz dropped out of the race a few hours later, making Trump, effectively, the Republican nominee.
For the general, Trump has more than just one tabloid story to knockout his opponent. He’s got an entire library’s worth of poorly-written ammo.
And his three horsemen are more than willing to assist.
Donald Trump had lunch with disgraced author Ed Klein, who has written several books and columns making lurid and absurd allegations about the Clintons, President Barack Obama and others. That work has been described as "fan fiction" and "smut," while even conservatives have expressed doubt about Klein's credibility.
Washington Post national political correspondent Philip Rucker reported that Trump met with Klein along with Trump campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and Daniel Scavino at a delicatessen in Indianapolis. Rucker wrote that Klein is "perhaps best known for his series of bombshell books spreading rumors and innuendo, much of it discredited." The Post reporter added that Klein "said he is following Trump around for a couple of days to gather material for a new book."
Klein has been a fixture in conservative media for years. His work is notable for being extremely salacious, sloppy, and provably inaccurate. Journalists have described his work as "smut," "junk journalism," "fan fiction," and "devoid" of "basic journalistic standards."
Klein says he has known Trump for 35 years and has "met with him on numerous occasions, talked to him on the phone countless times, traveled with him, and written two lengthy magazine cover stories about him." He adds, "I believe I understand him better than most people outside his immediate family."
Among the claims Klein has previously made is the allegation that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill Clinton raped his wife. Publisher HarperCollins reportedly dropped one of his books because it "did not pass a vetting by in-house lawyers." A conservative publisher, Regnery, later published that book and its follow-up.
Klein is also known for using completely distorted quotes in his books and columns, while others sound as if they were completely made up. One reporter wrote that Klein’s reporting features "dialogue that no human has likely said or will probably ever say until you read it aloud to friends and family."
The details in Klein’s work have been so unbelievable that even conservatives have called it into question. Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade was skeptical of one of Klein’s too good to be true quotes in his book Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, and Rush Limbaugh even said, "some of the quotes strike me as odd, in the sense that I don't know people who speak this way."
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan described Klein’s book The Truth About Hillary as "poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced and full of the kind of loaded language that is appropriate to a polemic but not an investigative work."
Klein writes regular columns that appear in right-wing publications like Townhall.com and Newsmax. Those columns continue Klein’s well-worn tactics. In one column, Klein speculates about Clinton’s health, writing, "Bill’s worst fear, according to my sources, is that Hillary will stumble or fall at a critical moment in the campaign and reveal that she’s not up to handling the job of commander in chief."
Trump has repeatedly promoted Klein’s books on his Twitter account. Earlier in the year, Senator Marco Rubio’s campaign used an unverifiable Bill Clinton quote sourced to Klein in campaign mailers and fundraising appeals.
Right-wing media quickly exploited the terrorist attacks in Brussels by stoking fears about the U.S. refugee vetting process, calling for the profiling of Muslims, stoking anti-immigrant sentiments, hyping anti-Muslim fears, blaming political correctness for the victims of terrorism, crediting Donald Trump with being "right" when he said Brussels was turning into a "hell hole," calling for torture and waterboarding, and criticizing President Obama.
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With Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton facing a barrage of criticisms over the tone of her voice during a recent speech, Media Matters looks back at the rampant sexism she faced from the media during her 2008 presidential bid.
A quote sourced to disgraced writer Ed Klein's book Unlikeable has appeared on a campaign flyer for presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Klein's work has been widely criticized for including distorted quotes and implausible situations and conveying an overall lack of credibility.
In Unlikeable, Klein quotes an anonymous source -- a staple of his purported "reporting" -- who claims that while speaking about Rubio, former President Bill Clinton said, "We've got to destroy him before he gets off the ground."
According to a photo circulated by CNN executive producer Katie Hinman, the quote appears on a flyer from Rubio's presidential campaign circulating in New Hampshire ahead of its presidential primary. The quote is being used to validate the campaign's contention that a matchup in the general election between Rubio and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be advantageous to Republicans.
Rubio's campaign has gotten considerable mileage out of Klein's material. In an October 2015 fundraising email, Rubio's communications director referred to the quote as a "bombshell report in a new book about the Democrats' secret plan to take out Marco." The campaign even created a Photoshopped image of President Clinton watching Rubio on television alongside the quote.
The fundraising page with the image also included video of Klein on Fox & Friends pushing the book. The website included text telling supporters to "donate $7 today and show Bill Clinton that he can't destroy Marco Rubio."
Ed Klein's work has been thoroughly discredited. Over the years he has produced a series of books and reports (published primarily in right-wing outlets) about major politicians like President Obama and Secretary Clinton that have been debunked and criticized by reporters, including many conservatives. Klein's writing has been described as "smut," "junk journalism," "fan fiction," and "devoid" of "basic journalistic standards."
The allegations made in his books are often outrageous and outlandish, including his claim that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill Clinton raped Hillary Clinton. A prior Klein book was reportedly dropped by publisher HarperCollins because it "did not pass a vetting by in-house lawyers." It was later put out by the conservative publisher Regnery, which also published Unlikeable.
When not using unverifiable claims from allegedly anonymous sources, Klein has also used completely distorted quotes in his work, or utilized quotes that sound, as one reporter described them, like "dialogue that no human has likely said or will probably ever say until you read it aloud to friends and family."
Despite his journalistic failures and deception, Klein continues to be a fixture in some quarters of the conservative media, particularly the Fox News and New York Post outposts in Rupert Murdoch's media empire. As a result, he has unfortunately become a part of the presidential election.
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Marco Rubio's presidential campaign has been using discredited author Ed Klein's dubious reporting in order to raise money. Rubio joins fellow presidential candidates Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee as Republicans who previously cited Klein despite his history of, in the words of fellow journalists, "junk journalism," "fan fiction," "lazy, cut-and-paste recycling," and "serious factual errors, truncated and distorted quotes."
Unlikeable Features A Fake Quote, Implausible Dialogue, And Hillary Clinton Repeatedly Breaking Things
Discredited reporter Ed Klein is back with another book, Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary. Like his previous output, Unlikeable features supposedly insider accounts of conversations and behind-the-scenes dealings of the most powerful politicians in the country. And, like his previous work, the book reads like a conservative fever dream translated into a screenplay.
Klein's previous books -- which have forwarded outlandish smears like the claim that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill raped Hillary -- have been roundly criticized by a wide range of reporters, including many conservatives. His supposed reporting has been labeled "bullshit," "smut," "junk journalism," and "fan fiction." Unlikeable finds Klein living up to his reputation.
Blood Feud, Klein's 2014 book about the supposed war between the Obamas and the Clintons, was reportedly dropped by a HarperCollins imprint because it "did not pass a vetting by in-house lawyers." BuzzFeed additionally reported that HarperCollins had "concerns about the reporting quality." (The book was eventually released by conservative publisher Regnery, which also published Unlikeable.)
Despite his complete lack of credibility, Klein can still rely on certain sections of the conservative media to celebrate his supposed scoops every time he puts out a new book, and Unlikeable has been no different. Klein's new "reporting" has garnered a series of headlines in recent weeks in the New York Post, and Klein himself has been given a platform to promote the book this week on Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Fox Business.
But no matter how badly conservative media might want Klein's latest to ring true, Unlikeable is undermined by dubious sourcing and sloppy research.
For instance, one chapter opens with a quotation supposedly from Obama Senior Adviser (and frequent Klein villain) Valerie Jarrett ominously declaring, "After we win this election, it's our turn. Payback time."
This supposed quote has been bouncing around conservative websites and message boards for years. In 2012, Right Wing Watch tracked down the quotation's questionable origins, and discovered a convoluted series of anonymous sources overhearing other anonymous sources:
[A]n anonymous source supposedly within the Obama campaign supposedly overheard a representative from Jarrett's office make this statement and attributed it to Jarrett herself; it was then passed along to some pseudonymous source named "Wall Street Insider" who then forwarded it to [conservative blog] The Ulsterman Report ... and it eventually ended up on Glenn Beck's radio program where the quote was treated as entirely legitimate.
Fittingly enough, the Ulsterman Report routinely published interviews with anonymous highly-placed sources in the government that didn't pass the smell test.
Even WND, a birth certificate-obsessed conspiracy website not exactly known for high editorial standards, reported of the supposed Jarrett quotation in 2012, "The quote, however, is suspect and is at best four steps removed from Jarrett herself." Meanwhile, Klein, who regularly touts himself as serious reporter, found it compelling enough to use as a chapter header.
In another chapter, Klein's source is allegedly a "well-known cardiologist," who claims to have been asked by Bill Clinton "to review Hillary's medical records." The cardiologist explains in an interview with Klein that politicians often fear doctors will leak their medical information "to the press ... But doctors are discreet." The doctor ("who requested anonymity") then proceeds to talk about Hillary Clinton's supposed ongoing medical problems:
Bill was so concerned that he asked a well-known cardiologist to review Hillary's medical records. After looking over her cardiograms and X-rays and other records, the cardiologist recommended that Hillary travel with a full-time physician who would keep her under constant observation.
"Most politicians are reluctant to be monitored by a doctor because they fear that if the results are leaked to the press, the information might harm their chances of election," the cardiologist said in an interview for this book. "But doctors are discreet. And in Hillary's case, it is very important that she be monitored on a daily basis. Her symptoms-- the fainting-- are very worrisome, especially for someone of her age. I have a lot of experience with political candidates and have seen the toll that the stress of a campaign can take. It's stressful for young candidates, and for older ones like Hillary, it's beyond belief."
As Salon's Simon Maloy (formerly of Media Matters) explained, Klein's "hot scoops" are usually "based on anonymous 'sources' who always happen to be present when the most powerful people in the country cook up their various schemes and conspiracies, and who then provide verbatim details of those highly scandalous conversations exclusively to Ed Klein."
Apparently, the Clintons keep repeatedly inviting these anonymous sources back to intimate dinner parties and important meetings and divulging their deepest secrets to them, thereby allowing Ed Klein to continue publishing books.
Another of Klein's favorite tactics, regularly on display in Unlikeable, is using sources that have simply heard, after the fact, about private conversations they were not present for -- but which they can nonetheless recreate in impressive detail.
In one instance, President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Jarrett have a private conversation in the White House about their supposed hatred of Clinton, which Klein somehow reproduces word-for-word based only on "sources who spoke to Jarrett":
While Jarrett gave her briefing, the president paced, his head bowed, deep in thought. Jarrett was happy to see Hillary in trouble. Obama wasn't so sure. He felt a great deal of animosity toward both Clintons, and he smiled when Jarrett told him of Hillary's latest travails, but he didn't want to see the Democratic Party lose the White House.
"It's all her own fault," he repeated over and over, according to sources who spoke to Jarrett. "Bill should have advised her better. He should have made her goddamn behave, follow the rules."
Barack plopped down in a chair and let out a sigh.
"Dumb, dumb, dumb," he said. "Just goddamn dumb." (emphasis added)
BuzzFeed's Katherine Miller mocked the many absurd passages in Klein's last book Blood Feud -- highlights include Hillary Clinton swirling a glass of wine and saying of Obama to her old college friends, "You can't trust the motherfucker." Miller described Klein's book as reading "like stilted fan fiction, featuring dialogue that no human has likely said or will probably ever say until you read it aloud to friends and family."
Unlikeable continues the trend. In the below scene, President Obama and Hillary Clinton argue in the Oval Office about Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state:
But before Jarrett could intercede, Obama spun around and looked directly at Hillary.
"There is nothing I can do one way or the other," he said. "Things have been set in motion, and I can't and won't interfere. Your problems are, frankly, of your own making. If you had been honest. . . ."
Hillary interrupted him.
"There are always haters out to get the Clintons," she said. (emphasis added)
While Obama gets to sound like a Bond villain, Clinton has a habit of violently clearing off desks in fits of rage. An unnamed "Foreign Service Officer" tells Klein that "after a telephone argument with President Obama, she took her right arm and cleared off her small working desk, sending pictures, glasses, everything crashing to the floor."
A few chapters later, Clinton does the same thing to her husband's desk:
"You've thrown us in the crap again!" she screamed. "I've never been this pissed off at you! I don't think you really want me to be president."
Bill looked up over the rim of his eyeglasses, which were perched on the tip of his nose.
"Calm down," he said.
His air of nonchalance only made Hillary angrier, and with a sweeping motion of her arm, she shoved everything off the top of his desk, sending papers and an expensive piece of Chihuly blown glass flying onto the floor.
"Jesus!" Bill said.
He got up to retrieve the Chihuly sculpture, which fortunately wasn't damaged. He put it carefully back on his desk. He had one of the largest private collections of Chihuly glass in the country.
"You don't care about anything but that fucking piece of glass," Hillary said. (emphasis added)
Clinton also sends a water glass flying across her office in a fit of rage (according to the unnamed "Foreign Service officer," who saw it "with my own eyes").
Unlikeable finishes with a strange and out-of-nowhere epilogue that issues dire warnings about the "new normal" in America. According to him, "long-accepted standards and codes of behavior" have been turned "upside down." Features that are "unacceptable," "abnormal," and make America "coarser" apparently include:
Support for same-sex marriage has doubled over the past decade to 60 percent.
In less than thirty years non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up a majority of Americans.
Bruce Jenner, once the picture of masculinity, is canonized for being castrated.
The average American woman now weighs the same as the average American man did in the 1960s.
He concludes: "Conservatives rightly fear that decadence will lead to the fall of the United States just as surely as it led to the fall of Rome."
Klein's "fan fiction" perfectly follows conservative mythology -- down to the very last page.
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No serious news outlet should trust anything from purported reporter Ed Klein and his new book Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary. Media Matters has compiled remarks from more than 30 reporters from a wide range of outlets who have found major problems with Klein's work. Media figures have called Klein's work "junk journalism," "devoid of credibility," "suspect," "fan fiction," "lazy, cut-and-paste recycling," "strewn with serious factual errors, truncated and distorted quotes," "thoroughly discredited," "smut," "sordid," "poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced," and "bullshit."