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Journalists have regularly validated top Donald Trump ally and infamous conspiracy theorist Roger Stone in their reporting by uncritically quoting Stone without acknowledging his history of dirty tricks, racism, sexism, and violent rhetoric.
Political reporters turn to candidates’ campaign staff and other political allies in order to provide insight into campaign strategy. Journalists have used Stone as a source for this insight with regard to the Trump campaign, often referring to him as merely a Trump “associate” or “ally.”
But Stone is not a typical political adviser, and when the press treats him as one they miss out on a key election story: the extremism of Trump’s supporters. Stone’s decades-long history of dirty tricks includes playing a role in Watergate that later caused him to be fired from a job in the Senate. He has a record of racist and misogynistic rhetoric that caused MSNBC and CNN to ban him from their networks. Stone also regularly calls for public figures to be executed.
Stone’s history of extremism is particularly relevant for readers when he is quoted discussing the Clintons. Stone has alleged that the Clintons are “plausibly responsible” for the deaths of roughly 40 people, including John F. Kennedy Jr. He has also claimed that Bill Clinton is not Chelsea Clinton’s real father. In 2008, he ran an anti-Hillary Clinton group that went by the acronym “C.U.N.T.”
Recent articles that have quoted Stone without providing readers with any context regarding his history include:
- A May 16 BuzzFeed article that quoted “longtime political ally and former campaign adviser to Donald Trump” acknowledging that Trump “posed as his own publicist.”
- A May 24 Fox News segment discussed comments from “Trump confidant Roger Stone” about whether the candidate had given money to Kathleen Willey.
- A May 23 Washington Post article quoted “Trump confidant” Stone on the candidate’s strategy for attacking the Clintons.
- A May 17 USA Today article cited “Trump adviser” Stone on the candidate’s position on Wall Street.
The media’s validation of Stone closely echoes the mainstreaming of Trump’s extremism. On CNN, Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington called out the media for just that, noting that “by not challenging” Trump’s “extreme statements,” media “are allowing them to become part of the conversation, to become part of the mainstream; we’re getting used to these absurdities.” Journalists should keep that in mind when covering Stone, too.