Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

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Dan Bongino’s rise from the swamps of Infowars and NRATV to contributor at Fox News

Dan Bongino, the latest addition to Fox News’ lineup of contributors, is a former NRATV host and tea party congressional candidate who honed his conspiracy theories on the fringe platform Infowars. He is now bringing his attacks and smears on the investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election to Trump’s favorite network.  

  • Fox News confirmed it hired Bongino

    Bongino previously hosted an NRATV show

    The newest contributor is an author and three-time failed congressional candidate

    Bongino's latest book is a defense of President Donald Trump

    Bongino was a frequent guest on Infowars

    In April 2018, Bongino acknowledged he still followed Alex Jones

    Bongino used his NRATV show to spin conspiracy theories about the Mueller investigation

    Bongino auditioned his Mueller attacks through guest appearances

    Bongino has easy access to Trump through appearance on Fox's morning show

    Fox News confirmed it hired Bongino

    Bongino joins Fox News as a contributor. A Fox News spokesperson confirmed the news to Mediaite that radio host and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino joined the network as a contributor. In the months leading up his hiring, Bongino guest-hosted Sean Hannity’s prime-time show on Fox and had frequently appeared on the channel’s morning show Fox & Friends. [Mediaite.com, 1/28/19]  

    Fox hired Bongino after allegedly banning him from one of its shows for becoming “unglued.” Bongino was allegedly banned from the set of Shannon Bream’s Fox News show Fox News @ Night due to “unglued” behavior. A source told The Daily Beast that Bongino is “not someone who would typically be on the news shows.” Fox News declined to comment about the reported incident. [The Daily Beast, 10/10/18]   

    Bongino previously hosted an NRATV show

    Bongino became NRATV’s newest addition. In February 2018, Bongino became the newest addition to the National Rifle Association’s broadcast platform with his half-hour show We Stand. Bongino regularly appeared with host Grant Stinchfield during the 1 p.m. edition of NRATV’s hourly 10-minute updates every day. NRATV also announced the news by releasing an ad featuring Bongino placing whole lemons into a blender, an apparent attack on CNN host Don Lemon. [YouTube.com, 2/5/18; NRATV, 1/2/18]

    Bongino’s NRATV show ended after less than a year. The Daily Beast first reported on December 10 that according to two sources, NRATV had “dropped” Bongino amid its downsizing efforts. In response, Bongino had a Twitter meltdown in which he insisted that the story was “fake news,” that he hadn’t been fired but had instead quit, and threatened satirist Vic Burger for poking fun at the news. [Media Matters, 12/11/18]     

    The newest Fox contributor is an author and three-time failed congressional candidate

    Bongino twice ran for Congress in Maryland. Aftering serving in the Secret Service for 12 years, protecting both former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Bongino left reportedly because of the debate surrounding Obamacare. In 2012, Bongino ran for Senate in Maryland as a Republican “but lost handedly to incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin.” In 2014, he ran for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, but lost to incumbent Democratic Rep. John Delaney by just under 3,000 votes. [ABC News, 11/7/13; Maryland State Board of Elections, 12/2/14]

    After leaving the Secret Service, Bongino wrote two books about his experience. Bongino’s 2013 book is supposedly “an intimate look at life inside the president’s ‘bubble’” and chronicles Bongino’s decision to walk away from the Obama White House “in favor of sounding a clarion call to the American people in defense of sane government and the U.S. Constitution.” In his 2016 book, which was praised by right-wing media figures Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, Bongino claims to tackle issues like former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails and offer “new solutions.” [WND Books, accessed 8/23/18; St. Martin's Press, accessed 8/23/18]   

    Bongino tried for another congressional seat in Florida. In 2016, Bongino attempted a third congressional run for Florida’s 19th Congressional District after the Republican incumbent announced he would be retiring. A week before the primary, Bongino “launched a profanity-laced tirade” against Florida-based Politico reporter Marc Caputo during a phone interview. According to HuffPost, the dispute began after Bongino objected to a Naples Daily News report about his campaign contributions, calling it “wholly inaccurate,” but failed to explain it further. In the heated exchange, Bongino called the reporter, among other things, “a real disgusting piece of shit.” Bongino lost the primary, getting just 17.4 percent of the vote. [Ballotpedia, accessed 8/23/18; HuffPost, 8/23/16]  

    Bongino’s latest book is a 272 page defense of President Donald Trump   

    Bongino boasts “some huge revelations” in his newest book about “the attempted sabotage of Donald J. Trump.” In July 2018, Bongino announced his latest book, “Spygate,” was available for pre-order on Amazon. The book is billed as a “comprehensive story of how the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton campaign, and foreign entities tried to sabotage the Trump campaign.” Bongino also boasted that there would be “some huge revelations in there” and information “you haven’t seen yet.” [NRATV, We Stand, 7/31/18; Amazon]  

    Trump thanked Bongino on Twitter and wished him luck with the book.

    [Twitter, 8/15/18]  

    Prior to joining NRATV, Bongino was a frequent guest on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars show

    On Infowars, Bongino accused the Democrats of “crisis leveraging” after a “national emotional crisis.” On the April 8, 2013, edition of Infowars’ The Alex Jones Show, host Alex Jones claimed it’s “so over the top how authoritarian the Democrats have become” while discussing the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occurred several months earlier. Bongino responded that Democrats aren’t crisis managers but are instead “crisis leveraging [and] using a national emotional crisis to get you to believe things that simply aren’t true.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 4/8/13]

    Bongino: We are “being manipulated” by a “tyrannical group of insiders.” During the August 6, 2013, edition of The Alex Jones Show, Bongino endorsed the conspiracy theory that CIA security operatives were told to stand down during the terrorist attacks on U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Bongino said that “there is no question in my mind this was politically motivated” and claimed the Obama administration was either “the most incompetent administration in presidential history” or the Obama officials knew exactly what was happening and “for political reasons, they let these four guys die.” During the same interview, Bongino said he didn’t want to sound “conspiratorial” but the American public was being “manipulated” by a “tyrannical group of insiders, crony capitalists, … and elected officials, some from both sides.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 8/6/13, 8/6/13]  

    Bongino: “Can you really say” that we live in a “free, liberty-loving society”? During the September 24, 2013, edition of the show, Bongino cited a debunked 2013 claim that the IRS targeted tea party groups and asked “can you really say” that everyone “has the absolute same constitutional protections under our law” anymore? [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 9/24/13]   

    Bongino: “We are literally in a constitutional crisis.” In 2013, Bongino insisted on The Alex Jones Show that “we are literally in a constitutional crisis” because Obama had surrounded himself with “acolytes that don’t want to tell him he’s doing anything wrong.” He went on to call this trend “troublesome” and “what we see in third world countries.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 11/15/13]   

    Bongino: The Obama administration used “tactical” and “strategic propaganda weapons.” Bongino claimed the country was in “a really dangerous place” because the Obama administration used “tactical” and “strategic propaganda weapons to get the American people to just not pay attention to the evaporation of their liberties.” He specifically mentioned “health care liberty,” which he said was “evaporating in front of your very eyes with Obamacare.” He claimed if health care liberty doesn’t matter to people, then “what other form of liberty really matters? Do you even have political liberty? Oh we can vote; vote for what? You don’t have your health care liberty.” Later, during the same interview, host Alex Jones called Obama “a gangster” and Bongino said that if some of the practices of Obamacare had occured in the private sector, the authorities “would have you and I in handcuffs doing a perp walk right now.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 11/25/13; 11/25/13]

    Bongino: “We’ve got to find more whistleblowers” to build the case for impeaching Obama. On the July 12, 2014, edition of his show, Jones claimed the government bureaucracy and the Democratic Party were acting “in a dictatorial, lawless way” and have violated “dozens of federal laws.” Bongino agreed, saying, “We’ve got to find more whistleblowers. We have to find people on the inside like me, willing to speak out, and say ‘hey folks, this is not right’” in order to build “public pressure” for Obama’s impeachment. [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 6/12/14]

    Bongino: “We have a president of the United States that takes the Constitution” and “uses it like a tissue.” During the January 14, 2016, edition of The Alex Jones Show, Jones claimed his federal-level sources told him that “they are actually scared of Obama now.” Bongino responded that people are scared because “the government is a shiny new toy for Barack Obama” and that “there is a danger in electing far leftists who have little government experience.” Bongino continued on to say that Obama “invented prosecutorial discretion” in order to exempt “an entire class of immigrants” from the U.S. law and questioned why the left was not “in a panic” over Obama using the Constitution “like a tissue.” Jones asked him if it was accurate to say the Obama administration wanted to “mount our head on the wall.” Bongino responded that Obama “certainly feels that way about people who are in any way vested in a constitutional republic and in an objectively limited government.” Bongino also claimed Obama was an apologist for Iran and ISIS but couldn’t stand anyone who believed in “free market,” “capitalism,” and “liberty.” According to Bongino, liberals “find allies with radical Islamists” because “they will not call these people out, no matter what. It’s outrageous.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 1/14/16; 1/14/16]          

    Bongino: The “left wing media’s goal … is to stop you from being able to say things” that advance liberty. While discussing media backlash to Trump’s comments that “Second Amendment people” could act against then-Democratic president nominee Hillary Clinton, Bongino claimed that “once we allow the left leaning media” to characterize conservative speech as inherently violent, “the next step is censorship.” Bongino went on to insist that Trump’s comment was “of course not” a threat but the left-wing media are taking it as one to “influence elections and get the American people to think any talk about liberty, any talk about conservatism or about American values is inherently violent.” In response to Jones saying the media was acting like “it’s the end of the world,” Bongino said that the media’s goal “is to stop you from being able to say things that are going to fight to advance the cause of liberty, and this is how they do it.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 8/15/16]    

    In April 2018, Bongino acknowledged he still followed Alex Jones

    Bongino cited Alex Jones when calling The Young Turks “imbeciles.” During the April 5, 2018, edition of his NRATV show We Stand, Bongino criticized the liberal media platform The Young Turks for allegedly claiming the NRA blamed the students for the shooting at their high school in Parkland, FL. Bongino singled out The Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur, suggesting he seek a “mental health professional” after the NRATV host watched him lose it and go “crazy” on “that Alex Jones thing” From the show:  

    DAN BONGINO (HOST): We are blaming the Parkland kids for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas attack? You have kids that died in this. We were on the air that day giving my experiences as a secret service agent, Grant’s experience in the media, talking about things that could be done in the future, to stop tragedies in the future. And you nutbag, psychopath imbeciles go on your show and you say we somehow blamed these kids for this? Listen, Cank (sic), you seriously need to seek mental health -- a mental health professional. Listen, we all knew you were nuts. I watched you on that Alex Jones thing where you lost it and you went crazy. I should have pulled -- that was a huge mistake not pulling that one. [NRATV, We Stand, 4/5/18]

    Alex Jones had discussed The Young Turks during his April 5 broadcast. [BitChute, accessed 8/28/18; BitChute, accessed 8/28/18]

    Bongino used a doctored video from InfoWars during an NRATV We Stand episode. One day after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared a deceptively edited video of an exchange between CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta and Trump, Bongino showed the same video during the November 8 edition of his NRATV show. Bongino used the widely debunked video, which originated from Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson, in attempted to claim Acosta assaulted a young White House intern who was trying to take the microphone from him. [Media Matters, 11/9/18]  

    Bongino used his NRATV show to spin conspiracy theories about the Mueller investigation

    Bongino: “The Trump team was set up.” During the August 8 edition of NRATV’s We Stand, Bongino insisted the Trump campaign “was set up,” spied on, and “that the entire initiation of this was meant, in the beginning, to set up the Trump team.” [NRATV, We Stand, 8/8/18]    

    Bongino: “This is over for you. … There is no collusion, there was no collusion.” Bongino ran through a litany of events in an attempt to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller, claiming the entire investigation was based on a dossier that made “totally ridiculous” allegations against Trump and that former FBI Director James Comey had called “salacious and unverified.” He jumped to then-FBI agent Peter Strzok sending a private text message that there was “no there there” in the investigation and asked, “When are the Democrats, the swamp rat Republicans, the police staters out there, the liberals in the media, going to accept the fact that this is over for you. It’s over. There is no collusion, there was no collusion.” [NRATV, We Stand, 7/27/18]       

    Bongino: “Spygate” is “the biggest scandal in American history.” Bongino called the investigation into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government “spygate” and alleged that it is “the biggest scandal in American history.” [NRATV, We Stand, 7/9/18]  

    Bongino to Trump: “Fire Bob Mueller, fire this guy now.” After the FBI raided former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office in April, Bongino demanded that Trump “fire Bob Mueller.” Bongino went on to call the investigation “a disgrace” and said, “We investigate crimes, we don’t investigate people. This is clearly a witch hunt.” Cohen later pleaded guilty to several felonies, including violating campaign finance laws at Trump’s direction. [NRATV, We Stand, 4/9/18; CBS News, 8/21/18]

    Bongino: The investigation “is a smoke screen.” Bongino alleged that the Mueller investigation is not an investigation into a possible crime, but instead it “is an investigation into the president,” which is “not what we do in a constitutional republic.” Bongino called the investigation “a smoke screen” that is being “run by the only guy they could have put in charge to run interference, to distract you from the truth and that was that Donald Trump’s team was spied on.” During the same episode, Bongino called the possibility of Russian collusion in the 2016 election “a myth, it’s a fairytale, it’s fabricated, it’s completely, entirely made up.” Bongino claimed Mueller’s investigation is “deeply, deeply flawed if not unbelievably conflicted” and rhetorically asked, “You couldn’t find anybody else to conduct this investigation?” [NRATV, We Stand, 4/10/18; 4/10/18]

    Bongino: The Mueller investigation is “designed to cover up for the misdeeds of the Obama administration.” Bongino baselessly concluded that the Mueller investigation is “clearly and purposefully … designed to cover up for the misdeeds of the Obama administration.” He went on to claim that Mueller had “deep” and “profound” connections to “the swamp” and that he was picked to head the probe “because there was no way Bob Mueller was going to go after his old buddies in the White House.” [NRATV, We Stand, 4/13/18]

    Bongino: “It is impossible for [Mueller] to make an independent decision.” During the April 17, 2018, edition of NRATV’s We Stand, host Dan Bongino attempted to explain the “conflict of interest” Mueller has. He highlighted a meeting former adviser to the UAE George Nader set up between Erik Prince, founder of the security company Blackwater USA, and Russian businessman Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of Russian Direct Investment Fund. Bongino cited a Salon article that noted two Clinton associates also represented the Russian Direct Investment Fund until late last year. In an attempt to connect dots, Bongino called it “fascinating” that Nader is cooperating with Mueller but also “sets up a meeting with Prince and a Russian who is tied to the Russian Direct Investment Fund that is being represented by two Clinton bundlers.” He concluded by bizarrely saying “God bless” Mueller if he’s investigating this because of the Clinton ties, “but if he’s not, this is a big time conflict of interest” and suggested “someone was being framed.” [NRATV, We Stand, 4/17/18]  

    Bongino: The Mueller investigation is “uncovering more garbage about the Clintons than it is about the Trump team.” As an inspector general investigation discovered and was set to release missing texts messages exchanged between two FBI officials, Peter Strozk and Lisa Page, over a six-month period, Bongino claimed people were “getting ready for a tier one explosion of the nuclear type of information.” The NRATV host said the investigation has been “uncovering people connected to the Clintons, Obama” or the Democratic National Committee, and exclaimed the “Mueller probe is uncovering more garbage about the Clintons than it is about the Trump team.” He said these missing text messages will prove “the Trump team was set up, the Democrats knew about it, and people in law enforcement clearly cooperated in this effort either wittingly or unwittingly.” [NRATV, We Stand, 4/25/18]

    Bongino auditioned his attacks on the Mueller investigation with frequent guest appearances on Fox

    Bongino was in the top five most frequent Fox guests during an 11-month period. Between August 1, 2017, and July 5, 2018, a Media Matters review found Bongino was the fourth most frequent guest on Fox News, appearing 179 times on the network. The shows he most frequently appeared on were Fox’s morning show Fox & Friends, and its prime-time shows Hannity and The Ingraham Angle.  

    Bongino: “Bob Mueller is doing the country an enormous disservice.” Bongino railed against the Mueller investigation during the January 28 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, insisting that there is “zero evidence” of collusion and the “Stone indictment … proves it.” Bongino went on to admit that some people did “some shady stuff, some admitted criminality,” but claimed that “it had nothing to do with the Russians” and “very little, if anything, to do with Trump, adding, “Can we finally move on?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/28/19]      

    Bongino alleged Roger Stone was indicted to cover up “corruption” in the Mueller probe. Bongino baselessly suggested the FBI arrested Trump confidant Roger Stone to distract from a “major revelation about the corruption involved” in the investigation during the January 25 edition of Fox & Friends. Bongino repeated his litany of smears against Mueller, including calling the probe a “witch hunt” and a “cover-up.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/25/19]    

    Bongino: Democrats responding to Trump being implicated in a felony are “doubling down on police state tactics.” During a December 10 appearance on Fox & Friends, Bongino called the investigation into the Trump campaign “police state tactics” and claimed the FBI had “unmasked private American citizens’ phone calls” in an effort to get to Trump. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/10/18]  

    Bongino: “I have never in my life seen such an obvious frame job and set-up” like the Mueller investigation. In a May 14, 2018, Fox & Friends appearance, Bongino claimed he has never seen “such an obvious frame job and set-up” like the Mueller investigation. He went on to call it a “sting operation” and said the FBI repeatedly encountering Trump contacts during a counterintelligence investigation were not “just a series of accidental contacts” but instead was a deliberate set-up. From the May 14 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    DAN BONGINO: Listen, I've spent nearly 20 years of my life as a cop and a federal investigator. I have never in my life seen such an obvious frame job and set-up. This was a sting operation against the Trump team. That is why it's critical that they hide the source. Why is it critical that they hide the source, Steve? Because we've been told the entire time by the hacks in the mainstream media, Democrats, and some establishment Republicans that the case against Trump was just a series of accidental contacts where they ran into the Trump team and they said stuff. But, Steve, let me ask you this: What if those contacts were deliberate? That throws this whole story out the window. I've been saying for months, so have many other people. These were deliberate contacts. This was not a mistake -- this investigation.

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): I don't know what you mean by that. I don't know what you mean [by] deliberate contact. People set up there to set up people on the Trump team, so set up this interaction and make it look terrible?

    BONGINO: Yes, exactly. Brian, it's like I wind up on a park bench with you and ask you to rob a bank with me, and you've never met me before. You're like, “Who's this guy?” There's only two possible explanations. Either you really want me to rob a bank with you, or I'm trying to frame you for robbing the bank. I'd say it's the latter with Trump. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/14/18]

    Bongino has easy access to Trump through his appearances on Fox & Friends

    Fox & Friends is one of Trump’s favorite shows. An avid viewer of Fox News at large, Trump routinely live-tweets what he sees and agrees with on the channel, particularly during its three-hour long morning show, Fox & Friends. As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz has noted, the president’s live-tweeting ranges anywhere from the subject that Fox just covered to quoting guests and even tagging their Twitter handles. It effectively means that Fox News hosts and their guests have a platform to pitch their political agendas and conspiracy theories directly to the president. [Politico Magazine, 1/5/18]

    Trump quoted Bongino on Twitter after a Fox News appearance. After Bongino appeared on Fox & Friends and called former CIA Director John Brennan “a liar,” Trump quoted Bongino in a tweet and tagged the morning news show. Over a half-hour later, Trump again quoted Bongino from his appearance in which he’d called the investigation “a scam” and had claimed Mueller’s team is “stacked with anti-Trumpers.”

    [Twitter, 6/2/18; 6/2/18]

    A version of this was originally published on August 28, 2018