Fox & Friends attempts to downplay effect of Russia's Facebook influence campaign

Ainsley Earhardt: “Russia spent $100,000. It's just a drop in the bucket”

From the October 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

Video file

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): So when you hear Hillary Clinton, who you used to work for, make it sound like people were able to buy $100,000 worth of Facebook ads in Russia, could that possibly have tilted the election? 

MARK PENN: Well, I was really intrigued by all the stories I saw about this, and I said, well look, we've got to be careful about fake news about fake news. The truth is, when you take a look about what we know about these ads, there's $100,000, 56 percent were after the election. Maybe somebody should have told them when the election was, that gives you 44,000 of ads. Most of them were not to the swing states. Maybe half were. That's 22,000. Most of them didn't mention candidates. $13,000. We spent $2.4 billion of authenticated money on the presidential campaign, and Hillary's PAC put $6 million into these swing states in just the last week. So, come on. Facebook ads here were not the reason, and if we believe fake news about fake news, we may want to over-regulate the internet, and that is dangerous. 

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Mark, when I found out you were coming on and I read your op-ed about this and looking at the statistics, hats off to you for wanting to report the truth. Why did you decide to do this and come out publicly, because it's going against Hillary Clinton, who you worked for?

PENN: Well, because I think it's not about against Hillary. There is a lot about what Hillary said that is technically correct. These were ads for mysterious accounts in Russia. We just can't over-exaggerate the effect here. Lots of people from Indiana to Pennsylvania in the working class switched their votes from Obama to Trump. That was a huge phenomenon. It didn't happen on the basis of $100,000. We had two televised conventions. We had billions of dollars spent on these campaigns. We had two 90 minute debates. We can't lose sight of the value of our democracy. I think that's critically important, regardless of who wins or loses an election, and how I or others would vote in it. 

DOOCY: And Mark, you were on this program as the head of the Harris Poll and you told us a couple of months ago that -- and you're the only poll that I saw this with. But you said a majority of Americans feel that this Russia thing simply is hurting America. It's tearing America apart.

PENN: Well, they do. I think 60 percent see the investigations generally as hurting America. At the same time, Americans often have two thoughts on same things, they like investigations. One of the things -- findings that really caused me to write this op-ed was more people believe Russia affected the election than have evidence. I said, “Do you think Russia affected the election?” I think more than 40 percent said yes. I asked, “Do you have any evidence for that?” A lower percentage said yes. Usually we look for beliefs to be formed on the basis of evidence not to come first. This is really something we have to watch out for for our democracy to function as well as it should.

EARHARDT: It really is interesting when you look at the numbers. You brought it to light for us. Because her budget you said was $2.4 billion and Russia spent $100,000. It's just a drop in the bucket. 

DOOCY: And half of them ran after the election.

PENN: Well, both budgets were $2.4 billion, but she had an over $400 million advantage in fundraising. 

DOOCY: Well, she needs an excuse for losing, so I guess that's what she's going to say.


CNN highlights how Russian Twitter bots spread pro-Trump messages throughout the 2016 election

CNN report: Russians pushed so much fake news on Facebook, “it all just started to look real”

US and EU experts have called this fake news site a Russian proxy. Its Facebook page is verified.