In a February 12 statement, former President Donald Trump falsely asserted that new findings from special counsel John Durham “provides indisputable evidence that [his] campaign and presidency were spied on by operatives paid by the Hillary Clinton Campaign.” Soon after, right-wing outlets picked up the story, echoing Trump’s lies as an opportunity to revive a years-long obsession with unproven claims that former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton illegally spied on the Trump campaign. However, this hysteria ginned up by conservative media appears to actually be a combination of “mostly wrong or old news.”
Murdoch-owned outlets especially have been pushing this narrative. Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post have all repeated the “Trump was spied on” angle in response to the pretrial motion filed by Durham against Michael A. Sussmann, a former Democratic Party lawyer.
According to the motion, Sussmann had previously told intelligence officials from the CIA that another one of his clients, tech executive Rodney Joffe, had informed him that someone using a Russian-made smartphone was connecting to Trump Tower and the White House networks. Right-wing media took this aside and skewed it to mean that Joffe and Sussmann “infiltrate[d]” Trump Tower and the White House, spying on Trump for the Clintons. Durham’s findings never used the word “infiltration,” and there’s no evidence Joffe or his company were ever hired by the Clintons. The Trump Tower computer in question was “not owned or operated by the Trump Organization” and had been “administered by a mass marketing email company that sent advertisements for Trump hotels and hundreds of other clients.” Additionally, the investigation’s data covered only President Barack Obama’s tenure years before Trump even occupied the White House. Regardless, that did not stop Murdoch’s right-wing empire from pushing that angle.
Fox and other Murdoch outlets claim the Durham “findings” are “bombshell” news showing Clinton is a “certified political criminal”
- On Sunday, Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy boasted about the coverage Fox gave the story and wondered aloud if other networks will pick it up: “We appropriately gave this the bombshell treatment it deserves. Will it even be covered on the other networks?” Co-hosts Will Cain and Pete Hegseth compared the investigation to the Mueller Report, falsely asserting that Mueller’s investigation “came up with nothing” while Durham’s resulted in “three or four indictments” with “probably more to come.”
- Later during the same edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, Cain overstated the findings of the Durham investigation, saying, “This is law, this is justice, and this is truth. And this is the beginning.”
- During The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld claimed that if the Durham investigation centered on Trump instead of Clinton, CNN’s coverage would describe the findings as “worse than January 6, 9/11, Watergate, Hindenburg, combined.”
- The Five co-host Jesse Watters described Clinton as a “certified political criminal” and suggested the Clinton campaign’s alleged plot to link Trump with Russia did more “damage” than the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
- Inflammatory chyrons from Fox’s Jesse Watters Primetime read “Hillary is the real insurrectionist" and “Hillary Clinton tried to steal the election by spreading misinformation.”
- During an appearance on Hannity, Trump’s son Eric Trump claimed that “Hillary almost by default created another cold war. She pitted America against Russia … to hopefully get a couple of extra greedy votes for herself.”
- Fox host Sean Hannity falsely claimed that the information in the Durham filing showed that the “spying” on the Trump campaign was “far worse” than ever reported before.
- The New York Post ran a ridiculous cover suggesting that Hillary Clinton personally spied on Trump.
- Fox contributor Mollie Hemingway falsely claimed that this showed that the Trump White House was targeted as noted above, the data is from the Obama era.
- The Fox shows of Tucker Carlson and Hannity both falsely suggested that the DNS data would include internal communications.
- Carlson went on a conspiracy-fuelled rant about Joffe and his company and then tried to dismiss The Washington Post fact-checking.
Fox claims mainstream media are ignoring the news
Fox hosts repeatedly claimed that mainstream media were not covering the Durham investigation’s findings. There is mainstream media coverage of this information, however, it is either months old or focused on debunking the narrative pushed by right-wing media.
- The hosts of Fox & Friends Weekend took turns criticizing mainstream media for supposedly ignoring the story.
- Fox media analyst Howard Kurtz tried to compare mainstream media’s coverage of the Durham filing to their reporting on the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot, claiming mainstream media are “absolutely determined to ignore this story” but “they cover every throat clearing by the January 6 committee.”