Right-wing media are using clips from Joe Rogan’s recent interview with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to revive the Hunter Biden laptop conspiracy theory and to falsely claim that the FBI is conspiring against conservatives.
During an August 25 interview for Spotify’s The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Zuckerberg stated that outside fact-checkers were used to validate the efficacy of the Hunter Biden laptop story in its early days, and allowed information relating to Hunter Biden, the laptop, and related content to be shared while that determination was being made. However, he said that Meta did move the laptop story further down its internal news feed to minimize interactions in the meantime:
Zuckerberg acknowledged during the interview that this tactic ran the risk of suppressing potentially factual information. That said, the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop is still full of holes two years later.
When the laptop story first leaked just before the 2020 election, information on it was largely suppressed on Twitter due to suspicion surrounding the source of the information less than three weeks out from a presidential election. While some of the data on the laptop is considered legitimate two years later, much of it is still difficult to authenticate to this day due to it changing hands so many times, leaving room for outside interference and misinformation.
However, those facts have not stopped right-wing media from accusing Facebook of directly colluding with the FBI to suppress the story, even though that is not remotely close to Zuckerberg’s admission that Meta somewhat based its guidance on an FBI warning about potential election misinformation.
Accusations have gotten so bad that both Meta and the FBI released statements. Meta clarified that “nothing about the Hunter Biden laptop story is new. … The FBI shared general warnings about foreign interference - nothing specific about Hunter Biden.” The FBI’s statement read similarly, stating that the bureau only shared general threat indicators with Meta.
Neither those statements, nor the actual holes in the laptop story, have stopped right-wing media outlets from continuing to baselessly accuse the FBI of coordinating with Facebook to suppress information on Hunter Biden’s laptop, thereby winning the 2020 election for Joe Biden.
- On Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy falsely stated that Zuckerburg admitted that he had taken orders from the FBI to suppress information about Hunter Biden’s laptop. According to Campos-Duffy, “If you look at what happened with the Mark Zuckerberg interview recently on Joe Rogan and the admission that he actually had taken orders from the FBI and suppressed information about Hunter Biden's laptop, Donald Trump would have been the president right now.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 8/28/22]
- Fox News contributor and former GOP congressman Jason Chaffetz falsely claims that the FBI singled out the Hunter Biden laptop story for censorship by claiming it was Russian disinformation while filling in for prime-time host Sean Hannity. Chaffetz specifically claimed that the FBI “strongly suggested” that the laptop was Russian disinformation and that Zuckerburg was “compliant, and he took measures to suppress the story on his platform.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/26/22]
- Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson went a step further and claimed that the FBI was deliberately lying to Facebook about the potential for Russian disinformation in order to justify censoring reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop. According to Carlson, “Zuckerberg confirmed the FBI didn’t put any of these warnings about Russian disinformation or propaganda in writing. Of course they didn't. Nothing in writing. That makes sense. If you are the FBI, you wouldn't want to put that in writing because you were, of course, lying.” Carlson then went on to claim that the bureau had suppressed information about the laptop “because it might hurt Joe Biden, and the FBI is the government agency that pushed for it to be censored.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 8/26/22]
- On Newsmax’s Wake Up America, host Rob Finnerty baselessly claimed that Facebook cost Republicans 40,000 votes because it suppressed the story, thereby throwing the 2020 election in favor of Joe Biden. According to Finnerty, “You think about those three states that are really in question, we're talking about fewer than 40,000 votes here, and Facebook says that because the FBI tipped them off, they push those stories way down on news feeds.” (Biden won the 2020 election by nearly 7 million votes although he did win Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Wisconsin, by less than 40,000 votes each.) [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 8/26/22]
- In the same segment, former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pushed the narrative that the FBI made a dedicated effort to influence the 2020 election, and that Zuckerberg’s statements on Rogan’s show were an admission of guilt. According to Gates, “Zuckerberg comes out and makes his claim, well that’s great, it’s kind of what we knew. But what the problem is is it’s already impacted the election - we can’t go back in time and put this information out. So were there elements within the FBI , other government agencies, media organizations that impacted the election? Absolutely! Now we're getting the truth, but unfortunately we are stuck with this debacle.” [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 8/26/22]
- On Outnumbered, Fox News contributor Janette Nesheiwat claimed that the FBI conducted “domestic interference” and censored the laptop story to deliberately sway the election. Nesheiwat claimed that the FBI “blocked a major story, which tilted the national scales toward the Democrats, that could have definitely influence the election. ” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 8/26/22]
- Speaking on his weekday radio program, Fox host Mark Levin said Zuckerberg confirmed a conspiracy between Facebook and the bureau, declaring, “This is why you’ve come to despise the FBI.”. “He got the message, so they censored the story for a week,” Levin stated. “The FBI came to them and told them. You see, you're not conspiracy nuts. You're not wrong to be skeptical and worse. These things are happening.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 8/25/22 ]
- Taking to Twitter, far-right troll Jack Posobiec claimed that “Zuckerberg admitted that the FBI told Facebook they needed to censor posts during the election,” later tweeting that “Zuckerberg didn't just say the FBI made a request. He said the FBI came to Facebook to tell them what to censor.” [Twitter, 8/25/22, 8/25/22]
- Nick Adams, a conservative author and ambassador for the America First Policy Institute, tweeted that Zuckerberg's comments were hypocritical given how 2020 election interference was covered. Adams tweeted, “The FBI told Facebook that Hunter Biden laptop story was Russian disinformation. Three weeks before the election. That's according to Mark Zuckerberg. And yet it's a 'crime' to say that the 2020 election was rigged. What a joke.” [Twitter, 8/25/22]
- Far-right provocateur Andy Ngo claimed, “Mark Zuckerberg tells Joe Rogan Facebook suppressed the NY Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop (which contained information damaging to then-candidate Joe Biden) due to a warning from the FBI.” [Twitter, 8/25/22]