President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused a 75-year-old man who was videotaped being knocked over by Buffalo, New York, police officers of being an “ANTIFA provocateur” after watching a conspiracy theory-laden segment on that topic on the far-right One America News Network.
Video of Buffalo police officers shoving resident Martin Gugino and knocking him to the ground at a protest against police brutality and racism Thursday night sparked outrage when it went viral on social media, and the officers were subsequently arrested and charged with felony assault.
But on Tuesday morning, the president offered another explanation. “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” he tweeted. “75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment.” After tagging OAN’s Twitter handle, he added, “I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”
As his tweet indicated, Trump had watched a segment about that conspiracy theory that had aired on OAN, a sycophantically pro-Trump network whose coverage often resembles North Korea-style propaganda.
During the segment, OAN correspondent Kristian Rouz cited a post from the fringe conspiracy theory website Conservative TreeHouse to allege that Gugino had been participating in a “false-flag provocation by far-left group antifa.” He went on to say that video of Gugino waving his phone around near police officers before the violent confrontation really showed him “using a police tracker on his phone” and attempting to “black out police communications,” both of which Rouz suggested were antifa tactics.
That conspiracy theory appears to have originated with a June 5 tweetstorm from a Conservative Treehouse-affiliated account and June 6 YouTube video, and was then picked up by the blog itself later on June 6. It first appeared on OAN in a Sunday afternoon news brief, then Rouz’s report came out that night, and after airing in the network’s rotation the last few days has now been catapulted into the mainstream discourse by the president.
Later in Rouz’s report, he alleged that “left-leaning media” are “fan[ning] the flames of national unrest” by promoting this “far-left provocation” to hurt ”the biggest ally of police officers, President Trump,” and benefit China and Democrats.
Who is Rouz? The Daily Beast reported last year:
Kristian Brunovich Rouz, originally from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, has been living in San Diego, where OAN is based, since August 2017, reporting on U.S. politics for the 24-hour news channel. For all of that time, he’s been simultaneously writing for Sputnik, a Kremlin-owned news wire that played a role in Russia’s 2016 election-interference operation, according to an assessment by the U.S. intelligence community.
Rouz’s on-air reports for OAN include a wholly fabricated 2017 segment claiming Hillary Clinton is secretly bankrolling antifa through her political action committee. Clinton, Rouz claimed falsely, gave antifa protesters $800,000 that “went toward things like bricks, hammers, bats, and chains.”
More recently, Rouz was behind this insane OAN report linking attempts to develop a coronavirus vaccine to “population control”: