One America News Network’s Dan Ball is covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine with a scattershot of conspiracy theories, both dredging up old claims and repeating new ones from the Russian government.
In early February, Ball told OAN viewers that President Joe Biden might encourage the crisis in Ukraine to benefit himself. Once Russia invaded, Ball began claiming that Hunter Biden and the Ukrainian gas company Burisma may have something to do with the war, that the Russian military is targeting U.S.-European Union bioweapons plants in Ukraine, and even that the Russian attack on Mariupol hospital may have been a false flag by Ukraine.
There is no evidence that any of this is true, but Ball stands behind the absurd propaganda on his show, assuring his viewers on March 9: “What we are reporting is correct. This was not a conspiracy theory. We are not pro-Russia, so don’t go there.”
This commentary is a sad reflection of Ball and OAN’s obsession with what the host regularly calls the “Biden crime family.” The false allegations against Hunter Biden date back years and were the inspiration for former President Donald Trump’s extortion scheme against Ukraine, resulting in his first impeachment. Ball is undeterred by these basic facts, however, and now going to any length to falsely implicate Biden -- and by extension, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky -- in provoking the horrors of Vladimir Putin’s war.
Ball says that “something does not pass the smell test” in the official story of Russia’s invasion
Five days into the Russian invasion, Ball told his audience, “We really need to ask ourselves, are we getting the whole story,” because several heroic stories of Ukrainian resistance had turned out to be false. Asserting that “the Biden regime” wanted to “wag the dog,” Ball suggested “positive war propaganda” was being used to divert American attention from “the invasion on our southern border” and “the COVID scam,” telling his audience it could even have something to do with “the whole Hunter and Joe Biden connection with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, and of course the Russia collusion hoax.”
Days later, Ball insisted on March 3 that “something does not pass the smell test” because Biden “immediately” paused new oil and gas leases in the U.S. as the Russian invasion began. In reality, the timing is coincidence; as CNBC reports, “the Biden administration is delaying decisions on new oil and gas leases and permits after a Louisiana federal judge blocked officials from using higher cost estimates of climate change.”
“Something stinks here,” Ball asserted, because “this can’t just be Putin and Russia going, ‘I want a land grab,’” since “we know Ukraine’s been corrupt for a long time,” and pointed again to “the Hunter Biden connection with Burisma.”
Weeks into the war, Ball continued to suspect that something was amiss about the official story, questioning if President Biden is “the one actually calling the shots” and “how much of this is acting” from Zelensky, a former actor whom Ball said was “install[ed]” by the U.S., “trying to push us to get us into this war.” “Obviously, Biden is compromised. We’re in the middle of a war that we might get into with our troops, and so shouldn’t all Americans be concerned that the guy making and calling the shots is compromised?”
Eventually, with America “on the brink of getting involved in a war with Russia,” Ball warned that Biden is too mentally unreliable and called on Democrats and Republicans to use the 25th Amendment to “remove [Biden], remove Harris, remove the entire administration before it’s too late.”
Ball suggests Hunter Biden and American bioweapons have something to do with the invasion
By February 28, Ball became focused on the idea that because “we know there’s so much involvement [in Ukraine] with this president, his son, Burisma, this oil and gas in Ukraine, plus Russia, the pipeline,” and “billions if not trillions of dollars involved,” that it all must have something to do with the war.
The Biden family was “in bed with Ukraine” and “now we have a war right in front of us,” Ball told a concurring guest, retired Army officer Darin Gaub, who called Ukraine “the bank” of the Clinton Foundation and other Democrats during his March 3 show.
Ball eventually began asking members of Congress what President Biden’s son has to do with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In a March 2 interview with Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), Ball said that “the Hunter laptop” and “the tie to Burisma” suggested that “there’s more to play than just the gas and oil here. I want to know what the hell is really going on.”
“I mean, all the connections that came out tying the Biden family to Ukraine before he took office, now all of a sudden Russia attacks Ukraine, even though they didn’t while Trump was in office,” Ball said. “What’s at play here? It’s deeper – There’s deeper state stuff here, Debbie, don’t you think?”
After Lesko mostly evaded Ball’s question to instead complain about the Trump impeachments, Ball mentioned “rumors that America’s had biolaboratories set up in Ukraine since ‘14, when we installed the last clown in there,” a topic which became a focal point for Ball’s conspiracy theorizing.
That same day, Ball claimed that in addition to “Hunter’s laptop tying Mr. Biden to Burisma,” there are “questions about Zelensky’s leadership and how he came to power,” as well as “questions about biolabs being set up in that country by America and other corporation, we’re talking biotech-type weaponry.”
Days later, on March 7, Ball asked Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) about “three or four possible biochemical weapons plants” in Ukraine built by the U.S. and EU. Ball told Biggs, who also evaded the question, that “Putin would have an actual gripe” to justify targeting these weapons.
Ball even took an unearned victory lap on March 9, claiming his biolabs conspiracy theory had been “proven correct” by a “smoking gun” from the Russian foreign affairs ministry, which claimed to have found U.S. “biological weapons plants” in Ukraine. Not only that, Ball preened, but “a Biden regime minion” -- Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland -- had openly discussed the labs in the Senate during a recent hearing.
“The headline once again proves that things that we report here on OAN and on this program, Real America, are not conspiracy theories like the left claims,” Ball complained. He later added, “What we are reporting is correct. This was not a conspiracy theory. We are not pro-Russia, so don’t go there.”
NBC News would later report that these “biolabs” claims are essentially Russian government propaganda filtered through American right-wing media outlets like OAN. The only American-supported “biolabs” in Ukraine, including the ones Nuland discussed before the Senate, are research facilities -- that do not produce weapons -- which are part of a public 2005 deal between the two countries.
Ball suggests that horrific Russian attacks on Mariupol may have been false flags
Part of Ball’s narrative of the Russian war is that the Ukrainian government led by President Zelensky is deeply corrupt. And when the Russian military bombed a maternity hospital during its siege of Mariupol, Ball professed that he’s “not saying somebody staged this to make things look worse,” but he also implied that “special operatives” and “undercover forces” who “do Zelensky’s bidding” may have been involved in the bombing, saying that Russia’s denials were credible since “they haven’t denied … hitting other stuff,” which is not true.
A week later, Ukrainian officials reported that a Russian airstrike destroyed a theater in Mariupol, with hundreds of civilians hiding inside and the word “children” written on the ground outside. On his March 17 show, Ball delivered a winding rant against the American, Ukrainian, and Russian governments, as well as the media trying to “push us into this war and accuse networks like OAN of pushing pro-Putin and pro-Russian propaganda.” Ball then briefly reported on the theater airstrike, and stressed that the story is just “what we’re told. Not saying it’s not true. Just asking the question.”
Ball discovers some consequences of Ukraine conspiracy theories
Despite calling the pre-invasion warnings “a pageant,” suggesting the Mariupol hospital attack was a false flag, and sharing Russian “biolabs” propaganda, Ball has grown tired of conspiracy theories that call the entire war fake.
Above a chyron that questioned whether we are “getting the entire story about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Ball again stressed “the Biden crime family and its connections to Ukraine and Russia” -- but told viewers, with a hint of frustration, that the war is “undeniable … and I say this because I see so many online stories of people saying this is all false, it’s all made up.”
“Make no mistake: There is a war going on, folks, and innocent civilians are being harmed and killed,” the OAN host said. “That is a fact, and that’s a tragedy. But while all that is going on, what else is going on? Not just with this conflict, but what aren’t we paying attention to globally – and more importantly, here at home. That’s what we as patriots need to stay focused on.”
Even while denouncing actual lies about the Russian invasion, Ball could not resist the urge to indulge in deranged falsehoods.
“Most times, there’s nothing as such called a conspiracy theory,” Ball said. “They’re just coverups waiting for the truth to come out.” But the conspiracy theories he presents to OAN viewers are just as false as the conspiracy theories he denies.
Video by John Kerr