During his Fox News show on August 29, host Sean Hannity elevated a smear campaign targeting Republican CNN contributor Ana Navarro. Hannity’s smears came from a report citing publicly available information showing Navarro has donated to Democratic candidates, which pro-Trump troll Jack Posobiec distributed on Twitter under the hashtag #AnaGate to rally his followers to harass the contributor. This is not the first time Hannity has elevated a narrative that comes from pro-Trump trolls and fringe far-right message boards.
Right-wing trolls are harassing Republican CNN contributor Ana Navarro for donating to Democrats
Right-wing trolls are waging a harassment campaign against CNN contributor Ana Navarro. Using the #AnaGate hashtag, right-wing trolls and other Twitter users are harassing Republican CNN contributor Ana Navarro, criticizing her for having donated to Democrats, including Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). [Twitter, #AnaGate, accessed 8/30/17]
Pro-Trump troll Jack Posobiec introduced the #AnaGate narrative. On August 24, pro-Trump troll Jack Posobiec -- who formerly identified as a member of the “alt-right” -- reported in a Medium post that Navarro had donated to Democrats and organized fundraisers, citing publicly available campaign documents. Posobiec also took to Periscope to brainstorm potential hashtags for what he deemed a “scandal,” coming up with #AnaGate. Posobiec recently bragged that a retweet of his defense of President Donald Trump's outrageous Charlottesville comments by Trump amounted to an “endorsement,” telling the The Boston Globe that “Trump’s 'retweet of me was almost like an endorsement … in a very broad sense,' Posobiec said during an interview with the Globe at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where he requested to meet. 'It was almost like he was validating what we, the alt-media, are doing.'” [Media Matters, 5/11/17; Medium, 8/24/17; Periscope, 8/24/17; The Boston Globe, 8/28/17]
Posobiec cited Roger Stone, who has a record of making misogynistic and racist remarks about Navarro. In his Medium post, Posobiec turned to Infowars regular Roger Stone for comment on Navarro. Stone has a history of making racist and misogynistic remarks about the CNN contributor, calling her “Entitled Diva Bitch” on Twitter and referring to her Latino background by saying “black beans and rice didn’t miss her.” [Medium, 8/24/17; Media Matters, 2/22/16]
Conservative media amplified Posobiec’s narrative. Both Laura Ingraham’s online outlet LifeZette and Breitbart.com amplified the story Posobiec had reported, criticizing Navarro’s anti-Trump stance. [LifeZette, 8/28/17; Breitbart, 8/29/17]
Navarro has been a consistently critical voice against Trump among conservatives. Navarro has consistently been critical of President Donald Trump while continuing to support the Republican party. [Media Matters, 1/29/17, 5/15/17, 6/29/17, 7/2/17]
Sean Hannity elevated Posobiec’s narrative on his Fox show
Fox host Sean Hannity gave Posobiec’s smear narrative against Navarro a platform during his show. During the August 29 monologue of his show Hannity, Fox host Sean Hannity parroted “a report” that “so-called Republican Eva (sic) Navarro donated a lot of money to prominent Democrats”. From the August 29 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): And CNN's so-called Republican commentator Eva (sic) Navarro responded to a tweet from President Trump about leaving for Texas and writing, quote, “As if the people of Texas aren’t already enduring enough suffering… .” Now, what’s interesting about that, we learned today from a report that CNN’s so-called Republican Navarro, well, she’s donated a lot of money to prominent Democrats. What Republican would donate to the likes of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other left-wingers that are out there and people on the left? It sounds like a fake Republican at the fake news network. More proof that the left is completely unhinged. And it is why we have now actually diagnosed them, considering they want to diagnose everybody else, and we call it the Trump derangement syndrome. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/29/17]
Posobiec gleefully tweeted about his narrative receiving prime-time validation.
Hannity has increasingly become a mouthpiece for the pro-Trump fever swamps on the internet
Hannity consistently used his platform to elevate the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. In late May, Hannity devoted considerable airtime to the conspiracy theory that Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered in the summer of 2016, had provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails that many experts have concluded were hacked by Russian authorities. Despite his own network retracting the story and the Rich family pleading for the gross exploitation of their son’s murder to stop, Hannity relentlessly pushed the story -- which was born in pro-Trump message boards and did not stand up to scrutiny -- in an effort to quash reports of Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election. [Media Matters, 5/30/17]
Hannity has pushed false claims from pro-Trump outlets. Hannity pushed on Twitter a false Gateway Pundit story that claimed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had requested campaign donations from Russia. After the misleading story was debunked by McCain’s Senate office, Hannity deleted his tweet and got defensive over criticisms that he was spreading false information. [Media Matters, 2/23/17]
Hannity has parroted claims originating from the message boards that the counterprotestors opposing neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, VA, were paid actors. Hannity used his radio show to promote the conspiracy theory that “antifa agitators” who opposed the neo-Nazi and white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, VA, were actually actors hired by a publicity firm. [Media Matters, 8/17/17]