David Bossie

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  • Right-wing media continue to push myth that Trump can get a better deal than Paris

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    via flickr creative commons user neurotic_buddha

    Within hours of President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement and negotiate a better deal, other world leaders made it clear that renegotiation is not an option. But right-wing media and the administration are continuing to push the fanciful notion that Trump can negotiate a more favorable pact.

    Trump claims Paris was a bad deal and he can get a better one

    When Trump made his announcement on June 1 -- a move cheered by many in conservative media -- he said he intended to renegotiate:

    [T]he United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord … but but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an -- really entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So we're getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine.

    The White House talking points about the decision stress the idea that the Paris accord was a bad deal for the U.S. -- bad in all caps, lest you miss the point:

    The Paris Accord is a BAD deal for Americans. … The deal was negotiated BADLY.

    Right-wing media push bad-deal/good-deal frame

    This frame -- that Paris is a bad deal and Trump can get a good deal -- had been pushed by right-wing media in the days leading up to his decision, and the claim continued to make the rounds after the announcement was made, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

    On May 30, David Bossie -- a former deputy campaign manager for Trump and a Fox News contributor who is being considered for a role in the White House -- went on Fox News Radio and called for the Trump administration to renegotiate the Paris deal:

    My recommendation is: You get out of Paris, you get out of the Paris treaty, you get out right now, and then you let Scott Pruitt, your EPA administrator, who is very good and a great negotiator, go out and negotiate new deals, deals that are good for America and the rest of the world combined.

    On June 1, before Trump made his announcement, Stuart Varney of Fox Business' Varney & Co. argued that former President Obama did a terrible job negotiating the Paris deal and Trump could do much better:

    The Obama team gave virtually everything away -- our money and our jobs -- and received only vague promises of future good behavior. In my opinion, it was a lousy deal. So maybe our president will do the same as he did with NAFTA -- that is, threaten to withdraw, then negotiate a better deal. … He did, after all, write the book The Art of the Deal.

    And Fox Business tweeted out the point too:

    During Trump's speech, Breitbart's Curt Schilling tweeted out his approval of the president's plan to renegotiate the deal:

    Nobody wants to renegotiate with the U.S.

    But other world leaders are not interested in sitting down at the table with the U.S. again, as they quickly made clear.

    Shortly after Trump's announcement, the leaders of France, Italy, and Germany issued a joint statement refuting the notion that the Paris deal is up for renegotiation:

    We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies.

    And a group of ministers from 24 nations -- known as the High Ambition Coalition, which pushed to make the Paris agreement as strong as possible -- also threw cold water on the idea of renegotiating:

    Our commitment to the Paris Agreement is unshakeable. We have every reason to fight for its full implementation.

    “Apparently the White House has no understanding of how an international treaty works," said Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who led the negotiation process leading up to the Paris agreement. "There is no such thing as withdrawing and then negotiating.”

    And the current secretariat of the UNFCCC also put out a statement saying that the agreement "cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party."

    Bloomberg summed up the situation in headline: "Everyone But Donald Trump Is Standing By the Paris Climate Agreement."

    Right-wing media still insist Trump can negotiate a better deal

    Even after world leaders made their opposition to renegotiation crystal clear, right-wing media continued to push the myth that the president could get a new and improved deal.

    "One of the [things] I'm looking forward to, and I've seen some of: Donald Trump's ability to renegotiate a better deal and better positioning for the United States of America," said Eboni Williams, a co-host of The Fox News Specialists, on June 2.

    "If the Paris accord was actually meant to save the environment, the globalists would be happy to renegotiate the deal with President Trump," wrote Kit Daniels at Infowars on June 3.

    Administration officials also went on Fox News to keep pushing the "better deal" idea.

    Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox & Friends on June 2, "You also heard [Trump] leave the door open to renegotiating a better arrangement, to maybe re-entering the Paris accord under new terms and new conditions. … In withdrawing from the Paris accord, and in offering to renegotiate it in a way that is more fair, more equitable to our economy and every economy in the world, again you see President Donald Trump is being leader of the free world." Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt did not push back on that assertion.

    And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke went on Fox News' America's Newsroom on June 2 to defend Trump's move: "It was a bad deal. I think the president has said he’s going to renegotiate it, offer to renegotiate it. … If we're going to sit down, let's make sure the agreement has shared burden." Fox host Bill Hemmer neglected to point out that other countries have said they will not sit down to renegotiate the deal with the Trump administration.

    Informed commentators mock renegotiation claims

    New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza, speaking on The New Yorker's "Politics and More" podcast on June 2, slapped down the renegotiation idea: "When Trump says, 'I'm going to negotiate a better deal,' well that's a lie, that's just not possible."

    Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who played a key role in negotiating the Paris agreement, was even more forceful on this point during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on June 4:

    When Donald Trump says, well, we're going to negotiate a better deal, you know, he's going to go out and find a better deal? That's like O.J. Simpson saying he's going to go out and find the real killer. Everybody knows he isn't going to do that.

    The U.S. already had a favorable deal

    Even if other countries were willing to sit back down at the table, it's highly unlikely the U.S. would get a better deal. That's because the U.S. already got a favorable deal when the Paris agreement was negotiated in 2015.

    The Paris deal "is more fair to the U.S. than previous agreements because it includes all the major economies of the world, not just the rich countries, so both developed countries and developing countries have skin in the game," Jody Freeman, director of Harvard Law School's Environmental Law and Policy Program, told The Washington Post after Trump made his announcement.

    "Paris already gives countries tremendous flexibility, and no penalties," Michael Gerrard, a professor of environmental law at Columbia and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told the Post.

    The Obama administration had wanted to take part in the agreement, but it knew that a climate treaty couldn't get ratified by the U.S. Senate. So the entire global community bent over backward to accommodate the U.S. political system -- crafting a nonbinding accord that's looser than a treaty and making action pledges voluntary with no enforcement mechanisms. 

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said before the negotiations that a good agreement would be “binding,” but she and other like-minded leaders gave in to the U.S. on this point.

    As The Guardian reported just after the Paris negotiations took place in December 2015, "Under US insistence, the 31-page agreement was explicitly crafted to exclude emissions reductions targets and finance from the legally binding parts of the deal. … The other exclusion zone was any clause in the agreement that would expose the US to liability and compensation claims for causing climate change."

    Ultimately, many world leaders and climate advocates thought the U.S. got too good of deal -- so good that the resulting agreement was disappointingly weak.

    From The Guardian: "The US – and European – position was a huge disappointment for the low-lying and small island states, which argued they needed recognition that their countries could pay the ultimate price for climate change in terms of land loss and migration."

    “The United States has hindered ambition," Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S., said in December 2015. "Using the world’s atmosphere and the suffering of the vulnerable as a guide, the United States is failing -- by a long shot -- to do what climate science and justice demand. This holds true for the United States' greenhouse gas reduction pledge, its provision of funds for developing countries to take climate action and its obstruction of progress on loss and damage.”

    Despite the United States' successful effort to water down the Paris agreement, other countries, both rich and poor, still stepped up to the plate with meaningful action pledges. As The Economist noted just after Trump made his announcement, "All [of the Paris agreement's] signatories—which is to say, every country except Syria, Nicaragua and now America—have undertaken to reduce emissions against business-as-usual targets." This despite the fact that many of those countries have contributed very little to the problem of climate change, while the U.S. is the biggest carbon polluter in history, as The New York Times pointed out.

    So now other countries are moving forward without the U.S. The Europeans are planning to work more closely with China and India. The leaders of France and India have announced that they're going to cooperate jointly on fighting climate change. Instead of getting a better deal, the U.S. is cut out of the dealmaking.

  • How the murder of a DNC staffer turned into a right-wing conspiracy

    The story goes through nearly everyone in right-wing media: Sean Hannity, Roger Stone, Louise Mensch, Megyn Kelly, Jim Hoft, Julian Assange, and more

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    It started with a late night walk on July 10, 2016. Seth Rich was talking with his girlfriend while walking through the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., when there was some sort of altercation. Rich was shot multiple times and died shortly thereafter.

    Nearly a year later, his death has become a cause célèbre among right-wing media and the fringiest elements of pro-Trump media, simply because he worked as a staffer for the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

    The conspiracy theories started immediately. The day after Rich was killed, a Twitter user connected the murder with a lawsuit filed by Bernie Sanders supporters against the DNC. (This lawsuit would later be the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories after the death of a process server that the coroner would later conclude was caused by accidental polypharmacy, or a combination of drugs.)

    The first right-wing version of the conspiracy theory was about confirming right-wing allegations against the Clinton Foundation. On July 13, conspiracy theory website WhatDoesItMean.com (previously cited by pro-Trump media) ran a piece, sourced to the Kremlin, claiming that Rich thought he was on his way to meet with the FBI about the Clinton Foundation when a “hit team” put in place by the Clintons killed him. The article also linked the conspiracy theory with two Russian diplomats who were expelled by the United States two days before Rich’s murder, and it concluded by claiming the hit team was captured on July 12 in Washington, D.C. The actual police events of July 12 had nothing to do with any of this. On July 14, Snopes debunked this conspiracy theory.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 22, WikiLeaks released 20,000 emails that had been stolen from the DNC, and Redditors immediately started guessing that Rich was the source of those emails. Heat Street, a News Corp. publication then run by Louise Mensch, ran a roundup of these rumors. In the post, Heat Street simply went through the “r/The_Donald” subreddit, listing different conspiracy theories that users had come up with, even comparing one theory to the work of mathematician John Nash and the movie A Beautiful Mind. Heat Street had also mentioned the FBI rumor in the bottom of a previous post about Rich’s murder, noting that there was no evidence to substantiate it.

    The one entity that did claim to be the WikiLeaks source was Guccifer 2.0. As The New York Times explained on July 27, while American intelligence services believed Guccifer 2.0 to be a front for Russian spies, the hacker claimed to be Romanian. In the report, the Times detailed evidence linking the emails to Russia, including “metadata hidden in the early documents indicating that they were edited on a computer with Russian language settings.”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Notorious dirty trickster Roger Stone, a contributor to Alex Jones' conspiracy theory website Infowars, and WikiLeaks began pushing the conspiracy theory in earnest in August. In an August 8 tweet, Stone included Rich in a group of four murdered people for whom he blamed the Clintons, referencing the FBI version of the conspiracy theory. A day later, WikiLeaks announced that it was offering $20,000 for information, and founder Julian Assange himself brought up Rich unprompted on a Dutch TV program, implying that Rich was a source. The host was taken aback by Assange’s suggestion and tried to push him on what he was implying, but Assange did not clarify his remark:

    Pro-Trump media jumped on the interview. Mike Cernovich immediately promoted the interview while stating point-blank that Rich was the source -- something that even Assange never said. On August 10, Hannity discussed the interview on his radio show, saying that it wasn’t the Russians who gave WikiLeaks the information. Later in the show, he discussed the matter with Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft and Townhall’s Rachel Alexander. Hoft was befuddled as to why the Rich family would not want the matter politicized, saying that it could only increase the information about the murder.

    Also on August 10, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson published a video about Assange’s implication, expressing concern that Assange could be assassinated:

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also jumped on Assange’s interview on the same day, telling Mike Gallagher on August 10 that the conspiracy theory was “worth talking about.”

    WikiLeaks also issued a similarly vague statement on August 10.

    On August 11, WikiLeaks started sowing distrust in Rich’s family when it tweeted that the family’s spokesperson was a “professional Democrat” -- even though the same could be said for Rich himself.

    In the days that followed, Infowars ramped up its coverage. Watson cited a “source close to the Democratic party” who said his reporting was “on the money.” Infowars dutifully picked up Gingrich’s interview and used it to confirm its own assertions. The conspiracy theory site was particularly incensed that the Rich family would hire a spokesperson to quash conspiracy theories. And it went on to publish multiple pieces about Rich that included accounts of WikiLeaks’ assertions and implications about Rich.

    Assange would resurface and again hint that Rich was his source on the August 25 edition of The Kelly File, again declaring his interest in the case without actually saying anything about Rich himself. While Laura Ingraham and some others ran with what Assange said to Kelly File host Megyn Kelly, Fox host Greg Gutfeld hit Assange for pushing the conspiracy theory -- to the distaste of fellow Fox host Eric Bolling:

    The conspiracy theory machine would turn away from Rich for most of September and October, though during this time Hannity frequently talked with Assange on his radio show, eager for new leaks that could be damaging to Clinton. In September, Rich’s girlfriend and his family spoke with Chris Hansen of Crime Watch Daily about the case, condemning the claims. GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman also began working with the Rich family at this time, offering more than $100,000 in rewards for information. Burkman would later say that he could “rule out attempted robbery” based on his canvassing of the neighborhood.

    On October 7, The Daily Beast reported that “Russia’s senior-most officials” ordered the DNC hack. On November 2, fake news purveyor DC Gazette published a post saying that WikiLeaks’ source was neither Russia nor Seth Rich, but instead dissatisfied government staffers. On December 9, The Washington Post reported on a CIA assessment that Russia was behind leaks targetting the DNC, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.

    This Post story would touch off a new round of conspiracy theories about Rich, and once again they began with Louise Mensch’s Heat Street. On December 14, the site aggregated comments on Twitter saying that it was Seth Rich and not Russia that provided WikiLeaks with the emails. The piece offered no theory as to how Rich could have gotten access to DCCC or Podesta emails; indeed, it’s unclear from the story if the author even understood that there were multiple hacks, even though Mensch herself turned up in the hacked Podesta emails (which the piece did not disclose). Weeks after this post, it was announced that Mensch had left Heat Street in “mid-December.” There is no indication if Mensch was still at Heat Street when this post was published.

    On December 15, Craig Murray, a “close associate” of Julian Assange, told the Daily Mail that he was a middleman for the leaks and that the handoff took place in D.C. in September. People immediately began tying Rich to Murray, even though Murray’s supposed handoff date (of which there was no evidence) took place months after Rich was murdered.

    Later that day on the radio, Hannity would cite Murray’s account as evidence that Russians were not behind the hacking. Later in the program, Hannity brought up Fox contributor John Bolton’s conspiracy theory from December 12 that if something looked like it was the Russians hacking, it might actually be a false flag in which someone made it look like it was the Russians. Assange agreed with the theory on Hannity’s show: 

    Hannity also called Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) an “idiot” for saying that Russians were involved in hacking:

    Weeks later, on January 3, Hannity returned to Rich, again saying that Rich may have been the source for Wikileaks:

    On January 6, U.S. officials released a report saying that Russians were behind the hacking. Suddenly, Hannity admitted that Russians have been hacking Americans for years:

    On January 12, Guccifer 2.0 denied the report that Russia was behind the hacking.

    Once again, the conspiracy mill died down, with occasional posts on 4chan and Reddit keeping the conspiracy theory alive.

    On February 27, Jack Burkman, the GOP lobbyist who at one point was allied with the Rich family, told the Daily Mail that he had evidence that the Russians killed Rich because Rich had evidence that they were the ones behind the hacking. Burkman’s only source was a “former U.S. intelligence officer” -- “an older man, 65-70 years old, who claims to have been a contractor in Iraq in the 1970s.” None of Rich’s friends or family members have given any indication that Rich had such an explosive secret.

    In mid-March, Stone admitted contact with Guccifer 2.0, but he claimed it was innocuous.

    On March 23, Burkman talked to Sinclair station WJLA in Washington, D.C., about launching a new investigation. Claiming that the investigation would be launched out of “the Seth Rich Center for Investigations” in Arlington, VA, Burkman now claimed to have a team including “a forensic physiologist, a security specialist and George Washington grad students.” But the piece also noted that the Rich family had no part in this effort.

    On April 8, a new conspiracy theory emerged alleging that Guccifer 2.0 was the middleman between RIch and WikiLeaks. Model Robbin Young published screenshots on her website of a purported direct message conversation she had with Guccifer 2.0 from August 25. In it, Guccifer 2.0 claimed that the DNC leak came from someone named “Seth” and responded affirmatively when Young talked about Rich’s murder. WikiLeaks, the subreddit “r/The Donald,” Gateway Pundit, Heat Street, and others immediately ran with the claim.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The conspiracy theory came to its most public stage on May 15. That was a week after Obama intelligence chief James Clapper and former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified before the Senate partially on issues relating to Russian hacking, days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey as a result of the Russian investigation, and hours after The Washington Post reported that Trump gave highly classified information to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office that compromised a valuable intelligence source.

    On that day, Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler told Fox 5 DC, a station owned and operated by Fox News’ parent company, that he had evidence that Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks.

    Sean Hannity pushed the story on his Twitter account shortly after midnight, including by quote-tweeting a vague allegedly hacked email of Podesta’s:

    After retweeting a video of the Fox 5 segment, Hannity affirmatively quote-tweeted someone claiming that Assange had previously said that Rich was his source (which, again, Assange had never actually said).

    The story exploded as conservatives latched onto a tale that ostensibly showed that the focus on Russia was misplaced. Drudge put the story on the top of the site. The subreddit “r/The Donald” went crazy. Pro-Trump media pushed the story hard. Fox News joined in on Tuesday morning. By 10 a.m., Hannity was lashing out at CNN's Oliver Darcy for noticing the trend.

    Hannity then quote-tweeted Robbin Young, whose story about Seth Rich was different from the one Wheeler was pushing and that Hannity was touting. (Guccifer 2.0 claimed that they served as the middleman between Rich and Wikileaks; Assange had implied and Wheeler had stated that Rich was in touch with WikiLeaks directly.) At no point then or later did Hannity ever seem to notice the discrepancy.

    At one point, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson even claimed that the Washington Post story about Trump giving highly classified information to the Russians was a hoax intended to cover up the Rich story -- a claim based on Watson completely misreading time stamps on the stories (the Post’s went up before the Fox 5 piece did).

    But soon, the Rich story fell completely apart. The Fox station admitted on May 16 that D.C. police said that Wheeler’s claim was false. Wheeler’s contact with the Rich family turned out to be frequent Fox News guest and Breitbart author Ed Butowsky. Wheeler himself admitted to CNN that he actually had no evidence. Wheeler instead claimed that his comments were reflective of the FoxNews.com piece that ran. Fox News’ piece, by Malia Zimmerman, cited Wheeler as the source of the claim.

    And yet, the transparent bullshit was still enough for pro-Trump media. On May 16, echoing Benghazi conspiracy theories, Gateway Pundit claimed there was a “stand down” order given to police regarding the Rich investigation. An “alt-right” troll asked Trump himself about Rich in the White House, getting no response. Anonymous posts on 4chan linked Rich to Pizzagate, Antonin Scalia’s death, Michael Hastings’ death, and even Media Matters. An anonymous post on 8chan even suggested that Rich was illegally surveilled and then improperly unmasked by former national security adviser Susan Rice.

    Lou Dobbs on Fox Business picked up the line of attack on Rich’s family that had previously begun with WikiLeaks and Infowars, saying there was “a partisan shroud” on Rich’s family:

    Later on May 16, Hannity even declared that Rich’s murder “could become one of the biggest scandals in American history”:

    Later in the show, Hannity talked with American Center for Law and Justice’s Jay Sekulow and former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, focusing on the media being wrong about Russia. Hannity continually brought Rich into the conversation:

    Hannity then had Wheeler himself on the show. Wheeler continued pushing the conspiracy theory, even while admitting that he never had seen the evidence.

    The next day, even more claims collapsed. Newsweek reported that the FBI is not investigating Rich’s death, contra Wheeler’s claims, and a family spokesperson confirmed that D.C. police found no evidence of stolen emails ever being on Rich’s laptop. Fox 5 added an editor’s note that Wheeler had backtracked from claims that he made, but it did not retract the story. The story was in shambles. The Rich family demanded full retractions from Fox 5 and Fox News.

    Still, conservative media persisted.

    On May 18, after Mediaite published a post highlighting people mocking Hannity, Hannity again tweeted his belief in the conspiracy.

    Hannity then discussed the case at length on his show, re-airing Assange’s Dutch TV interview and previous radio interviews.

    On May 19, the Rich family sent a cease-and-desist letter to Rod Wheeler.

    The Russian Embassy in the U.K. trolled everyone when it stated as a fact that Rich was WikiLeaks’ source. Meanwhile, Infowars claimed that The Washington Post was reporting on the Comey memos only as a distraction from the Rich story.

    May 19 is also when Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom inserted himself into the story. Dotcom alleged that he had bombshell information on the case. As Dotcom, who lives in New Zealand, is fighting extradition to the United States to avoid trial for charges including conspiracy to commit racketeering, nearly everyone on the planet saw through the ruse, save for Sean Hannity.

    Hannity brought up the conspiracy theory again that night on his show with Jay Sekulow, apparently just for the purpose of saying that it is important because if true, it would clear Russia entirely.

    Over the weekend, it got even stranger.

    Stone escalated attacks on Rich’s parents, claiming on his radio show Stone Cold Truth they were engaging in “suspicious” behavior.

    Stone also told obvious lies. For instance, he claimed that Craig Murray said Rich was his source. First, Murray did not mention Rich in his comments about serving as a middleman for the emails. Second, Murray said he met his source in September, months after Rich had already been murdered. Third, nothing about what Murray actually did say is credible in the least -- there’s no evidence and nothing has been corroborated. There were other factual errors as well, though “Roger Stone says something factually incorrect” is the rule, not the exception.

    “Dumbest man on the internet” Jim Hoft jumped head-first into the Dotcom conspiracy, even one-upping Hannity by picking up an anonymous 4chan poster whose only claim to knowledge is “I work in D.C.” The post claimed there’s a “panic” in D.C. over the Rich conspiracy theory that right-wing media had been pressing.

    The following day, Hannity would echo this post:

    Hannity even admitted that it was about the Russia story:

    Also on Sunday, Newt Gingrich joined Fox & Friends Sunday and stated outright that Rich was WikiLeaks’ source for DNC emails, even though he had avoided that conclusion in August. Pro-Trump media jumped to promote the interview.

    Another Gateway Pundit post took a video that the Rich family did thanking donors to a GoFundMe campaign and stated that it was actually done to thank conservative media for pushing the conspiracy.

    Elsewhere, self-described “rogue journalist” Caitlin Johnstone said that someone had edited Rich’s Reddit posts. Soon after, she added a “retraction” note to the post following a statement from the Pandas For Bernie Facebook group.

    Early on May 22, Assange was still playing coy about Rich and WikiLeaks

    But by this point, the story was getting attention in the mainstream media -- but only as a conspiracy theory run amok in right-wing media. As Hannity’s conspiracy-mongering had drawn attention, he became a focal point of criticism. The Daily Beast ran a story about Fox News personalities embarrassed by Hannity’s actions.

    Hannity was undeterred:

    On his radio show, Hannity said that he was right about Rich because he had been right about Trayvon Martin, the black teenager shot and killed while walking through a Florida neighborhood:

    (He wasn’t right about Trayvon Martin, by the way.)

    Geraldo Rivera, a perpetual gadfly when it comes to pushing terrible things, also jumped on the conspiracy.

    Elsewhere, the subreddit “r/The Donald” announced plans for a march on D.C. about Rich’s death on its anniversary, claiming 1.1 million people could show up.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On May 23, everything came to a head. Rich’s brother personally asked Hannity to stop pushing the conspiracy theories. Shortly thereafter, Fox News retracted its story about Rich, the one that Rod Wheeler originally cited as the basis for his story. A statement from Fox News said that the story did not meet the site’s editorial standards.

    And yet after all of this, Hannity continued to push the story on his radio show.

    On Twitter, Hannity ecstatically promoted Kim Dotcom’s “revelation,” which was a big nothingburger.

    The Rich family then published an op-ed in The Washington Post begging commentators to stop pushing conspiracy theories about their son.

    Hannity then tweeted about the op-ed as if it wasn’t just about him

    Shortly before his television show, Hannity tweeted that he still stood behind everything he had said on the topic, but also that he just was on a call with three of his attorneys:

    On his show, Hannity said that he was stopping talking about the matter “for now” at the request of the Rich family:

    And yet before his show was over, Hannity hinted on Twitter that he was still looking at the story.

    He even retweeted gratuitous praise from Kim Dotcom.

    Meanwhile, Oliver Darcy, who followed the story closely from the beginning, had a list of good unanswered questions for Fox News about Hannity’s despicable and ghoulish actions.

    Hannity then begged for fans to spread the conspiracy theory.

    By morning, a Republican congressman was echoing Hannity.

    Newt Gingrich, after pushing the conspiracy both in August and again on May 21, suddenly said that he didn’t know anything about it, telling The Washington Post, “I don’t know anything about it. … I know exactly what has been said on the various blog sites. ... I think it is worth looking at.”

    The retractions and hedging were much too little and far too late. In the bowels of pro-Trump media, Hannity had become a martyr and the Seth Rich conspiracy theory was gospel.

    The enduring tragedy of the episode is that the Rich family will likely have to live with this delusion bubbling up for a very long time. Even worse, pro-Trump media will say that they are part of it.

    No family deserves that.

    Research assistance provided by Bobby Lewis

  • Trump Lied About Why He Fired Comey, And Right-Wing Media Helped Him Sell It

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NICK FERNANDEZ

    In a letter explaining his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, President Donald Trump cited “letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending [FBI Director James Comey’s] dismissal as the Director of the” FBI. After removing Comey, various White House officials and right-wing media figures pushed the claim that Trump “took the recommendation of his deputy attorney general” and fired Comey, but days later, Trump himself admitted that he was thinking of "this Russia thing with Trump" and “was going to fire [Comey] regardless of [a] recommendation” from the Department of Justice or the deputy attorney general.

  • Trump Retweets Flawed Fox Segment Stoking Fear About Religious Visas

    ››› ››› NINA MAST & KATIE SULLIVAN

    President Donald Trump retweeted a segment from Fox News’ Fox & Friends that claimed “jihadis [are] using religious visa to enter US” just days after two federal judges temporarily halted his second attempt at a travel ban targeting a list of majority-Muslim countries. However, the Foxnews.com article the Fox & Friends segment was based on named no incidents of terrorism in the U.S. linked to Muslims here on the R-1 visa for religious workers, and a Media Matters search also found no such reports of terrorism linked to R-1 visas within the last ten years.

  • Trump Is Trying To Divert The Media From His Disastrous Debate, And CNN Just Admitted It’s Working

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has tried to divert media attention from his poor debate performance, claiming that he “eased up” on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and suggesting that he would use personal indiscretions of former President Bill Clinton to attack her in the future. By attempting to change the media conversation, Trump seeks to deflect attention from not only his performance, but also from issues raised during the debate such as his taxes, his birtherism, and his attacks on a former Miss Universe.

    And news outlets have fallen for his manipulation, a media misstep that a CNN panel acknowledged while discussing the matter.

    Trump’s September 26 debate performance has been widely panned, with some calling it “an unmitigated disaster” and saying Trump had a “terrible night.” Trump since then has tried to offer excuses for his performance by criticizing moderator Lester Holt and complaining about his debate microphone. During an interview on September 27 with Fox News' Fox & Friends, Trump put out another attempted distraction, claiming he had “eased up” on Clinton during the debate because of her feelings and saying he would have mentioned “the many affairs that Bill Clinton had” if their daughter Chelsea Clinton had not been in the room. The following day, also speaking to Fox, Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie accused Clinton of being “an enabler” of her husband’s infidelities, saying, “If you look at Hillary Clinton's background and if you look at her being an enabler, really, in the '90s and really attacking these women, it goes against everything that she now tries to spout as a candidate for president.”

    Various media outlets have played right into Trump’s plan by sharing the remarks, reporting that Trump said he “held back” by not bringing up Bill Clinton’s past, repeating Bossie’s claim, and devoting time to the claims on cable news shows. When journalists report on what Trump didn’t do during the debate, they play into Trump’s plan to avoid additional scrutiny of his answers on “not paying his taxes or stiffing his workers,” as Jon Favreau pointed out.

    Discussing Trump and Bossie’s remarks in a roundtable discussion on CNN’s At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan on September 28, co-host Kate Bolduan asked whether Trump was “just changing the subject from he didn’t have a good debate,” and New York Times reporter Alex Burns responded that “this is the version of changing the subject … that worked for Trump so well” before. Additionally, Democratic strategist Edward Espinoza pointed out that the Trump campaign was injecting the subject of Bill Clinton’s personal indiscretions into the campaign by having his surrogates bring it up in media, and that it was working because “we’re talking about it right now”:

    EDWARD ESPINOZA: This is not a new issue for them. So for Donald [Trump] to bring something like this up -- and by the way, his surrogates bringing it up in the media right now is their way of getting it out without him having to get it out. We’re talking about it right now. But they’re prepared --

    KATE BOLDUAN (CO-HOST): Is it getting out or just changing the subject from he didn’t have a good debate? Because we’ve seen kind of this tactic in the past.

    ALEX BURNS: This is the version of changing the subject that Trump -- that worked for Trump so well when he ended up down 12 points in August, right? That when you careen from one fight that's charged with issues of race and gender from the next all summer, that's not what he's been doing for the last few weeks when he has drawn closer in the polls. And a return to that just because it sort of changes the subject and feels good in the short term, the people who see him as having made progress in the race badly do not want him to go there.

    CNN’s panel was playing into exactly what the Trump campaign wanted -- and Espinoza admitted it. The panelists were discussing Bill Clinton’s indiscretions without forcing Trump to be part of the conversation, while also helping Trump in “changing the subject” from his debate performance.

    Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump has been able to manipulate the press to cover what he wants in the way he wants and to ignore issues he has not wanted covered. In May, he held a press conference on his alleged donations to veterans groups, hijacking cable news discussions and largely avoiding coverage of an update regarding the lawsuit against Trump University. Earlier in September, Trump got free live cable news coverage of his Washington, D.C., hotel by teasing a “major announcement” on his birther campaign. The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel has also noted that Trump has released “less policy detail than any candidate for president in my lifetime,” but because he “never fail[s] to offer enough detail to fit in a headline or cable news chyron,” he’s been able to “get credit — and the headline, and the chyron — for what other candidates would consider less than a bare minimum.” And as Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson noted earlier this year, “Trump can mainline his latest hot take into the mainstream media, basically any time of night or day” through his use of Twitter.

  • What The Media Needs To Know About Donald Trump’s Debate Prep Team

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's inner circle is filled with conspiracy theorists and disreputable political operatives. According to reports, many of these same people have been taking the lead in preparing him for Monday's first presidential debate at Hofstra University.

    (Note: Some of these bios were previously included in a round-up of Trump’s kitchen cabinet).

    Roger Ailes

    Ailes

    Role In Debate Prep

    Roger Ailes is the founder and former chairman and CEO of Fox News and the Fox Television Stations Group. He has reportedly been an influential part of Trump’s debate preparation, advising the candidate on how to “get his message out in a smart, cogent way while also maintaining his air of authenticity,” according to CNNMoney, and helping “Trump come up with memorable one-liners that will stay in voters' minds, drive headlines, and perhaps even turn the tide in Trump's favor.”

    What You Need To Know

    Ailes was forced out at Fox News after former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against him alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. Other women also came forward, alleging a decades-long pattern of harassment by Ailes. (Carlson’s suit was settled for a reported $20 million, and Fox News’ parent company issued a public apology to Carlson, saying she was not “treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”) . Even though Ailes was publicly disgraced, Trump has repeatedly expressed support for him..

    The network Ailes created has for years functioned as the communications arm of the Republican Party, disguised as a “news” network. Fox was instrumental in the rise and eventual triumph of Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries, featuring him far more than any other candidate, which translated into millions of dollars worth of free exposure.

    At Fox, Ailes pushed programming with themes of misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia. Ailes was once an operative for President Richard Nixon, and he used race-baiting in his work for Nixon as well.

    Corey Lewandowski

    Lewandowski

    Role In Debate Prep

    Former Trump campaign manager and current CNN contributor Corey Lewandowski is involved in “preparing Donald Trump for the debates,” according to the conservative site Heat Street.

    What You Need To Know

    While he was in charge of Trump’s campaign, Lewandowski had hostile interactions with the press corps covering Trump. He was caught on video grabbing Michelle Fields, then a reporter for Breitbart News. Florida prosecutors said they believed there was probable cause to arrest Lewandowski, but decided against prosecuting him.

    In a separate incident, Lewandowski was seen grabbing a protester “by the collar,” and “yanking him backwards.” When asked about it, Trump said, “I give him credit for having spirit.”

    Lewandowski continues to receive what are described as “severance” payments from the Trump campaign while commenting on the election in a paid position for CNN. On air he has been a reliable Trump defender, promoting the racist birther conspiracy theory, smearing journalists who report on the nominee, and lying about Trump’s history of using undocumented workers.

    Stephen Bannon

    Bannon

    Role In Debate Prep

    Stephen Bannon is the chairman of Breitbart News but is currently on leave to serve as the chief executive of the Trump campaign. The Washington Post reported that he is part of the unofficial Trump debate team that met with the candidate at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, in August.

    What You Need To Know

    Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News has recently made a “noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant ideas,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Several anonymous Breitbart staffers alleged, according to BuzzFeed, that “the company’s top management was allowing Trump to turn Breitbart into his own fan website” and claimed the candidate paid the site in exchange for favorable coverage. (Bannon denied the allegation.)

    After news surfaced that Trump’s then-campaign manager had allegedly manhandled Michelle Fields, who was working at the time as a Breitbart reporter, Bannon sided with the campaign over his employee, leading to the defection of several staffers.

    Several former Bannon employees have spoken out about his hiring by the campaign. Former Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro called Bannon a “legitimately sinister figure” who has led Breitbart News to embrace the “white supremacist alt-right.” Former Breitbart News spokesperson Kurt Bardella told Media Matters that Bannon is a “pathological liar” whose hiring signals a “dangerous" shift by the campaign.

    Rudy Giuliani

    Giuliani

    Role In Debate Prep

    Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has served as a campaign surrogate for the Trump campaign and was identified as a “longtime friend” of the candidate who is involved in debate preparations.

    What You Need To Know

    Giuliani has a long history of making anti-Muslim statements. He argued in favor of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) comment that one way to fight terrorism is to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods,” said sexual assault in Germany proved that “these [Syrian] refugees are inherently a problem,” and praised Rep. Peter King (R-NY) for holding anti-Muslim hearings in Congress.

    Speaking before Trump at a campaign rally, Giuliani said, “Under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States,” omitting the 9/11 attacks. PolitiFact rated this claim “false.”

    Laura Ingraham

    Ingraham

    Role In Debate Prep

    Radio host Laura Ingraham has been a staunch supporter of Trump’s candidacy and has praised his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Ingraham spoke at the Republican National Convention and urged Trump’s former rivals to “honor your pledge” and “support Donald Trump now.” She has been described as one of Trump’s “informal band of counselors” who are helping him to “test out zingers” ahead of the debate.

    What You Need To Know

    Ingraham has often used her show to demonize and attack immigrants. Ingraham said Mexicans “have come here to murder and rape our people,” called the American children of undocumented immigrants “anchor fetuses,” and suggested that deported immigrants attempting to re-enter the country should be “shot.”

    Chris Christie

    Christie

    Role In Debate Prep

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Trump after he dropped out of the campaign and has served as a leading surrogate for the candidate. He is the head of Trump’s transition team and is reportedly helping with debate preparations.

    What You Need To Know

    Christie has become infamous for his public arguments with voters and other figures. He told a voter who criticized them that he was “a real big shot shooting your mouth off,” called a reporter “a complete idiot,” and told a resident asking about stalled rebuilding efforts after Superstorm Sandy to “sit down and shut up.”

    Another mark against Christie has been the Bridgegate scandal, in which his subordinates conspired to block traffic on the George Washington Bridge as payback for political slights against the governor.

    David Bossie

    Bossie

    Role In Debate Prep

    Conservative activist David Bossie has taken a leave of absence from his job as president of the advocacy group Citizens United to be Trump’s deputy campaign manager. He is reportedly part of the debate preparation team.

    What You Need To Know

    In 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush condemned Bossie and Citizens United for using what he called “filthy campaign tactics” against the Clintons during the 1992 presidential campaign. Following President Clinton’s election, Bossie used his role as Citizens United’s political director to operate “an information factory” that produced “a steady stream of tips, tidbits, documents, factoids, suspicions, and story ideas for the nation's press and for Republicans on Capitol Hill,” according to Columbia Journalism Review. Bossie resigned from his position as an investigator for the House Government and Reform Committee after it was revealed that he played a role in releasing selectively edited transcripts in order to smear Hillary Clinton.

    Bossie has been president of Citizens United since 2000. The group’s film Hillary: The Movie prompted the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC, which resulted in the 5-4 decision that has led to nearly unlimited campaign spending in elections. Citizens United has pushed for the release of Hillary Clinton’s communications from the State Department when she was secretary of state, and the organization is a party in several lawsuits demanding Clinton-related materials from the agency. In the course of making those requests, Citizens United has often insinuated -- without evidence -- that wrongdoing took place.

    Roger Stone

    Roger Stone

    Role In Debate Prep

    Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone is a longtime Trump ally. Stone worked on Trump’s campaign until August of 2015, continues to serve as a prominent advocate for Trump’s candidacy, and regularly speaks with Trump. Stone advised Trump on debate negotiations and helped Trump with debate prep during the primaries.

    What You Need To Know

    In addition to his political dirty tricks, Stone has an extensive history of making violent, racist, and sexist comments. He started an anti-Hillary Clinton group in 2008 with the acronym “C.U.N.T.” and has called for her to be executed. He called cable news commentators a “stupid negro” and “Mandingo,” and he promotes conspiracy theories about the Clinton and Bush families murdering dozens of people. His next book is about how the Clintons purportedly murdered JFK Jr. “because he was in the way.”

    Stone’s racist and sexist tweets resulted in him being banned from appearing on CNN and MSNBC.

    While advocating for Trump, Stone has peddled several outlandish conspiracy theories. He accused the Clintons of murdering several more people, argued that the 2016 election will be “rigged” via the manipulation of voting machines, and alleged that a top Clinton campaign aide was connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stone also attacked the family of Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

    Kellyanne Conway

    Conway

    Role In Debate Prep

    Kellyanne Conway served as a senior adviser and pollster for the Trump campaign, and she is currently serving as the campaign manager. Conway has been part of the core team preparing Trump for the debate.

    What You Need To Know

    Conway has long been involved in conservative politics, mostly as a pollster working with conservative groups including the NRA and Family Research Council and Republican candidates including Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.

    Conway once said that people “don’t want their kids looking at a cartoon with a bunch of lesbian mothers” and suggested the representation of same-sex parents in children’s programming was a “corrupting” influence. She also once argued that “political correctness” could create a situation where there were “air traffic controllers who don’t speak great English,” leading to “two planes crashing in the sky.”

    She also argued that “revulsion towards men” is “part and parcel of the feminist movement” and that “baby girls [are] being killed just because they’re girls” in America.

    Michael Flynn

    Flynn

    Role In Debate Prep

    Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is a Trump adviser and campaign surrogate. Flynn is part of the national security team preparing Trump for the debate.

    What You Need To Know

    Flynn left his position at the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 after clashing with senior officials. He has complained that “‘political correctness’ has prevented the U.S. from confronting violent extremism, which he sees as a ‘cancerous idea that exists inside of the Islamic religion.’” In his book The Field of Flight, Flynn accuses the U.S. government of concealing “the actions of terrorists like bin Laden and groups like ISIS, and the role of Iran in the rise of radical Islam.”

    Flynn has publicly supported Trump’s idea that the families of terrorist suspects should be killed, and he also backs Trump’s proposal for a ban on Muslim travel to the United States. Flynn has written that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”

    In 2015, Flynn flew to Moscow and was filmed having a formal dinner with Vladimir Putin. The Daily Beast reported that “Pentagon brass were taken by surprise that he didn’t notify the department.”

    Flynn was paid by the state-funded Russian television network RT for his appearance at the network’s anniversary gala.

    Flynn spoke on Trump’s behalf at the Republican National Convention, saying that “war is not about bathrooms,” a reference to controversy over anti-transgender laws. He also retweeted an anti-Semitic pro-Trump message that read in part, “Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore.” He later described the incident as “a mistake.”

  • Media: Meet Donald Trump’s New Deputy Campaign Manager, Citizens United President David Bossie

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Donald Trump’s new deputy campaign manager David Bossie has built a career out of smearing the Clintons, including being condemned by then-President George H.W. Bush for “filthy campaign tactics,” being forced to resign from his job in Congress after releasing selectively edited transcripts and videos to the press in order to smear the Clintons, and fabricating a story about a young woman committing suicide to attack former President Bill Clinton.

  • Conservatives Lose Their Excuse To Question The Results Of The Clinton Email Investigation

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY, CYDNEY HARGIS & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Conservatives have just lost their excuse to question the results of the investigation relating to Hillary Clinton’s email server, which legal experts say lacks a “legitimate basis” to charge Clinton with crimes. Right-wing media figures have ignored those experts to suggest that if the investigation does not result in a Clinton indictment, it must be politically tainted. But Attorney General Loretta Lynch affirmed that she will “be accepting the recommendations” made by “career agents and investigators” and FBI Director James Comey in the case, and conservative media have spent months lauding Comey’s “impeccable integrity” and ability to impartially conduct the investigation.

  • Meet Citizens United, Another Right-Wing Group Driving The Clinton Email Narrative

    Group's Head Was Fired From Congressional Job For Smearing Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Citizens United is a conservative activist group with a long history of promoting discredited smears and attacks. Along with fellow right-wing group Judicial Watch, they have been one of the driving forces behind the mainstream media narrative about Hillary Clinton's emails.

    Media Matters survey of media coverage of the email story in the Nexis database found that Citizens United has been cited or quoted in reports about Clinton's use of private email in multiple major outlets, including ABC News, Fox News, The New York TimesWall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

    Just last week, The Wall Street Journal based an October 15 story on emails parceled out to the newspaper by Citizens United, in a continuation of a pattern utilized by the organization and its leader David Bossie of selectively leaking partial information to news outlets in order to attack Democrats. The story later made the leap to Fox News. 

    The emails, which show Clinton aides experienced occasional IT problems when working with Clinton's private server (similar to many agencies, organizations, and businesses), are described by Bossie in the Journal story as "another troubling revelation." Bossie has also been calling for a "special counsel" to investigate the emails.

    This is the type of scandal-mongering that Citizens United has done for years in order to further conservative crusades against prominent progressives. Bossie himself has been targeting the Clintons for more than two decades. In 1998, he was fired from a job with the House Oversight Committee for his role in releasing selectively-edited transcripts that smeared Hillary Clinton.

    Citizens United & Clinton Emails

    Citizens United has been pushing for the release of Clinton communications from the State Department, and is a party in several lawsuits demanding Clinton-related materials from the agency. In the course of those requests, Citizens United has often insinuated -- without evidence -- that wrongdoing took place. Citizens United President David Bossie told Politico after a recent hearing, "If it weren't for our FOIAs and subsequent lawsuits, these records would remain exactly where Hillary Clinton wants them -- in the shadows."

    One set of emails released to Citizens United and then doled out to mainstream news organizations supposedly revealed a "tangled web" between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation, Bossie told the Washington Post. In fact, the emails mostly showed mundane communications amongst Clinton's team, including arrangements to organize a dinner.

    Who Is Citizens United?

    Citizens United was created in 1988 by conservative activist Floyd Brown. Early on, the organization ran political campaigns promoting the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas, as well as campaigns against Democratic presidential candidates like Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton.

    Brown was behind the infamous race-baiting Willie Horton political ad that was used to attack Dukakis in the 1988 presidential campaign. He was chairman of Citizens United until 2006, a position former congressional investigator and anti-Clinton activist David Bossie now holds.

    Since leaving Citizens United, Brown has promoted the birther conspiracy that President Obama was not born in the United States, and demanded his removal from the White House for trying to construct a "totalitarian regime." Brown also ran political attack ads falsely claiming that President Obama is Muslim.

    In 2008, Citizens United produced an anti-Clinton film called Hillary: The Movie. After the group was barred from advertising the film due to its political content and possible influence on the election, the resulting 2010 Supreme Court case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, opened the floodgate of money now influencing elections.

    Citizens United also engaged in deceptive campaigns against the Affordable Care Act, and distorted the beliefs of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

    In addition to Hillary: The Movie, the organization has produced films attacking the left and promoting the right. These include Occupy UnmaskedBattle for America with Dick Morris, and Hype: The Obama Effect.

    Citizens United also has an affiliated political action committee, Citizens United Political Victory Fund, that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars between 2006 and 2014 to support Republican candidates and attack Democrats. They also have a super PAC, Citizens United Super PAC, which has already spent $128,199 so far in the 2016 election cycle. 

    Citizens United's Unethical Past

    CBS reported in 1992 that as part of an "unusually brazen dirty-tricks operation," Brown sent his agents, including David Bossie, to prove a conspiracy theory that a woman named Susann Coleman had committed suicide after an affair with Bill Clinton. In order to do so, Bossie followed Coleman's mother to an Army hospital in Georgia, where she was visiting her husband who was recovering from a stroke. CBS said, according to a Nexis transcript, that Bossie and an accomplice "burst into the sick man's room and began questioning the shaken mother about her daughter's suicide." (The operation was not technically on behalf of Citizens United -- Brown at the time was heading a group called the "Presidential Victory Committee.")

    Brown also called Coleman's sister and harassed her about the affair. The calls were recorded. On the tape, Brown told her, "If there's any truth to this proposed story, I want to be very private. I want to basically have my lawyers approach Clinton's lawyers and tell him that we want him out of the race because he's not morally qualified to be president."

    CBS said that George H.W. Bush's re-election campaign "disclaims any connection with Floyd Brown and describes his anti-Clinton tactics as despicable."

    David Bossie, Citizens United's Attack Dog

    Bossie has served as the president of Citizens United since 2000 (and chairman since 2006). Before that, he was chief investigator for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a position he was fired from for releasing selectively-edited transcripts of interviews with former Clinton administration official Webster Hubbell in order to leave the false impression that then-first lady Hillary Clinton was involved in wrongdoing.

    At the time, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), the chairman of the committee, "I'm embarrassed for you, I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the [House Republican] conference at the circus that went on at your committee." (The Washington Post reported at the time, "While Burton defended his senior investigator publicly and said Bossie was leaving of his own accord, Gingrich told the conference yesterday that Bossie, who had survived repeated previous attempts, had been fired.")

    During the 1992 Clinton-Bush election, Bossie was involved in the production of a campaign ad featuring apparently doctored tape-recorded conversations, which was then repudiated by George W. Bush on behalf of his father, President George H.W. Bush. The younger Bush reportedly "even sent out a letter to 85,000 Republican contributors encouraging them not to contribute to" Bossie's campaign effort.

    Bossie kept up his behavior at Citizens United, coordinating a campaign of leaks and misinformation designed to hurt the Clinton administration and the first lady:

    Bossie, the twenty-eight-year-old political director for Citizens United, a conservative Republican operation, runs an information factory whose Whitewater production lines turn out a steady stream of tips, tidbits, documents, factoids, suspicions, and story ideas for the nation's press and for Republicans on Capitol Hill. Journalists and Hill Republicans have recycled much of the information provided by Citizens United into stories that have cast a shadow on the Clinton presidency.

    A 1994 Chicago Tribune profile reported that Bossie was part of the campaign to use the Whitewater controversy to attack President Bill Clinton, pointing out that he "harvests tales of alleged wrongdoings from a network of Clinton enemies, then peddles them to Capitol Hill and media contacts in hopes of prompting scandalous stories."

    Bossie is still doing the same, but now he's on the Clinton-email beat.

  • The Shady Filmmaker On Rand Paul's Press Tour

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    David Bossie

    Controversial filmmaker and Republican operative David Bossie accompanied Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) when the senator took several reporters to watch him perform surgery in Central America. Bossie's past work, which includes deliberately doctoring evidence to smear the Clintons, has been denounced by fellow Republicans, including Newt Gingrich and former President George H. W. Bush.

    According to The Washington Post, Paul visited Guatemala this week to spend some time practicing medicine again (Paul is an ophthalmologist), but the presence on the trip of Citizen's United President David Bossie "cast aside any doubt that the trip was merely an opportunity for the senator to reconnect with his medical roots":

    Bossie is the [president] of Citizens United, the group whose lawsuit led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that corporations and labor unions can spend unlimited funds on direct advocacy for or against political candidates. A documentary filmmaker who has shadowed Paul before, he traveled here with his daughter and a film crew equipped with lights, cameras and an unmanned aerial drone for overhead shots. Bossie said little about his plans, other than that his footage would appear in a film either about Paul or an issue of importance to him.

    Paul's association with Bossie links him to the operative's shady past. In 1998, Bossie was fired from his job as chief investigator for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform -- which was investigating alleged Clinton White House finance abuses -- because he released selectively edited transcripts that gave the false impression that then-first lady Hillary Clinton had been implicated in wrongdoing. The full comments revealed that Clinton had done nothing wrong. The Washington Post reported in a May 1998 article that then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) told the chairman of the committee upon Bossie's removal, "I'm embarrassed for you, I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the [House Republican] conference at the circus that went on at your committee."

    Bossie's shady tactics go back even further. In 1992, during the Clinton-Bush presidential race, he was repudiated by George H.W. Bush, who filed an FEC complaint against Bossie's group after it produced a TV ad inviting voters to call a hot line to hear almost certainly doctored tape-recorded conversations. George W. Bush, on his father's behalf, "even sent out a letter to 85,000 Republican contributors encouraging them not to contribute to" Bossie's campaign effort.

    Bossie was also reportedly behind the notorious "melon-shooting, staged re-enactment of the death of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr.," in which then-GOP congressman Dan Burton was widely ridiculed for shooting a melon in his backyard ostensibly to prove that Foster had been murdered, despite reports showing Foster had committed suicide.

    This is not the first time Bossie has promoted Paul. In a March 2013 Hill article, Bossie was quoted as praising Paul's filibuster over drone policy, saying "These are the types of events that make you a player, so that in three years you've laid the groundwork and [it's] not just assumed you're going to be a fringe Libertarian and Tea Party-only candidate." Later in the piece, Bossie suggested that Paul could be "taken seriously by establishment Republicans":

    Bossie said GOP voters who crave a leader who stands on principle -- and who often questioned Romney's conservative bonafides -- are more likely to view Paul as one of their own.

    "Post the 2012 general election debacle, with a nominee who was not a conservative and who lost a race that was winnable ... the Republican institutional voters, as well as the conservative movement within the Republican Party, are desperately looking for principled leadership," said Bossie.

    "That is something that has been lacking, and that's where his filibuster will make him stand out."

    Bossie noted Paul has already taken "methodical" steps to differentiate himself from his father, "in order to be taken seriously by establishment Republicans."

    Paul recently worked with Citizens United on a campaign to "Abolish the IRS" and narrated a video for the organization promoting the effort.

    Paul also attended an event in 2014 in New Hampshire called the Freedom Summit, which was co-sponsored by Bossie's Citizens United. The event was described by Politico as a "cattle call of potential Republican 2016 hopefuls," and the "unofficial start to '16 GOP primary" by the Washington Times.

    Image via Gage Skidmore