Roger Stone

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  • 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

  • After Trump Gave Russia Classified Intel, Roger Stone Offers Multiple Assurances Of The President's Mental State

    Stone Says He Has Spoken To Trump Recently And The President Is “Perfectly Sane,” “Sharp As A Tack,” And “A Genius”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Following The Washington Post’s bombshell report that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone offered several reassurances of Trump’s mental state, saying the president is “perfectly sane” and that “he’s not crazy; he’s a genius.”

    According to a May 15 report from the Post, “President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.” The Post’s reporting that Trump shared classified information has been confirmed by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and Reuters.

    Following these reports, Stone appeared in three videos for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet during the evening of May 15, where in each instance he said he had spoken with Trump “recently” before offering assurances about Trump’s mental state. Stone cast the Post story as part of a "major media thrust" to "destabilize" the president and portray him as mentally unfit for office.

    Stone has had a relationship with Trump for at least three decades and worked as a paid consultant to his campaign in 2015. He recently began marketing “opportunities” for advertisers based on his access to the president.

    In the first video, which was posted to Alex Jones’ YouTube channel, Stone said, “I've spoken to the president in recent days. He is perfectly sane, he is upbeat, he is combative, he has no intention of folding for the globalists, and that I can assure you.”

    ROGER STONE: To get back to the main point, this is a major media thrust, an attack on the president to further destabilize him. It is not coincidental that there is a video up today accusing the president of having Alzheimer’s and making the case that he is non compos mentis [not of sound mind]. This is the next big wave that they intend to put out there. Well, I've spoken to the president in recent days. He is perfectly sane, he is upbeat, he is combative, he has no intention to folding for the globalists, and that I can assure you.

    Stone and Jones then posted a “clean” second video where both men went through talking points nearly identical to those found in the first video. In this video, Stone said, “I've spoken to the president in recent days. He is the same as he was 40 years ago. He is resilient, he is optimistic, he is upbeat, and he is not going to be undone by the Washington quislings and the establishment stooges around him.” He also accused national security adviser H.R. McMaster of being the source for the Post’s story:

    ROGER STONE: It's not incidental that we have a video up now on the Internet claiming that the president is suffering from Alzheimer’s. I predict to you this will be the next wave of fake news -- that the president is ill on the basis of a disease. I've spoken to the president in recent days. He is the same as he was 40 years ago. He is resilient, he is optimistic, he is upbeat, and he is not going to be undone by the Washington quislings and the establishment stooges around him. If you look at it on the basis of motive and you look at everyone who was in the meeting, all fingers point to [H.R.] McMaster -- he’s the only one with the plausible motive. It's not in Reince Priebus' interest. It's not in Rex Tillerson's interest. It's certainly not in the Russians’ interests. The leak came from McMaster.

    In a third video, also shot that evening, Stone said, “I've talked to the president fairly recently -- he is sharp as a tack. There is no evidence of any deterioration in his thought process.” Expressing concern that Trump could be removed from office via the 25th Amendment, Stone added, “Look at his record on the economy, look at his appointment to the Supreme Court, look at the way he has the Chinese doing our dirty work in North Korea, and you will see he’s not crazy; he’s a genius”:

    ROGER STONE:  Disclaimer right up front. They're going to say that this is a conspiracy theory, but it's the Stone cold truth. They are going to claim that Donald Trump has Alzheimer’s and that it is progressive and that is progressing and that is the source of his "insanity." I've talked to the president fairly recently -- he is sharp as a tack. There is no evidence of any deterioration in his thought process. This is completely bogus. But under the 25th Amendment, if a majority of the cabinet plus the vice president agree that the president is incapacitated, well then he is removed. And if he seeks to fight the charges, it goes to the U.S. House of Representatives, where erosion among Republicans could destroy the Trump presidency. This is bogus. They could not beat him at the ballot box, so now they seek to remove him by claiming that he's insane. Look at his record on the economy, look at his appointment to the Supreme Court, look at the way he has the Chinese doing our dirty work in North Korea, and you will see he’s not crazy; he’s a genius.

  • Report: Trump Associates Helped Former Fox Chief Monitor And Undermine Adversaries

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Stephen Bannon, Roger Ailes, Roger Stone
    Stephen Bannon, Roger Ailes, Roger Stone

    Politico Magazine reported that figures within President Donald Trump’s inner circle, Roger Stone and Stephen Bannon, helped former Fox News chief Roger Ailes monitor and smear his adversaries, a practice Ailes engaged in for years.

    Bannon, the former head of Breitbart who now serves as Trump's chief strategist, has a history of using his online platform to launch smear campaigns against his political opponents, including helping Breitbart staffer Peter Schweizer push the widely debunked Clinton Cash. Breitbart has also proved to be combative without Bannon at the helm, even going after Trump’s son-in-law to defend Bannon.

    Stone, a long time Trump ally and former campaign staffer has a history of racist, misogynistic, and conspiratorial commentary. Stone is also under investigation for possible ties to Russia after law enforcement and intelligence officials “intercepted communications” between Stone and Russian officials.

    Ailes left Fox News in 2016 after Gretchen Carlson and several other women who worked there said he had sexually harassed them. While at the network’s helm, Ailes had a history of spying on his employees and smearing his adversaries.

    According to a Politico Magazine report Stone “was paid for off-air work that included keeping tabs on [New York magazine’s Gabriel] Sherman and publicly criticizing Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy” while Bannon “coordinated with Fox in Breitbart’s publication of negative stories about Sherman.” From the May 14 Politico Magazine report:

    The network of operatives allegedly used by Ailes and other Fox executives to monitor and demean perceived threats also extends to Trump’s inner circle, according to several people with knowledge of those relationships. Trump’s longtime confidant Stone, a veteran practitioner of political dark arts, was paid for off-air work that included keeping tabs on Sherman and publicly criticizing Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, according to three people familiar with the arrangement.

    “Stone would just write public articles when Ailes told him,” one of those people explained. In a March 2015 article for the Daily Caller, Stone accused Ruddy of being “in bed with the Clintons.” In an April 2015 piece for the publication, Stone attacked Ruddy for criticizing a Fox News special about the Clintons.

    [...]

    Stone said that his paid work for Fox consisted of writing Ailes “a shitload” of strategy memos about attracting more libertarian viewers and that his broadsides against Ruddy were motivated by anger over Ruddy’s donations to the Clinton Foundation, not monetary inducements.

    Ailes’ lawyer said her client was unaware of any paid work performed by Stone. “Roger doesn’t know anything about payments to Mr. Stone, and believes the allegations are untrue,” she wrote in an email.

    But three people familiar with the arrangement said Stone was also paid to keep tabs on Sherman as he worked on his biography of the Fox News chief. Stone said he was not paid to monitor Sherman but instead was motivated by friendship to act as a liaison between the two. “I would try to keep the two of them from killing each other because they’re both friends of mine,” he said. “They became obsessed with each other. It was really unhealthy. I think Gabe’s a great journalist. I think Roger Ailes is a genius.”

    The network of allies Ailes employed to neutralize threats also extends into the White House itself, according to three people familiar with the situation who said White House chief strategist Steve Bannon coordinated with Fox in Breitbart’s publication of negative stories about Sherman.

    In the weeks before the release of Sherman’s biography, 2014’s “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” Bannon huddled inside a Fox News conference room with Ailes, Ailes’ personal attorney Peter Johnson Jr., pollster Pat Caddell and former Fox journalist Peter Boyer to discuss discrediting the book, according to two people familiar with the meetings. (None of the participants would comment on the record.) True to form, Bannon advocated an all-out “go to war” approach during these sessions, while Boyer advised a hands-off approach, according to one of those people. Bannon described the resulting attacks on Sherman as “love taps,” according to an acquaintance he later told about the meetings.

    There is no indication that Bannon was paid to do this, though at the time he enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with Fox, which promoted his conservative documentaries. Ailes’ lawyer said that Breitbart’s coverage of Sherman was taken of its own initiative. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

    [...]

    Bannon has also collaborated with Jim Pinkerton, a former Fox News contributor who for years authored the anonymous blog “The Cable Game” to tout Fox and attack its rivals on behalf of Ailes.

  • Meet Jack Posobiec: The "Alt-Right" Troll With A Press Pass In White House

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT & BRENDAN KARET

    The Rebel Media’s Jack Posobiec is the latest member of a community of far-right and “alt-right” internet trolls to gain access to the White House press briefings under the guise of journalism. Posobiec has promoted emails and forged documents allegedly related to French President-elect Emmanuel Macron, the baseless “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, false pro-Trump smear campaigns, and has worked with other “alt-right” media figures and outlets. 

  • Contradicting Trump, Roger Stone Claimed The President Spoke To Him Several Times In Recent Months

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    President Donald Trump and his longtime adviser Roger Stone have given contradictory accounts of whether they have recently talked. Both are under fire after Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey, who was heading the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Russia’s potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

    Stone has had a relationship with Trump for roughly 40 years and worked as a paid consultant to his campaign in 2015. He now contributes to Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet and produces commentaries through his website and radio show. He recently began marketing “opportunities” for advertisers based on his access to the president.

    Politico and CNN have reported that Stone recently encouraged Trump to fire Comey. Media Matters documented that Stone had repeatedly attacked Comey and urged Trump to fire him in media appearances and on his Twitter account.

    Trump tweeted today that CNN was wrong because he has “not spoken to Roger in a long time - had nothing to do with my decision.”

    But Stone claimed in a May 5 appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s The David Webb Show that he talked to Trump “less than a week ago” and after media appearances in March and April:  

    GUEST CO-HOST: When was the last time you talked to him?

    ROGER STONE: Been a little while now. I would say -- I don’t want to characterize it, but less than a week ago.

    GUEST CO-HOST: Good talk?

    STONE: From time to time. He’s easier to find on the weekends. He’s got more time on his hands. But I’m happy to say after I was on with George Stephanopoulos, he called. After I was on with Chuck Todd, he called. After the Netflix document trailer was released, he called.

    GUEST CO-HOST: What’d he say?

    STONE: Well, I mean, he was certainly pleased with those appearances because, of course, I was happy to defend Donald Trump.

    Stone appeared on George Stephanopoulos’ program on March 26 and on Chuck Todd’s program on April 13. The Stone trailer was released by Netflix on March 29.

    During an interview that aired on the March 28 edition of WNYC’s The Takeaway, Stone said: “I have not spoken to the president on the phone recently but I have heard from the president recently.” Stone also told the Daily Mail in a March 21 interview that “they had been in contact since the inauguration.”

    In late April, Stone told Jamie Weinstein that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones talks to the president “from time to time.” When Weinstein responded by pointing out that Stone characterizes his communications with Trump in a similar way, Stone said, “Right. And we’re smart enough not to characterize beyond that.”

    UPDATE: In an interview with WSVN (Miami, FL’s Fox affiliate) reporter Brian Entin, Stone said that Trump “certainly knows my views on Comey” but denied influencing his decision. He also refused to deny that he’s spoken to the president recently.

  • In Media And Online, Roger Stone Urged Trump To Fire Comey, Whose Agency Was Reportedly Investigating Stone

    Stone Has Called For Fox News Host Jeanine Pirro To Replace Comey

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Before President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone had repeatedly attacked Comey and urged Trump to fire him. Stone has reportedly been under FBI investigation since January regarding “possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump.”

    Stone has had a relationship with Trump for roughly 40 years and worked as a paid consultant to his campaign in 2015. He now contributes to Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet and produces commentaries through his website and radio show. He recently began marketing “opportunities” for advertisers based on his access to the president. Stone has claimed that he still communicates with Trump and sends him memos with “political thoughts.”  

    Politico reported that “Several Stone allies and friends said Stone, who has been frequently mentioned in the investigation, encouraged the president to fire Comey in conversations in recent weeks.” He tweeted this morning “Good Riddance” and claimed Comey gave Clinton “a pass” on her emails.

    CNN reported that a source said Stone “told Trump to fire Comey” while adding that that didn’t necessarily mean Stone’s opinion caused the decision. Trump tweeted, “The Roger Stone report on @CNN is false - Fake News. Have not spoken to Roger in a long time - had nothing to do with my decision.” Stone responded to Trump on Twitter: "With all due respect, I am not the source of CNN story and have made no such claim. I support the President's decision to fire Comey 100%." 

    Stone had repeatedly urged Trump to ax Comey prior to his firing yesterday and said Comey has no “public credibility.”

    While hosting Jones’ program on March 22, Stone claimed that Comey has repeatedly helped Clinton and said Comey “has no public credibility. They used him to blacken my name because you see when he says -- they ask a question about Roger Stone, ‘Is he under investigation?’ He says, ‘Well I couldn’t comment on that.’ You see, this is a Kabuki dance, it’s like a circus. That’s meant to hang in the air pregnantly implying yes. Let me say this: I fear nothing from an FBI investigation.”

    During a May 3 appearance on Jones’ program, Stone said that Fox News host Jeanine Pirro is “a great patriot” who “should be the FBI director in this administration.”

    While hosting the March 8 edition of The Alex Jones Show (with guest John Kiriakou), Stone said, “Comey has worn out his credibly. He has no more public credibility. It is time for Donald Trump to make Judge Jeanine Pirro the head of the FBI”:  

    ROGER STONE: How can you tell they’re lying at the CIA? Their lips are moving. I think that you are exactly right. The president, however, needs to clean house. You have an analogous situation at the FBI. Why he has allowed Mr. Comey, who covered up for the Clintons in the Sandy Berger affair, covered up for the Clintons in the Marc Rich affair, covered up for the Clintons in their initial illegal server controversy where incredibly he slices and dices all of the things Hillary did in violation of the law and then announces that she won’t be prosecuted. That in itself tells you that by Election Day, when he first on Thursday said he was reopening the investigation based on 650,000 additional new emails and then on Sunday night I believe it was, says “Well folks, we went through all 750 or 650, there’s nothing there." Mr. Comey has worn out his credibly. He has no more public credibility. It is time for Donald Trump to make Judge Jeanine Pirro the head of the FBI. She was a distinguished prosecutor with a reputation for integrity. And I guarantee you she is one tough lady, someone I have known for, jeez, I guess 30 years going back to her days as the Westchester County [New York] district attorney. She could clean up the agency, of that I have no doubt.

    During an April 29 broadcast of his Stone Cold Truth radio program, Stone accused Comey of committing a “perjurious lie” when he said Trump Tower wasn’t wiretapped.  

    He wrote on March 9 that Comey “must be held responsible” for his attempts “to destroy Donald Trump”:

    “The buck stops here” said our next-to-last anti-communist democratic President Harry S. Truman. Obama and his many minions, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey, must be held responsible for a naked attempt to utilize the federal investigative machinery and their well-oiled leak machine to destroy Donald Trump all on the basis of an entirely manufactured talking points from the Clinton campaign.

    On his Twitter account, Stone has called on Trump to fire Comey and claimed the former FBI director is “in the tank for the Clinton Crime family,” that he has “committed perjury” for stating that Trump Tower wasn’t bugged, and that he “belongs in prison with” Hillary Clinton.

  • Roger Stone Selling “Advertising Opportunities” With “President Donald Trump's Confidant”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Roger Stone is marketing “opportunities” for advertisers based on his access to President Donald Trump.

    Stone has a decades-long relationship with Trump and worked as a paid consultant on his presidential campaign in 2015. He recently said that he still communicates with Trump and sends him memos. Stone is currently a contributor to Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet and posts media commentaries through his Stone Cold Truth radio program and website.  

    The Florida-based Alliance Strategies Group (ASG) announced in a press release that Stone has retained the firm to “exclusively represent his online presence especially through the StoneColdTruth.com website for digital advertising opportunities.” Those opportunities include "ads on the website, sponsor newsletters, social media posts and send dedicated email messages to his passionate and active freedom-loving audience." 

    The company’s press release touts Stone’s access to the president to potential advertisers, describing him as “President Donald Trump's confidant and political advisor of over 40 years” and quoting a New York Times piece stating that Stone “won't say how frequently they speak these days.”

    Entities sponsoring Roger Stone would be associated with someone who regularly spouts racist rhetoric such as calling opponents "stupid negro," “fat negro,” “mandingo,” and “arrogant know-it-all negro." They would sponsor the work of someone who lobs misogynistic and sexist insults such as “cunt” and has called for the execution or deaths of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Hillary Clinton, and others. And they would be tied to someone who is reportedly under FBI investigation regarding “connections between Trump's campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”

    ASG is led by Republican consultant Bryan G. Rudnick. Rudnick previously directed an anti-gay effort in Massachusetts for the “protection” of marriage. He drafted a 2008 email for Pennsylvania Republicans to “Fellow Jewish Voters” that likened “a vote for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to events that led up to the Holocaust” (Pennsylvanian Republican Party officials disavowed the email and said they fired Rudnick).

    ASG has also done work for the pro-Trump Great America PAC, a group Stone has labeled a “scam.”

    Previously:

    A Comprehensive Guide To Trump Ally Roger Stone, A Racist, Sexist Conspiracy Theorist