NBC’s Meet the Press posted multiple tweets sharing a video clip or quote of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) pushing the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine “meddled in the 2016 election.” Neither the text of the tweets nor the clip explained that the claim was reportedly part of a Russian disinformation effort.
The New York Times first reported on November 22 that U.S. intelligence services had told the Senate that claims of Ukrainian meddling in the election resulted from a yearslong effort by Russian intelligence operatives “to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election.” Former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill also explained in her testimony to the House impeachment inquiry that “this is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”
Meet the Press' Twitter account posted six tweets related to the interview with Cruz, four of which featured a two-minute video of Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd asking, “Do you believe Ukraine meddled in the American election in 2016?” then reacting incredulously and criticizing the claim when Cruz said yes. Two other tweets included Cruz’s affirmative answer without the video.
In the full segment, Todd did explain why this is a false and debunked claim, but none of these tweets included those crucial details. Soledad O’Brien, an experienced broadcast journalist who hosts the weekly show Matter of Fact, explained how Meet the Press should have framed the clip instead:
Later in the segment, Todd mentioned the intelligence community briefing to the Senate that showed Cruz’s narrative originated from a Russian intelligence effort, but the clip posted on Twitter cuts off before he mentions it -- leaving the hundreds of thousands who viewed the shorter clip on Twitter without the context necessary to understand that Cruz was spouting a debunked conspiracy theory.
Major media outlets have had an ongoing problem of repeating misinformation on Twitter without debunking it. And NBC’s Meet the Press is not the first major outlet guilty of spreading this specific falsehood -- The Hill did the same exact thing with an interview of another Republican senator in late November.