Fox News contributor Steve Cortes, who acted as a Trump campaign surrogate during the 2016 presidential election cycle, pulled out all the stops in response to breaking news that former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with agents of the Russian government. Cortes downplayed the bombshell news, saying it wasn’t “even a firecracker,” claimed the whole narrative was a “collusion delusion,” and asserted that “regular Americans” are not concerned with Russia.
President Donald Trump’s numerous other right-wing media defenders also downplayed the significance of reports that Flynn had agreed to plead guilty to charges emanating from special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and attempted to deflect attention to other pseudo-scandals. The White House also issued a statement to further downplay the severity of the situation.
Cortes’ performance during a December 1 appearance on Fox's Outnumbered Overtime offered arguably the most succinct synopsis of these defensive talking points you'll find anywhere, including:
- “We already knew [Flynn] lied … that’s why he was fired.”
- “We are still so far away from collusion … that is tied directly to the president himself.”
- “What Gen. Flynn did, in terms of outreach [to Russia], I don’t think was wrong.”
- “There’s an obsession with Russia, there is a ‘collusion delusion’ here.”
- “This election was not won because of Russia.”
- “Part of the problem of a special counsel … is that it can be open-end[ed].”
- “People who ... generally despise Trump are pretty obsessed with Russia, regular Americans are not.”
- “Gen. Flynn committed a ‘process crime’ … not a crime in action, not anything remotely close to treasonous.”
- The “Russia obsession” is nothing more than “swamp machinations.”
Minutes later, Weekly Standard editor-in-chief and long-time Fox contributor Steven Hayes appeared on the same program and expressed disbelief at Cortes’ performance, comparing him disfavorably to the infamous Iraqi propagandist Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, known colloquially as “Baghdad Bob.”