Issues ››› Intelligence
  • Trump Ally Roger Stone’s Teleconference Was Full Of Lies And Smears

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Political trickster Roger Stone, a close confidant of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, used his biweekly open teleconference with the public to push numerous lies and smears in an effort to damage Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign

    Stone is a discredited author and a Republican political operative with a history of racism and sexism. He is an informal adviser to the candidate. He has previously peddled falsehoods about election rigging, 9/11, and the Clinton and Bush families committing murders, including of John F. Kennedy Jr., among other conspiracies. CNN and MSNBC have banned Stone from appearing on air because of his offensive rhetoric and disregard for truth. Even so, the Trump campaign’s recent shift in campaign strategy to focus on the Clintons’ personal affairs indicates it will follow an election strategy laid out by Stone.

    During his September 29 “Insider Teleconference,” Stone continued to spread conspiracy theories and smears about the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, and billionaire George Soros.

    Stone Claimed Clinton Wore An Earpiece During Debate: “The Fix Was In”

    During the live teleconference, Stone falsely claimed Clinton was “quite clearly operating with an earpiece” to receive answers to questions during the September 26 presidential debate because “she can’t remember anything.”

    He also falsely alleged that Clinton “clearly had advance notice to the questions” at the debate and accused NBC of “some funny business,” including sending an intern to Clinton’s campaign headquarters ahead of the debate to help prepare. Stone added that it was “clear” that “the mainstream media fix was in,” and he attacked moderator Lester Holt. This conspiracy theory, also pushed by fellow Trump ally Newt Gingrich, originated from a fake news website.

    Stone Warned That Clinton Could Rig Voting Machines “For A Desired Result”

    Stone warned his listeners that Clinton may rig voting machines to defeat Trump. Stone said “there is no doubt” that voter machines are “easy to manipulate” and “program to have a desired result.” He baselessly claimed there was evidence showing voting machines were “rigged by Hillary to screw Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries,” and that “if Hillary will cheat Bernie, she’ll cheat Donald Trump and the American people.” Trump has also pushed the “rigged” claim, and numerous media figures have condemned it as “preposterous” and “irresponsible.”

    Stone leads the pro-Trump group Stop The Steal, which aims to “stop the Democrats from stealing the election from Donald Trump.” The group claims that it will “[d]emand inspection of the software used to program the voting machines in every jurisdiction prior to the beginning of voting by an independent and truly non-partisan third party” and “[c]onduct targeted EXIT-POLLING in targeted states and targeted localities that we believe the Democrats could manipulate.”

    Stone Called Billionaire George Soros A “Nazi War Criminal”

    Stone encouraged listeners to join his “Defend the Donald” blogging campaign aimed at fighting Trump criticism online. Stone also attacked Media Matters, which he claimed receives funding from billionaire political activist George Soros, who is Jewish and who Stone called a “Nazi war criminal.” The smear against Soros, who has donated to Media Matters in the past, has previously been debunked

    Stone tweeted in 2014 that Soros should be “detained, charged, tried, convicted and executed. He is a cancer on the body politic.”

    Stone Doubted CIA Reports On Russian Hackers And Claimed CIA Director Works For Clinton’s Campaign

    Stone also raised doubts about CIA Director John Brennan’s finding that the United States should be concerned about Russian cyberattacks and attempts to influence the 2016 election, calling such concerns “laughable.” Stone challenged Brennan to put forth evidence, said that the director “has been politicized,” and accused him of “reading the talking points from the Clinton campaign, presumably because he wants to keep his job.” Brennan’s warning came after security officials agreed that Russian hackers were most likely responsible for stealing email records from the Democratic National Committee over the summer and noted that there was evidence they were behind other hacking attempts.

    Stone also called concerns about Trump’s connections to Russia “the new McCarthyism” despite Trump’s numerous campaign connections to Russia and Trump’s support and praise for Russia’s president and policies.

  • Politico’s False Equivalency On Election Rigging

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Politico perpetuated a false equivalency between claims from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of a “rigged” election, which are grounded in conspiracy theories and right-wing myths, and worries from Democrats, including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, that Russia is attempting to interfere with the election, which are based on recent precedent and intelligence.

    In a September 28 article claiming both Clinton and Trump are engaging in a “conspiracy theory” and “feed[ing] the rigged-election charge,” Politico explained that Trump and his allies have been “sounding the alarm since summer that the results in battleground states – from Ohio to Florida – will be fixed so he’ll lose.” The report went on to erroneously equate Trump’s claim with worries from Democrats, including Clinton, that Russia could be “‘attempting to influence the outcome of the election,’” writing:

    But Trump isn’t the only one who warns the election is being tampered with.

    Clinton’s campaign contends that the Republican’s shadowy connections to Russia may be tied to the slow release of hacked emails meant to embarrass the Democrat to the point that she loses in November. While Obama said in an NBC interview in July that “anything’s possible” when it comes to Russia’s attempts to influence the presidential election, the U.S. government still hasn’t officially named a culprit in the hackings.

    “It’s a fascinating question, and an important question, and an alarming question when the Russian government appears to be attempting to influence the outcome of the election,” Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin said in a recent interview.

    At an August 1 rally, Trump baselessly asserted that he’s “afraid the election’s going to be rigged.” Trump went on to double down on his claim, adding that without voter ID laws, people “are going to vote 10 times.” Trump was widely denounced by journalists for his claims. The New York Times editorial board called his comments “not just ludicrous, but dangerous.” And Talking Points Memo editor John Marshall wrote that Trump used “this canard to lay the groundwork for rejecting the result of a national election.”

    Trump’s claims are grounded in conspiracy theories and misinformation. Trump ally and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones asserted on August 1 that Clinton “stole the primary” and is “going to try to steal the general election.” Fellow conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Roger Stone urged Trump to raise the issue of a “rigged” election on the July 29 edition of The Milo Yiannopoulos Show, saying, “I think we have widespread voter fraud, but the first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about it constantly.” Fox News hosts and contributors helped mainstream these conspiracy theories, arguing that talking about the possibility of rigged elections is “an important discussion to have going into the election.”

    Trump’s claims are linked to conservative myths used to push for discriminatory voter ID laws. Right-wing media have repeatedly pushed myths about in-person voter fraud, arguing that denying voter fraud exists “is to frankly deny reality.” Academic studies, however, have found that “voter fraud is vanishingly rare” and that voter ID laws largely disenfranchise minority voters.

    Concerns that Democrats, including Clinton, have raised about Russian interference in the election, however, are grounded in recent precedent and government intelligence. The New York Times reported that intelligence officials “have ‘high confidence’ that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee” this summer. Russia is also suspected of having hacked into the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s computer system.

    The FBI also said there is evidence that Russian hackers “targeted voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona.” In addition, on September 22, the Democratic ranking members on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees warned, “Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the US election.” Given Trump’s reported ties to Russia, including the connections of some of his current and former senior campaign staff, the idea that Russia would want to sway the election is not unrealistic.

    Politico’s false equivalence of these two accusations is made more incredulous by the article’s acknowledgment that “Clinton and many other election watchers are not flying blind in making this allegation” about Russian interference, and the article detailed some of the evidence behind the concern.

    But this is hardly the first time media outlets have applied false equivalency during this election. For example, numerous reports claimed that Trump and Clinton were “exchang[ing] racially charged attacks” after Trump claimed that Clinton is a “bigot.” But Trump’s remarks consisted only of outlandish, evidence-free insults while Clinton reasonably and accurately described Trump’s racist rhetoric and very real ties to white nationalists and the "alt-right."

    False equivalency is a dangerous practice journalists use to give both sides equal weight, even when there is a clear right and wrong. By perpetuating in this false dichotomy, media outlets are doing disservice to their audiences.

  • After Terror Attacks, Fox News Brings On Anti-Muslim Fearmongers To Push Lies And Anti-Refugee Rhetoric

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News is providing a platform for conservatives to spread misinformation about refugees and stoke anti-Muslim fears following a series of apparent terror attacks around the country. Fox’s open-door policy for fearmongers is in keeping with the network’s disconcerting history as a source of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment after terror attacks at home and abroad.

    Authorities have arrested a suspect in the September 17 bomb explosions in Manhattan and Seaside Park, N.J.; a suspect was shot in a stabbing spree the same day in Saint Cloud, MN. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “We have every reason to believe this was an act of terrorism,” referring to the two New York area bombings, and ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Minnesota mall attack.

    President Obama advised that “the press try to refrain from getting out ahead of the investigation” and warned against the dissemination of “false reports or incomplete information” -- a warning Fox News ignored as it hosted a series of guests who peddled anti-Muslim talking points and xenophobic rhetoric.

    During a segment that led off with Fox host Ainsley Earhardt asking, “Is the Somali refugee crisis now a terror crisis?” Fox contributor Pete Hegseth warned of the “incubation” of radical Islam in “radical mosques” in Minnesota, claiming that “the problem is that a lot of those communities have not assimilated the way we would want them to.” Hegseth then proclaimed that there “is a terrorist recruitment problem in Minnesota.” Hegseth regularly fearmongers on Fox’s airwaves about terror and the “concerns about integration” of Muslims.

    Jim Hanson, executive vice president of the anti-Muslim hate group Center for Security Policy, argued for heightened policing of Muslim communities because the New York attacker was “conducting jihad” and “saying Allahu Akbar.” Hanson also baselessly speculated that the Chelsea neighborhood of New York was targeted because it “is a prominently gay area” and claimed that “there’s a decent chance that this might have been another attempt to attack the gay community.” Hanson has regularly appeared on Fox to spread fears about Islam and terror. 

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared on Fox & Friends to fearmonger about refugees and immigration, claiming that President Obama’s policy of “letting people in by the thousands and tens of thousands” will lead to terror attacks “happen[ing] perhaps more and more all over the country.”

    Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a senior adviser to Trump and a Fox regular, exploited the attacks to call for surveilling the Muslim community, adding that it “is absolute nonsense” to say that going “into these communities” for that purpose is Islamophobic. Flynn suggested that heightened surveillance of Muslim communities doesn’t occur because of “political correctness” and that “political correctness kills. It will cause death.” Fox has a record of responding to terror attacks by pushing profiling and mosque surveillance, which have been found to be ineffective and, according to the ACLU, lead to stigma, interference with religious worship, fear, free speech violation, and damaged relationships with law enforcement.

    Conservative columnist and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich claimed that the government is letting refugees come “into the country unvetted from terrorism hotspots all over the world,” even though the United States has a rigorous and stringent vetting process for refugees and immigrants.

    Fox News consistently turns to fearmongering, anti-Muslim narratives after terror attacks, adopting racially charged rhetoric and recycling distorted lies about Muslims and refugees. Fox hosts and guests exploited the European refugee crisis and used the Paris terrorist attacks to stoke fears about admitting refugees into America; conservatives used Fox to advocate for profiling Muslim Americans following the San Bernardino, CA, shooting; and right-wing pundits twisted the Brussels attack to whip up anti-Muslim fears.

  • Meet The Iraq War Architect: Paul Wolfowitz Uses Opportunity On NBC To Re-litigate Iraq Invasion

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    NBC’s Meet the Press hosted Paul Wolfowitz, one of the discredited architects of the Iraq War, on the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Wolfowitz took advantage of the platform to downplay his role in starting the conflict. He also used his appearance on the program to object to statements that President George W. Bush misled America before the war, despite a Senate intelligence report which concluded that the Bush administration made its case for war with statements not supported by the intelligence available at the time.

    Wolfowitz, who served in the Bush administration from 2001 through 2005 as Deputy Secretary of Defense, is universally recognized as one of the original architects of the Iraq invasion. He infamously predicted the war reconstruction effort could pay for itself from Iraqi oil revenue (for reference, the cost of the Iraq War is now estimated to be more than $2 trillion), and publicly accused Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) long after the intelligence community had informed the Pentagon that he did not. Later, Wolfowitz claimed that the conflict was primarily about liberating the Iraqi people rather than confronting the supposed WMD threat, while also making the assertion -- without evidence -- that without the invasion, "we would have had a growing development of Saddam's support for terrorism."

    On his September 11 appearance on Meet the Press, Wolfowitz said he rejects the title of “architect of the Iraq war,” because he “was not the commander-in-chief, or even the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, or national security advisor.”

    Wolfwowitz also whitewashed President Bush’s misleading statements leading up to the war. Wolfowitz said: “People who say after the fact that Bush lied and got us into a war, he wasn’t lying. He was saying what everyone believed” about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Host Chuck Todd responded by asking, “Who lied? … Somebody got us into this, and somebody convinced the United States Congress that weapons of mass destruction were imminent in Iraq.”

    But instead of asking an Iraq War architect to deflect blame from the administration he served in, Todd could have referenced the Senate Intelligence Committee report that was covered by news outlets when it was released in June 2008. The report found that some statements by President Bush and senior members of the administration about Iraq, terrorist organizations, and weapons of mass destruction were “contradicted by available intelligence information,” “did not accurately convey the intelligence assessments,” and “were not substantiated by the intelligence.”

    From the June 5, 2008, United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, titled Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information:

    (U) Conclusion 12: Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

    Intelligence assessments, including multiple CIA reports and the November 2002 NIE [National Intelligence Estimate], dismissed the claim that Iraq and al-Qa'ida were cooperating partners. According to an undisputed INR [State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research] footnote in the NIE, there was no intelligence information that supported the claim that Iraq would provide weapons of mass destruction to al-Qa'ida. The credibility of the principal intelligence source behind the claim that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with biological and chemical weapons training was regularly questioned by DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], and later by the CIA. The Committee repeats its conclusion from a prior report that "assessments were inconsistent regarding the likelihood that Saddam Hussein provided chemical and biological weapons (CBW) training to al-Qa'ida."

    (U) Conclusion 13: Statements in the major speeches analyzed, as well additional statements, regarding Iraq's contacts with al-Qa'ida were substantiated by intelligence information. However, policymakers' statements did not accurately convey the intelligence assessments of the nature of these contacts, and left the impression that the contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation or support of al-Qa'ida.


    (U) Conclusion 15: Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

    The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate assessed that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons, and was unwilling to conduct terrorist attacks [sic] the US using conventional, chemical or biological weapons at that time, in part because he feared doing so would give the US a stronger case for war with Iraq. This judgment was echoed by both earlier and later intelligence community assessments. All of these assessments noted that gauging Saddam's intentions was quite difficult, and most suggested that he would be more likely to initiate hostilities if he felt that a US invasion was imminent.

  • The Benghazi Hoax Has Its Own Night At The GOP Convention

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    The Republican National Convention will include a themed-night highlighting the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attacks, according to a new report. The announcement follows years of conservative media myths surrounding the attacks.

    According to The New York Times, the convention will emphasize “a few of [Donald Trump’s] favorite hot-button issues,” featuring different themes each night of the convention, including “the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi.” From the Times July 13 report (emphasis original):

    A night highlighting the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya. An appearance by onetime football star Tim Tebow. A presentation detailing former President Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct.

    Donald J. Trump, the presumptive nominee, has been promising a different kind of Republican National Convention, and plans obtained by The New York Times show that he is eager to put his showbiz stamp on the party’s gathering, even as he struggles to attract A-list talent.


    There are plans to emphasize different themes each night of the convention. Mr. Trump wants to touch on a few of his favorite hot-button issues, like the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, former President Clinton’s infidelities and border security.


    Night 1: A Benghazi focus, followed by border patrol agents and Mr. Shaw, whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant. Senator Cotton, Mr. Giuliani, Melania Trump, Ms. Ernst and others.

    Conservative media have spent years continually misleading about the attacks and falsely alleging nefariousness on the parts of Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration. Fox News, in particular, relentlessly pushed misinformation surrounding the attacks, running nearly 1,100 segments on the attacks within the first 20 months after the attacks alone. Thanks in part to Fox’s calls for a special investigation into the attacks, House Republicans convened a two-year select committee to investigate that subsequently revealed little new information about the attacks. Donald Trump has also used conservative media myths surrounding the attacks throughout his campaign thus far, and has lamented that “outside of Fox, Benghazi has never resonated.”

  • NY Times Reports On “Marked Classified” Emails In Clinton Case Without Noting The Classification Was Botched

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On July 7, The New York Times reported on testimony FBI Director James Comey gave to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the FBI’s recently closed investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email use as secretary of state. Comey discussed the apparent contradiction between Clinton’s public statements that her private email did not contain emails “marked classified” and the director’s July 5 statement to the contrary. But missing from the Times’ report were the facts that two of these emails were reportedly mistakenly classified and that, in his testimony, Comey explained that it was not “reasonable” to assume even an “expert” would have realized they were classified at all because they were incorrectly marked.

    In its report, the Times failed to note that on July 6, State Department spokesperson John Kirby explained to reporters that two emails with a “C” notation, denoting “confidential” material, were marked as such in error. On July 7, before the committee, Comey further testified that the mistaken marking of those emails as classified was also incorrectly performed, as they lacked necessary headers. Comey said that because of this incorrect procedure, it would be “reasonable” to infer that even an “expert at what is classified and what's not classified” would not have realized the email was classified.

    Despite describing the apparent contradiction between Clinton’s statement and Comey’s July 5 claim that a small number of her emails “bore markings indicating the presence of classified information,” the Times failed to report on either Kirby or Comey’s explanation for why the former secretary may have repeatedly claimed she did not send or received emails “marked classified” on her private email account. From the July 7 New York Times article:

    Mr. Comey — who maintained his composure except for one flash of anger when Republicans questioned his integrity — repeatedly acknowledged that the public statements by the former secretary of state, including some she delivered during a sworn appearance before Congress last year, were contradicted by the facts uncovered during the F.B.I. investigation.

    “Secretary Clinton said there was nothing marked classified on her emails, either sent or received,” Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, said during several hours of testimony by Mr. Comey before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Was that true?”

    “That’s not true,” Mr. Comey said. Asked later about Mrs. Clinton’s assertion during congressional testimony that none of her emails had been marked “classified,” Mr. Comey said three emails bore small markings indicating that they contained classified information.

  • Right-Wing Media Run With Another Baseless Comparison With Clinton Emails

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media spuriously likened Hillary Clinton’s email use to the case of Bryan Nishimura -- who was criminally charged with mishandling classified information -- after FBI Director James Comey announced the bureau would not recommend criminal charges against Clinton. Media figures seized on Nishimura’s 2015 charges to erroneously characterize Comey’s announcement as a double standard, but, as with the debunked comparisons of Clinton’s email use to David Petraeus’ and John Deutch’s cases, legal experts note that unlike Clinton, Nishimura knowingly mishandled classified information.