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Right-Wing Media Has Pushed Clinton Health Conspiracies In Attempt To Distract From Trump Controversies
Associated Press reporter Lisa Lerer debunked right-wing conspiracy theories that a video showing Hillary Clinton laughing at press questions shows her suffering from a seizure.
Right-wing media personalities including Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and Matt Drudge, have attempted to change the subject from Donald Trump’s campaign troubles by drumming up a conspiracy that Hillary Clinton is in poor health. Fox host Hannity has led the crusade attacking Clinton, bringing on guests to diagnose Clinton of various diseases using deceptively edited snippets of video and photos of Clinton.
Hannity repeatedly used video taken several months ago of Clinton’s campaign visit to a bakery where he speculated that her exaggerated motion was possibly a seizure.
Lerer explained that what happened during Clinton’s campaign visit to Washington D. C. on June 10 while covering the campaign was less controversial (emphasis added):
I've never been part of a conspiracy theory. Now, video of my surprised facial expression has become Exhibit A in the latest unfounded speculation about Hillary Clinton.
It starts with Clinton's visit to a muffin shop in Washington on June 10, five days before the District of Columbia's Democratic primary. The then-presumptive Democratic nominee popped in for a photo op with Mayor Muriel Bowser and other officials supporting her campaign.
As an Associated Press reporter who's spent more than a year covering her candidacy, I was there for her appearance. After she ordered herself a "cold chai," my colleagues and I shouted some questions, mostly about Clinton's recent meeting with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Perhaps eager to avoid answering or maybe just taken aback by our volume, Clinton responded with an exaggerated motion, shaking her head vigorously for a few seconds. Video of the moment shows me holding out my recorder in front of her, laughing and stepping back in surprise. After the exchange, she took a few more photos, exited the shop and greeted supporters waiting outside.
CNN’s senior media correspondent Brian Stelter explained the Clinton health conspiracy theories began from “pro-Trump Twitter accounts, which then went to a fringe right-wing blog, which then went to the Drudge Report” and on to other media outlets.
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Fox News has followed others in right-wing media in suggesting that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich may have been murdered because he had helped WikiLeaks gain access to the DNC’s email servers. These conspiracy theories were floated after WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information on Rich’s murder, and after Trump ally Roger Stone suggested Rich was murdered for talking to the FBI about election fraud.
A new report from Politico highlights criticism from several Secret Service veterans targeting an upcoming anti-Hillary Clinton book from former Secret Service officer Gary J. Byrne. Those current and former Secret Service members argue Byrne “was too low-ranking” to have witnessed the gossipy events he details in the book and suggest he is lying for political and financial benefit.
Byrne’s Crisis of Character, which is set to be released next week, has received widespread promotion from conservative media outlets. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has plugged the book several times on Twitter, claiming it shows Clinton does not have the temperament to be president. Trump also referenced the book during a June 21 Fox & Friends appearance, saying “her Secret Service agent” claims “she’s a total mess.”
Unsurprisingly, the Drudge Report, which has repeatedly promoted allegations from Crisis of Character, reports that Byrne will give his first TV interview promoting the book on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show (Hannity has already pushed the book, including during an interview earlier this month with Trump).
In contrast to the widespread praise from Trump and right-wing media outlets, Secret Service veterans think Byrne’s book is not credible. In a June 21 article, Politico reports complaints about the book from “several high-level members of Secret Service presidential details,” who say Byrne is “inflating his role,” relaying unverified gossip, and making “security harder by eroding the trust between agents and the people they protect.”
The nonpartisan Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service (AFAUSSS) will reportedly release a statement ripping the book, which Politico says “very carefully calls Byrne a liar.”
On Tuesday, AFAUSSS, which is strictly nonpartisan, is set to release a statement blasting Gary Byrne author of “Crisis in Character,” saying members “strongly denounce” the book, which they add has made security harder by eroding the trust between agents and the people they protect.
“There is no place for any self-moralizing narratives, particularly those with an underlying motive,” reads the statement from the group’s board of directors, which says Byrne has politics and profit on his mind.
AFAUSSS rarely issues public statements of any kind.
The book has rankled current and former members of the Secret Service, who don’t like anyone airing their business in public — but who also take issue with Byrne inflating his role. Byrne was a uniformed officer in Bill Clinton’s White House. But that’s the lowest level of protection within the White House and around the president.
People familiar with West Wing security laugh at the idea that Byrne or any uniformed officer ever would have walked in on Bill Clinton anywhere, whether in a meeting or, as a New York Post article over the weekend claims, in the middle of a make-out session in the Map Room with the late daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale. The Secret Service presidential detail would have stopped him. (That affair was a well-worn rumor during the Clinton years, though strongly denied by Eleanor Mondale, who died of brain cancer in 2011.)
The group’s statement, which POLITICO obtained in advance of its release, very carefully calls Byrne a liar.
“One must question the veracity and content of any book which implies that its author played such an integral part of so many [claimed] incidents. Any critique of management by one who has never managed personnel or programs resounds hollow. Additionally, why would an employee wait in excess of ten years after terminating his employment with the Service to make his allegations public?” it reads.
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Several conservative media figures criticized the U.S. Treasury Department’s announcement that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, calling the change “dumb" and a “travesty.”
Flashback: Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, And Richard Nixon Have All Been Photographed In Front Of Communist Leaders
Right-wing media rushed to attack President Obama over a photograph from his trip to Cuba in which he appears in Havana's Plaza de la Revolución, with a mural of Che Guevara visible in the background -- apparently forgetting that Republican Presidents Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush have all been photographed in front of images of communist leaders while on trips abroad.
Right-wing media personalities have been pushing conspiracy theories about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. They've called the circumstances of his death "peculiar," "suspicious," and "fishy," and claimed President Obama or his allies may have "killed" Scalia because of his opinions on environmental regulations, gun laws, immigration, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and unions. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has been aiding the conspiracy theories, calling the circumstances surrounding Scalia's death "pretty unusual" and "big stuff."
Right-wing media are attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for coughing during a campaign event, continuing a long-standing pattern of criticizing Clinton's health.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump excused Vladimir Putin's extensive human rights violations by saying that "at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country." His praise for the Russian president echoes that of right-wing media, who have swooned over Putin for years as a way of attacking President Obama's supposed weakness.
Matt Drudge, proprietor of The Drudge Report, claimed the "biggest revelation" from the October 22 House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing was Hillary Clinton's health because she had a "coughing fit."
Conservative media previously promoted the conspiracy theory that Clinton faked a concussion to avoid testifying on Benghazi in 2012.
Matt Drudge appeared on The Alex Jones Show, where he pushed bizarre conspiracies and falsehoods, and attacked Hillary Clinton as "old" and "sick." The Drudge Report is a big driver of traffic to Jones' Infowars website and the interview cemented their relationship, with Drudge and a "star-struck" Jones heavily praising each other.
Right-Wing Columnist: Where I Live, "We Don't Riot. We Shoot Rioters."
Conservative media figures responded to riots following the funeral of Freddie Gray -- an unarmed man who died of severe, unexplained spinal cord injuries while in police custody -- by recommending that participants in the riots be shot, and blaming the outbreak of violence on Democratic leadership, President Obama, public schools, welfare, and single-parent families.
Conservative media figures are floating a baseless conspiracy theory that President Obama's televised statement on a CIA drone strike was scheduled in order to distract from news stories about Peter Schweizer's upcoming anti-Clinton book, Clinton Cash.
On April 23, President Obama announced that a CIA drone strike in Pakistan targeting Al Qaeda terrorists had also killed two of the hostages they were holding. Conservatives are suggesting Obama's announcement was timed to divert media attention away from stories prompted by Schweizer's book, but the administration was reportedly in the process of revealing the CIA operation before the latest round of Clinton Cash stories came out. Politico reported that "Senior U.S. officials" approached Wall Street Journal national security correspondent Adam Entous with details of the operation the night of April 22, since the "White House was planning to make the disclosure and decided to give Entous a heads up, with the request that he agree to an embargo."
Entous reported that "Typically, it can take the CIA weeks or longer to determine who was killed in a drone strike" and that the determination by U.S. intelligence agencies that the hostages had been killed in the strike had been made only "a few days ago." Entous further reported that after making that determination, the administration "then began the process of notifying relatives of the deceased as well as the Italian government and key congressional committees."
Opening his April 23 show, Rush Limbaugh said that while cable news was "devoted" to covering the Clinton Cash story, "all of a sudden, we were treated to a news story" about the drone strike, adding that the story was announced "right in the middle of the heat on the reporting of the fraud going on at the Clinton family foundation." Limbaugh added, "the conspiracy theories are alive and they're on fire."
Internet gossip Matt Drudge tweeted "Obama rushes to podium and breaks 4 month old terror op... just as media saturating with Clinton scandal news?"
On Fox News after Obama's statement, America's Newsroom anchor Bill Hemmer asked National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg that since Al Qaeda terrorist Adam Gadahn has "been dead for four months, why did we not know that?" Goldberg said the release of information about the strike "does lend itself to the sort of convenient political timing accusation, but we don't know that that's true either," noting that he was originally booked on the program to discuss the book but was now discussing the operation.