May 19, 2017

Conservative media, Russians push same conspiracy

This week a conspiracy theory tying the death of a young DNC staffer to Wikileaks spread through conservative media. The story ignited outrage from the victim's parents and the public. Then today:

Why it matters: The President tries to distance himself from the idea that his campaign colluded with Russia, but conservative media that helped elect him (and who go to great lengths to defend him) is pushing the same false narratives as the Russian government.

Fox coverage: The victim's family is particularly upset with Fox News after the network discussed the topic during nearly every hour of its primetime coverage Tuesday night — even though NBC debunked the theory hours before around 5 p.m.

Between the lines: The sloppy reporting was used to pivot from coverage of a report that could be potentially damaging to Trump and his administration.

How it unfolded, per CNN's Oliver Darcy

  • The network claimed on air that they got the information — that the DNC staffer was in touch with Wikileaks prior to his death — from a private investigator named Rod Wheeler.
  • But, Wheeler later told CNN he didn't have any evidence and that he actually heard the report from Fox.
  • Online Fox cited a "federal source" who said the FBI found emails linked to Wikileaks on the staffer's computer, but a law enforcement official told CNN that the FBI never had possession of of his laptop.
  • The family is now demanding a retraction and apology from Fox and a local affiliate who also aired the false story about the unresolved murder case.

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