President Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress are making a renewed stink about former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s texts, this time alleging newly released ones are evidence Strzok leaked about the Russia investigation to the media.
As ThinkProgress detailed on Tuesday, reaching that conclusion requires a tortured reading of the texts. In April 2017, Strzok messaged another FBI agent and said, “I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ.” Strzok had a long history of working to combat leaks as part of his work for the Bureau, and the text came two months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a major anti-leak campaign. As Strzok’s attorney has pointed out, his reference to “media leak strategy with DOJ” clearly refers to his role working with Sessions to combat leaks.
Despite the straightforwardness of Strzok’s texts, Republicans are interpreting it as evidence that Strzok was leaking, and are saying so loudly on Fox News.
On Wednesday, one of the Republicans who has most aggressively tried to protect Trump by pushing FBI conspiracy theories — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) — went on Fox News and pushed the conspiratorial interpretation of Strzok’s texts. He was met with zero pushback from host Sandra Smith.
.@Jim_Jordan is on Fox News desperately trying to spread already-debunked conspiracy theories about the FBI (https://t.co/ABiHmAHECJ), with help from @SandraSmithFox, who reinforces him instead of pushing back.
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 12, 2018
Jordan’s appearance was the second he made on Fox’s family of channels on Wednesday morning. Earlier, he appeared on Stuart Varney’s Fox Business show, where his conspiracy theorizing was also accepted uncritically.
Later in the day, Fox Business posted a tweet containing a false Jordan claim from the Varney interview.
“There was certainly a leak strategy going on,” Jordan was quoted as saying, even through a straightforward reading of Strzok’s texts indicates the opposite — that Strzok was actually working to prevent leaks. But Fox Business shared the false claim and accompanying video without so much as attempting a fact-check.
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) September 12, 2018
To sum up, Republicans fabricated a conspiracy theory to protect the president, then went on Fox News to spread it. And instead of trying to do the basic journalistic tasks of fact-checking and asking tough questions, Trump’s favorite network went out of its network to uncritically spread it.
In contrast with the uncritical treatment he regularly benefits from on Fox News, Jordan’s conspiracy theories haven’t held up to the slightest bit of scrutiny when he’s faced tougher lines of questioning on CNN or during congressional hearings.
Jordan’s Wednesday interview on Fox News came the segment after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) went on the network and spread a similarly ludicrous conspiracy theory about alleged online censorship of Republicans. Even though McCarthy’s conspiracy theory was debunked more than three months ago, host Bill Hemmer let him push it with impunity.
A short time later, the president posted a tweet indicating he was spending his Wednesday morning watching Fox News.