A Republican Senator went on Fox News on Thursday and defended Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. He managed to both spread unproven conspiracy theories and false information — and to claim that Russia’s fake news campaign did not matter because Americans are able to sift through what is and isn’t true.
On America’s Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer asked Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) whether he had looked at the newly revealed trove of examples of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He replied that he had — and then went into full apologist mode.
Initially, Kennedy claimed that “at some point you’ve got to trust the American people.” The voters, he observed, “may not read Aristotle every day,” but are “used to looking at political ads, doesn’t matter who’s running them, and saying, ‘That makes sense to me,’ and ‘That’s a bunch of nonsense.'” Of course, even the conservative Supreme Court majority in the Citizens United case, noted the importance of disclosure of who is paying for an ad in order for voters to know who is doing the speaking and what their motivation might be. Federal law has long prohibited foreign governments and foreign nationals from spending money in American elections.
Kennedy then proceeded to claim, without evidence, that Russia’s efforts was really to hurt both sides equally and that it probably wasn’t just Russia.
“I think they tried to make both candidates look bad,” Kennedy claimed, “I think these ads were equal opportunity, in the sense that they tried to bash both President Trump and Secretary Clinton. I don’t think it was some conspiracy against one particular candidate.” While there is some indication that the Russian government tried to undermine Trump after the election, the vast majority of evidence so far has shown that Russia’s actions during the campaign were aimed at hurting Clinton.
Finally, Kennedy speculated that was not just Russia. “I’m not convinced it was only Russia. I think we’ll find, if the companies ever figure out who ran the ads — and they say they know, but they don’t — that there were probably other countries involved.”
Kennedy drew derisive laughs in a related hearing earlier this year when he demanded to know whether former Director of National Intelligence had ever leaked any non-classified information.