Fox News Found a New Rabbit Hole

Recently, Fox News reported that John Durham — the lawyer who was tasked by William Barr to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation — had learned that in 2016 Hillary Clinton’s campaign had paid a technology company to infiltrate a White House server. And then the Washington Examine reported Durham says Democrat-allied tech executive spied on Trump’s White House office.

You will not be surprised that the entire right-wing echo chamber blew up over this. But I also noted, as I browsed headlines, that absolutely nothing was being reported about this outside the right-wing echo chamber. This usually means the right-wing news outlets have found themselves a new rabbit hole to fall down. I decided to sit on this until the people who get paid to investigate and explain things worked it out.

Here’s Charlie Savage at the New York Times.

The latest example began with the motion Mr. Durham filed in a case he has brought against Michael A. Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer with links to the Democratic Party. The prosecutor has accused Mr. Sussmann of lying during a September 2016 meeting with an F.B.I. official about Mr. Trump’s possible links to Russia.

The filing was ostensibly about potential conflicts of interest. But it also recounted a meeting at which Mr. Sussmann had presented other suspicions to the government. In February 2017, Mr. Sussmann told the C.I.A. about odd internet data suggesting that someone using a Russian-made smartphone may have been connecting to networks at Trump Tower and the White House, among other places.

Mr. Sussmann had obtained that information from a client, a technology executive named Rodney Joffe. Another paragraph in the court filing said that Mr. Joffe’s company, Neustar, had helped maintain internet-related servers for the White House, and that he and his associates “exploited this arrangement” by mining certain records to gather derogatory information about Mr. Trump.

Citing this filing, Fox News inaccurately declared that Mr. Durham had said he had evidence that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had paid a technology company to “infiltrate” a White House server. The Washington Examiner claimed that this all meant there had been spying on Mr. Trump’s White House office. And when mainstream publications held back, Mr. Trump and his allies began shaming the news media. …

… There were many problems with all this. For one, much of this was not new: The New York Times had reported in October what Mr. Sussmann had told the C.I.A. about data suggesting that Russian-made smartphones, called YotaPhones, had been connecting to networks at Trump Tower and the White House, among other places.

The conservative media also skewed what the filing said. For example, Mr. Durham’s filing never used the word “infiltrate.” And it never claimed that Mr. Joffe’s company was being paid by the Clinton campaign.

Most important, contrary to the reporting, the filing never said the White House data that came under scrutiny was from the Trump era. According to lawyers for David Dagon, a Georgia Institute of Technology data scientist who helped develop the Yota analysis, the data — so-called DNS logs, which are records of when computers or smartphones have prepared to communicate with servers over the internet — came from Barack Obama’s presidency.

Jonathan Chait:

Durham has an established history of floating allegations that disintegrate upon inspection. The last time he did this, Durham got the mainstream media to quickly amplify his charges before subsequent reporting showed how weak they were.

That’s a “fool me once” trick. So now, appropriately, the media is going to perform its due diligence and look into Durham’s charges rather than echo them in credulous headlines.

Sure enough, the mainstream news has begun reporting on the filing. Here’s CNN, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Somehow, despite its absolute determination to ignore the story, the mainstream media has wound up producing several reports covering it. The flesh is weak.

These stories completely debunk the erroneous Fox News coverage that prompted all the right’s complaints.

See also Marcy Wheeler, John Durham Is the Jim Jordan of Ken Starrs; Paul Waldman, The Republican propaganda machine kicks into high gear; and Charles Pierce, The Durham Report Is Vague Enough to Be Useful.

8 thoughts on “Fox News Found a New Rabbit Hole

  1. I watched Marcy Wheeler this morning on…

    Cup o' Schmoe, of all places!

    Ever since he and Mika got married, she's whipped that good ol' boy into NY City shape!  Now, there are some mornings when I find myself and Schmoe on the same side, and I'm momentarily confused.

    Marcy did her usual great job explaining this, and then pointing out why it was a nothing-burger.

    Durham was assigned to find potential weak spots.

    This wasn't one if them, because by the time tRUMP's inauguration came, all of this was pulled back.  So there was NO spying on tRUMP and his maladministration.

    Durham has proved himself to be a political hack.

  2. The wingers seem to have Benghazi Deficiency Syndrome.  I remember when the old local righties used to get together, drink beer, and babble what their addled brains could remember from Rush and Fox's ranting points about Benghazi.  I guess it made them feel important, that they were part of a great moral outrage.  

    I suppose age and COVID thinned their ranks some, and the rest with the deficiency syndrome are not getting out much anymore.  One can only rant about low flush toilets for so long.  The ongoing scandals are all about Trump, and they are off limit for them. They would go for any story which made Trump a victim, (and so would Trump) but it lacks the Benghazi mystique.  If you try to engage them in a real problem (like the chip shortage) you get a response like Oh well, my doctor won't let me eat them anymore anyway.  It is just hard to appeal to a declining demographic, and I mostly gave up trying long ago.  I wish the right-wing media would too, but then I would not have as much to amuse me.  

  3. Seems to me that the wingers want a permanent GOP Censor/Pontifex Maximus in the Ken Starr style investigator (on the judiciary's permanent payroll, of course).

    This cements the GOP mystique as one big kool-aid-fueled ghost dance.

  4. This is an important story. As David Brock once pointed out, as does Jonathan Chait (, conservatives have always believed that the "liberal" media just made shit up, that anything they published was published without regard for the truth, that everything was just written as left wing propaganda. Brock noted that they, for example, thought that organizations like the Brookings Institute simply phonied up all those fancy-lookin' charts and such in a way designed to hurt conservatives. So when they started all those conservative "think tanks" they were just doing to liberals what the “liberal” media had done to them for decades.

    That explains why I've almost always found that people who "just know" that things are "rigged" or "corrupt" are conservatives. They really believe there's a plot against them, a hidden agenda.

    Conservatives generally have no idea how the mainstream media really work. Durham seems no different.    

  5. Jesus commanded his disciples to feed my sheep.

    Trump commanded Bill Barr to feed my sheep.

    Hence, we have John Durhan feeding Trump's sheep.

     and they're eating it up. Yum yum. They finally got Hillary for treason.

  6. I don't think people appreciate the function of Fox news. It's not to inform or educate. There's no discussion of or development of a conservative ideology. The function is exclusively to malign, distort, discredit, and ridicule the policies and aspirations of the left. They do not intend to offer anything. They have no loyalty to the truth – and I mean objective fact. They simply want a cult that hates liberals and liberalism.  Cynically, they expect this will be enough to deny power to progressives and progressive ideas that they can not discredit on the merits.


Comments are closed.