Breaking News: Fox is a Russian troll farm
Mueller probe exposes Hannity, other network stars as “Manchurian Commentators”
WASHINGTON, DC, April 1, 2018 — In a startling revelation with explosive implications, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has uncovered stark evidence that Fox News Network is not an American-owned cable news channel but a “troll farm” linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spy agencies and allies.
“The evidence is right in front of us, every day, when you watch Fox,” one source close to the investigation said on background. “No single entity in America has done more to help elect and defend President Trump, and sow distrust, division and discord in our society, than Fox.”
Asked about direct ties between Fox and the Kremlin, the source said, “If the Russians aren’t paying them, then Fox is doing their job for free. Fox certainly isn’t hurting the Russian effort.”
Mueller’s probe identified leading Fox News commentators, including Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, as Russian “trolls” paid millions of dollars to distribute misinformation and disinformation. Other network personalities such as “Fox & Friends” hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade are “bots” designed to seem human but are software applications that run automated tasks called “scripts.”
The goal of Russia’s use of trolls and bots went beyond tipping the election to Trump, investigators say. The broader purpose is what Fox specializes in — disseminating fake or distorted stories, inflammatory comments and conspiracy theories to the unsuspecting, and tilting coverage to the political right.
The hope is to foment chaos and confusion across the nation, fuel distrust of the media, government, elections and the political system, and divide people by race, class and views on hot-button social issues such as gun control, immigration and abortion.
“Fox wants to get people riled up,” the source says. “We thought it was just for ratings and ad revenue, but basic journalistic ethics and integrity say you draw the line before you destabilize our democracy. That was the smoking gun here. Fox appears to have no qualms.”
After mass shootings, for example, Fox’s trolls and bots lambaste “idiot liberals” for plotting to confiscate all guns and repeal the Second Amendment. They also frequently warn about an “Antifa Apocalypse” — anti-fascist groups overthrowing government — criminal immigrant hoards flooding the country, and Hillary Clinton.
Investigators point to one case where Fox reported as fact a dubious conspiracy theory that a Democratic Party staffer was fatally shot on a Washington street in retaliation for leaking embarrassing party emails to WikiLeaks.
The story was widely debunked, as police determined the shooting resulted from a robbery attempt and the staffer had no connection to the emails or WikiLeaks. But the story went viral and became “real” on the alt-right media before Fox finally took it down.
As the Washington Post later reported, “The network also never issued an apology nor has it divulged whether it has disciplined any of the people involved in producing it or promoting it. That includes its ‘Fox & Friends’ morning program and prime-time host Sean Hannity, who spent a week discussing it. The network promised to conduct an investigation last year but has not released any findings.”
The Mueller investigators described a number of Fox program hosts, correspondents, regular guests and contributors as “Manchurian commentators,” referring to the 1959 Richard Condon novel and 1962 motion picture about an American being brainwashed into serving as an unwitting Russian operative.
Investigators also say Fox deploys a number of assets, techniques and tactics common to Russian interference, including slick videos and graphics, and hiring predominately Caucasian women and men who look and speak “American.” Fox is known especially for displaying “camera-friendly” women who trained at Russia’s famed “sparrow school” to use their attractiveness as a weapon.
Mueller’s probe is also looking into Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, Infowars and other alt-right and conspiracy theory media sites that Russia’s propaganda network uses to promote President Trump and attack Democrats. Another line of inquiry involves the House Intelligence Committee’s GOP majority in connection with its unsubstantiated, premature declaration of “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Asked whether CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the three big television networks or any other mainstream media also might be serving Russian interests, the source laughed.
Reached for comment, a Fox spokesperson called the Mueller disclosures “fake news.”
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.