Saturday, December 10, 2022

After Success With the Clintons in 2016, Right Wingers Fail to Sell Their Lies About the Bidens

In the coming months, House Republicans have made it clear that Hunter Biden's laptop will be the new Benghazi. They'll hold endless hearings and proclaim outrage ad nauseam. But here's the kicker: given that right wingers have been in possession of copies of the laptop for 2 1/2 years (which they claim to be authentic), they haven't produced a shred of credible evidence that implicates President Biden in any wrongdoing. If they had anything of substance, they would have been shouting it from the rooftops incessantly. 

Instead, the story they are more interested in has to do with claims that the media suppressed the story about the laptop. In some respects, they're right. Mainstream media hasn't jumped on the bandwagon...this time. What's interesting to note is that the same players and strategies that were successful in getting the media to buy into the lies about the Clinton Foundation in 2016 didn't work this time. 

You might recall that in 2015, Steve Bannon's business partner Peter Schweizer published a book titled "Clinton Cash." The premise was that Hilary Clinton used her position as Secretary of State to garner millions of dollars that flowed to the Clinton Foundation. 

Bannon and Schweizer were able to get the New York Times to publish a front-page story repeating these claims as if they had merit. After that, the story quieted down for awhile, until Bannon - via Breitbart - released a movie version on YouTube just before the Democratic Convention in 2016. 

After that, major outlets like the Associated Press and Washington Post picked up the story and ran with it. The Berkman Klien Center at Harvard documented how that happened in a report titled: "Dynamics of Network Propaganda: Clinton Foundation Case Study."

Even after the election, these same players refused to let the story go. Using his platform at The Hill, John Solomon continued to spread the lies relentlessly. It was at that point that Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed a special counsel to look into the story. Of course, he found nothing.

In a profile of Steve Bannon, Joshua Green wrote rather extensively about this strategy. Here is what it all comes down to:

The reason [Bannon] does this is because it’s the secret to how conservatives can hack the mainstream media. [Wynton] Hall has distilled this, too, into a slogan: “Anchor left, pivot right.” It means that “weaponizing” a story onto the front page of the New York Times (“the Left”) is infinitely more valuable than publishing it on…

The same players (along with a few new faces) tried the same thing in the lead-up to the 2020 election. The roots of the whole laptop story are embedded in the idea that, as vice-president, Joe Biden used his position to stop the Ukrainian investigation into Burisma, a company that was paying Hunter Biden to sit on its board. You'll never guess where that one a book written by Peter Schweizer titled "Secret Empires."

We don't know if Bannon and Schweizer shopped that story around to major news outlets, but we do know that the New York Times and other organizations published stories about the unsavory nature of Hunter Biden's business activities. 

Then in 2018, a new player came on board - Rudy Giuliani. While he was traveling around trying to get dirt on the Biden's, Solomon was writing articles filled with lies about the family's ties to corruption in Ukraine. By the spring of 2019, Giuliani, Schweizer, and Solomon became regular guests on Fox News to peddle their lies, but that's about as far as things went...until Bloomberg News busted the entire premise of their claims in May. Their reporters gathered evidence that Ukrainian prosecutors were not, in fact, investigating Burisma at the time that VP Biden called for their removal from office.

That should have been the end of it. But as we all know, that July Trump attempted to pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky into investigating the Bidens by withholding military support. With impeachment, it looked like the whole story had backfired. 

But six months after the Senate failed to convict Trump, Giuliani somehow found himself in possession of a copy of the hard drive from Hunter Biden's laptop. We know that he shopped that story around to multiple outlets - who all refused it - before finally getting some folks at the New York Post (one of Rupert Murdoch's right wing publications) to run with it. 

In response, some reporters at the New York Times published an article titled, "Their First Try Backfired, but Giuliani and Allies Keep Aiming at Biden." They open the piece by reporting that, on the weekend that the NY Post published their story about Hunter Biden's laptop, Giuliani and Bannon met in the apartment of one of their collaborators - Guo Wengui - to celebrate the resurgence of the story they'd been trying to sell for years. But these reporters weren't buying it (emphasis mine).

Mr. Giuliani and his allies — operating in parallel with a loosely linked network of conservatives — are in effect trying to recreate the blueprint Mr. Trump and his allies employed in 2016...But, as the anti-Biden forces quickly discovered, 2020 is not 2016.

While the president has promoted the material relentlessly, many of the Trump-friendly news outlets and other organizations that sustained the effort four years ago have been diminished or sidelined. Their 2020 replacements have had less reach, and the anti-Biden material they have been pumping out has been met with heightened skepticism from traditional news outlets and social media platforms determined to avoid being seen as abetting dirty tricks.

It would have been nice if these reporters had acknowledged the fact that the news organization they work for had been used for these "dirty tricks" in 2016.  But alas, that seems to be a bridge too far. 

So after their success with the Clintons in 2016, the right wing cabal totally failed to get mainstream media to bite on their lies about the Bidens. That's why, with an assist from Elon Musk and his "Twitter Files," the whole story has evolved into one about suppression. They're trying to "work the refs." However, as far as I can see, that one isn't working either. 


  1. That's encouraging indeed. Trump would not be president without the mainstream media, particularly the NY Times, and their buying into, even claiming ownership, to past propaganda, most especially THAT email scandal.

    There are still questions, and Josh Marshall has been great recently in pursuing false balance and conservative advantages in controlling the mainstream dialogue. One can see it intensely in the lead-up to just this last election, with the focus on inflation and crime. That already suggests only a temporary respite, with the NYT's hated Clinton family gone from elections and Trump's idiocy no longer reliably selling papers and embraced wholesale by his own party. Some years ago on Nancy's and Martin's former Washington Monthly gig, I commented that I felt Trump to be vulnerable because he made MAGA nuts feel like winners, and they could not tolerate a loser. Instead, he and they just denied they had lost, but the loser effect does seem to be catching up with him. Kevin Drum keeps harping on Fox as the culprit, it and Murdoch's holdings can't do it alone, and we had better keep watching.

  2. The Clinton Foundation was attacked—equally scurrilously—from the left as well. David Sirota’s exercise in innuendo and false dichotomy was taken as gospel by many Sanders supporters.

    1. Correct. That's precisely why Bannon released the movie version of "Clinton Cash" right before the 2016 Dem Convention. He was trying to incite discord - and it worked with Sanders supporters.

  3. The failure of Sanders bots to unite around Clinton once he lost fair and square is blameworthy, as is much of the lies they told themselves and others to justify it. (The Goldwater girl, that sort of thing.) Just bear in mind that it's not relevant to Nancy's point, which is about a top-down strategy and its ability to sucker in the mainstream media. The Times has no fondness for the left and indeed batters it as part of its "Democrats in disarray" and "why can't we all reach out to Trump voters by moving center" memes.


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