Accuracy in Media

In March, when a poll came out showing half of Americans had come to believe special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president was a “witch hunt,” Vox’s Aaron Rupar called the poll an “outlier” and blamed the result on what he considered a poorly worded question and that “Trump’s regular, repetitive attacks on the special counsel are working.”

After Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, brought up the ongoing investigations into the investigators Wednesday during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s appearance before the committee, Rupar attacked again.

“Devin Nunes’s behavior during the Mueller hearing was bizarre – unless you watch Fox News,” read the headline on Rupar’s story.

Rupar wrote that Nunes began his opening statement before the second of the two hearings on Capitol Hill yesterday by “acknowledging that collusion occurred during the 2016 election – but not in the way most people think.”

Nunes spoke of “collusion in plain sight – collusion between Russia and the Democratic Party.” He said Democrats “colluded with Russian sources to develop the Steele dossier. And Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya colluded with the dossier’s key architect, Fusion GPS head Glenn Simpson.”

Rupar then began to impugn Nunes, saying the congressman’s questioning of Mueller “consisted of him essentially name-dropping a bunch of peripheral players in Russiagate in a manner that suggested some sort of nefarious conspiracy was at play. … As bizarre as Nunes’s behavior during the hearing on Wednesday was to the uninitiated, it wasn’t a surprise to avid watchers of Fox News, where Nunes has been turning reality on its head for years.”

Rupar lamented that “no fewer than 10 House Republicans asked Mueller questions on Wednesday that were steeped in conspiracy theories that have flourished on Fox News about ho the Russia investigation was purportedly a product of anti-Trump bias among Obama-era FBI and intelligence community officials. Fox News even pushed conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation during its live coverage of Mueller’s testimony.”

Not everyone agrees these “conspiracy theories” are off the mark. Attorney General William Barr has appointed John Durham, chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut known for pressing official corruption cases, to look into the matter and awaits a report from Michael Horowitz, inspector general at the Department of Justice, that has been pushed back twice because new evidence became available.  

Moreover, more than two-dozen top officials of the FBI and Department of Justice have been forced out or fired over various misdeeds connected to their involvement with the effort to get Trump for collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, including the director of the FBI, the interim director who replaced him when he was fired and at least two FBI agents involved in the investigation.

The Department of Justice announced in June it was conducting a review “broad in scope and multifaceted” that seeks to “illuminate open questions regarding the activities of U.S. and foreign intelligence services as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals.”

The investigation will “scrutinize the intelligence committee as a whole” to determine not just whether policies were violated but whether illegal activity took place.

Nunes’ attacks were part of an effort to confuse the public about the seriousness of the charges against Trump, Rupar wrote.

“So while Nunes’s collusion allegation may not make any sense to those familiar with the timeline of what happened in 2016, it had the upside of possibly sowing doubt in the minds of those who are not,” he wrote. “It also helped shift attention from the scandal at the root of the Russia investigation to Democrats. And that, for House Republicans who continue to stand by Trump through thick and thin, is a victory, even if their talking points aren’t rooted in reality.”

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