Accuracy in Media

Finally, the liberal spin machine has begun to get its act together on the story of Imran Awan.

For weeks, the mainstream media seemed intent on trying to ignore the story of Awan, the congressional IT staffer who was recently arrested on bank fraud charges as he attempted to leave the country for his native Pakistan.

Liberal outlets NBC, CBS, ABC and The Washington Post waited nearly an entire day to even report on Awan’s arrest.

The Washington Post ran a 10-paragraph story that dealt only with the charges of how Awan had misled a bank that he was borrowing money for a primary residence when it was for a rental property. It made no reference to the Democratic Party, the fact that Awan and his family were under investigation for stealing House IT equipment or what Awan’s arrest could mean for the DNC leak investigation either in its original story or in a follow-up that dealt with a conservative non-profit demanding an investigation.

Beyond describing the charges, in fact, the Post spent most of its story quoting Awan’s lawyer, former Clinton associate Chris Gowen, who blamed the whole thing on “ultra right-wing media” and “anti-Muslim bigotry.” He also said neither Awan nor his wife were intending to flee the country, even though the wife withdrew the children from school, and had $12,500 cash on her and several cardboard boxes. Also, an FBI agent who saw her at the airport said that she had no intention of returning, and Awan had wired $283,000 to Pakistan earlier this year.

Three days after Awan’s arrest, CBS News had carried a 37-second story on it, MSNBC and Huffington Post had posted nothing, and ABC, CNN, the Post, USA TODAY, The New York Times and Buzzfeed had posted one story each – none of which mentioned the hard drives found at Awan’s house or what all of this may have had to do with the DNC Wikileaks hack or the missing hardware. The stories that did appear tried to paint this as a case of conservative fake news.

Meanwhile, the Daily Caller, which has led on this story since the early days of the House announcing it was investigating the Awan family for stealing equipment, had published nearly 20 stories on the topic. But on Tuesday, The Washington Post published a piece entitled, “The story of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and an indicted IT staffer that’s lighting up the right, explained.” The story is presented as a way to bring cave-dwellers up to date on the current state of play with the entire

affair. But what it truly presents is the Democrats’ strategy – expressed through their handmaidens in the media – for addressing the controversy.

The plan is to treat the story not as powerful evidence that the entire narrative underlying the Trump-Russia investigation is flawed, but as furtive right-wingers concocting a conspiracy out of whole cloth to hurt the Democrats and distract from President Trump’s Russia troubles – and exploiting Islamophobia to do it.

Here’s the setup.

“Here’s one version of a story making headlines in conservative media over the past couple of weeks: A powerful Democratic Congresswoman refuses to fire an information technology aide after he’s accused of stealing House computer equipment and potentially breaching security protocols. Six months later, the FBI arrests him as he’s boarding a flight to Pakistan and charges him with bank fraud.

“Here’s another version of the same topic, coming from Democratic lawmakers: Powerful Democratic Congresswoman protects Muslim IT staffer from what she suspects is religious discrimination. She fires him after he is charged with a seemingly unrelated crime.”

Then the kicker. “The case involving now-fired House Democratic information technology staffer Imran Awan and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., underscores how easy it is to manipulate facts to suit one’s political leaning.”

Just a little he said/she said with some minor crimes concocted by Capitol Police to strike a blow at Muslims and please their Republican overlords.

The report then takes Fox News to task for “linking [the story], without any evidence, to the Russian WikiLeaks hack of DNC emails, which happened under Wasserman Schultz’s tenure as chairwoman.”

We’re not told how The Washington Post knows Fox News lacked evidence or when the Post might have gotten around to asking whether there might be some connection between a guy accused of stealing equipment, smashing hard drives, defrauding banks, extorting his mother-in-law out of her inheritance, running fraudulent businesses and having the password of every Democratic member of the House of Representatives and their emails stolen and perhaps sold from the DNC.

The Post then goes through who has written what about the story.

“Mainstream media outlets have covered the story, but not extensively,” the piece by Amber Phillips says. “The Washington Post has published two articles: One reporting Awan’s arrest and the other about a watchdog group seeking an investigation.

“Left-leaning sites have either stayed away from it or defended Wasserman Schultz’s account of it.”

It is hard to know which is more absurd – the Post still considering itself a mainstream media outlet rather than a “left-leaning site” or the Post not realizing it was writing a piece that both stayed away and defended Wasserman Shultz’s account.

“Clearly, there a lot of political accusations tied up in this nuanced story,” Phillips writes. Indeed.

There is the politics of the more than 30 Democrats who employed Awan or the four family members, including his wife, who joined him in the IT firm – even after the Capitol Police had banned them from the House IT network. Wasserman Schultz planned to keep Awan on the payroll even after he had moved to Pakistan and waited days after he was arrested to fire him.

According to the Post, most did not want to fire the Awans because they had worked for them for more than a decade and were “concerned these staffers may have been targeted by Capitol investigators because they are Muslim and from Pakistan.”

“As of right now, I don’t see a smoking gun,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., told Politico. “I wanted to be sure individuals are not being singled out because of their nationalities or their religion.”

So the Capitol Police are investigating people simply because they are Muslim and from Pakistan? Could it instead have had anything to do with equipment they had access to turning up missing, some of which apparently was found at the home of Awan, who seemed to have an insatiable desire for cash?

Or that everyone involved in this seems to act uncommonly guilty?

There’s Wasserman Schultz asking Capitol Chief Matthew Verderosa why he confiscated Awan’s laptop and how she can get it back. “If the equipment belongs to the member, it has been lost, they say it’s been lost and it’s been identified as that member’s, then the Capitol Police are supposed to return it,” she lectured the chief in a widely circulated video.

When the chief says he can’t return it because it is part of an investigation, she says, “I think you’re violating the rules when you conduct your business that way and you should expect that there will be consequences.”

Then, days later, she tells a hometown newspaper in Florida the laptop belonged to Awan and he “forgot it somewhere.”

Awan’s lawyer grandiosely says there is no evidence that he or his family were trying to flee the country, but there is plenty. Democrats have leaped on the fact Awan was holding a round-trip ticket. Wasserman Schultz said she has been “presented with no evidence of anything that they are being investigated for,” which “gave me great concern that his due process rights were being violated.” But there has been much.

The Democrats and their handmaidens in the media can spin it all they want, but the story will not go away. Awan pleaded not guilty on July 25 to the charge of attempting to take out a fraudulent $165,000 mortgage loan on July 25. Prosecutors took his passports but allowed him to remain free with ankle bracelet monitoring. They’re also said to be looking at numerous other changes against Awan which, taken together, could add up to decades of prison time.

Troublingly for Awan, Wasserman Schultz and the Democrats, investigators say data on the House IT hard drives found smashed in one of Awan’s rental properties in Lorton, Va., can be recovered, meaning they eventually will see what Awan was trying to hide and why Wasserman Schultz was so desperate to get his laptop back from Capitol Police.

Eventually, there will be a trial or a plea agreement, which likely would entail Awan trading information on members of the House and the Democratic National Committee in exchange for lenient punishment.

Will liberal media report it then? Will it acknowledge the significance of what the Awans may have been doing?

Don’t count on it.

Jon Street and Brendan Cassell contributed to this report.

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