It’s Not Just CNN: Five Fake Trump-Russia Stories Pushed By Establishment Media

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Justin Caruso Contributor
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CNN recently caught flak for publishing a story on Trump-Russia collusion that was later retracted.

The retraction led to the resignation of three CNN journalists, and in the eyes of many on the right, the incident was just more proof that the media is desperate to go after President Trump on Russia allegations — with or without facts.

This comes as recently released video from Project Veritas shows a CNN producer on hidden camera saying that he thinks the Russia story is “mostly bullshit right now,” and that CNN CEO Jeff Zucker is encouraging his staff to forgo other topics to focus on Russia allegations. (RELATED: Hidden Camera Catches CNN Producer Saying Trump ‘Probably Right’ About Russia ‘Witch Hunt’ [VIDEO])

But CNN is not the first, or the only, media outlet to get a story about Russia and Trump wrong.

On Twitter Tuesday morning, President Trump publicly wondered about other sources of false reporting:

Here are five fake stories pushed by the media about Donald Trump and Russia:

1. Slate Conspiracy Mongers On Trump-Russia Bank Server

Liberal website Slate published an article on October 31, 2016 titled, “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?

The long, detailed article offers a report of the Trump Organization’s “secret server” that it uses to communicate with a Russian bank called “Alfa Bank.”

The story even earned a mention from Donald Trump’s presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton:

The implication here was that Trump and/or his campaign was secretly communicating with Russia over this server, presumably to influence the 2016 election .

However, the story was quickly debunked. As it turns out, there was a much simpler explanation for the online communications: spam email.

The Intercept wrote that the Slate post, “never actually takes seriously the simplest plausible explanation for all of this: The Trump Organization owns a bunch of expensive, obnoxious spam servers that churn out marketing emails for its expensive, obnoxious hotels.”

The debunking can be read in full here.

As NYMag wrote, “Unfortunately for proponents of the Trump-is-a-Russian-asset theory, the report was scoffed at by cybersecurity experts, who took a look at the data and determined that the server was almost definitely sending out marketing material for Trump’s hotel operation, and the responses from the bank were likely just its mail servers attempting to ascertain the origin of the junk mail.”

2. Washington Post Reports PropOrNot’s Absurd Russian “Disinformation Campaign” List

The Washington Post published an article in November 2016 titled, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.”

The article, a bizarre effort to smear a number of American news sites as “Russian propaganda,” focuses largely on a report from a group called PropOrNot.

“PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans,” the article says.

“On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”

PropOrNot’s nonsensical list of more than 200 websites “that reliably echo Russian propaganda,” included conservative sites like the Drudge Report and Rebel Media, alternative/libertarian sites like Antiwar, Zero Hedge and Infowars, alt-right sites like VDare and American Renaissance, and left-wing sites like Truthdig, Truthout, and finance blog Naked Capitalism.

In other words, there is nothing linking these sites together — besides presumably not being sufficiently hawkish on Russia, which, according to PropOrNot standards, made them agents of the Kremlin.

PropOrNot charitably does write that not every publication named is deliberately doing Russia’s work for them, but that, “Some people involved seem genuinely unaware that their outlets are being used by Russia as conduits for propaganda.”

Meanwhile, the group, PropOrNot, was anonymous. Their “researchers” were not named so they won’t be “targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”

This write-up earned a front page spot on the Washington Post.

The article drew a barrage of criticism. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stonewrote a story titled, “The ‘Washington Post’ ‘Blacklist’ Story Is Shameful and Disgusting.”

The New Yorker criticized the write-up, as did The Intercept, calling the list “McCarthyite.”

Later, an editor’s note was added to the story, reading, “The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda.”

“A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of The Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some sites from its list,” the note ended.

3. Washington Post Falsely Reports Russia Hacked Electric Grid In Vermont

In one of the most egregious examples of false reporting, The Washington Post published an article in late December 2016 alleging that “Russian hackers” hacked into the  “U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont.”

The story caused a lot of grief, and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy was quoted as saying, “This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides — this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter.”

However, story was debunked immediately, with nearly all of it being found to be totally incorrect.

Burlington Electric General Manager Neale F. Lunderville said, “There is no indication that either our electric grid or customer information has been compromised,” adding, “Media reports stating that Burlington Electric was hacked or that the electric grid was breached are false.”

The Post later updated the article with an editor’s note reading, “Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.”

Finally, another article was published in the following days titled, “Russian government hackers do not appear to have targeted Vermont utility, say people close to investigation,” which walks back the claims made previously by the Post. (RELATED: Washington Post Publishes False News Story About Russians Hacking Electrical Grid)

“As federal officials investigate suspicious Internet activity found last week on a Vermont utility computer, they are finding evidence that the incident is not linked to any Russian government effort to target or hack the utility, according to experts and officials close to the investigation,” the opening sentence states.

Yet, the tweet for the story still remains on Twitter:

4. The Guardian Falsely Says Julian Assange Had Relationship With Putin Regime 

In an example of false reporting surrounding Putin and Russia, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian published an article in December 2016 titled, “Julian Assange gives guarded praise of Trump and blasts Clinton in interview” that was riddled with errors.

Most notably, Jacobs wrote that Wikileaks leader Julian Assange, “has long had a close relationship with the Putin regime.”

The article was based off an interview by another journalist in the Italian newspaper la Repubblica.

The article paraphrased quotes from Assange, but did so in a dishonest way that made him seem much warmer towards Putin and Russia than he intended.

Later, a note was added to the article, reading, “This article was amended on 29 December 2016 to remove a sentence in which it was asserted that Assange ‘has long had a close relationship with the Putin regime’.”

“A sentence was also amended which paraphrased the interview, suggesting Assange said ‘there was no need for Wikileaks to undertake a whistleblowing role in Russia because of the open and competitive debate he claimed exists there’. It has been amended to more directly describe the question Assange was responding to when he spoke of Russia’s ‘many vibrant publications’.”

5. Media Outlets Report Erroneous CrowdStrike Info

CrowdStrike, the private security firm responsible for the claim that the DNC servers were hacked by Russia, was given an uncritical report in December 2016 from the Washington Post over claims that Russia used malware to “track an Android phone app used by the Ukrainian army in its battle against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine from late 2014 through 2016.”

The allegations centered on the idea that “Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, contributing to heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s war with pro-Russian separatists,” VOA News reported.

The CrowdStrike report claimed that through this hacking, about 80 percent of the Ukrainian military’s Howitzer D-30s were destroyed.

Important claims in CrowdStrike’s report, however, we’re incorrect.

A British think tank called the International Institute for Strategic Studies said that data of theirs was incorrectly used in CrowdStrike’s reporting.

And the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed the reports were incorrect, adding, “Ministry of Defense of Ukraine asks journalists to publish only verified information received from competent official sources. Spreading false information leads to increased social tension in society and undermines public confidence in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” (via Google Translate)

Nonetheless, Reuters, Newsweek, and Engadget all reported CrowdStrike’s claims.

CrowdStrike later walked back many parts of the report in March. (RELATED: CrowdStrike: Five Things Everyone Is Ignoring About The Russia-DNC Story)

The most important revised claim was that there was a “15 to 20 percent losses in combat operations” instead of the 80 percent figure originally used.

(h/t The Intercept)

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