How right-wing media twisted a filing by special counsel John Durham

February 18, 2022 ☼ durhamfoxscandaldemsrussia

Source: The Washington Post (Link)

Near midnight on Friday, Feb. 11, special counsel John Durham made a filing ostensibly about a conflict-of-interest issue regarding his case against Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI. What followed in the next 48 hours is a textbook case on how misinformation travels quickly.

We devoted two reports to the Durham filing this week. One (detailed below) helps readers get up to speed on the complex case. The second was an examination of how inaccurate spin on the filing — that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has spied on Donald Trump, even when he was president — was fueled by anonymous Twitter accounts, such as one called “Techno Fog,” conservative journalists, such reporters for the Epoch Times and Red State, and former Trump administration officials. Fox News and Newsmax then led the charge on conservative television, often in misleading ways. Trump issued a statement saying the alleged crimes should be “punishable by death.”

Because the Durham filing was made late on Friday, the narrative pushed by this group was largely unchallenged over the weekend. Not until Monday did mainstream journalists begin to look into the filing, adding context and reporting, including responses from Sussmann and other players supposedly implicated.

By week’s end, even Durham distanced himself from the right-wing media furor, telling the court that “if third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the Government’s Motion,” that should not distract from the purpose of the filing. Durham confirmed the data collection in question took place in 2016, not under Trump. He indicated he might make further filings under seal if, for instance, “the safety of individuals” could be threatened — an apparent reference to Trump’s statement.