That time The Canary promoted pro-Trump conspiracy theories about the Russian DNC hack



This is intended to be part of a longer series called "The Canary's Greatest Hits". 

In a series of articles in 2017, The Canary's Tom Coburg amplified conspiracy theories that the Democratic National Committee documents published by Wikileaks during the 2016 election (helping Donald Trump get elected) were not hacked by Russia but leaked internally. These conspiracy theories (almost certainly originating from Russia's GRU agency) hinged on the claim that a young Democratic staffer, Seth Rich, had been involved in the leak and killed by the Deep State because of this. 

On 23 May 2017, The Canary, under the title "Evidence offered to prove that murdered Democrat insider was WikiLeaks source", recycled an article from the right-wing conspiracy site Zero Hedge promoting Fox News claims that Rich was the leaker, throwing in some dubious claims from Fox News that were refuted by the FBI and subsequently deleted by the network. The Canary reported as fact that "Former DC homicide detective Rod Wheeler also told Fox News that Rich sent 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments to MacFayden before 21 May 2016."

The timing here is significant, because Fox pushed this story on 15 May, the same day as the Washington Post broke the story that five days earlier Trump gave Putin classified information gained from a US ally. Fox focused on Ted Wheeler's claims for days, to distract from the classified information story. Wheeler, however, said he was misquoted the very next day, so by the time The Canary was on it, it was already known to be fake news. In between, the Kremlin had picked up the story:

On 2 August, The Canary returned to the same Fox story, noting that the "source" in the previous story (Wheeler) was now suing Fox for making up quotes at Trump's behest to distract from the investigation into Trump-Russia links. But instead of using this as an opportunity to retract their previous story based on this, The Canary doubled down and promoted an "other side to the story", i.e. that Fox's baseless original story was true, citing Australian entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and Julian Assange.

Although by now the Seth Rich story had been completely debunked, on 9 August The Canary ran yet another piece promoting it, this time quoting the discredited former journalist Seymour Hersh. A conversation with Hersh was secretly recorded by Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Republican donor with ties to Breitbart, shared without Hersh's approval, published on an alt-right website and then published by Wikileaks. Despite Hersh's explicit disavowal and the ethical red lights flashing about this, The Canary linked to the recording and to a transcript on a now-banned pro-Trump reddit chat. The Canary took the opportunity to promote claims by "The Forensicator" and "Adam Carter" that purported to show that the DNC stuff was leaked not hacked, as well as a "Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity" (VIPS) memo based on these claims. Duncan Campbell would later show that "The Forensicator" and "Adam Carter" were both frauds perpetrated by a British pro-Putin internet troll called Tim; most VIPS members disowned the memo; and even William Binneythe pro-Trump ex-spook who co-wrote the memo, admitted it was a mistake, although not before Binney paraded the story on Fox News leading Trump to order Mike Pompeo to meet with Binney. The Canary has never added a clarification to Coburg's article.

Finally, The Canary's James Wright ran another piece a couple of days later promoting the VIPs allegations, quoting Binney's co-author Ray McGovern. The headline is "Media silent as former CIA analyst destroys the claim that Russia hacked the US election" (my emphasis). The claim in the lede is slightly less hubristic: "Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern seems to have destroyed the claim that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the 2016 US election." The rest of the article spells out McGovern's theories in detail, adds that they accord with Julian Assange's dishonest insistence that this was a leak not a hack, and complains that "mainstream media" has not taken up the story. Once again, no mention that several VIPS members (including Scott Ritter and Tom Drakedisavowed McGovern and Binney's claims. A few days later, the VIPS dissidents would write that "This VIPS memo was hastily written based on a flawed analysis of third-party analyses and then thrown against the wall, waiting to see if it would stick" and "In an ideal world, VIPS would at least retract its assertion of certainty." 

All of these posts are still up with no corrections, even after many of the sources of these stories, such as Butowsky, have retracted and apologised.

The Canary's promotion of the pro-Trump and pro-Kremlin narratives about the 2016 election fit in with a wider pattern of pouring scorn on the massive body of evidence that Russia interfered in the election, with articles by James Wright insisting claims of interference are "bullshit", John McEvoy asserting that "RussiaGate" is a made-up narrative used to smear noble anti-war voices such as Rand Paul and Tulsi Gabbard, and of course Peter Bolton claiming that it is Israel and not Russia which is Trump's real partner in crime.

The tl;dr version: The Canary publishes pro-Trump fake news and does not retract it when it is thoroughly refuted. They hate the mainstream Democrats more than they hate Trump, and their output ends up doing the work of the Kremlin. 

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Also read:

Everybody Hates A Tourist: The Canary in the Coalmine.

Previously:

The authoritarian war on journalism and dissent - and the fake left web personalities who front itThe alt-left and LabourKerry-Anne Mendoza and the gaslighting of British Jews


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