Just days after the AP came under fire for its shoddy Clinton Foundation story, they’ve published another terrible piece on “the Trump-Clinton conspiracy election,” relying on the falsest of false equivalencies to make their indefensible case.
In his piece on the AP’s debunked and discredited Clinton Foundation story, my colleague Peter Daou wrote: “This is not the only example of the Associated Press favoring Trump over Hillary. Our research shows that the AP has covered Hillary’s emails virtually every day for the past year — meanwhile they scrub then repost Trump puff pieces. Credibility matters.”
The AP, however, seems determined to lose every last shred of theirs. “Welcome to the Trump-Clinton conspiracy election” blares the headline on their latest, positioned above an image of Hillary whispering in Jimmy Kimmel’s ear during a comedy bit mocking conspiracies on his late-night show.
The piece begins: “It’s a conspiracy: The 2016 campaign features one candidate who warned against the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ and another who was a leader of the so-called ‘birther’ movement” – and thus it is dishonest right from its opening lines.
There is no disclosure that Trump’s birtherism began in 2011, nor that Hillary’s quote is from 1998. And while Trump’s wild accusations about the President’s citizenship have been resoundingly discredited, 18 years after Hillary first acknowledged a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” it’s pretty difficult to make the case she was wrong when her email has been in the news every day for more than a year and her opponent inciting her assassination and calling her the co-founder of ISIS is fully gone from the news two weeks later.
The remainder of the piece is just as dishonest. Out of 22 paragraphs total, 8 of them are spent detailing the conspiracy about Hillary’s alleged health issues. They are not rumors; they are lies into which media – like the AP – have breathed credibility by treating them as worthy of discussion.
And in an election riddled with false equivalencies, this might be the gold medalist:
Donald Trump and his surrogates hint at a mysterious “illness” afflicting rival Hillary Clinton. Pushing back, Clinton warns of murky ties between Trump and the Russian government, insinuating that her Republican opponent may be a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
First of all, Hillary has not “warned of murky ties between Trump and the Russian government” as pushback against the conspiracy-mongering about her health. That is a profoundly mendacious misrepresentation of both the why and the when of warnings regarding Trump’s Russia ties.
Secondly, that is not a “conspiracy theory.” It is a concern rooted in facts about Trump’s (former) campaign staff, his business finances, his campaign’s influence over the party platform on Ukraine, his invitation to Russia to hack U.S. government servers, and his own comments about Russia and Putin.
Further, it is a concern shared by members of the intelligence community, some members of the Republican Party, and journalists with expertise in this area; it is hardly a “conspiracy” being peddled by the Clinton campaign, pulled out of thin air.
The false equivalency, and falsely attributed motivation, are then repeated:
Trump, a businessman and reality TV star, has frequently tossed out rumors about Clinton’s health and sleep schedule on the stump and on Twitter, aiming to discredit her fitness for office. Sensing an opportunity, Clinton’s team seized upon the rumor-mongering after the GOP nominee plucked Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of the conservative website Breitbart News, to be his new campaign chairman this month.
These are facts, not rumors or conspiracies. Steve Bannon’s hiring is an issue not because it’s “an opportunity” to “seize upon rumor-mongering,” but because Bannon runs a news site strongly affiliated with the alt-right, and choosing Bannon to run his campaign was a signal that Trump is going all-in on white nationalism.
Embedded throughout the piece is the insinuation that Hillary is conjuring conspiracies as either retribution or to fight fire with fire. But raising serious concerns about a presidential candidate’s ties to a foreign nation and/or his mainstreaming of white nationalism is neither vengeful nor defensively strategic. It is legitimate – and, even more fundamentally, it is one of the jobs we expect our presidents to do.
We expect our presidents to spot red flags raised by anyone who poses a threat to the nation’s security – from within or without. The AP has turned Hillary’s demonstration of a key national leadership skill into the stuff of petty grievances and contemptible politicking.
And to what end? To sabotage, in yet another way, the most qualified person ever to run for the U.S. presidency, currently locked in an electoral battle with an opponent who prioritizes fomenting violent bigotry over decent stewardship of a diverse nation.
And then they sneer at Hillary, without a trace of irony, for having said there’s a vast right-wing conspiracy.