On Monday, hosts of MSNBC’s morning lineup scoffed at the notion that some Americans still have faith in Congressman Nunes’s FISA memo, and even in the President himself. Some attributed the phenomenon to ignorance or foolishness, while others suggested that Trump supporters had been deceived by Russian bots on Twitter.
Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of Morning Joe flirted with both explanations, derisively characterizing Trump supporters as a combination of basement-dwellers and purveyors of Russian bot accounts:
[Trump] will throw anybody or anything under the bus, including the best interest of this nation...
And if there's anybody throughout that questions that, I can't wait for you to grab your Cheetos, and put on your tighty whiteys, and go down to your mom's basement and start typing that blog away.
“Join the bots,” Brzezinski added.
Meanwhile, the hosts of MSNBC’s Live With Velshi and Ruhle reasoned that those who still put stock in the memo were stubbornly ignoring reality. In a discussion about supposed far right echo chambers, Stephanie Ruhle said the following:
We’ve seen this FISA, Nunes, Fusion GPS noise coming out of the far right for the last year. All they need is Trump’s base to believe this and it works. So you and I could walk through this all day long and shine light and rationality; they don’t need rationality.
Ali Velshi agreed, “There’s some people who aren’t listening.”
The consensus on the set of Andrea Mitchell Reports was that Russian bots were to blame, with Democrat political consultant Stephanie Cutter even theorizing that the Trump administration had been actively colluding with Russians to push Nunes’s memo.
“He had an unwitting ally, the Russian bots, pushing the ‘release the memo’ meme,” Andrea Mitchell exclaimed. “So the Russians are still at it.”
Cutter questioned Mitchell’s premise, “Unwitting? It might not be so unwitting.”
Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele agreed:
And that’s the irony of it, to have Republican members on the Intel Committee go out and push this thing, knowing that it’s the Russians behind it, the ones actually pushing this out into the public’s bloodstream.
The narrative about Russian bots pushing fake news had been around since the 2016 election. Now, however, the charge appears to be that the Russians aided not just the Trump campaign, but Republicans in general. Democratic Senators Feinstein and Schiff have even solicited user information from Twitter and Facebook in the hopes of learning who was behind the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag.
Senator Feinstien’s website cites as evidence for her concerns a study done by the German Marshall Fund. The study described just 600 Twitter accounts with a “clear connection to Russian influence,” only one subsection of which had engaged in “automated behavior.” The sample also included accounts whose users “may or may not understand themselves to be part of a pro-Russian social network.” Additionally, Twitter’s internal analysis found that Americans were the progenitors and primary disseminators of the hashtag.
Yet despite these findings, MSNBC’s coverage suggests that the buzz on social media generated by the memo was largely a psy-op orchestrated by Russian hackers and bots. This dishonest narrative paints President Trump’s base as gullible simpletons who have fallen for Russian propaganda.