CNN’s organizational hypocrisy was on full display Wednesday night as host Erin Burnett kicked off OutFront by declaring that “Republicans are at it again” with their crazy conspiracy theories! Turns out, the alleged conspiracy theory was just a question raised by Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson in his Homeland Security Committee’s interim report on the Clinton e-mail scandal.
“The conspiracy de jour is that President Obama had quote, ‘personal involvement’ in the Clinton e-mail scandal,” Burnett claimed as she began her anti-Republican rant. Her smearing started by taking the question raised by Johnson completely out of context:
According to Johnson's report, Page texted Strzok about preparing talking points for them FBI-Director Jim Comey because, this is the operative line, quote: “POTUS, [President Obama] wants to know everything we are doing.” Okay. That one phrase was enough for Senator Johnson to make the connection between President Obama and the Clinton email investigation.
Burnett was adamant that Johnson was a conspiracy theorist, but she failed in her duty as a journalist to note that the Senator didn’t draw any conclusion, and even stated that fact outright.
“This report is not intended to answer these questions, but to demonstrate that the information received warrants further inquiry to examine possible bias and wrongdoing within the FBI and the Justice Department. Any serious and impartial reader of this material should find it hard to deny the need for further inquiry,” Johnson explicitly wrote.
The disdain for Johnson, and by extension Republicans (judging from her intro) was palpable as she chided the Senator by saying: “Lesson here is before you take on the FBI or a former president, both of whom are fair targets right, but make sure you have your facts straight.” And, of course, CNN reporter Evan Perez and Fusion GPS conveniently had an anonymous source in his ear to explain the context of the text messaged in question.
Burnett’s snide comment about getting facts straight, coupled with an earlier jab about how “facts and dates matter, okay,” demonstrated just how disingenuous her grandstanding was, especially considering CNN’s past blunders with peddling conspiracy theories. One instance that sticks out, in particular, was their conspiracy that Donald Trump Jr. got access to the WikiLeaks documents early. They got the story wrong because an anonymous source gave them the wrong date on an e-mail.
The CNN host unironically lamented how Johnson had “misinterpreted [the text], of course, for a political purpose pretty clearly in this case.” The indignant shot came after she conflated a Strzok/Page text message made in jest about an FBI “secret society” and Johnson’s claim that a whistleblower had come forward to confirm the existence of one.
Former FBI Special Agent James Gagliano was also brought on to give his analysis of the situation. “I'm confident that the Office of the Inspector General, which has the case, it’s not bi-partisan, it's nonpartisan. I trust they'll get to the bottom of this,” he praised. “And that’s, of course, where an investigation should be not in the partisan sphere where Senator Johnson and others are trying to put it,” Burnett sneered.
Again, Burnett proved just how dishonest CNN was when it came to who they chose to trust for information. She smeared Johnson for trying to make things political but her network hangs on every word Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff (Calif.) leaks to them to damage President Trump. The twisting of Johnson's interim report had since become a narrative for CNN.
The relevant portions of the transcript are below, click expand to read:
Erin Burnett Out Front
February 7, 2018
700:47 PM Eastern
ERIN BURNETT: And good evening I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, conspiracy craze. Republicans are at it again. The conspiracy de jour is that President Obama had quote, “personal involvement” in the Clinton e-mail scandal.
So there’s a 25-page report that is out now by the Republican Senator Ron Johnson and in it, he cites a text message between two FBI officials. Yes, we’re talking about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page again here. According to Johnson's report, Page texted Strzok about preparing talking points for them FBI-Director Jim Comey because, this is the operative line, quote: “POTUS, [President Obama] wants to know everything we are doing.”
Okay. That one phrase was enough for Senator Johnson to make the connection between President Obama and the Clinton email investigation. And the current president of the United States did not wait for the facts, the context or the details before tweeting about Johnson's report to his 47.5 million followers in all caps, “new FBI texts are bombshells.”
BURNETT: Okay. There is though a big problem with this conspiracy theory. It is a very big problem. Because it just isn't clear that the text was talking about the Clinton e-mail investigation. Here's why, because facts and dates matter. Okay. The text is dated September 2, 2016. That's the text, right, about POTUS wants to know what we’re working on. (…)
Let's just remember that Senator Johnson is the same man who used a text between Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa page to allege publically that there was a mass conspiracy at the FBI against Trump. A so-called secret society.
BURNETT: That was based on this text from Lisa Page to Peter Strzok, again, quote: “Are you going to give out your calendar? Seems depressing, maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society.” The text exchange, you may recall, was referencing a private joke between the two. And only after the idea was debunked did Johnson back down.
BURNETT: Lesson here is before you take on the FBI or a former president, both of whom are fair targets right, but make sure you have your facts straight. Evan Perez is out front tonight. And Evan, I've laid out the timeline you though have talked to a source who knows the context of the text about President Obama being brief.
EVAN PEREZ: That's right Erin. A source with knowledge of the text told us that the text message was actually related to preparations for President Obama to be briefed on the Russian interference in the 2016 election. (…) So it appears that this is yet another one of these text messages that is being misinterpreted, Erin.
BURNETT: Misinterpreted, of course, for a political purpose pretty clearly in this case.
JOHN DEAN: They’re certainly not bombshells. In fact, I read the report before coming on the air. And the whole thing is based on really a recycling of old news. An effort to make more out of these exchanges and texts than really exist there. And it's pretty pathetic when you dig a little deeper as you all have done and show what the timelines are so amiss and how Trump can just fire off a bombshell tweet shows how careless he really is.
JAMES GAGLIANO: There were a number of other ones [texts] that were unsettling. I'm confident that the Office of the Inspector General, which has the case, it’s not bi-partisan, it's nonpartisan. I trust they'll get to the bottom of this.
BURNETT: And that’s, of course, where an investigation should be not in the partisan sphere where Senator Johnson and others are trying to put it.
BURNETT: The politicization here, right? James is saying they’re looking into what happened, these should be looked at, at the Inspector General. But instead, we have a memo from Devin Nunes, we have a memo from Ron Johnson. It is clearly put, solidly, within partisan politics, which is the President is first one to exploit without knowing the facts himself!
BURNETT: Senator Johnson, of course, jumping from conspiracy theory to conspiracy theory even when he himself was forced to admit that the secret society was probably a joke.