Bannon’s Weaponization of the New York Times Continues to Pay Off

Yesterday we learned that Attorney General Sessions is reigniting the whole Uranium One faux scandal.

On the orders of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Justice Department prosecutors have begun asking FBI agents to explain the evidence they found in a now dormant criminal investigation into a controversial uranium deal that critics have linked to Bill and Hillary Clinton, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News.

The interviews with FBI agents are part of the Justice Department’s effort to fulfill a promise an assistant attorney general made to Congress last month to examine whether a special counsel was warranted to look into what has become known as the Uranium One deal, a senior Justice Department official said.

While that is nothing more than an outrageous use of the justice system to go after a political opponent, I want to focus on something else contained in that NBC News report. In an attempt to provide background on the Uranium One deal, they included this:

As the New York Times reported in April 2015, some of the people associated with the deal contributed millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. And Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for a Moscow speech by a Russian investment bank with links to the transaction…

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, The New York Times reported, Uranium One’s Canadian chairman, Ian Telfer, used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation.

In other words, they based much of their explanation of this story on a New York Times article that has not only been repeatedly debunked, it was featured in a portion of the  Berkman Klien Center‘s report titled “Partisanship, Propaganda and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 Presidential Election.” Specifically, the section that featured the NYT article was titled, “Dynamics of Network Propaganda: Clinton Foundation Case Study.”

As a reminder of how all of this transpired, Steve Bannon’s Government Accountability Institute commissioned Peter Schweizer to write the book “Clinton Cash.” Prior to publication, they gave it to the New York Times, which published that article in April 2015 featuring the Uranium One deal, with spurious ties to the Clinton Foundation. Over time, Bannon tweaked interest in the book by doing things like releasing a movie version during the Democratic Convention. That is precisely how the “crooked Hillary” meme was born.

When news organizations reported on the story, they almost always referred back to the article in the New York Times, which gave it an air of credibility. The story reached a crescendo in late August/early September when various news outlets produced stories attempting to infer other pay-for-play connections between Clinton’s work as Secretary of State and the Clinton Foundation. Here at the Washington Monthly, we relentlessly pointed out what a lot of others failed to report: that as questions were raised, the facts exonerated the Clintons.

Here we are over a year later and AG Sessions has ramped up interest in this faux scandal about the Uranium One deal once again. Right on cue, NBC News relies on the New York Times story for background. It’s frustrating as hell, but we’ll keep pointing out the facts as long as people in the media keep this nonsense alive. If you appreciate our efforts, please consider making a donation to the Washington Monthly. Thanks!

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.