Yesterday, The Washington Post added some detail to old news, and then publicized it as if the story was completely new news.
The only part of this story that's new is that the Clinton campaign and the DNC funded research behind the infamous “pee tape” dossier released by BuzzFeed earlier this year. However, we already knew that this dossier was partially funded by Democrats. Per CNN from January:
CNN has reviewed a 35-page compilation of the memos, from which the two-page synopsis was drawn. The memos have since been published by Buzzfeed. The memos originated as opposition research, first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats.
This wasn't a secret. When Mother Jones, which is like a wing of the DNC, reported on the dossier last October, they also said that Democrats helped finance it.
This was for an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client critical of the celebrity mogul. (Before the former spy was retained, the project's financing switched to a client allied with Democrats.)
The new detail reported by WaPo is that the Democrats who we already knew were financing the research were the DNC and Hillary Clinton. But thinking that all opposition research in a presidential election isn't eventually connected to the candidate or the party HQ is naïve at best. This is normal. But because WaPo is pushing this like some gigantic revelation, many conservatives are following their lead.
Thanks to The Washington Post hyping their story more than it deserves, all of the people decrying them as “AMAZON FAKE NEWS WAPO” now believe they have proof that this entire Russia narrative is made up by Hillary Clinton and the DNC. Of course, this is nonsense—since the Russia story is far bigger than one piece of opposition research—but those are details that will forever be obscured by the presence of Hillary Clinton and the DNC. The right buzzwords are all lined up in a row, so reason goes out the window in favor of pushing yet another expansive conspiracy from an alleged evil mastermind who also couldn’t defeat Donald fucking Trump. This is all so incredibly stupid.
But many are rightfully asking, why would the Clinton campaign lie about their involvement with this dossier? Well, for one, have you been paying attention to the Clinton camp this century? Lying is kind of their thing. Secondly, look at the reaction to this news. The entire dossier was instantly discredited because Hillary’s hands were one of the hundreds (thousands?) to touch this confusing piece of evidence that has been making the rounds across politics and media for well over a year. If the DNC told the truth that they were helping to fund the research into this dossier, the conservative freak-out would have happened much sooner. This risky brand of honesty ran against Hillary’s awful campaign strategy of playing not to lose.
Plus, it’s not in any campaign’s self-interest to pay for bad research. The fact that both Republican and Democratic campaigns paid good money to assemble this dossier gives it more, not less, credibility. Besides, the BBC reported back in March that U.S. officials verified a key part of the dossier, and were using it as something of a “roadmap” for the investigation. Thanks to The Washington Post framing this news as a bombshell—instead of the addendum to other reports that it really is—we’re now entering a narrative where the dossier = Hillary, despite the unimpeachable fact that it was born in Republican circles.
Campaigns dig up dirt on their opponents, and that doesn’t come free. The irony of this entire situation is that many on the right regularly decry media manipulation, but their reaction to this non-bombshell “bombshell” is a demonstration of how easy it is to make people look at the news differently depending on how the media frames it. I get The Washington Post wanting to promote the fact that they obtained information which was not out there before, but the jist of it was. They just filled in one of the blanks, and as a result, a fraudulent narrative about the dossier has emerged, and that narrative isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.