CNN Analyst Fabricates Quotes From GOP Senators to Smear Trump, Fox News
On Wednesday afternoon, a CNN analyst cooked up a "conversation" between two Republican senators in order to smear President Donald Trump, his party, and Fox News. He later admitted to having completely fabricated the quotes, but only after The Washington Post's self-described conservative Jennifer Rubin retweeted his "report."
"Overheard convo between two Republican Senators who only watch Fox News. 'is this stuff real? I haven't heard any of this before. I thought it was all about a server. If half the stuff Schiff is saying is true, we're up s**t's creek. Hope the White House has exculpatory evidence,'" Joe Lockhart, the CNN analyst and the former White House press secretary for Bill Clinton, tweeted. His message received 5,600 retweets and 20,600 "likes."
Ten minutes later, he added this caveat: "Ok maybe I made up the convo, but you know that's exactly what they're thinking."
Naturally, Lockhart's correcting the record did not receive nearly as much attention as his original "report" of the alleged "conversation." This follow-up tweet got less than 500 retweets and 5,200 "likes."
To make this fake news even more rich, Lockhart hosts a podcast called "Words Matter," which describes itself as "Dedicated to truth, facts and objective reality."
The Babylon Bee owned the CNN analyst with this response: "Leave the satire to us; we'll leave the fake news to you."
Yet Lockhart's fake news reminded many of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)'s fabricated quotes from the transcript of President Donald Trump's call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky — the call at the center of the impeachment.
Schiff infamously read a false version of the transcript on the floor of the House of Representatives, acting as though Trump had said, "I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand, lots of it." He was rightly ridiculed for this, but most of the legacy media appear to have ignored it.
"I suspect this may come up in [President Trump's] lawyers’ presentation as an example of what happens in an era when Representative Schiff pretends to re-enact a conversation and his party selects him as the key presenter of articles of impeachment. That which gets rewarded gets repeated," radio host Hugh Hewitt tweeted.
Yet Lockhart would not back down. Rather than reconsidering his tweet and apologizing for it, he accused his critics of being conspiracy theorists.
"Seems like I poked the bear today. The purveyors of Pizzagate and the Seth Rich conspiracy are lecturing me on honesty. I told a joke, you guys are a destructive joke that is killing our democracy. Other than that, hope you’re enjoying the trial and have a nice evening," the former White House press secretary tweeted.
Hilariously, this came from the same Lockhart who asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to investigate how Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was able to tweet from his account when senators are not allowed to have electronic devices during the impeachment trial. (Cruz likely had a staffer tweet for him.)
"Senators on the floor are sworn to silence and have no electronic devices. So how is this Senator tweeting? Did he sneak a phone in. Is he willing to go to prison? Or is the tweet from someone other than Cruz. [Jack Dorsey] you should investigate," Lockhart tweeted.
Cruz (or more likely a staffer) put the former White House press secretary in his place with a hilarious meme of the "Come and Take It" flag featuring his smartphone.
All kidding aside, it is beyond disgraceful that this CNN analyst — and former White House press secretary! — would tweet out an entirely fabricated story and only correct the record after it had picked up traction. His decision to act like it was just a joke after threatening Ted Cruz with prison seems particularly rich.
As for the claim in Lockhart's follow-up tweet, the CNN analyst presented no evidence that this "convo" is what Republican senators are supposedly "thinking." Seeing how Republicans voted in lockstep to reject Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)'s amendments to the trial process, it appears there will be no defections. Even more moderate senators like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins should see this partisan witch hunt for what it is. If only Democrats could be so clear-headed!
Tyler O'Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.