Calling out fake news

May 6, 2020

Video Link: Monday, I was on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News. We discussed the laughable editorial by the New York Times, calling on the DNC to investigate Joe Biden, which is sort of like asking an alcoholic to guard your wine cellar. We also discussed an issue I wrote about here recently, that the protesters of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s insane coronavirus policies harmed their own cause by showing up carrying firearms. It took the focus off of Whitmer and gave Democrats an opening to depict them as a threat to the Governor, when the point should have been that the Governor is a threat to the Constitution. To put it in language I know we all understand, don’t give ammo to the enemy.

That segment starts at around the 27 minute mark.

And here’s more from earlier in the show about the controversy over the Michigan protesters.

Although, to be fair, when it comes to our biased media and “fake news” culture, even if you don’t give the left any ammo to attack you with, they’ll just make some up. Like the former New York Times “fact-checker” (who, ironically, resigned after tweeting a story that falsely implied that an ICE agent had a Nazi tattoo) who tweeted a photo of a small business owner at a reopen-Pennsylvania protest whose sign was altered into a white supremacist slogan.

Come to think of it, were the Michigan protesters really carrying weapons, or was that an elaborate Photoshop job, too?... (Note to leftist media hysterics: that’s a joke, not a conspiracy theory. I know you have a hard time telling the difference between reality and jokes, so I’ll make it easier for you.)

Hold on! So you mean there’s a downside to being a government snitch? Who knew?!

After ordering “non-essential” businesses to shut down, St. Louis County created an online form that encouraged people to rat on any businesses they saw that dared to open. More than 900 people filed complaints, but the county didn’t publicize the fact that the form was an official county record, which means it’s public information.

A man named Jared Totsch got a copy and posted it on Facebook, exposing the names of all the snitches, who are now worried about retaliation. To which he replied, "I'd call it poetic justice, instant Karma, a dose of their own medicine. What goes around, comes around. They are now experiencing the same pain that they themselves helped to inflict on those they filed complaints against."

One of the people was interviewed by a local TV station, and she complained that she and two other people in her home have auto-immune issues and were frustrated by seeing lines outside stores that should have been closed. Understandable, but if you’re in a high-risk category, you would have to take more precautions anyway, like not standing in those lines. And the people who ran the businesses, as well as the people who obviously needed their services enough to stand in those lines, were probably more than frustrated by being told to just shut up and go bankrupt.

At this point, nobody should be taking unnecessary risks, but that doesn’t mean that every business must shut down indefinitely while we all hide inside plastic bubbles like the young John Travolta. As Issac Newton pointed out long ago, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If the government doesn’t want radical, aggressive, irresponsible reactions to its policies, then it needs to stop imposing radical, aggressive, irresponsible policies.

Continuing in its grand tradition of handing out journalism prizes to the New York Times for whitewashing the horrors of communism in the 1930s and to the Times and the Washington Post for their in-depth coverage of the “Russian collusion” scandal that turned out to be a combination hoax/attempted coup, the Pulitzer Prize Committee has once again disgraced itself. The Pulitzer Prize for an Essay was given to the author of a New York Times piece that falsely claimed that the main impetus for the American Revolution and the birth of America was preserving slavery, which helped birth the Times’ repugnant “1619 Project” to replace history with anti-American propaganda in schools.

It was a lie so slanderous to the Founders that it sparked the creation of “1776,” a project to refute it founded by prominent African-Americans historians, scholars and writers.

No offense to some of the other Pulitzer winners, whom I’m sure did good work, but when it comes to anything political, it’s obvious that the prize is, to steal a line from former Vice President John Nance Garner, “not worth a bucket of warm spit” (and that’s more actual American history than you’ll learn from the 1619 Project.)

In fact, if you’d like to win a Pulitzer Prize of your own, I have a suggestion for where you can probably find one.

If you can’t get out to the gym, here’s something to get your blood pumping and your heart rate up. A federal judge in California, acting on the verdict of a California jury, has ordered the Center for Medical Progress to pay $1.2 million in damages to Planned Parenthood for exposing their reprehensible baby part-selling practices on undercover video.

This blatant assault on freedom of the press has been largely ignored by the mainstream media (or if it’s covered at all, negatively toward the defendants), even though it’s an unconstitutional move to criminalize the same kind of hidden camera exposes that all of them do. They’d just never think of doing it to America’s leading abortion mill.

As we’ve recently learned from all the MeToo activists dropping everything they said a year ago to defend Joe Biden, the left’s much-vaunted “principles” are all secondary to their #1 principle: empowering the left at all costs. So you probably won’t see even “60 Minutes” defending hidden camera reporting if it might damage a leftist icon like Planned Parenthood.

Fortunately, this is not the end of this story. The outrageous, politically-motivated charges never should have been brought, and it’s now been dragging through the California Kangaroo Court system for too long. It will be appealed, and unless it’s slapped down before then, it should eventually arrive at the Supreme Court. One hopes that the SCOTUS will be more concerned with protecting the First Amendment than protecting the right to secretly profit off of slaughtering children in the womb.

STILL think this hasn't been planned for a long time? One way or another, Michelle Obama's place on the ticket was going to be arranged. It's time for a few more articles like this.

The piece I'm linking to has a brand new reason why Biden should pick her: Since everybody knows she doesn't want to be in politics (right), his ability to convince her to do it will tell voters he has the persuasive power to be a leader! (See, this way, if she changes her mind, it won't be because she's wishy-washy or disingenuous but because Biden's such an incredibly persuasive guy.) The irony: if Michelle is on the ticket, it will be with the goal of making HER the leader.

When Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell finally succeeded in obtaining the “Brady” (exculpatory) material she’d been requesting from the FBI for many months, the question arose: Where was FBI Director Christopher Wray while these documents were being withheld from Flynn’s defense?

Wray had to know this was going on. If we “outsiders” knew, he knew. It’s become obvious that if Trump wanted a real reformer to take the helm at the FBI, he didn’t have one in Wray. How disappointed the President must be. But, as I reported last week, Wray has a history at the FBI that raises both eyebrows –- this isn’t the first time he’s “supervised” FBI personnel, the same group of low-lifes abusing their power. He didn’t do anything about it then, either.

As Trey Gowdy said on Monday to Sean Hannity, “The FBI is not in charge of hiring and firing directors of national intelligence [Flynn’s former job]. The FBI is not in charge –- it’s not their job to see what they can get away with [a reference to James Comey]...You’re supposed to investigate crime, not create crime.”

It was only after Attorney General Bill Barr appointed U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen to review Flynn’s case that those exculpatory documents were finally released to Flynn’s defense. Wray apparently had nothing to do with getting this done, and he’s been there two years. It should have happened when Powell first requested the material, period.

In his latest column, John Solomon reminds us of the time Chris Wray issued a statement rebuking California Rep. Devin Nunes, then-chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, for his memo concluding that Wray’s predecessor, James Comey, abused the FISA process to spy on Trump’s campaign. “We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” Wray said. Two years later, Nunes and his memo were vindicated; what on earth was Wray talking about?

"The problems exposed during the Russia case started with the Comey regime, but have stretched into Wray’s watch,” Solomon observes. FBI officials have declined comment on the Flynn materials but tell Solomon that they’ve referred all FBI employees involved in the “Russia” FISAs for disciplinary action (okay, sure), and that they’ve implemented more than 40 reforms to the FISA process. No word on whether Wray had much to do with that.

Republican legislators have grave reservations about Wray’s ability to reform the FBI. Here’s another excellent write-up by Elizabeth Vaughn at RedState; it includes key quotes from Solomon’s piece and also observes that if Wray remains, the real reformers such as Barr will have to “simply work around him, as they did last week.” Barr has been granted full access to all documents by Trump and can just take what he needs, she says, with Wray being “little more than a placeholder.” (Better than an Eric Holder, I suppose, but Wray needs to go.)

Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Johnson of Louisiana sent a letter on Monday to Wray demanding all documents relating to the FBI’s operation against Flynn, and also interviews with Bill Priestap (Peter Strzok’s boss, and the author of those handwritten notes questioning the motive behind the Flynn “ambush” interview) and Joe Pientka (the other Flynn questioner, besides Strzok).

"The American people continue to learn troubling details about the politicization and misconduct at the highest levels of the FBI during the Obama-Biden Administration,” they wrote. “Even more concerning, we continue to learn these new details from litigation and investigations –- NOT FROM YOU. [Emphasis mine; you have to love that they said this.] It is well past time that you show the leadership necessary to bring the FBI past the abuses of the Obama-Biden era.”

"Produce all documents and communications between or among the FBI and other executive branch agencies, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT [again, emphasis mine], for the period December 1, 2016, to January 20, 2017 [Obama’s last day in office], referring or relating to LTG Michael Flynn’s December 30, 2016, conversation with Sergey Kislyak...explain when you personally learned of the FBI’s misconduct with respect to FTG Flynn.”

I’ve linked to the letter, which is quite masterful. The first part lays out all the ways in which the FBI mis-conducted itself, and it’s stunning to see line after line of the malfeasance that by now we know took place. It presents the whole timeline, starting with Flynn’s phone call to Kislyak on December 30, 2016; to the field office’s closing of the Flynn “Russia” case on January 4, 2017, after finding NOTHING and Strzok’s intervention to keep it open; to the big Oval Office meeting on January 5; and on and on with everything the FBI did to coerce Flynn’s guilty plea, finally obtained on December 1, 2017.

The second part is a list of demands, to be provided “as soon as possible but no later than May 18, 2020...We trust you will respond expeditiously and completely.”

Today’s “Wray buffet” would not be complete without the dessert cart, and today’s offering is another sweet column by Margot Cleveland at THE FEDERALIST, about what the newly-released documents say about the Michael Flynn case. In “Your Guide To The Obama Administration’s Hit On Michael Flynn,” not only will she bring you up to speed on the case if you’re not there –- including the new evidence of the “secret side deal” the FBI made with Flynn not to prosecute his son –- but she also introduces a brilliant point. In essence, it’s this:

As Cleveland points out, the Supreme Court has ruled that to be criminal, Flynn’s “lie” had to be material; that is, capable of influencing an investigation. She then asks, “How could Flynn’s statements have influenced the FBI, given that the FBI knew exactly what Flynn said to the Russian ambassador before the agents interviewed him?” Also, as of Thursday, we’ve known that on January 4, 2017, the FBI field office sent documentation to close “Crossfire Razor” with no derogatory evidence found, concluding Flynn “was no longer a viable candidate as part of the larger Crossfire Hurricane umbrella case.” Twenty minutes later, Strzok sent a message to an unknown agent saying not to close out the Flynn investigation yet, as the “7th floor” was involved.

The point: As recently unsealed documents show that the FBI already had all the communications and had decided to close the case anyway, we know the only reason to keep it open was as a pretext to interrogate Flynn. So the interrogation itself was not “material” to the case. They had no legitimate investigative purpose for questioning Flynn, so what he said in answer to their questions was NOT MATERIAL.

Cleveland goes on to describe how the 302 (FBI notes) of the interview with Flynn was re-written by Strzok and Page. Recall that the original 302 has mysteriously gone missing. It’s very important to get that, and also to hear from Joe Pientka, the “other” agent who questioned Flynn. Of course, both the 302 and the in-person Pientka interview are on the list of demands sent by Reps. Jordan and Johnson to Chris Wray, but I’ll bet they end up coming from...well, somebody else besides Wray.

Good News on the Virus Front: the FDA has approved a coronavirus antibody test that reportedly provides near-perfect accuracy.

This should help give us an even clearer idea of how widespread the virus already is. Previous studies suggest that far more people have been exposed than we thought and had mild or no symptoms, and that the death rate is actually much lower than originally estimated. That’s not to say it isn’t a very bad, even deadly, disease for those who are particularly susceptible, such as the elderly and those with underlying health problems such as obesity and compromised immune systems.

But if authorities expect Americans to keep complying with safety guidelines, we need to see some solid numbers to justify it, not wild, apocalyptic predictions that are used to impose draconian lockdowns, then are later scaled back.

On that topic, I’ve been hearing about how Sweden, which refused to impose a harsh lockdown and close its economy, was suffering devastating results. But here’s a report from National Review that suggests it’s fared no worse than nations that did destroy their economies.

Whether it’s about the Chinese coronavirus, the Russia hoax or anything else in the news, there’s so much “information” floating around in the media that it’s almost impossible to know what’s true. Yet, trust me, there are millions of people plugged into THE NEW YORK TIMES, the WASHINGTON POST, CNN, late-night “comedy” shows and Facebook memes who believe they are extremely well-informed, always right, and much smarter than you. It doesn’t even do any good to talk to them.

Check out Scott Adams for an analysis of how the mind works to reject facts that don’t support one’s narrative. We all do this to some extent, as it’s human nature, but some do it a LOT more than others; it’s called “confirmation bias.”

To a large extent I blame the reporters, who should show enough intellectual curiosity and humility to look for ways to disprove their own opinions and their own “facts” before they unleash them on the public. My theory is that they’re afraid to look, afraid of being proven wrong, like the atheist who subconsciously is terrified to expose himself to religion and perhaps be compelled to change his mind, or, conversely, the believer who is terrified to expose himself to anything outside the walls of his church. Political ideology and/or party identification can be just as powerful a self-imposed limitation.

It’s extremely anxiety-producing to be proven wrong. For if you’re wrong about one thing, who knows what else you’re wrong about? For example, if you live in an imaginary world where Trump is always wrong, and everybody you know and respect believes Trump is always wrong, it will knock you sideways to have to admit he was right about even one tiny thing. So when it does turn out Trump was right about something, the apology is never made and the mistake never acknowledged, let alone corrected. The misinformation lives on in the Internet, forever, co-existing with the truth.

I’ve just described the liberal, Trump-hating mindset, but online rumors and “fake news” come from both left and right. About a week ago, my staff came across an email, circulated by some on the right, claiming that the father of John Kerry’s son-in-law is a mullah in Iran. Now, whether this is true or not, we could tell you plenty about John Kerry that would make anyone in his right mind want to keep him far from the seat of power. (Fortunately, he now is, but questions have arisen about his family’s relationship with Hunter Biden and the Biden family business dealings. That's for another time.)

Anyway, we were curious about that story and decided to look into it. There are some basic facts we can put together: Kerry’s son-in-law is named Behrouz Nahed; he goes by the first name Brian. He is a neurosurgeon. According to TRUE PUNDIT, he is an Iranian national. They also say that, according to some reports, his best man at his 2009 wedding to Vanessa Kerry, also a doctor, was the son of Muhammad Javid Zarif, Irans’ Minister of Foreign Affairs. Zarif was Kerry’s counterpart in negotiations for the Iran deal. Whoa.

BUT, the best man story is challenged in a piece from 2015 in THE HILL, which also says Dr. Nahed is an American citizen, born in America. Somebody’s wrong. The preponderance of the evidence would suggest it’s TRUE PUNDIT that is wrong, and that Nahed was born in New York.

Even a conservative website like THE BLAZE has debunked the “best man” rumor.

STILL, even though Muhammad Javid Zarif’s son was apparently not best man for Kerry’s son-in-law, there’s something else we found on that is every bit as concerning, at least to us: Kerry himself did already have a longstanding personal relationship with Zarif that predated the talks for the Iranian nuclear deal. This relationship is detailed in a 2012 book by Hoorman Majd. I do wonder about that; it is just too close for comfort.

A piece from 2013 in the DAILY CALLER goes into some detail about Dr. Nahed, who has “extensive family ties” in Iran. “Since its inception,” the story reads, “the FBI has vetted U.S. officials involved in national security, and it generally won’t grant clearances to individuals who are married to nationals of an enemy nation or have family members living in that country, for fear of divided loyalties, or, more simply, blackmail.”

Both of Dr. Nahed’s parents reportedly live in Los Angeles. His father is a pulmonologist. But shortly after Vanessa and Behrouz tied the knot, they reportedly went to Iran to visit the other relatives who live there.

Though Nahed’s father is not a mullah, the family and social connections still create such an obvious conflict of interest that Kerry should never have been involved in negotiations with Iran. I would think the conflict is so great that he should never have been approved for any cabinet-level position, let alone Secretary of State. The DAILY CALLER piece goes into just some of the problems with this.

Here’s another really good commentary, also from 2013.

So, after looking at numerous sources, we’d say this rumor is “iffy.” The central claim is not true –- Vanessa Kerry’s husband Behrouz Nahed is not the son of a mullah. His parents are physicians who work in California. And we don’t know for sure about the identify of Nahed’s best man, though we’ve seen no evidence that his father is the Iranian minister of foreign affairs. (This would not be surprising, however, given that Kerry and the Iranian minister had a social relationship.) But regardless of who the best man was, the family and social connections should have posed a huge problem for Kerry in his bid to be Secretary of State. Heck, we even turned up something else that would have been worthy of exploring: Kerry's previously existing personal relationship, going back a decade, with the Iranian minister of foreign affairs, the man with whom he was negotiating on behalf of the United States (or supposedly on our behalf)!

I don’t know why these online rumors have to be so exaggerated when the truth is plenty bad enough. “Fact-checkers” often don’t deal with the underlying truth when it’s so easy simply to debunk the exaggerated claim, generating headlines like this

(We tend not to use around here; too often we find ourselves fact-checking the fact-checkers. There’s only so much time in the day to be pushing boulders uphill.)

It’s the same with rumors about COVID-19. What we’re learning about its origins –- almost certainly from within the biolab in Wuhan –- and the PRC’s deadly deceit is so disturbing that there’s no need to exaggerate it into an even wilder story. Let’s stick to the facts as we learn them. We want to remain a solid, trusted source for truth; we would certainly report the wilder story, but only if and when the facts supported it.

We'd never even heard this rumor about Kerry and his Iranian son-in-law till now, which just goes to show how the media have covered for the former Secretary of State and exercised a shameless double standard. Imagine the uproar if, say, Jared Kushner were, say, Russian, and there were rumors that his best man was the son of some high-up Russian state official? The screaming would never stop.