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“Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there?”
Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2019
In the tweet, Trump suggested that CNN was tipped off or in some way colluding with the FBI to capture footage of the raid on Stone’s Florida home.
But Trump didn’t originate that conspiracy theory. Like most, it worked its way up from the nether reaches of the far-right internet to the president’s Twitter feed.
It kicked off with a claim from former Fox New host Greta Van Susteren in the immediate aftermath of the raid.
CNN cameras were at the raid of Roger Stone...so FBI obviously tipped off CNN...even if you don’t like Stone, it is curious why Mueller’s office tipped off CNN instead of trying to quietly arrest Stone;quiet arrests are more likely to be safe to the FBI and the person arrested— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) January 25, 2019
Earlier Friday morning, Media Matters for America disinformation and social media researcher Natalie Martinez tweeted images of right-wing outlet Gateway Pundit’s coverage of the raid.
“Far-right media are running with conspiracy theories about CNN supposedly colluding with Mueller to get footage of Roger Stone’s arrest in a coordinated ‘propaganda effort,'” Martinez wrote.
Far-right media are running with conspiracy theories about CNN supposedly colluding with Mueller to get footage of Roger Stone's arrest in a coordinated "propaganda effort." pic.twitter.com/RzreLtDKBL— Natalie Martinez (@natijomartinez) January 25, 2019
Gateway Pundit’s headlines include, “COLLUSION! MUELLER TIPS OFF CNN -Entire Stone Pre-Dawn Raid Captured By Anti-Trump Channel,” “Investigative Journalist Cardillo: ONLY CNN Tipped Off on Stone Pre-Dan Raid—Local Channels Had NO IDEA of Friday Raid.”
Martinez later pointed out that Stone had, at one time, been a correspondent for the Gateway Pundit.
The Daily Caller also amplified the theory; one headline asks, “How Exactly Did CNN Get Footage of Roger Stone’s Arrest?” Reporter Amber Athey called CNN’s presence on the scene “a seemingly too-perfect scenario” and quoted Blaze Tv’s Jordan Schachtel, who tweeted:
“You don’t have to be a Roger Stone fan to be horrified by the stunt the FBI pulled off in conspiring with CNN this morning. The completely unnecessary raid is a routine that is straight out of a third-world police state. There is no defense of such an excessive show of force.”
You don’t have to be a Roger Stone fan to be horrified by the stunt the FBI pulled off in conspiring with CNN this morning. The completely unnecessary raid is a routine that is straight out of a third-world police state. There is no defense of such an excessive show of force.— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) January 25, 2019
The Daily Caller neglected to note Stone’s ties to the site as well.
“Interesting how The Daily Caller’s coverage of Roger Stone’s indictment doesn’t mention that Stone is listed as one of their correspondents,” Martinez wrote.
But the speculation is essentially without merit. In the wake of far-right media throwing up their arms, CNN responded explaining that because Mueller convening a grand jury on Thursday instead of Friday like he normally does, the network thought Stone might be arrested.
What an irresponsible thing to tweet with no evidence. The reporter who was there, @davidgshortell, said on CNN that the crew was staked out at Stone’s house this morning after CNN reporters noticed unusual grand jury activity in DC on Thursday & thought something could happen. https://t.co/E7KtkUjY1R— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) January 25, 2019
In fact, there is a clip of CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz speculating last night that Stone would be arrested today.
For those wondering how CNN connected the dots, here's @ShimonPro last night -- before the arrest of Roger Stone -- explaining the unusual grand jury activity taking place in DC on Thursday and why it might indicate new indictments coming. https://t.co/WOhner329K— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) January 25, 2019
Van Susteren has since walked back her claims on Twitter.
Check my tweets! I have corrected and corrected...what do you want me to do, wash your car? The story is not how CNN got there but rather an indictment of Roger Sone. https://t.co/4NHRUvgLwg— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) January 25, 2019
Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of proceeding, making false statements, and witness tampering.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.