Deliberately Or Not, Trump Amplified Russian Disinformation To Undercut Protests
According to Axios, President Donald Trump’s claim that a 75-year-old man who was pushed to the ground by Buffalo police might be an “ANTIFA provocateur” originated with a far-right blog and reached the president’s ears through a reporter who works for a Kremlin-linked outlet.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that Martin Gugino, who remains hospitalized in stable condition, "could be an ANTIFA provocateur" and "fell harder than he was pushed."
Axios reported that the claim was first seen on the far-right blog Conservative Treehouse.
The blog post claims — all without evidence — that the protester, Martin Gugino, used "a phone as a capture scanner" as "a method of police tracking used by Antifa to monitor the location of police."
The OANN reporter who spread the claim is Kristian Brunovich Rouz, who The Daily Beast reported is “originally from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, has been living in San Diego, where OAN is based, since August 2017.”
During the same period, Rouz also has “been simultaneously writing for Sputnik, a Kremlin-owned news wire that played a role in Russia’s 2016 election-interference operation, according to an assessment by the U.S. intelligence community,” per The Daily Beast.
Rouz’s work for OANN has included “a wholly fabricated 2017 segment claiming Hillary Clinton is secretly bankrolling antifa through her political action committee.”
Rouz also “amplified a thoroughly debunked claim that Soros collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, when the Jewish philanthropist was 14 years old.”
The Daily Beast reported that “Kremlin propaganda sometimes sneaks into Rouz’s segments on unrelated matters, dropped in as offhand background information.”
A segment on the Syrian rescue workers known as the White Helmets references “allegations of the White Helmets’ involvement in military activities, executions, and numerous war atrocities,” but doesn’t disclose that those “allegations” were hoaxes that originated with Vladimir Putin and his proxies.
In another report, Rouz cast Clinton’s criticism of Brexit as an extension of her “grievous insults and fake narratives against Russia”—an assertion that makes sense only in the context of Rouz’s multiple reports claiming Russia was framed for hacking Democrats.
Rouz’s work for Russian state-owned media is not disclosed in the OANN segments The Daily Beast reviewed, despite the reporter’s daily work for Sputnik.
“This completes the merger between Russian state-sponsored propaganda and American conservative media,” said former FBI agent Clint Watts, a research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “We used to think of it as ‘They just have the same views’ or ‘They use the same story leads.’ But now they have the same personnel.”