Fox Attacks Its Ukraine Smear Source Parnas -- After He Blasts Fox

Fox Attacks Its Ukraine Smear Source Parnas -- After He Blasts Fox

Lev Parnas sits to testify before House Oversight Committee on March 20, 2024

Photo by Reuters

Fox News wants its viewers to think that one of Wednesday’s witnesses at the House GOP’s impeachment hearing is untrustworthy.

But the network isn’t concerned about the one who testified from federal prison after a fraud conviction, or the one who admits to having a grievance with Hunter Biden.

No, the guy Fox wants viewers to disbelieve is the witness who told the committee that he played a key role in concocting the anti-Biden Ukrainian disinformation campaign that played out on Fox’s airwaves.

Fox has long known Lev Parnas lacked credibility, thanks to research by its own staff. But now it’s finally useful to the network’s narratives to say so.

Back in 2019, Parnas was part of a Rudy Giuliani-driven campaign to smear Joe Biden and his son Hunter as corrupt because of actions and positions the senior Biden took regarding Ukraine when he was vice president. Giuliani worked with a motley crew of Fox News staples such as conservative writer John Solomon and Republican attorneys Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing to launder Russian-linked disinformation into the right-wing media ecosystem. The goal was to lay the groundwork for attacking then-President Donald Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 presidential election.

Parnas, along with fellow Soviet-born con man Igor Fruman, worked closely with Giuliani to feed him an endless supply of lies about Joe Biden and his supposed corruption. This effort ultimately got Trump impeached for attempting to blackmail Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Biden, but it’s nonetheless most familiar now for serving as the incredibly shaky foundation of the right’s current efforts to impeach Biden.

Media Matters extensively documented the key role Fox News played in laundering this smear campaign into the media.

Giuliani’s strategy hinged on the network’s active participation. Working with con men like Parnas and other Trump cronies, he pursued an “investigation” into Ukraine that he claimed showed both Ukrainian collusion with Democrats in 2016 and evidence that Biden acted corruptly in Ukraine to benefit his son. He provided his “report” to allies in Congress to exploit while also feeding the story to conservative columnist John Solomon, who at the time worked at The Hill and dutifully reported out Giuliani’s claims in dozens of columns.

During that same time period, Solomon appeared on Fox News or Fox Business at least 72 times. Fifty-one of those appearances were on Hannity alone, with host Sean Hannity weaving Solomon’s reporting into his ever-evolving conspiracy theories that “deep state” elements were out to get Trump.

Despite what played on the network’s airwaves, behind the scenes Fox News' researchers warned that Parnas and his allies’ information was not reliable. As The Daily Beastreported, “Fox News’ own research team has warned colleagues not to trust some of the network’s top commentators’ claims about Ukraine.”

According to The Daily Beast, the 162-page brief compiled by researchers for what was then known as Fox’s Brain Room “openly” questioned “Fox News contributor John Solomon’s credibility, accusing him of playing an ‘indispensable role’ in a Ukrainian ‘disinformation campaign.’”

The document also specifically called into question Parnas’ credibility, noting: “Reading the timeline in its entirety—not a small task—makes clear the extensive role played by Rudy Giuliani and his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, in spreading disinformation.”

Indeed, when Parnas was arrested for allegedly making illegal campaign donations to Republican candidates and committees, he was at the airport, preparing to leave the country in order to facilitate an interview with disgraced Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin for none other than Sean Hannity.

Shortly after his arrest, Parnas flipped, and he has since repeatedly sought to expose the misinformation campaign he facilitated and the key players behind it. During Trump’s 2019 impeachment trial, Parnas provided evidence about the pressure Trump allies were placing on Ukrainian officials to provide information about Biden.

With Parnas’ change in position, Fox suddenly became much more publicly skeptical of the claims he was making. And yesterday, when he testified in the latest of the House Republicans’ doomed efforts to invent a reason to impeach Joe Biden, he specifically called out Fox’s tendency to run with the dubious, unverifiable claims he had given to John Solomon:

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): At what point did the campaign to dig up dirt on Biden become a campaign to spread disinformation and lies about Biden?
LEV PARNAS: At some point when we hit a few brick walls, all of a sudden, then I saw the shift between the BLT group, which included John Solomon, the media personality, and Rudy Giuliani and other Trump lawyers, to start trying to push narratives that were — we had no, they were not validated. We had no way to validate them. Basically, a letter would come over from somebody in Ukraine, I'd hand it over to John Solomon. Next thing you knew he was on Fox TV two hours later with Sean Hannity.

Predictably, Fox has sought to discredit Parnas’ testimony by attacking his credibility.

Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade complained that Parnas “went to jail for lying and is talking about Ukraine” (Parnas was convicted of wire fraud and campaign finance violations, not anything related to his work with Giuliani) and said his testimony was nothing but a “head fake” on the part of the Democrats who invited him to testify.

So-called “straight news” anchor John Roberts said of Parnas: “The credibility of a witness clearly depends on which side of the political aisle you sit, because the Democrats were happy to have Lev Parnas testify there in person. He’s been in jail for wire fraud, among other things, but Jason Galanis, who’s currently in jail, oh, he had no credibility. So, I mean, pick and choose your villains here, right?”

It's convenient how Fox suddenly develops journalistic standards when the claims Parnas is making no longer fit the network’s anti-Biden narratives.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

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