Earlier this week, a number of congressional Republicans hyped a story that some FBI agents were part of a "secret society" that was conspiring against President Trump. According to two Republican representatives, new evidence had surfaced in a text message between two FBI agents that proved the existence of such a group. The undisclosed text message and the representatives, John Ratcliffe and Ron Johnson, were then featured as Fox News and other Trump defenders hyped the story. (According to Media Matters, the Fox Network used the words "secret society" over 100 times on Tuesday and Wednesday.) Unfortunately for Fox and the Trump defenders, ABC News on Wednesday evening published the original text message. It certainly appeared the agents were joking:
"Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society."
Other sources picked up the story and by Thursday, even one of the congressman hyping the correspondence admitted it was probably a joke. Consequently, the story disappeared on Fox News (no "secret society" mentions on Thursday) and there hasn't been any support for the theory in the mainstream media.
There are still some media sources that hold on to the "secret society," however. If you look at the "Opinion & Community" section of today's Wheeling News-Register you'll find a column by Adriana Cohen, one of the syndicated columnists frequently featured in the Sunday paper's "The Right's Turn" portion of the paper. Her column is titled
Demand Answers on Plot Aimed at the President.
Cohen's column is about that FBI "secret society" and she's full of right-wing, defend-trump-at-any-cost outrage. Cohen blames the usual suspects:
On Fox News Channel on Tuesday, Reps. Trey Gowdy and John Ratcliffe said they had reviewed newly uncovered texts between Trump-hating FBI agent Peter Strzok and Lisa Page referring to an anti-Trump "secret society" within our government. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson explained, "What this is all about is further evidence of corruption — more than bias but corruption — at the highest levels of the FBI. And that secret society — we have an informant that's talking about a group that were holding secret meetings off-site."
Is special counsel Robert Mueller part of this alleged "secret society"? And what about Clinton, fired FBI Director James Comey and other members of the Obama administration who have an ax to grind with Trump? Were they colluding with operatives within U.S. intelligence agencies and the DOJ to impeach a sitting president?
Make no mistake. Mueller's Russia investigation isn't to see what role the Kremlin played in the 2016 election. That's a public relations cover story to justify the over-the-top, take-no-prisoners probe. What the investigation is really about is a search by anti-Trump forces to find any law, obscure or otherwise, Trump may have broken to remove him from office.
(I would like to give Cohen the benefit of the doubt on this one -- that her column was written after the email was made public but before ABC suggested it was a joke, but I can't. Her syndicate, which distributes the columns, dates the column as 1/26/2018 -- a day-and-a-half after the ABC story.)
I googled part of what Cohen wrote to see how many other news sources carried the column. The search yielded four sources at 7 PM this evening. I realize that many newspapers do not put columnists online so this number may not be accurate but I tried an earlier column by Cohen and got more hits. My hunch is that, given the revelation that the text message was a joke, a number of news sources chose not to carry Cohen's column for fear of looking like they weren't staying current. This raises the question, why did the News-Register carry it? It's possible that they were too lazy to find another column or, what I believe is more likely, the paper thinks defending Trump is all that matters.
By the way, the Huffington Post explains the calendar reference:
So what was that “calendars” reference all about? Out of context, it’s a bit confusing. But the backstory is actually kind of funny. The New York Times first reported that the “calendars,” which the Times said had a “Russia theme,” were a gag gift for those working on the early Russia probe.
A source familiar with the text messages filled HuffPost in on the details. It turns out that, as a joke, Strzok had purchased calendars featuring “beefcake” photos of Vladimir Putin doing manly, tough-guy things like riding a horse.
It’s unclear precisely which Putin calendar Strzok bought for the team or whether it was from 2016 or 2017. A 2016 calendar featured photos of the Russian president in camouflage, lighting a candle for Christmas, standing next to a horse, smelling a flower, working out in a gym, hugging a dog and fishing without a shirt. A 2017 calendar, per a CNN report, was available by mid-October 2016 at kiosks around Moscow.
And a final irony:
What’s remarkable about the “secret society” text message is that it has been available to reporters for more than a month, as it was included in a first set of texts that the Justice Department sent to Capitol Hill (and allowed reporters to view) in December. But it wasn’t picked up, even by Fox News (which had access to the texts), because it seemed like such an obvious joke.
I guess for the News-Register, no joke is too obvious when you have a president to defend and a conspiracy to push.