Amid the media frenzy surrounding the whistleblower complaint accusing President Donald Trump of abusing the power of his office, he and his allies have been quick to spin the narrative. In an attempt to discredit the complaint, Republican congressional leaders have been joined by popular conservative media in accusing House Democrats of wrongdoing.
On October 2, The New York Times reported that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff had been made aware of the complaint prior to its filing, explaining why he pushed for its release while it was blocked by the Trump Administration. When a staffer in Schiff’s office learned of the complaint, he directed the whistleblower to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, who subsequently found it to be credible.
Trump responded by attacking Schiff, accusing him of treason and saying that he should be forced to resign and arrested. These calls all came during the middle of a press conference with the President of Finland. Trump has gone so far as to claim that Schiff actually helped write the whistleblower report.
The President’s most ardent supporters quickly jumped on Twitter to peddle the unfounded theory that the whistleblower complaint had been orchestrated by House Democrats aiming to oust President Trump. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy shared the article and accused Schiff of coordinating with the whistleblower.
BREAKING –> Chairman Adam Schiff just got caught orchestrating with the whistleblower before the complaint was ever filed. Democrats have rigged this process from the start.https://t.co/oMdSGByYtf
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) October 2, 2019
He was joined by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who pointed to the article as evidence of a “deep-state scheme,” comparing it to previous Democratic efforts to prevent Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
🚨🚨 This is looking more & more like a deep state scheme.
Schiff knew about the whistleblower complaint before it was filed & his team advised the whistleblower on how to proceed.
He's running the same playbook against @realDonaldTrump that Senate Dems ran against Kavanaugh. pic.twitter.com/CAbaJYTjU9
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) October 2, 2019
GOP Leadership was not alone in their steadfast claim against the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. Many other vocal figures on the right criticized the credibility of the whistleblower in light of The Times’ article. Former Fox News and NBC anchor Megyn Kelly also joined the conversation and similarly invoked comparisons to the Kavanaugh hearing.
So Schiff coordinated w/whistle-blower from the start. And Blasey-Ford ran to Democrat partisan lawyers/reps in Kavanaugh. And those who said, maybe politics is at play, get dismissed as Trump sycophants. Come on. https://t.co/ERETquA55K
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) October 2, 2019
The narrative that Schiff coordinated with the whistleblower was quickly dispelled by many reporters, including NBC’s Ken Dilanian, and Matthew Rosenberg, one of the reporters who broke The Times article.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy getting fact checked in real time by one of the authors of the New York Times' story. pic.twitter.com/gnPRW7cr9O
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) October 2, 2019
In response to McCarthy’s accusation of coordination, Rosenberg tweeted: “Nope. Not what the NYT reported. The whistleblower went to an intel committee staffer with a vague account of the complaint and was told to file through proper channels. Schiff personally never knew the whistleblower’s identity. That’s hardly ‘orchestrating” the complaint.’”
Before reporters from major networks could address the spin, however, conservative media had already capitalized on the opportunity for disinformation. The Federalist, for instance, published an article accusing the whistleblower of colluding with House Democrats before filing the complaint. The article included a quote from an anonymous Republican staffer who said “Schiff was in on it and he lied about it,” in spite of The Times’ reporting which said an Intel committee staffer, not Schiff, had contact with the whistleblower.
Meanwhile, Fox News interviewed White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley who repeated similar talking points, calling the entire process “completely ridiculous” and “a scam.”
“I’d go a step further. I’d say he probably helped write it,” Gidley said. “That’s a big story. He knew long before, and he helped write it too. It’s a scam.”