Giuliani and the New York Post are pushing Russian disinformation. It's a big test for the media. - 2020-10-14
A newly discovered laptop, the FBI, a trove of emails, October, a presidential election—it sounds familiar. Especially when you add in a Russian disinformation campaign. On Wednesday, the New York Post released what it hailed as a bombshell: an unidentified computer repair store owner in Delaware had come to possess a laptop that contained Hunter Biden emails (and purportedly a sex tape), the hard drive and computer was seized by the FBI, the store owner at some point passed a copy of the hard drive to Rudy Giuliani, and one of the emails suggested that Hunter, who served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, may have in 2015 introduced a Burisma official to his dad, Vice President Joe Biden. The story depicts this as a big scandal, and Guiliani tweeted, "Much more to come."
But the key point of the article was predicated on false information that Giuliani has been spreading for a long time—and that appears to be linked to a Russian disinformation operation that the Post neglected to note in its article. That is, the Post piece, based on an unproven smear, is in sync with Moscow's ongoing effort to influence the 2020 election to help President Donald Trump retain power. (The FBI and other parts of the US intelligence community have stated that Vladimir Putin is once again attacking the US political system to boost Trump.) And this story presents a challenge to the American media: how to report on an orchestrated campaign to affect the election that relies on disinformation, salacious and sensational material, and the revival of allegations that have already been debunked.
The bad faith animating the Post story is demonstrated by its open embrace—in the first sentence—of a demonstrably false narrative and by its failure to report Giuliani's association with a Russian intelligence agent who the Department of Treasury has accused of interfering in the 2020 election.