Is OAN the Leading Edge of Russian Misinformation? - 2020-06-11
In what appears to be a signal of intensifying political warfare ahead of the November election, One America News Network, the Trump-supporting cable channel that has been promoting anti-Biden conspiracies for several months, says it has obtained several hours of secret recordings of then–Vice President Biden's conversations with Ukrainian officials. If such recordings exist, they're likely linked to pro-Russian interests in Ukraine and a Russian intelligence operation, two former U.S. ambassadors to Ukraine and a former ambassador to Russia told me. The OAN employee who claims to have the tapes would not say what was on them, other than suggesting that they will be revelatory.
In the audio that has been released elsewhere so far, Biden is heard dangling the promise of financial aid to Ukraine if its government ousted a prosecutor who was seen as corrupt—which Biden has previously said publicly was his goal, as part of a push for widespread reforms. Conspiracists have alleged that this was intended to help his son Hunter escape charges of corruption, but an audit by Ukraine's former top prosecutor released last week found no evidence of illegal activity by Hunter in his capacity as an energy-company board member.
What is most remarkable here is that none of this is particularly surprising. Russian interference in the 2016 election has been closely studied over the past four years, and America's vulnerabilities have only worsened in that time. As my colleague Franklin Foer wrote recently, "Russia's interference in 2016 might be remembered as the experimental prelude that foreshadowed the attack of 2020." That OAN is now a player in such interference suggests an escalation that the Biden campaign has been bracing for.