Ted Cruz's Ottawa lie and the right-wing misinformation pipeline
He isn’t stupid, he just thinks *you're* stupid.
Ted Cruz posted a tweet on Saturday meant to illustrate the supposed excesses of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s crackdown on anti-vax truckers who had made more than a hundred blocks in downtown Ottawa impassable by car or bus for three weeks. But what it really illustrated is how the right-wing misinformation pipeline works.
Cruz — who has described the Canadian truckers as “heroes” and “patriots” — was so thirsty to advance a narrative about liberal overreach in a neighboring country with a more progressive central government that he resorted to spreading an already-debunked claim made by an extremely unreliable source. He left it up for more than 15 hours. It amassed thousands of retweets, tens of thousands of likes, and no doubt deceived many people. When Cruz finally got around to deleting it, he announced his intentions in another deceptive tweet — then he got up on Sunday and went on Fox News to spread already-debunked lies about another topic.
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We’re far past the point where anything Cruz says should be taken seriously, but if you want to understand why, this collection of incidents is a good place to start. Let’s unpack it.
From the fringe to a senator in one tweet
Early Saturday, Cruz tweeted “This…is…horrific” in response to a sketchy “report” from Sara Carter, a right-wing writer enmeshed with the anti-immigration movement best known for spreading conspiracy theories on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, about a protester in Ottawa allegedly being trampled to death by Canadian law enforcement.
Here’s a screengrab of Cruz’s tweet that I took just before noon on Saturday. Note how many retweets and likes it had already racked up.
There was a big problem, however — Carter’s story was false. Not only was nobody dead, but nobody was even injured. And Cruz should’ve known better, because Ottawa Police debunked Carter’s tweet hours before he decided to amplify it.
Here’s the backstory: On Friday evening, Carter — whose Twitter bio claims she’s an “Award-winning correspondent” — posted a tweet that said, “Look at what is happening - a person is being tramped by the Canadian police horse #FreedomConvoy Sources telling me it’s getting far worse.” To back this up, she included a photo that appeared to show a person being trampled.
Unsurprisingly, Carter’s tweet spread like wildfire, and was cross-posted on Instagram by Donald Trump Jr. She added even more fuel to the situation by posting a follow up claiming the trampled woman died at the hospital. This was the tweet Cruz ultimately amplified.
But it wasn’t true. A short time after Carter’s first tweet, Ottawa Police, seemingly responding to her, tried to correct the record with a tweet explaining the real circumstances surrounding the photo, and clarifying that no one in fact was injured.
Carter, by now likely aware that she had it wrong, at first tried to kinda-sorta stand by what she posted …
… but 14 hours later — after her initial tweet had been shared more than 14,000 times — she finally took the L, deleted her tweet, and posted another saying she apologizes “for any confusion.” The below thread provides a good blow-by-blow account of everything that happened on Carter’s timeline between the moment when she posted the misinformation and the moment when she finally got around to deleting it.
None of this stopped the “news” from being spread by people who either wanted to believe it or are too shameless to care about the facts. Cruz, who, like Carter, is a regular on Hannity’s Fox News show, amplified her misinformation just after midnight on Saturday — nearly three hours after Ottawa Police had unequivocally confirmed nobody was seriously injured as they finally cleared protesters from downtown Ottawa.
When Cruz finally deleted his tweet 15 hours later, he announced it in a weaselly tweet where he stopped short of admitting that Carter’s story was wrong, falsely minimized his own role in spreading it (“I deleted my retweet,” he claimed, even though he actually quote tweeted it), and lied about about violence being used against protesters in Ottawa (in fact no serious injuries have been reported).
It’d be easier to buy that Cruz just made a sloppy mistake — suckered by a fake, already-debunked story — if this was an isolated incident. But for the junior senator from Texas it’s a near-daily occurrence.
Cruz then went on Fox and spread more lies
I spent a healthy portion of last week writing about how Fox News and elected Republicans worked hand in glove to manufacture a fake scandal about Hillary Clinton spying on Trump out of a recent court filing from John Durham.
But you don’t have to take it from me. Listen to Durham himself, who in a follow-up filing alluded to Fox’s lies and wrote, “If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the government’s motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the government’s inclusion of this information.”
But despite the fact that the Hillary-spied-on-Trump story has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked, Cruz went on Fox News Sunday and pushed it anyway.
“They were spying on the White House itself,” Cruz lied, adding later: “People went to jail for Watergate, and people need to go to jail for this if these allegations are true.”
In a sign of how far Fox News Sunday has fallen since Chris Wallace’s departure, host Bill Hemmer didn’t push back on Cruz’s nonsense at all. Watch:
While anything a senator says carries some meaning because of their office, Cruz’s utterances need to be completely discounted. Whether the misinformation he spreads come from Sara Carter or John Durham, he’s clearly more interested in pandering to his base than conveying accurate information to his constituents or to anyone else. And as I detailed earlier this month, he’s completely shameless about it.
There are other examples just from this weekend. Another tweet Cruz posted on Saturday blamed Hillary Clinton for Jeffrey Epstein’s death.
The Independent @IndependentBREAKING: Jeffrey Epstein associate Jean Luc-Brunel found dead in cell https://t.co/QJeYHoPjoo
His response when he was called on it by Randi Weingarten? To mock her for being “nervous.” Elect clowns, expect a circus. But we shouldn’t suddenly start taking those clowns seriously when they try to weigh in on serious policy matters.
CBS host picks apart the Russian ambassador
Speaking of serious matters, I want to commend Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan — who I’ve criticized in this newsletter for going soft on Cruz as he defended the big lie on her show — for doing a remarkable job picking apart Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov’s weak explanation for why Russian troops are massed along Ukraine’s border in position to invade the country.
“Russian troops are on sovereign Russia territory. We don’t threaten anyone,” Antonov claimed. But as Brennan noted, that’s not true — Russian troops are also massed along Ukraine’s border in Belarus.
Antonov claimed those troops are in Belarus for joint drills, but Brennan pushed back on that too, noting they were supposed to end on Sunday.
“Are those troops staying in Belarus indefinitely?” she asked.
Antonov immediately pivoted to whataboutism.
“As to [the] United States, you have so many military bases in various countries,” he said, as though that justifies what Russia is up to.
It was a masterclass in using facts to expose bad arguments for what they are — and she took care of it in under 90 seconds, too.
I was on Chris Hayes’s show last Friday
Finally, in case you missed it, I wanted to let everybody know that it was a thrill to join Chris Hayes’s MSNBC show for the first time last Friday. We talked about how Fox News is using manufactured Clinton scandals to avoid talking about the bad news swirling around Trump.
Here’s part one of our conversation …
… and here’s part two.
I hope you enjoy it! I think it went pretty well.
That’s it for today!
I’ll be back with more tomorrow.