Fox News anchor Bret Baier confronted a former CIA officer on Tuesday for endorsing claims that the Hunter Biden laptop story was Russian disinformation.
What is the background?
After the New York Post dropped the pre-election bombshell in October 2020, the laptop story was quickly denounced as Russian disinformation.
The media pushed a letter from dozens of former intelligence officials that claimed the story had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” No real evidence, however, was ever presented to corroborate that claim.
What happened with Baier?
While interviewing former CIA officer David Priess — one of that infamous letter’s signatories — Baier directly asked about his decision to advance false claims.
“Why did you sign on to that?” Baier asked.
Priess, however, defended his endorsement and tried to claim the letter was neutral, such that it did not outright call the laptop story Russian “disinformation.”
“Because of what it says. It has all of the classic earmarks of one of these operations,” he said. “You’ll note elsewhere in the letter, if you read it, that it also says we don’t know if this is a Russian operation at all. That has been dramatically changed in the retelling of the story.”
“The letter is merely pointing out that this is the kind of thing that time after time after time that people who study Russian disinformation, intelligence officers who look at Russian tactics, over the long period of time — this is the kind of thing they like to amplify, to sow discord within target countries,” he continued. “The fact is, the tactic is an old one, a tried and true one, and it’s been successful in the past.”
“But in this case it was not true — it was not true,” Baier fired back, citing media outlets that authenticated it.
But the former CIA officer remained stalwart. Priess told Baier he does not regret signing the letter and claimed it did not change the outcome of the 2020 election, despite President Joe Biden citing the letter during a debate with Donald Trump.
Priess, in fact, said the letter was not wrong because it did not call the laptop story “Russian disinformation,” but one that has the “earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
“It’s not my fault if people don’t look up definitions,” Priess said smugly.
“I know, but the purpose of the letter is to have an effect,” Baier shot back. “And the nuance that you’re talking about never made it to candidate Biden, because he said it plainly on a debate stage.”
While the nuance that Priess drew out may be true, one wonders why those intelligence officers did not rush to correct the media and Biden if they were wrong by calling the laptop clear Russian disinformation. As Baier pointed out, the intelligence officials allowed the letter to be used as “Biden information,” rhetoric that helped his campaign.