Why do all these Daily Caller reporters keep appearing on Russian propaganda channels?
It’s been a rough week for the Daily Caller.
First, The Atlantic identified former Daily Caller editor Scott Greer as the author of numerous posts on Richard Spencer’s white supremacist website. Then, the Columbia Journalism Review revealed that the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website praised Daily Caller co-founder Tucker Carlson, who, according to the neo-Nazis, “is basically ‘Daily Stormer: The Show.'” To top it off, Right Wing Watch reported this week that former Daily Caller contributor Ian Miles Cheong had appeared on a so-called “alt-right” podcast just two months ago.
All of this comes alongside previous reports about the Daily Caller’s penchant for attracting writers with histories of racist screeds — including Chuck Ross, who had previously “written a collection of racist essays” according to the Washington Post, and Jason Kessler, the white supremacist organizer of last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
It doesn’t appear the Daily Caller’s problems are limited to racists populating its pages, however. Over the past month, Daily Caller reporters and editors have made multiple appearances on Russian propaganda outlets — with one of Sputnik’s hosts describing the Daily Caller as “one of [his] favorite websites.”
Several Daily Caller reporters and editors have appeared on a Sputnik show called Fault Lines, which is co-hosted by self-described “journalist” Lee Stranahan. Stranahan, who worked for Breitbart during the 2016 presidential campaign, joined Sputnik last year, a few months before Sputnik’s parent organization registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. (Sputnik, as it is, has also acted as a launching pad for self-described “journalists” like Cassandra Fairbanks, whom Vox recently described as an “alt-right celebrit[y]” and who first made her name at Sputnik.)
— Lee Stranahan (@stranahan) January 3, 2018
A steady stream of Daily Caller reporters and editors have joined Stranahan over the past month, discussing everything from Supreme Court appointees to government leaks to “journalistic practices.” For instance, on Tuesday — as the news of Greer’s white supremacist writings first broke — Daily Caller contributing editor Derek Hunter appeared with Stranahan to discuss the ongoing hearings for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
Hunter is “one of our favorite guests,” Stranahan said Wednesday, even describing Hunter as “our friend” in a mid-August appearance on Sputnik. In a July appearance, Hunter also joined Stranahan on Sputnik to compare those concerned about global warming to members of a “cult.”
NOW: Derek Hunter – Contributing Editor at the Daily Caller & Columnist at Townhall | What Did We Learn About #TheResistance at the #Kavanaugh Hearing??? | Guest: @derekahunter https://t.co/vpJRLcY9nR
— Lee Stranahan (@stranahan) September 5, 2018
Alongside Hunter, Daily Caller reporter Benny Johnson — one of the internet’s most infamous plagiarists — appeared with Stranahan on Sputnik, discussing, of all things, journalistic principles and practice. As Stranahan said, “It’s always great to have Benny in studio with us.”
A few days before, Stranahan also also appeared during his time with the Daily Caller — is one of Moscow’s primary propaganda organs abroad, routinely pushing hoaxes and disinformation.)
NOW: Benny Johnson [In-Studio] – Reporter for the Daily Caller | Is There Any Hope for the Mainstream Media to Improve its Journalistic Practices??? https://t.co/1ldpdh2aH4
— Lee Stranahan (@stranahan) August 14, 2018
— Lee Stranahan (@stranahan) August 6, 2018
The continued appearances of Daily Caller editors and reporters on a Russian propaganda outlet — where they were all welcomed with open arms — presents something of a strange development, at least in light of the Daily Caller’s coverage of Russian propaganda organs elsewhere.
“I neither encourage nor discourage such appearances,” Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Ingersoll told ThinkProgress via email. “I was at least tangentially aware that [Stranahan] had a few of my people on and I don’t object for him specifically. We don’t have a hard policy about RT and Sputnik, though my reporters are aware of my skepticism and most of them have their own. Some of them just need clips to appear on networks, but generally they go to [One America News Network] for that.”
Still, the continued willingness of Daily Caller reporters and editors to lend their voices to Sputnik is the latest example of the outlet’s questionable ties with post-Soviet dictatorships. For instance, the Daily Caller is one of the favorite publications for shills looking to whitewash Azerbaijan’s dictatorship in the U.S.
And a few months ago, Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch now sanctioned by the U.S., wrote a bizarre, conspiracy-laden op-ed for the Daily Caller. While the fact that he wrote an op-ed isn’t necessarily questionable in its own right, the Daily Caller described Deripaska as simply the “founder of UC Rusal,” a Russian aluminum company. They didn’t disclose his close relationship with Putin, his lengthy ties with Paul Manafort, or the fact that Deripaska had been accused as playing a role in back-channel communications between Russia and members of the Trump campaign.
Likewise, the Daily Caller published one of the most notorious examples of tweets from fake Russian accounts making it into American media. In an April 2017 story, a Daily Caller piece highlighted five tweets supposedly popularizing the #FireKushner hashtag. One came from Stranahan, the current Sputnik employee. One came from Fairbanks, the former Sputnik employee. And one came from a fake Russian Twitter account.
And the author of that piece? None other than Greer — who appeared on Sputnik a few weeks thereafter, with Stranahan greeting him as an “esteemed” guest of the show.