6 Conspiracy Theories Promoted By OANN, Trump’s New Favorite ‘News’ Outlet
President Donald Trump shared a tweet with his followers on Wednesday alleging that the British government, in conjunction with former President Barack Obama, was involved in a supposed conspiracy to spy on his campaign.
“WOW! It is now just a question of time before the truth comes out, and when it does, it will be a beauty!” Trump concluded.
“Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson accuses United Kingdom Intelligence of helping Obama Administration Spy on the 2016 Trump Presidential Campaign.” @OANN WOW! It is now just a question of time before the truth comes out, and when it does, it will be a beauty!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2019
The problem with his tweet? Trump cited a report that isn’t based on hard evidence of any kind. In fact, the UK refuted it shortly after the president tweeted it out.
“As we have previously stated, the allegations that GCHQ was asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored,” the UK spy agency said in a statement on Wednesday, per reporting from the Independent.
So where did Trump get his “news” from? An organization called One America News Network (OANN), which has a history of putting out disreputable content, was tagged by Trump in the tweet.
Trump has tweeted out supposed “information” from OANN on numerous occasions, though at several junctures the reporting from the network has turned out to be baseless.
There’s a big reason he continues to share their content even though it’s not reliable: OANN has a huge pro-Trump bias, even backing the president when other conservative media stood against him when he took away the press credentials of CNN’s Jim Acosta last year (OANN standing behind Trump’s decision to do so likely landed them an exclusive interview with the president, per reporting from Splinter).
Nevertheless, the “information” packed in many OANN articles oftentimes lack legitimate backing, delving into conspiracy theories that are easily disproven. Here are six examples of OANN’s disturbing and irresponsible form of journalism over the years…
Attacked the credibility of Roy Moore accusers
In the fall of 2017, as Republican Roy Moore of Alabama was trying to fend off accusations that he, as a grown adult, had courted high school girls decades ago, a user on Twitter pushed forward the notion that the Washington Post had contacted a friend of his, offering to pay her $1,000 if she said that Moore had sexually abused her.
The Twitter user turned out to be a fake account — the individual had assumed the identity of a Navy vet who had passed away the previous decade — but in spite of clear flaws behind the disreputable claims, several conservative news sites, including OANN, pushed the narrative without doing their due diligence as journalists to verify them.
OANN also attacked Faye Gary, a former Alabama police officer who told news outlets that she had to restrict Moore at high school sporting events from hitting on cheerleaders. OANN, which had a clear bias in favor of the Republican Moore, produced a video report that said Gary was tied to the “underground world of the illicit drug business.”
Her alleged ties? Her son was arrested and convicted of selling cocaine, per reporting from Media Matters. OANN also alleged that Gary had “an ax to grind” because they said Moore had been the prosecutor that sent her son to jail.
Suggested bill banning gay conversion also banned the Bible in California
California lawmakers introduced a bill to ban so-called conversion therapy treatment, a pseudo-science that purports the ability to “convert” LGBT youth to become straight. While interviewing one of the opponents of the bill, OANN host Liz Wheeler made a bold assertion: that the bill would also ban free religious exercise, and even the ability to purchase a Bible in the state.
“This is essentially criminalizing religious beliefs. And I don’t mean to speak in hyperbole here, but if this bill were to pass, would this prohibit the sale of the Bible, that teaches these things about sexual morality?” Wheeler asked her guest, Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen.
A bill in California could ban Christian books… even potentially the Bible! pic.twitter.com/QOpAxgzVfL
— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) April 24, 2018
The video and story spread like wildfire in conservative circles, shared countless times on social media. Of course, it was a complete lie — the bill in question, as reporting from the San Diego Union-Tribune pointed out at the time, contained no such provisions.
Promoted the Seth Rich conspiracy theory — then deleted evidence of it
Robert Mueller’s eponymous report released last week put to rest once and for all the erroneous notion promulgated by far-right extremists that Seth Rich, a former DNC staffer during the election of 2016, was murdered by the Democratic Party due to his sharing information with Wikileaks.
Neither the claim connecting him to Wikileaks, nor the claim that Democrats had Rich murdered, had a grain of truth to them. After the Mueller report confirmed as much, Aaron Rich, Seth’s brother, put out a statement on behalf of the family, per reporting from the New York Times.
“I hope that the people who pushed, fueled, spread, ran headlines, articles, interviews, talk and opinion shows, or in any way used my family’s tragedy to advance their political agendas — despite our pleas that what they were saying was not based on any facts — will take responsibility for the unimaginable pain they have caused us,” Aaron Rich said.
OANN was among the conservative organizations that peddle such conspiracy theories about Rich’s death. However, Rich’s brother shouldn’t expect a retraction from the network anytime soon: after the reporting they put out promoting the Wikileaks/DNC ties to Rich’s murder were proven untrue, it seems the site deleted all content related to the conspiracy theory.
Still, video saved by others of OANN’s false and misrepresentative reporting are out there for people to see for themselves, such as the one below:
Suggested white genocide in South Africa (a lie) was supported by Obama (another lie)
Trump’s tweet from OANN above isn’t the only instance of the president promoting a false or unproven conspiracy theory once peddled by the network. In 2018, he also sent out a tweet requesting his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo look into supposed murders perpetrated against white farmers in South Africa, per reporting from Vox.
I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018
Although the reporting the president cited above was from Fox News, OANN also promoted the tall tale of “white genocide,” which is unverified, by tying it to Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
However, much like the Seth Rich story, articles published by OANN pushing the conspiracy theory — including one titled “Watch Obama Praise South Africa’s White Genocide Government” — has since been removed from the site (although a screenshot image of the article is available via the Wayback Machine).
Promoted the discredited belief that Syria didn’t launch a chemical weapons attack against its own citizens
OANN correspondent Pearson Sharp traveled to Syria after that nation’s leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime allegedly inflicted a chemical weapons attack against his own citizens. The United States government concluded definitively that the attack did indeed happen — but Pearson, who traveled to the region, tried to tell a different story.
Pearson was granted a government-guided escort of the area supposedly hit by the weaponry. After talking to around 10 locals (but also admitting he doesn’t actually speak Arabic), Pearson reported that the attacks were not real, a notion that was happily promoted by the Russian government, which has a pro-Assad bias, per reporting from Mediaite.
'@PearsonSharp's recent report on #Syria at @OANN shows there is still real journalism in the US: unlike his colleagues, he actually went to the city of #Douma and spoke to local Syrians – no evidence of chemical attack found, citizens support Assad & view "rebels" as terrorists pic.twitter.com/V6AanfaxNc
— Russia in RSA ?? (@EmbassyofRussia) April 17, 2018
Claimed crime increased in the UK due to “radical Islamic terror”
In October of 2017, Trump shared a tweet in which he said he had witnessed a report detailing how crime in the United Kingdom was up — and was supposedly due to Muslim immigrants committing acts of terror in the country.
“Just out report: ‘United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror,'” Trump wrote. “Not good, we must keep America safe!”
Just out report: "United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror." Not good, we must keep America safe!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2017
Although he didn’t link directly to it, the claim Trump was quoting was traced back to reporting from OANN, according to Snopes. A graphic within a video report from the network included the caption, “U.K. Crime Rises 13% Annually Amid spread of Radical Islamic Terror.“
Beyond that, a quote from the segment cited “officials” from the UK stating that “the surge in crime may have resulted from the mass migration and spread of violent ideologies including Sharia law and radical Islam.”
Yet there is no record of any UK official of ever having said that, per the sleuthing from Snopes.
It’s clear that OANN has a pro-Trump, anti-liberal bias. Robert Herring Sr., the company’s CEO and owner, is a Republican donor who, in internal emails, has directed his company to publish news that’s favorable to Donald Trump, and which “minimize[s] coverage of Russian aggression,” per reporting from AdWeek.
It is perhaps not surprising, then, that the president sees reports from OANN in such a positive light. What’s worrisome, however, is how readily Trump is to disseminate the oftentimes misleading and inaccurate reporting that comes out of One America News Network.