MSM covers it, but RT blamed: Who started Clinton health media frenzy?
Alleged meddling by Russia and collusion with Trump got a new angle during a senate committee hearing with tech giants this week. Now one of the senators is asking, “who was mimicking who?"
"One of the things we noted during the campaign was that, often times, the ads from the Trump campaign mimicked ads from the Russians," Democrat Jackie Speier said on Wednesday. She asked if Google, Facebook, or Twitter investigators had looked at whether the Trump campaign was sharing Russian content or vice versa.
The congresswoman pointed out that presidential candidate Trump was questioning his rival’s health, including on social media, while RT “hammered the message” in less than two weeks in September 2016. Speier mentioned Trump’s tweet from August 2016, where he said that Clinton “doesn't have the strength or the stamina to make America great again.”
Less than two weeks after Trump’s post, Hillary Clinton made headlines after she almost fainted and backed out of a memorial event for the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York. As media speculated on the cause of the incident, her doctor wrote in a letter that she had a “mild” and non-contagious form of pneumonia. Almost all news outlets covered the story – and RT was one of them, running a clip that showed the moment when Clinton stumbled, which Speier referred to at the hearing.
Apparently, this ‘coincidence’ was enough to accuse the channel of collusion with Clinton’s rival, while RT was merely doing its job and covering what happened. Here is how the mainstream media reported on the issue.
One day before the RT clip was published on Twitter, ABC had written that “This may have been hard enough to believe on its face had Clinton and her aides not had a history of misleading the press and public when it comes to her health.”
“Clinton’s odd stiffness in the video, among other things, suggests more than pneumonia may be at play. The concussion and cranial blood-clot she suffered in late 2012 sidelined her for six months. Are those issues truly resolved?” the New York Times wrote on September 12, 2016.
At the same time, CNN ran an article questioning whether Hillary’s election campaign will follow the stumble. Two days later, its news website released an article scrutinizing the candidate’s current and previous health problems.
Obviously, RT was not alone in reporting on the issue, but is the only one to find itself under fire. Moreover, RT was hardly the first to join the chorus of rumors relating to Clinton’s health, with the hashtag #HillaryHealth starting to circulate on Twitter in spring 2016. Later, conspiracy theories and Trump’s claims emerged.
On Tuesday, senior executives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter appeared before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee chaired by Republican Lindsay Graham to testify over “Russian meddling” through the use of social media. The committee did its best to plumb every possible lead to “Russian accounts” and the media giants’ relationships with RT.
Google found no evidence that RT manipulated YouTube or violated its policies during the 2016 US election campaign, while Twitter said that two RT accounts on the platform were among “nine [Russia-linked] accounts that…promoted election-related content Tweets that, based on our manual review, violated existing or recently implemented ads policies, such as those prohibiting inflammatory or low-quality content.” However, the top-promoted tweets revealed by RT have nothing to do with politics.
Facebook found around 80,000 posts related to the US election published by "Russia-based operatives," which amounts to 0.004 percent in the massive flow of the social media giant’s content.
Last week, Twitter banned RT and Sputnik News from advertising on its platform. The move left no choice for RT but to reveal details of Twitter’s offer of a major US election ad buy. Despite repeated allegations of collusion with Trump, interestingly enough, “the most expensive Twitter ad [at $12,000] on RT America was about Bernie Sanders,” as RT and Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan noted.