An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia
Exhibit 72: CNS Obsesses Over Peter Strzok's Sex Life
CNSNews.com doesn't want you to forget that the ex-FBI agent involved in Trump and Clinton investigations had an affair. But President Trump's extracurricular sex life and paying hush money to a porn star? CNS had trouble even saying her name.
By Terry Krepel
Strzok is the former FBI agent who was in charge of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server. Because the FBI brought no charges against Clinton -- and because Strzok was having an affair with a fellow agent, Lisa Page, and was exchanging messages critical of Donald Trump -- he became an enemy of now-President Trump ... and, thus, CNS.
Oddly -- or maybe not so oddly, given its reputation as a self-proclaimed arbiter of other people's morality (if your last name isn't Trump, anyway) --CNS really, really doesn't want anyone to forget that Strzok had an affair.
This started early. A June 2018 article, anonymously written by "CNSNews.com Staff," highlighted FBI director Christopher Wray being asked whether "engaging in adultery was a “significant vulnerability” for an FBI counterintelligence agent, making sure to note that Strzok was having an "extramarital affair" with Page.
When Strzok testified before Congress in July 2018, he was never going to get fair treatment from the pro-Trump stenographers at CNS. But what started out as a relatively straightforward accounting of his House committee testimony unsurprisingly ended obsessing about his sex life.
CNS' coverage began with an article by Susan Jones that, shockingly, uncritically presented Strzok's defense of his professional actions regarding his work in the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. This was followed by Melanie Arter taking the lazy way out and simply copying-and-pasting an exchange between Strzok and Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy.
Then it was time for CNS to denigrate Strzok by portraying him as defensive and a weasel about facts. Jones complained in one article that Strzok faced "friendly questioning from a fellow anti-Trumper" under the headline "Strzok: 'I've Done Nothing Wrong. Uh, Let Me Rephrase That'." Another Jones article featured questioning from a committee Republican, but she did not identify him as a "pro-Trumper" offering "hostile questioning" (y'know, just to be fair and balanced). By contrast, Jones cherry-picked a Democratic committee member in order to write dismissively about her statement that Republicans should thank Strzok for not speaking out about pro-Trump Russian influence in the campaign (since FBI agents are not allowed to speak publicly about ongoing investigations) because that silence helped Trump get elected.
From there, it was a quick move to the sex obsession. One article carried the headline "Strzok Says FBI Agents Are Permitted to Engage in Some Adulteries" (a theme that will come up later) and the other screams "Adulterer Strzok Swears Under Oath He Oversaw ‘Every Espionage Case in the FBI’" -- both of which stated that Strzok "engaged in an adulterous affair with FBI lawyer Lisa Page"; the latter also referenced "this adulterous inside-the-FBI couple."
Tellingly, both of these articles are credited only to "CNSNews.com staff" -- which tells us that no CNS employee wanted their name to be put on their boss' obsession with Strzok's sex life.
Funny, we don't recall CNS ever referring to thrice-married adulterer Donald Trump as such in the headline of any article.
CNS returned to that well-trod obsession territory yet again in an April 4 article by Susan Jones:
The man once responsible for all FBI counterintelligence investigations, including the Clinton email and Trump-Russia probes, told Congress in a closed-door session last June that the FBI has no policy forbidding agents from having adulterous affairs.
So obsessed is Jones with Strzok's sex life that she rewrote this story a week later:
FBI Assistant Director E.W. "Bill" Priestap, the head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, told investigators from the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on June 5, 2018 that the FBI does not prohibit adulterous affairs.
The main difference between the two articles is that in the latter, for some reason, Jones felt the need to waste the FBI's time and seek clarification on policies regarding agents "engaging in adultery":
CNSNews.com asked the FBI two questions:
The day before this rehashing, Jones published another article referencing the infamous texts between Strzok and Page, making sure to add that "Strzok and Page were having an extramarital affair." Jones later complained that a congressional interview with the FBI's former general counsel "switched to another subject and nothing more was said about the Strzok-Page text messages. The subject of their extramarital affair was not discussed at all."
Jones did not report in any of these articles on what the FBI thinks about a president of the United States who is not only adulterous to at least a similar level but also pays hush money to porn stars to cover up their adulterous activity.
CNS and Stormy Daniels
Fun fact: The words "Stormy Daniels" did not appear in early CNS story in relation to her alleged relationship with Donald Trump.
The name of the porn star showed up only in a couple videos ported from sister Media Research Center site NewsBusters and in a 2009 Associated Press article when she was considering a Senate run against David Vitter at a time when the Republican senator was linked to a prostitution scandal. And even a CNS article that touches upon her alleged affair with Trump refuses to use her name.
A March 2018 article by Jones took great pains avoid using Daniels' name even when directly discussing the affair, dismissing criticism of Trump as nothing but a liberal media narrative:
Should Congress look into allegations that President Trump had an affair with a porn star 12 years ago? A reporter asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about that at a news conference on Thursday.
We're pretty sure that nobody at CNS or its Media Research Center parent ever dismissed right-wing obsession about Bill Clinton's sexual peccadilloes as coming from media outlets that opposed him and "actively undermined him since his first day in office."
Five days later, Jones finally decided that She Who Must Not Be Named has a name after all, albeit while dismissing MSNBC's Joe Scarborough as a "Trump hater" for bringing up the story:
To Trump haters, anything the president does lately is done with one goal in mind: to knock the Stormy Daniels story out of the headlines.
Jones then added her pithy summary of the scandal:
Stormy Daniels is a porn star who says she was paid $130,000 by one of Trump's attorneys to keep quiet about an affair she claims to have had with him in 2006. Trump was married to Melania at the time.
You know who else denied a sexual incident with a politician and then "changed her mind and now insists it really did happen"? Juanita Broaddrick. But you'll never see Jones or anyone else at CNS report it that way.
In a later item -- presented as a blog post even though its partisan tone is no different from the above "news" article -- Jones huffed: "Making the rounds of liberal cable channels Friday morning, Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti said he was not there to hype an upcoming "60 Minutes" interview with the porn star -- even as he hyped the upcoming interview." She huffed even further that "Rarely has a porn star been accorded such credibility."
Jones ended the article by complaining:
Trump's womanizing hardly comes as a shock to the American people, so the question for people on both sides of the Trump divide is whether and how any of this matters to anyone, anyway -- except as a means of further undermining Trump's presidency.
Jones has a conveniently short memory if she thinks the "politics of personal destruction" began only 14 months ago. Bill Clinton's womanizing didn't come as a shock to Americans either, despite CNS parent the Media Research Center's pearl-clutching over it in the 1990s. Using Jones' argument, this means that the MRC was never motived by any sense of morality but as a means of trying to undermine his presidency -- which would seem to be a violation of its nonprofit tax status.
Finally, in an article written after Daniels' interview on "60 Minutes," Jones makes sure to identify Daniels as an "aging porn star," then huffed that she "assured America she's not in it for the money -- then talked about all the "job offers" she's getting by going public with her claims about Donald Trump." And in a companion article, Jones complained that Daniels' attorney, Michael Avanetti, was trying to "discredit Donald Trump" by trying to get a deposition from Trump regarding Daniels -- as if Trump hasn't already discredited himself long before now.
We already know Jones is a slavish pro-Trump loyalist, but she's just embarrassing herself her with her aggressive defense of Trump over something she'd be in attack mode over if Trump were not a Republican -- and her obsession with someone's sex life that's far less tawdry than Trump's.