A majority of registered voters in the U.S. — and 77% of Democrats — believe the “Steele dossier” is accurate, long after it was publicly debunked, and more than three years after the FBI determined that it was a fraud.
The dossier was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was working for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was being paid by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. It was leaked to the media in January 2017, shortly before President Donald Trump was inaugurated. The dossier included a number of claims about Trump’s ties to Russia, including prostitutes. (One fabricated story was that Trump hired Russian prostitutes to urinate on a hotel bed in which Obama had slept.)
For years, mainstream media outlets and Democratic Party politicians maintained that the dossier was credible. But the Department of Justice Inspector General found last year found that it was not — and the FBI knew it.
The “dossier” formed the basis for the FBI’s misleading warrant applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court in 2016 and 2017, even after the FBI determined it to be uncorroborated or false. Newly-declassified footnotes from the report show that the FBI also knew that the Steele Dossier relied on disinformation from Russian sources — meaning the FBI itself may have helped Russia interfere in the election.
Media reports on the Inspector General’s report tended to focus on his controversial finding that the initial investigation into the Trump campaign was not motivated by political bias — a conclusion with which Attorney General William Barr publicly disagreed. The media downplayed the report’s findings on the Steele dossier. Few outlets bothered to correct the record; none apologized to the public, and no editors were fired over their role.
The April edition of the Harvard-Harris poll asked 2,394 registered voters: “Do you think that the Steele dossier, with its accusations of Trump’s relationships to Moscow, was real in its findings of Trump colluding with the Russians or was the Steele dossier just campaign opposition research documents fueled by a Russian disinformation campaign?”
53% of respondents said the “Steele dossier was real in its findings,” while only 47% said, correctly, that the Steele dossier was “fueled by Russian disinformation.”
The crosstabs of the poll are even more striking: 77% of Democrats still believe the dossier was real. And 60% of college graduates believe it is real, while those with less than a college education are evenly split, meaning that the “smarter” you are, the more likely you are to believe the fake news that the Steele dossier was real.
One of those credulous Democrats, for example, was Daniel Goldman, the lead counsel for Democrats in the impeachment inquiry, who tweeted in 2018 that nothing in the dossier had been proven false, “including your pee tape.”
As Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist noted:
[I]t’s nothing short of a scandal that 53 percent of Americans believe that this completely discredited document “was real in its findings of Trump colluding with the Russians.”
But how could they think otherwise? While the false Steele dossier was legitimized and parroted daily for three years in every major media outlet, the IG findings of its falsehood were buried.
The New York Times was a central media outlet in promoting the false and dangerous conspiracy theory of treasonous collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election. Nearly 18,000 articles about Trump and Russia appear on their web site. While Maggie Haberman and Ken Vogel publicly tweeted that the dossier’s authors and funders had willfully misled them about the partisan nature of the disinformation, they kept that information hidden or downplayed in subsequent stories.
Or take CNN, which went full conspiracy on the Trump-Russia story. In addition to round-the-clock peddling of the false and dangerous conspiracy theory for more than three years, CNN has some 11,473 stories on its website about Trump and Russia.
Hemingway noted that CNN’s Jake Tapper had blasted the idea that President Barack Obama spied on the Trump campaign as “fake news,” though that claim was correct, at least as regards the Department of Justice under Obama. Meanwhile, CNN has never corrected its Steele dossier reporting — and the polls show the result.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.