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NYTimes
New York Times
24 Feb 2024
Ken Bensinger


NextImg:A Biden Accuser Was Discredited. Right-Wing Media Is Undeterred.

On Tuesday, a few hours after the credibility of a key source boosting Republican efforts to impeach President Biden collapsed in spectacular fashion, the Fox News host Jesse Watters offered his viewers a reassuring message.

“It’s a smear job,” Mr. Watters said.

He was referring to the Justice Department’s revelation that Alexander Smirnov, an F.B.I. informant who had accused Mr. Biden and his son Hunter of an elaborate bribery scheme involving Ukraine, was in fact a serial liar who could not be trusted. In a court filing, federal prosecutors said Mr. Smirnov had spread misinformation and was “actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials.”

Because Mr. Smirnov’s claims were frequently cited by congressional Republicans in their now-stalled attempt to unseat Mr. Biden from office, Democrats argued that the impeachment effort had reached a logical conclusion. “He is lying, and it should be dropped and it’s just been an outrageous effort from the beginning,” the president said last week.

But the conservative media world reacted with a different, and sharply defiant, narrative. In this worldview, news of Mr. Smirnov’s deceptions was merely part of a conspiracy to protect Mr. Biden at all costs.

“They say he has ties to Russian intelligence; where did they get that from?” Mr. Watters told his prime-time audience, noting that Mr. Smirnov had previously been considered credible by the F.B.I. “They just gave the media and the Democrats permission to call the Ukraine bribes and the Biden impeachment ‘Russian disinformation’ for the rest of the year.”

Miranda Devine, a columnist for The New York Post, dismissed Mr. Smirnov as a “straw man” and said the evidence against Mr. Biden remained “overwhelming.” Maria Bartiromo, on Fox Business, described the Justice Department’s filing as “an intimidation tactic” and accused the government of “taking this guy down.”


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