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Appearing before Congress Thursday, Fiona Hill deflated right-wing conspiracy theories that Ukraine, and not necessarily Russia, meddled in the 2016 election. Hill said it was a "fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."
Hill even called out "some" members of the House Intelligence Committee who have bought into the discredited theory, and noted that even when such misinformation is used for domestic political purposes it is harmful. "I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a US adversary, and that Ukraine, not Russia, attacked us in 2016," she said.
...But will it matter?
While Hill took apart the idea that Ukraine was responsible for the real election meddling in 2016, it's unclear how much it will matter. The people who most need to hear her message were told on Thursday by the people they trust most -- personalities in right-wing media -- that she was not to be believed. Hill was attacked. She was smeared. And her expertise was questioned. Read on for a couple examples...
Hannity dismisses Hill as "so-called Ukraine expert," continues to push discredited theory
Unsurprisingly, Sean Hannity attacked Hill on his Fox program Thursday night. Hannity apparently thinks he knows more about Ukrainian and Russian politics than Hill, the White House's former top Russia expert. He referred to Hill as a "so-called Ukraine expert" and mocked her testimony. Hannity claimed Hill "falsely accused" Republicans of "pushing a conspiracy theory" about "Ukranian election interference." Okay, Sean...
OANN personality tweets shameful attack on Fiona Hill and Lt. Col Vindman
The "chief White House correspondent" for One America News Network, the far-right media organization with little reach that Trump keeps promoting, implied in a tweet Thursday that Fiona Hill and Lt. Col Alexander Vindmanwere not real Americans. Both Hill and Vindman were born outside the United States, but are citizens who have served the country. Notably, Vindman is a decorated military officer who was awarded the Purple Heart.
But OANN's Emerald Robinson didn't appear to have much regard for their service. In a tweet, she mocked Hill's accent and wrote, "I'm wondering: are any Americans going to testify against Trump?" Jake Tapper noted it was an "ugly" and "frankly, un-American thing to say." Robinson ultimately deleted her tweet, claiming it was being "misconstrued." She then attempted to smear Hill and Vindman with other attacks. Reprehensible behavior from an outlet Trump has repeatedly praised.
The big picture: Right-wing media wall holds
Several weeks ago, there had been some speculation about whether Trump's right-wing media wall would hold. And while it showed a sign of cracking when the President lost the Drudge Report, the wall has since held firm. Despite being faced with damning revelations, Trump's allies at Fox, in talk radio, and on the web have continued to stick with him.
On Fox Thursday night, Hannity claimed to his viewers that the hearings were a "dud" and "absolute unmitigated disaster for the Democrats." The banner on his show read, "JUST LIKE RUSSIA HOAX, UKRAINE IMPEACHMENT SHAM DIES AN EMBARRASSING DEATH FOR DEMOCRATS ON CAPTIOL HILL."
Hannity's prime time colleagues Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham also mocked the hearings. Radio hosts like Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh have continued to spin for Trump. And websites like Breitbart have showed no signs of turning on him. The bottom line: Trump's right-wing media wall has held.
John Solomon says he was smeared
The author of the discredited stories at The Hill which have played a starring role in the impeachment inquiry said on Thursday he was being wrongfully attacked. John Solomon, a former executive at The Hill who now serves as a Fox News contributor, commented on the impeachment hearings during a segment on Martha MacCallum's show. "They smeared me," Solomon said, "Just like Joe McCarthy smeared people."
Where was Judge Andrew Napolitano?
One notable voice was missing from Fox News' special impeachment coverage over the last week: Judge Andrew Napolitano, who serves as Fox's senior judicial analyst. Fox opted to instead use Ken Starr and Andrew McCarthy, two legal minds who have been much more sympathetic to Trump than Napolitano.
It was not as if Napolitano, who has said that Trump confessed publicly to committing at least one crime, was unavailable. Napolitano offered his analysis on Fox Business Network and has written for the Fox website. But not including him on the flagship network meant that the millions of viewers who tuned in did not see a legal expert that they know and trust break down how damning some of the testimony was for the President's case.