The Washington Post’s Adam Entous mischaracterized a flippant comment made in jest by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as a sincere expression of fear that Donald Trump is an agent of foreign influence operating on behalf of the Kremlin.
Entous’ Wednesday headline reads: “House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump,” decontextualizing the comment’s humorous flavor in order to push a narrative of Republicans secretly fearing Trump as an operative of a covert Moscow-driven coup.
The Washington Post transcribed the audio of a private conversation between McCarthy, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Republican Conference Chairman Cathy Rodgers (R-WA), opting against providing the full audio to its consumers.
Below is a broader context of the conversation omitted from the primary article (emphases added):
McCarthy: The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp research that they had on Trump.
Ryan: The Russian’s hacked the DNC…
McHenry: … to get oppo …
Ryan: … on Trump and like delivered it to … to who?
McCarthy: There’s … there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump… [laughter] … swear to God.
Ryan: This is an off the record … [laughter] … NO LEAKS … [laughter] … alright?!
Ryan: This is how we know we’re a real family here.
Scalise: That’s how you know that we’re tight.
Ryan: What’s said in the family stays in the family.
The Washington Post hypes the conversation as indicative of Republicans subscribing to the narrative in which Trump is framed as an agent of Russian influence, describing it as "a glimpse at the internal views of GOP leaders" regarding "the conduct of President Trump":
The conversation provides a glimpse at the internal views of GOP leaders who now find themselves under mounting pressure over the conduct of President Trump. The exchange, which was obtained by The Washington Post, shows that the Republican leadership in the House privately discussed Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and Trump’s relationship to Putin, but wanted to keep their concerns secret.
NBC News hyped the Entous' mischaracterization, asking McCarthy about his joke as if it were a serious comment:
Brendan Buck, Ryan's spokesperson, took to Twitter to address Entous' article:
The Washington Post and NBC News both present themselves as politically balanced and non-partisan news media outlets.
H/T John Sexton at Hot Air.
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.