Reprinted from Consortium News
Mainstream media and politicians are fond of denouncing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for trafficking in conspiracy theories and playing fast and loose with the facts, but some of them slide into the same patterns in attacking Trump or other demonized leaders, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For instance, on ABC-TV's "This Week," host George Stephanopoulos deployed a favorite "conspiracy theory" technique to accuse Putin of murdering journalists and then demanded that Trump explain why he would welcome praise from such a nefarious character. The technique was to cite a sizable number of "mysterious deaths" as proof that the conspiracy-theory target was guilty, even if there was no specific evidence in any individual case.
Trump responded that "in all fairness to Putin, you're saying he killed people. I haven't seen that. I don't know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he's killed? Because I've been -- you know, you've been hearing this, but I haven't seen the name. Now, I think it would be despicable if that took place, but I haven't seen any evidence that he killed anybody in terms of reporters."
Stephanopoulos then backed up his murder charge against Putin by saying: "here's what Mitt Romney tweeted about that. He said, there's an important distinction here. Thug Putin kills journalists and opponents. Our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants."
Trump answered back, "Does he [Romney] know for a fact that he [Putin] kills the reporters? I don't know -- I don't think anybody knows that. It's possible that he does. But I don't think it's been proven. Has anybody proven that he's killed reporters? And I'm not trying to stick up for anybody."
Stephanopoulos: "There have been many allegations that he was behind the killing of (INAUDIBLE) and ..."
Trump: "No, no, allegations. There are allegations. Yes, sure, there are allegations. I've read those allegations over the years, but nobody's proven that he's killed anybody as far as I'm concerned. He hasn't killed reporters that it's been proven. Now, if he has..."
Stephanopoulos's next rejoinder was perhaps even more startling: "But what killing has the United States government done?"
Sadly, such cluelessness is now typical of the mainstream U.S. news media -- as if these "journalists" have been hiding under a rock for the past 15 years if not much longer. But back to the aspect of Stephanopoulos's charge against Putin that just because there are lots of allegations -- even without supporting evidence -- we must accept a person's guilt.
Clinton's "Mysterious Deaths"
That "conspiracy theory" technique should be familiar to Stephanopoulos since he was an aide to President Bill Clinton when right-wing enemies compiled a list of "Clinton's mysterious deaths," which included anyone who had even tangential contact with Arkansas Gov. Clinton and then died in some "suspicious" manner.
The best known of these cases was deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster who became distraught over becoming the subject of other scandal-mongering and committed suicide on July 20, 1993, but the "strength" of the "murder" allegations against Clinton was in the lengthy list of "mysterious deaths."
At the time, a longtime conservative source faxed me the list, marveling at the number and saying that if even a few were true that would be "a big story." I responded that if even one were true -- that a sitting U.S. president had murdered a single political opponent -- "that would be a big story, but there's got to be proof."
Many of the cases on the list were murky old tales from Arkansas, but I noticed one fairly recent one with a local angle. A federal bureaucrat who had some minor connection to the investigation of Clinton's Whitewater real-estate investment had died from a fall out of a new apartment high-rise in Arlington, Virginia.
But it really wasn't much of a mystery. My investigation quickly determined that the man was suffering from AIDS and was faced with a grim prognosis. So, he traveled from his home in Washington D.C. to Arlington, asked a real-estate agent to show him a top-floor apartment, went to the balcony, asked the startled young woman if what he was about to do would hurt, and jumped to his death. (I even interviewed the poor woman.)