Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas., speaks at a news conference with other House republicans.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

GOP’s Farenthold relies on ‘stuff circulating on the internet’

Updated
About a year ago, an Ohio man rushed the stage where Donald Trump was speaking, prompting Secret Service agents to intervene to protect the Republican candidate. The then-candidate soon after claimed the man has ties to ISIS, pointing to online evidence that turned out to be a hoax.

On “Meet the Press,” NBC News’ Chuck Todd asked the Republican about his willingness to substantiate odds claims with bogus proof. “I don’t know,” Trump replied. “What do I know about it? All I know is what’s on the internet.”

It’s a sentiment that’s become a little too common among Republicans.

This week, for example, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was asked about his role in peddling the garbage conspiracy theory about Seth Rich’s murder. “I don’t know anything about it,” Gingrich said of the story he’s been commenting on. “I know exactly what has been said on the various blog sites.”

All of which led to Rep. Blake Farenthold’s (R-Tex.) appearance on CNN yesterday. The Washington Post reported:
Farenthold was suggesting that questions about any link between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian actors was “deflecting away from some other things that we need to be investigating in.”

“There’s still some question,” he said, “as to whether the intrusion at the server was an insider job or whether or not it was the Russians.”

CNN’s John Berman interrupted. “I’m sorry,” he said. “The insider job – what are you referring to here? I hope it’s not this information that Fox News just refused to be reporting.”

“Again, there’s stuff circulating on the Internet,” Farenthold said.
For the far-right Texan – a chair and vice-chair of several congressional subcommittees – that’s good enough.

To be sure, I’m not opposed to people turning to the internet for news and analysis – I happen to make my living at this – and there’s plenty of worthwhile information online for news consumers. It’s nevertheless helpful for adults, especially those in positions of authority, to have some critical thinking skills.

One of Donald Trump’s most serious flaws as a public official is his inability to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of information. For the president, supermarket tabloids, fringe websites, and partisan talking heads offer “news” he likes, while intelligence agencies, professional news organizations, and calculators tend to annoy him with inconvenient facts. He therefore chooses to embrace the former and reject the latter.

As Farenthold’s bizarre comments suggest, this problem isn’t limited to the Oval Office.

But let’s also appreciate the larger context. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, Russia wants U.S. leaders to raise doubts about the country’s role in attacking the American presidential election last year. The more American officials suggest there’s ambiguity about which country was responsible for the 2016 intervention, the more Russia benefits.

In this sense, the Texas Republican didn’t just embarrass himself yesterday by relying on bogus “stuff” he saw online, Farenthold also positioned himself as a tool of Russian active measures.

Blake Farenthold, Conspiracy Theories, Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich and Russia

GOP's Farenthold relies on 'stuff circulating on the internet'

Updated