The Paid-Propaganda-as-News Scam

February 15, 2019 Updated: February 19, 2019


One of the biggest dirty secrets of the DNC Media Complex is that, for some time now, journalists and prominent media outlets have been receiving information—and in some cases, even money—from political operative groups on behalf of their clients.

I call this dirty secret the “Paid-Propaganda-As-News Scam.”

Over the past 10 years or so, numerous of these “propaganda shops” have sprung into existence around the periphery of U.S. news media.

Naturally, media outlets don’t want the public to know about these middlemen who provide information for the stories they produce. They want to maintain the illusion they are completely neutral truth-telling conveyors of just the facts in their coverage of daily events and in their opinion columns.

Here’s how the “disguise our paying client’s propaganda as our own news coverage” scam works: Let’s say you’re a fabulously wealthy Saudi prince who doesn’t like the recent direction that Mohammad Bin Salman has been taking your country for the past few years, and you’d like to try to influence American public opinion and—by extension—U.S. foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia. What you do is, you pay one of these political operative firms big money to get your point of view published in U.S. news outlets.

You give the propaganda shop the talking points you want the “news” articles to make along with a great big pile of cash.

Sounds far fetched, right?

Not exactly. It’s already happened, as crack investigative reporter Lee Smith detailed in a column he wrote two years ago.

“On Wednesday, three major news organization published variations of the same story—about the line of succession to the Saudi throne. It seems that in June, the son of King Salman, Mohammed Bin Salman, muscled his cousin Mohammed Bin Nayef out of the way to become the Crown Prince and next in line,” Smith wrote in his article.

“It’s a juicy narrative with lots of insider-y details about Saudi power politics, drug addiction, and the ambitions of a large and very wealthy family, but the most salient fact is that The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Reuters published what was essentially the same story, with minor variations, on the same day—not a breaking news story, but an investigative feature,” Smith added.

As you can readily see, any “news” outlet that does this kind of thing isn’t really in the news coverage business any longer.

The entire recent Jamal Khashoggi fiasco for The Washington Post is just one of the latest examples of how some media outlets keep being exposed as playing this sordid game. Khashoggi was an “opinion columnist” for The Washington Post who turned out to actually be acting as an agent of the government of Qatar.

Jim Hanson, the president of the Security Studies Group (SSG), wrote an excellent explainer of The Washington Post’s Khashoggi scandal at The Federalist recently.

“The Washington Post has caused itself a major scandal since it has come to light they and their martyred “reformer” Jamal Khashoggi were publishing anti-Saudi propaganda for Qatar. They tried to bury this in a pre-Christmas Saturday news dump, but that can’t stop the damage this will do to their reputation,” Hanson wrote.

As Hanson pointed out, The Washington Post wrote that: “Text messages between Khashoggi and an executive at Qatar Foundation International show that the executive, Maggie Mitchell Salem, at times shaped the columns he submitted to The Washington Post, proposing topics, drafting material and prodding him to take a harder line against the Saudi government.”

In another example, the House Intelligence Committee—which has been investigating the Spygate scandal—has obtained the financial records of political operative firm Fusion GPS. The records of Fusion—which was at the center of the operation to prevent Trump from becoming president—reveal “12 transactions associated with payments to four journalists and/or researchers.”

It also reveals “12 transactions associated with payments from media Company A.” It remains unknown who the specific journalists and media were that received the payments.

What we do know, from court documents in the UK, where former MI6 spy Christopher Steele was being sued, is that Fusion GPS instructed him to give secret briefings to media organizations on multiple occasions. Among those briefed by Steele on the unverified dirt he produced on Trump were reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, CNN, and Yahoo News.

It’s very telling that for more than a year while congressional Republicans played by the rules and sat on this information, none of it was leaked by the Democrats to their media allies.

That points to these payments to media outlets being highly damaging information, since the Trump-Russia conspiracy theorists—both in Congress and in the media—can’t figure out a way to spin this information, not even as damage control.

When those financial records become public information—as they inevitably will—a whole lot of well-deserved consequences are going to descend on media outlets that willingly prostituted themselves in the service of spreading narratives they knew were Fake News.

Brian Cates is a writer based in South Texas and author of “Nobody Asked For My Opinion … But Here It Is Anyway!” He can be reached on Twitter at @drawandstrike.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Brian Cates
Brian Cates
Brian Cates is a writer based in South Texas and author of “Nobody Asked For My Opinion … But Here It Is Anyway!” He can be reached on Telegram at