Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

From Facebook To CNN To Fever Swamps: How Bogus Stone Juror Story Emerged


President Trump is now accusing the foreperson in the jury of a criminal case of a close associate of his of “bias” and using it to call into question a duly issued jury verdict.

How this particular bogus line of attack emerged is a story of the current moment.

The accusation is fairly straightforward: the foreperson of the DC federal jury in Stone’s November federal trial on charges of obstruction, witness tampering, and lying to Congress formerly ran for Congress as a Democrat in Tennessee. That allegedly renders her so biased as to have been unable to make a fair decision in Stone’s case and – even worse – potentially part of a grander conspiracy to take down an ally of Trump’s.

It’s a tendentious and misleading allegation. And, worst of all for those of us in the journalism business, it’s old news: the juror disclosed her prior candidacy and political affiliations during the jury selection process, as the judge in the case required her to do.

So, what happened?

The answer looks like it comes from a familiar player on the far-right: Mike Cernovich.

But, interestingly enough, he only comes into the picture after another actor: CNN. The news network first reported on a Facebook post from the foreperson in the case at around 7 p.m. ET Wednesday, noting that she expressed support for the four prosecutors who resigned in protest of a lessened recommended sentence this week without referencing her political background,

But within an hour of the story’s publication, Cernovich had crossed the rubicon.

I’ve detailed how the allegations make no sense and contradict the underpinnings of what the jury system – and federal criminal procedure – aim to achieve.

But once Cernovich tweeted it, other right-wing outlets picked up the story.

The Daily Caller published an article around an hour after Cernovich’s tweet highlighting the juror’s political background, setting up the accusation that the foreperson’s congressional run in 2012 was enough to raise questions about the credibility of Stone’s guilty verdict.

But it was Fox News which went the furthest, publishing a post just before midnight on Wednesday evening which directly calls into question the Stone verdict.

The story contains the following paragraph, way up high:

The revelations came as Trump has called the handling of Stone’s prosecution “ridiculous” and a demonstrably unfair “insult to our country.” They raised the prospect that Stone’s team could again seek a new trial, especially if Hart provided inaccurate responses under oath on her pretrial questionnaires concerning social media activity.

Trump cited Fox News in his tweet about the matter, fired off just before 8 a.m. ET.

In a little over 12 hours, the story went from being a relatively innocuous Facebook post to a fake scandal aimed at undermining a federal prosecution of a close ally of the President’s.

But it was in the open all along. The foreperson disclosed her primary run and Democratic Party affiliations at trial, during jury selection, just as the law requires. The judge knew it. Stone’s lawyers knew it. She was seated as a juror, elected as foreperson, and the jury returned a conviction of Stone.

And now here we are.

About The Author


Josh Kovensky is a reporter for Talking Points Memo in New York City. He previously worked for the Kyiv Post in Ukraine, covering politics, business, and corruption there. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago.