Fox News on Thursday published a “breaking” news story about Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, having contact with a lobbyist supposedly linked to Russian oligarch.
Warner, Fox News reported, exchanged text messages with Adam Waldman, who they characterize as a lobbyist for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Waldman was offering the senator access to British ex-spy Christopher Steele, the author of the controversial Fusion GPS dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia.
The story, however, bore a resemblance to the content of a Daily Beast article from late January based on a series of Twitter direct messages sent from WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to an account impersonating Fox News’ Sean Hannity with the real host’s account was disabled. Unfortunately for him, Assange messaged the wrong Hannity, accidentally offering dirt about Warner to the imposter.
The Daily Beast’s Ben Collins, who wrote the initial report, noticed the similarity when the Warner text story first “broke.”
“I’ve reached out to Hannity, Fox News, and Assange asking if the ‘news’ Assange wanted to tell Hannity about Warner last week is, in fact, these leaked text messages that just appeared on Fox News,” Collins tweeted.
I've reached out to Hannity, Fox News, and Assange asking if the "news" Assange wanted to tell Hannity about Warner last week is, in fact, these leaked text messages that just appeared on Fox News.https://t.co/D9Z6ydOLOc https://t.co/6ZKxrfLVxS
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) February 9, 2018
In a statement, Fox News reporter Ed Henry denied that WikiLeaks was his source.
“The story I broke tonight on Fox News had absolutely nothing to do with Wikileaks – I’ve never even spoken to Julian Assange or his operatives for that matter,” he said.
“I also never spoke to Sean Hannity about this story at any point in the reporting process. I contacted Senator Warner’s office several times to verify that the texts were authentic and they confirmed that fact this afternoon. In fact, Warner’s office never mentioned Assange in the multiple calls and emails I had with them to get their side of the story.”
(Note: This article was updated with a statement from Fox News)