On Friday, Saudi Arabia finally admitted what the reality-based world has known for some time–one of the country’s most prominent dissidents, Jamal Khashoggi, had been murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. But long before then, some of Donald Trump’s most diehard supporters had begun an insidious whispering campaign suggesting Khashoggi was not the crusader for freedom that he claimed to be. They’ve suggested that he was a jihadist double agent masquerading as a journalist.
A number of right-wing bloggers and commentators have harped on Khashoggi’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth. But there is overwhelming evidence that he took a more liberal, secular and democratic line later in his life. They have also suggested that there was a sinister element to his coverage of Osama bin Laden. Never mind that any competent reading of his reporting of the time shows he was merely acting as a journalist cultivating a source.
Nonetheless, a number of Trump’s most diehard supporters in the House have been merrily sharing articles suggesting that Khashoggi was really carrying water for Islamist thugs. It’s part of the effort to provide cover for Trump’s continued reluctance to drop the hammer on Riyadh, even though strong circumstantial evidence suggests Khashoggi was murdered on orders from Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman–or MBS, as he is often called. As they see it, we shouldn’t be wringing our hands at the death of a jihadi agent.
This weekend, one of Trump’s most diehard religious right supporters joined that effort. Namely, Lance Wallnau.
Among the many religious right leaders who have turned Trump into a golden calf–or rather, an orange calf–Wallnau is in a class by himself. He believes that opposing Trump makes you a target for the devil, and actually believes that God’s reputation could take a hit if Trump goes down. He has actually gone as far as to lead a prayer for the end of Robert Mueller’s investigation, claiming that it amounted to a demonic cloud hanging over the White House.
So it should come as no surprise that Wallnau had no qualms about joining this effort to run interference for Trump. While on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, Wallnau took to Facebook to riff on a number of topics–including the Khashoggi affair. He later mirrored it on YouTube; watch here.
Wallnau mused that the massive “caravan” of immigrants heading from Honduras to the United States were being funded by “nutbags” on this side of the border, and demanded that the Justice Department get to the bottom of it.
If it were possible to hit lower than that, Wallnau managed to do so when he turned to Khashoggi’s murder. It was obvious where this was going when he warned that it is always a red flag “whenever you’ve got all of the media pounding on somebody.” He was obviously referring to MBS, whose government has spent the last few weeks in full spin mode.
Wallnau condemned Khashoggi’s death as “stupid” and “inexcusable,” but couldn’t leave well enough alone. He mused that Khashoggi hadn’t really been a journalist at all, but “might be a double agent, actually.” Recalling Khashoggi’s coverage of the Afghan war, Wallnau mused that Khashoggi’s interviews with bin Laden and arms dealers suggested that his advocacy for opening up Saudi Arabia could have been just a mask.
He looks like he was somebody who was actually working—he’s related to, he networked with Osama bin Laden and arms dealers, so this guy could be a real bad actor and there is more history to him than just a journalist. He could be like a rogue agent working as an undercover journalist, you know, as a journalist as a cover.
Apparently it hasn’t occurred to Wallnau that reporters, as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle, have had it with Riyadh’s blatant lying and dissembling about Khashoggi’s death. For instance, no one seriously believes the official Saudi line that Khashoggi died in a fistfight, and that the 15-member hit team that flew into Istanbul to supposedly bundle him back to Saudi Arabia did so as part of a rogue operation. Not only did they bring a bone saw, but a forensic coroner was part of the hit team.
Here’s a news flash, Lance. When you’ve been fed lie after lie after lie, it would be derelict not to call it out. “Pounding” on something like this isn’t evidence of an agenda. It’s an effort to find the truth.
And you say that Khashoggi was an Islamist double agent? Where’s your evidence? Merely interviewing someone as part of war coverage doesn’t come close to the extraordinary evidence needed to back up such an extraordinary claim.
Then again, it comes as no surprise that Wallnau has the nerve to call for us to leave MBS alone. After all, he actually believed Russia had every right to hack the 2016 elections–even though it exposed millions of innocent people to identity theft.
If your moral compass is warped enough to condone hacking an election, it’s not too big of a leap to join in on an attempt to smear a legitimate journalist and freedom fighter who may never get a decent burial.
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