In less than 24 hours as a CNN paid contributor, former congressman Sean Duffy, the network’s newest pro-Trump talking-head, immediately used his new platform to spread a debunked conspiracy theory.
Over the course of the past week, the Republican ex-lawmaker has pushed a conspiracy theory that attempts to at once undermine the overwhelming evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election and that President Donald Trump withheld military aid for Ukraine over partisan considerations. Duffy has said that Trump is legitimate in suggesting that Ukraine was actually behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee’s email server, and that Ukraine-owned company CrowdStrike took those hacked servers to Ukraine.
The theory, which has been pushed by top White House figures, has been shot down and discredited by numerous national security experts, and has been debunked by the network’s own reporters.
And yet on Sunday, during his debut appearance as a paid CNN employee, Duffy almost immediately floated the conspiracy theory, which was quickly criticized by other panelists.
“Democrats and the media were all about what happened in the 2016 election,” Duffy said. “What Mick Mulvaney said was Donald Trump said let’s look and say let’s get this server, this is the DNC server.”
“This is a disputed, absurd conspiracy theory that you’re talking about right now,” said fellow contributor Amanda Carpenter, a conservative pundit. “What you are stating is completely inaccurate and factually wrong,” former Obama official Jenn Psaki added. “It is a conspiracy theory on the right wing.”
Despite criticism from his fellow panelists, Duffy went back to the same exact playbook again on Monday—and with similar success.
When the congressman began to discuss the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory Monday morning on New Day, anchor Alisyn Camerota immediately cut him off.
“What Mick Mulvaney was talking about was actually trying to find the server that was the DNC server which was at the heart of the Russia investigation,” Duffy claimed.
“But that’s a conspiracy theory,” Camerota shot back.
“No, but wait, hold on a second. Where it's at might be—is it in the Ukraine or somewhere else? That might be a conspiracy. But the fact that Mick Mulvaney is talking about advancing that investigation, the 2016 Russia investigation, we should applaud that,” the ex-lawmaker replied.
CNN did not respond to a request for comment about Duffy’s contradiction of the network’s own reporting. But the network’s overtly pro-Trump pundits clashing with its reporters and anchors has been a recurring theme in recent years.
The network has acrimoniously parted ways with a number of pro-Trump commentators, including former Rep. Jack Kingston, former Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore, and infamous Trump sycophant Jeffrey Lord. CNN also appeared to bench pro-Trump contributors Steve Cortes and Ben Ferguson for several months earlier this year—though it was not clear whether their reduced appearances were simply the result of lack of interest from bookers or were related to the various controversies they found themselves in.
Trump himself has privately fretted over the treatment of his biggest supporters on the network, reportedly talking to Cortes by phone about his CNN experience and repeatedly asking several administration officials the same question: “Where’s Steve?”