Enter the Brainroom: In the basement of Fox News’ studios, a division of the newsroom collects data, topics, and information — and, reportedly, opposition research — for hosts to use on-camera. Though in the past, the embarrassingly named group of staffers has investigated outside reporters working on stories about the network or its late architect, Roger Ailes, in the wake of the Ukraine scandal, researchers are turning their sights on friendly targets.
According to a report from the Daily Beast, Brainroomer and senior political affairs specialist Bryan S. Murphy created a 162-page document called “Ukraine, Disinformation, & the Trump Administration” in which he encourages Fox News hosts to be wary of information coming from frequent guests like Rudy Giuliani, John Solomon, and lawyers Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova.
The research briefing blasts Rudy Giuliani for his “high susceptibility to disinformation” from sources in Ukraine — which is apparent to any viewer who’s seen one of his media blitzes. It’s an impression that the government is reportedly aware of: The federal investigation into Trump’s personal lawyer’s actions in Ukraine includes a counterintelligence aspect, to determine if his business ties in the country have influenced his dealings with the White House.
According to the Daily Beast, much of the “disinformation” Giuliani had brought to the network was driven by “allies of Dmytro Firtash, an indicted Ukrainian oligarch and accused high-level Russian mafia associate
who is considered a force ‘driving Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine to dig up dirt on Trump’s political enemies.’” Firtash also had surrogates in attorneys and frequent Fox News guests Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, who were responsible for “spreading disinformation and their parroting of beneficial narratives while employed by Firtash,” according to the internal document. Though they billed Firtash for $1 million in October, they did not note that they were employed by the Ukrainian oligarch while they were still on-air. (The husband-and-wife pair has not appeared on the network since December, when diGenova said that George Soros “controls” the State Department.)
Much of the document centers around John Solomon, the former columnist at The Hill who made frequent and unsubstantiated claims in his opinion pieces — so much so that editor-in-chief Bob Cusack announced in November that the site was “reviewing, updating, annotating … and when appropriate, correcting” his body of work. (As of late January, the audit was still incomplete.) “John Solomon played an indispensable role in the collection and domestic publication of elements of this disinformation campaign,” the Fox News briefing states.
That, too, is apparent outside the network: Reports on how Solomon’s writing helped encourage both Giuliani and Trump to pursue the investigations in Ukraine have been public since as early as October. But the knowledge and the Brainroom warning have not been enough to keep Solomon off-air: His last Fox News appearance discussing the impeachment trial occurred last week, on The Ingraham Angle.
Update: Fox News offered the following statement to Intelligencer:
The research division of FOX News produces a briefing book for all major stories, which serves as a standing collection of extensive data on major topics for internal use by all those in editorial functions. The Ukraine briefing book is nothing more than a comprehensive chronological account of what every person involved in the Ukraine controversy was doing at any identifiable point in time, including tracking media appearances of major players who appeared on FOX News and in many other outlets. The 200-page document has thousands of data points and the vast majority have no relation to FOX News — instead it’s now being taken out of context and politicized to damage the network. —Mitch Kweit, senior vice-president of the Brainroom