Former Daily Caller Editor Reveals He Was Forced to Publish Oleg Deripaska

In the wake of the Senate Intelligence Report’s scathing description of Oleg Deripaska’s key role in Russia’s 2016 election interference, a former editor from the Daily Caller, Eric Owens, reveals that his bosses — Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel — forced him to publish an Oleg Deripaska column that he recognized as sloppy propaganda.

Back in 2018, I was the opinion editor for The Daily Caller. I had worked for the website for about five years as a journalist and editor. I really believed in what we were doing. I believed in what founders Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel said they were building. (More on that later.)

In early March 2018, Deripaska submitted an opinion piece to The Daily Caller. He didn’t submit it directly to me or through the Caller’s conventional submissions process. Presumably, villainous Russian billionaires are above such hoi polloi procedures. Instead, Daily Caller publisher Patel contacted me directly one day saying he had received Deripaska’s op-ed. He wanted to know how I felt about it.

I hated it. Anyone with a passing knowledge of European politics would know who Deripaska is and what he represents. I had been in the U.S. foreign service for a bit, so, of course, I knew.

More importantly, Deripaska’s op-ed itself was—and remains—an extraordinary exercise in audacious Russian propaganda.


[I]n the case of the 2018 Deripaska op-ed, which I myself published and placed despite my own doubts and qualms, The Daily Caller was the plaything of a Russian billionaire working directly with Russian spies who used conservative media to spout completely false and fabulous conspiracy theories.

At the time, I suggested Deripaska’s column seemed to be an attempt to get ahead of disclosures like we saw in the DOJ IG and SSCI Reports, which make it clear that Deripaska was working both sides of the dossier, ratcheting up the legal pressure on Paul Manafort even while sending Konstantin Kilimnik on errands of “collusion” with him.

Then, after explaining on what authority he is sharing all this information — “My lawyer testified these facts to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Nov. 3,” — Deripaska claims third hand that Jones told his lawyer that Fusion is a “shadow media organization helping the government,” funded by a “group of Silicon Valley billionaires and George Soros.”

Among other things then, this is a very crafty attempt to get information submitted to the close-lipped SSCI, but probably not to SJC or HPSCI where everything leaks, into the public.

So Deripaska, presumably using one hell of a ghost writer, manages to spin a Paul Singer funded effort as a Soros cabal.

As noted above, there’s good reason to believe that Deripaska is the mastermind of the entire strategy of discrediting the dossier as a way to discredit the Mueller investigation. The last time he tried to discredit the investigation directly, prosecutors dinged Paul Manafort for violating the gag rule in the DC case; any bets they have the red line of this effort? Yet the name Manafort doesn’t appear here, so perhaps (especially as Manafort is officially on the clock in EDVA after his arraignment today as well as DC) Deripaska’s just getting around the gag.

As you read this work of art (really!), keep the following in mind: for all that Deripaska puts the focus on Jones and Nuland, he never gets around to explaining why Chuck Grassley thinks he had a role in the dissemination of the dossier, too. Or why he demanded immunity to testify to SSCI. At that level this may be an attempt to get ahead of disclosures about his role in the dossier.

Kudos to Owens for revealing the back story to this column and for disavowing the swamp of frothy right wing media.

The Daily Caller is no longer an alternative news organization. Breitbart is no way in hell any kind of alternative news organization.

These aren’t alternative news websites. Too many times, they are alternative realities, complete with alternate sets of facts. It’s an epistemological nightmare.

But the available evidence suggests Owens is wrong when he attributes the placement to clickbait.

I can’t speak for Patel or for Carlson, who had largely left The Daily Caller for cable-news stardom by then, but the general sentiment at the Caller always seemed to be that all publicity—and, of course, all those precious, precious page views—was wonderful. The throng of page views was certainly good for my little opinion section, which had been downright beleaguered before I took over.

As I noted at the time, Deripaska’s column was entirely coherent with one of the Daily Caller’s most assiduous journalistic efforts, Chuck Ross’ efforts to make everything about the Russia story into the dossier and the dossier into a discredited rag, with absolutely no reflection on the implications if it got filled with disinformation. Chuck Ross’ journalistic project has been, for years, to fulfill precisely the strategy that Paul Manafort pitched after returning from a meeting with one of Deripaska’s GRU-linked aides, to conflate the dossier with the Russian investigation and as it became increasingly clear that the dossier had been soaked in disinformation, thereby discredit the entire effort to protect America from people like Deripaska.

It’s important that Owens reveal that the people running the Daily Caller forced him to publish obvious propaganda.

It just raises questions about the continuity between that decision and the non-stop focus pretending the dossier equals the Russian investigation.

16 replies
  1. Ginevra diBenci says:

    I just read Owens’ piece at Daily Beast, and I think it may be too strong to say he was “forced” to run the Deripaska op-ed. He says he told Patel he wouldn’t print it, but “Patel wanted to. So I did.” It seems to me the problem was more Owens’ hero-worship of his bosses, especially Carlson, whom he still seems reluctant to disavow. The larger issue as far as I’m concerned is how Republicans vacuum up what you rightly called out at the time as Russian propaganda, and shamelessly use it to fulfill their political ends. They did it with John Solomon, and Ron Johnson is doing it as we speak: seeking it out, laundering it (sort of), and throwing it into the American political landscape just like the Kremlin intended.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Your comment reminds me of an anecdote about a former English CEO of British Petroleum, when he was working at its midwestern US headquarters, reported in a magazine interview decades ago. It falls into the “we’re separated by our common tongue” category.

      In his charming English way, the CEO asked his American assistant to bring him several copies of something, “when she had a minute.” (The CEO had been reading up on colloquial American.) She did, an hour later – when she had a minute. The CEO soon hired an expat English woman to assist him. But at least he laughed about his aide not understanding the English version of “Now,” when he gave the magazine interview, demonstrating what a nice, average guy he was.

      I think you might be mistaking “hero-worship” for an acute awareness of what the boss really means when he says, “When you have a minute, I want you to run this OpEd.”

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Possibly, EOH. But after listening to several hours of language being tortured into propaganda last night, I wanted to register my take on what Owens actually wrote, in its context as I understood it. To say he was “forced” exculpates him, I think, to a degree that isn’t warranted. He could have quit. He didn’t. I’m a little weary of all these recovered right-wingers emerging with their tales of suffering. They had plenty of chances to blow their various whistles during the impeachment, when they might have saved lives.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Fair enough, and I can’t rule out opportunism. But most people, most journalists need the paycheck. Here, “forced” seems to mean do it or I’ll find someone else, and good luck getting another job at a rightwing outlet, vindictiveness being their test of manhood and all.

          It’s not journalism, it’s surviving in the world you think you belong in. Thankfully, some people reassess where that is. One problem we face is that so few of Trump’s base does that.

        • BobCon says:

          “Ordered to” is probably a better phrase than “forced to” since orders aren’t always carried out.

          The dumb thing In all of the situations is that conservatives have convinced themselves that they are the savvy operators compared to naive liberals. But they would have been better off if they had taken the advice of liberals from the start. They just keep getting played..

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It doesn’t mean Owens isn’t a doofus and a worm. That he has anything but FO to say to Tucker Carlson is a good sign he has seriously impaired judgment – and can only see the world through the lens of what’s good for him. (Now, that might be a prerequisite to being a Republican.) But in an election season, I can still appreciate the anti-Trump value to the article.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          I once had a job in “the world I belonged to.” I refused to follow an order that was in violation of our union contract, thus hindering my boss who wanted cover to execute the probably illegal and certainly uncontractual firing of a colleague. Despite my protections (tenure and rank) the same boss figured out a way (unethically) to get me out a year later. There are NO jobs in my field. Would I do it again? I can live with myself. That hasn’t been easy; work was my whole identity, and I’ve had to build a new one from the floor up. I would do it again in a heartbeat. So, I believe, would most people here. Owens did not make such a choice. He does not deserve our sympathy.

        • vicks says:

          I get what you are saying and I too am skeptical that these obviously highly educated and intelligent people don’t believe they have the skill sets to find another job if thier decision to stand up and in effect blow the whistle on corruption or abuse causes them to lose thier job.
          Life isn’t fair, and nice guys/gals shouldn’t finish last, but life is a funny thing, and when someone with honor and integrity looks back at the temporary sting of being knocked down and being forced to get back on thier feet vs the irreversible damage done to one’s character once they decide on the self talk they are going to use to justify looking the other way or participating in unethical behavior I can’t imagine too many believing they made the wrong choice.

          *Of course there bigger reasons people who put up with disgusting behavior to hang on to thier jobs, I look at Dr Fauci on one end of this spectrum, the working poor and actual victims on the other.

        • hideousnora says:

          I heard a speaker in a Ted talk say that he had climbed the ladder of success only to find he had leaned his ladder against the wrong wall. I admire folks like you who will not sacrifice your integrity for safety. That is not a strength this editor was willing to exert.

        • vicks says:

          “It’s surviving in the world you think you belong in.
          Thankfully, some people reassess where that is.”
          Well said, it’s always the ego that keeps us from seeing the signs telling us that this is not where we belong.
          Somehow we tell ourselves that the shift required if we admitted we got it wrong would be worse than continuing to wallow in whatever the mess is that we have gotten ourselves into.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Everyone here has made good points, which I’ve reread several times. EOH, I think your use of the word “surviving” (like EW’s “forced”) pushed my linguistic buttons; when I took my riskiest decisions (like the one I knew might cost me my treasured job–and did), I knew I would survive in the literal sense. No one held a gun to my head during that period–although a colleague almost hit me during a faculty meeting before catching himself–and there’s a difference, I can avow. So I try not to overstate the truth, especially not now when so many are subject to actual force and fighting to actually survive.

  2. drouse says:

    I noticed that Owens worked hard to place the blame all on Patel. He spent a good chunk of the second half of his piece defending Carlson as a paragon of truthfulness and all around good guy. I’m convinced.

  3. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    What did we expect was gunna happen when we gave oligarchs the keys to the treasury, armed and organized militias over the course of a few decades, made our cities “free fire” zones for uncontrolled cops and eliminated oversight of all security forces from the local and state through the national level. I have been sayin’ for a couple of years now that it will all boil down to where the military comes down and we were told three or four months ago that federal troops would “remain in their barracks” if there was a civil (read political) emergency. Namaste patriots, we are looking at the fruit of what we have sown over the last 200 years.

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