Former Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), a Donald Trump loyalist who stepped down from his congressional seat last month, spent his first day as a CNN contributor regurgitating a debunked right-wing conspiracy theory on air.
During his first appearance on the network as a paid employee Sunday, Duffy appeared to defend the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine may have been behind the 2016 cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee and that it is in possession of the compromised server. The U.S. intelligence community has long made clear it believes Russia perpetrated the cyberattack. Furthermore, there was no physical server that could be transported to Ukraine in the first place, making the claim all the more mind-boggling.
But that didn’t stop Duffy from toying with evidence-free speculation on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Democrats and the media were all about what happened in the 2016 election,” he said, adding that President Trump simply wanted to “look and get the server” when he decided to solicit help on the matter from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Duffy had been speaking in reference to a news conference last week in which acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters that Trump was interested in “corruption that related to the DNC server” when U.S. military aid was being withheld from Ukraine, meaning there was a quid pro quo at play.
Duffy’s mere mention of the conspiracy theory prompted his co-panelists, including conservative pundit Amanda Carpenter, to lash out against his remarks, visibly frustrated that he was discussing it in the first place.
But less than 24 hours later, the newly minted commentator brought it up again.
In an interview Monday morning with CNN “New Day” anchor Alisyn Camerota, Duffy said that “we spent two years talking about a Russia collusion” ― meaning former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into election meddling ― a pressure point within the GOP among those who railed against the investigation as a political witch hunt aimed at Trump.
“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 added.
Instantly, Camerota jumped in, telling her colleague, “That’s a conspiracy theory.”
“Ukraine doesn’t have the server, Sean,” she later responded.
Duffy’s performance prompted the network’s Chris Cillizza to speak out on Twitter, where he shared an article in which he refuted the conspiracy theory in September.
Jay Caruso, managing editor of the conservative Washington Examiner, tweeted an even more vociferous response.
“The idea there was this lone box, which is now hidden somewhere in Ukraine containing all the DNC emails, is Alex Jones level stuff,” he wrote.