Last September, I wrote a piece for BANTER M in which I profiled my former podcast partner, Lee Stranahan. Here's what I wrote at the time by way of a set-up. Stay tuned because this all goes somewhere very, very interesting.
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Back in 2009, I was invited to be the co-host of a podcast on a platform known as BlogTalkRadio. It still exists today, and it’s still predicated on the concept of using your telephone to host a show. No fancy equipment or engineering know-how required. All you need is a phone and, POOF! You’re a podcaster. Unfortunately, most of the shows sounded like clandestinely wiretapped phone calls, but it works, and it shook the cobwebs off my broadcasting skills before starting my actual podcast in early 2010.
The guy who asked me to co-host the show is named Lee Stranahan. At the time, Lee was a progressive activist whose viral videos about the 2008 campaign landed him on CNN and other cable newsers, as well as an invitation from The Huffington Post to contribute blog articles. The latter is how I met Lee and, not knowing his full story or where he’d end up, I invited him to participate in my own blog at bobcesca.com while we hosted “Agree to Disagree with Bob and Lee” on BlogTalkRadio.
The show went fairly well for a while, including a show in August of 2009 in which the guest was a guy named Chez Pazienza — the first time I spoke with Chez was on that show. But by the end of the year, everything went to hell as Lee joined the ranks of FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher who wanted to “kill” the healthcare bill that went on to become Obamacare. On our show, Lee began spouting conspiracy theories about why the legislation wasn’t single-payer — everything from Obama’s alleged disdain for the left to his so-called “poor negotiating skills” to theories such as David Axelrod having ties to Big Insurance. The show disintegrated into me yelling at Lee for an hour a week, which might’ve been fun for one or two episodes… but every episode? Yikes.
Cutting to the chase, Lee and I parted ways. I went on to continue writing for Huffington while hosting the early version of the podcast I’m currently still running, while Lee went a completely different direction. A few months after we ended the show, Lee interviewed an emerging voice on the far-right named Andrew Breitbart. At the time, Breitbart was known mostly for his work at The Huffington Post and as well as for being Matt Drudge’s protege.
In addition to all that, Breitbart had recently launched Breitbart.com and Lee became enamored with the new wingnut on the scene, eventually “converting to conservatism” while joining the staff of creepy cave-dwellers at the fledgling news/propaganda site.
Fast forward to the 2016 presidential campaign.
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The long story about how I met Stranahan concluded with the news that he had become a key player in the alleged Breitbart effort to circulate fake news in support of Donald Trump’s candidacy. Specifically, Breitbart’s Steve Bannon dispatched Lee to Twin Falls, Idaho after rumors wormed their way through social media about alleged Syrian refugees converging on the small town, horking American jobs and, yes, raping children at knife-point. It turned out to be a false alarm, not connected in any way to ISIS.
Today, Stranahan hosts a terrestrial FM radio drive-time show called “Fault Lines” for a media agency called Sputnik. Yes, Sputnik: one of three major Russian propaganda fronts, including Russia Today (RT) and TASS. In fact, in September we learned that Sputnik is under investigation by the FBI for pushing Russian propaganda inside the United States.
Still with me? It gets crazier.
Yesterday morning, I was reading the Minority Status Report issued by the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. This groundbreaking document was released in response to the abrupt shuttering of the committee's probe into Russia's ongoing cyberattack against the United States.
Beginning on page 18 of the report, in a roster of possible conspirators listed under the heading of "Appendix D: Compulsory Process," I read through the Democrats' comments about witnesses such as Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and Jeff Sessions. On the same page as Jeff Sessions and Twitter, there was this:
Lee Stranahan: Employed by Russian outlet Sputnik, Mr. Stranahan never responded to the Committee’s May 9, 2017 interview and production letter, which the Committee sent electronically. The Committee should issue Mr. Stranahan a subpoena for production and appearance
You can imagine my shock upon hitting this paragraph. It appears as if Stranahan was called before the committee as a witness last May, then refused to appear.
The particulars of why he was asked to appear and why, specifically, he refused to comply with the request remains to be seen. But, naturally, it's in keeping with the attitude of many Trumpers who a appear to be engaged in some sort of cover-up. If Stranahan and the others had nothing to hide, why stonewall a friendly pro-Russia, pro-Trump committee?
You'll have to ask Stranahan, but beware. In my experience, he doesn't play on-the-level. In fact, if you reference any evidence presented by legal experts, journalists, members of the intelligence community, or anyone who possess knowledge of how government investigations work, Stranahan will respond with a copied-and-pasted "You're committing a logical fallacy: appeal to authority" tweet. Either that or with a post hoc ergo propter hoc line about the intelligence community and WMD. The logical fallacy retort is a cheap Wikipedia-ish dodge for anyone who refuses to accept expertise in lieu of whatever made-up bullshit they claim to have attained. Think Alex Jones' go-to "I got the documents right here!" line.
Thursday evening, Stranahan posted a "Who? Me?" response on Facebook:
"So, Rep. Adam Schiff is mad that the House Intel committee closed the investigation before they sent me a subpoena. Me, Lee Stranahan. This is literally true"
By the way, further cementing his place as a real-life Zelig/Gump, Stranahan was also included in the lawsuit against Alex Jones and InfoWars by a foreign service worker who videotaped the Nazi terrorist attack in Charlottesville last Summer. This news dropped within the same two days after the Democratic report.
One last thing: Stranahan invited me on his Sputnik show, but I declined. In fact, I don't think I even responded to the email. For the record, it's not because I fear him. Hardly. It's just that, well, I have this aversion to Russian propaganda and agents of Russian propaganda outlets.
With "friends" like these...