At least 16 Republicans in the House and Senate have attacked U.S. climate envoy John Kerry after right-wing media amplified a questionable story about him.
Republicans in Congress are attacking U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, calling him a "traitor" and demanding his resignation over claims an original source described as "not very credible."
In a story published on Sunday, the New York Times reported on an allegedly leaked audiotape of a recording of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in which Zarif states that Kerry "told me Israel had launched more than 200 attacks on Iranian forces in Syria."
The Times failed to report that its source, the London-based news channel Iran International, expressed skepticism of Zarif's claim.
"These claims are not very credible," the outlet wrote, referring to the purported Kerry disclosure, as well as another claim by Zarif that the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, did not know about Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani's interventions in foreign policy.
The Israeli airstrikes Kerry is alleged to have leaked have already been widely reported. In September 2018, Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz verified the reports of the strikes, as did a spokesperson for the Israeli military.
On Monday, Kerry categorically denied the entire story. "I can tell you that this story and these allegations are unequivocally false," he wrote on Twitter. "This never happened - either when I was Secretary of State or since."
Despite these caveats, a line from the Times story was picked up and amplified by multiple conservative media outlets, including Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Caller, with Republicans accusing Kerry of informing Iran about secret Israeli military actions while he served as secretary of state in the Obama administration.
The story was mentioned on Fox News at least 20 times in 15 hours between Monday and Tuesday, based on an analysis of transcripts done by the American Independent Foundation.
Several of the stories included a tweet from conservative writer Noah Pollak, a contributor to the right-wing Free Beacon who runs an organization called the Democratic Alliance Initiative.
"John Kerry was ratting out Israeli covert operations in Syria directly to the Iranian foreign minister. Let that sink in," Pollak tweeted.
Other tweets from Pollak show his interest in attacking the Biden administration and Democrats from multiple angles.
In one tweet, he claimed that systemic racism is "such a perfect Marxist formulation" and is "genius propaganda." In another, Pollak complained about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's "posture" being "terrible" in a photo posted to the senator's Twitter account.
Congressional Republicans are using the story as a launchpad to attack Kerry, calling for investigations — and for his resignation.
"If this is true, it's traitorous and Kerry needs to go," Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) wrote in a tweet accompanying a video clip of his speech on the Senate floor with a similar message.
"If this is true, John Kerry is a traitor, not only to our great friend and ally Israel, but to America as well," Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) wrote.
Many more Republican members of Congress piled on.
"This is a criminal act and John Kerry must be immediately investigated and PROSECUTED," Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) wrote about the uncorroborated claims, adding, "President Biden must immediately remove John Kerry from any government or advisory position."
"John Kerry needs to be investigated for violations of the Logan Act right now," gun fanatic Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) tweeted .
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) accused Kerry of having "colluded with a hostile foreign power."
Other complaints ran the gamut: Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI) called Kerry "a national security threat," Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) complained about White House silence, and Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) called for an investigation into Kerry's security clearance, as did Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and French Hill (R-AL).
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.