On Friday, NBC’s Megyn Kelly falsely claimed that “all 17 of the United States’ intelligence agencies” reached consensus in perceptions of allegations of Russian state “interference” in last year’s presidential election. She described the federal government’s intelligence agency heads and operatives as “non-partisan career professionals”:
All 17 of the United States’ intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russians did interfere with our election, and these are non-partisan career professionals. Republicans and Democrats alike, on Capitol Hill, including President Trump’s supporters — and some are your defenders — who have seen the classified intelligence report have all accepted this conclusion. And even private non-partisan security firms say the same, that Russia interfered with the U.S. election. Are they all wrong?
Kelly made the false statement as a premise upon which to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin about alleged Russian state interference in 2016’s presidential election. She asked the question during a panel discussion at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum — a state-organized event — in Russia’s cultural capital.
Kelly’s false statement has become ubiquitous; repeated across news media outlets such as CNN, The New York Times, MSNBC, and The Washington Post, as if axiomatic. It is also regularly repeated by Democrats such as Hillary Clinton. It is predicated on a misrepresentation of a declassified intelligence report published in January by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — then under James Clapper’s directorship — alleging that the Russian state, at the direction of Putin, orchestrated a campaign of political subversion in 2016 to afford then-candidate Donald Trump an electoral advantage over Hillary Clinton.
On May 7, Clapper specifically addressed this falsehood by stating that the aforementioned report was a joint effort between 3 intelligence agencies, not 17.