The top ten stooges of 2016

Time again, kids, for our annual top-ten list. As before, these aren’t necessarily the worst human beings we covered last year; they’re people whose deplorable activities stood out in some way or another. One more thing: this time around, we’ve decided to forego the old cranks and creeps and focus instead on relatively youthful stooges – young-to-middle-aged characters who are especially worth keeping tabs on because their most high-profile and influential stoogery probably lies ahead of them…alas. Anyway, here goes:

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Max Blumenthal

To quote Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Max Blumenthal “is quite simply one of the most biased, anti-Semitic, terrorist-defending, Israel-has-no-right-to-exist haters out there.” And here’s what fellow leftist Eric Alterman had to say about Max’s 2013 anti-Israel screed Genesis: “this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club.” The vile spawn of ethically bankrupt Clinton lackey Sidney Blumenthal (one of the slimiest operatives ever to set foot inside the Washington Beltway), Sonny Boy routinely equates the Jewish state with Nazi Germany; this year he praised a massacre of IDF soldiers by Hamas commanders. In short, he’s as low as they go – and a dyed-in-the-wool chip off the old block.

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Nick Dearden

In 2016, while other fans of chavismo hid in shame as the system they’d celebrated brought the Venezuelan economy to its knees, British activist Nick Dearden was actually cheering what he described as that country’s “food revolution.” What on earth was he talking about? Answer: a new law that bans genetically modified seeds and prohibit the sale to corporations of “indigenous knowledge” in the field of agriculture. The result, Dearden enthused, would be “a truly democratic food system” that made the Bolivarian Republic “a beacon of hope.” Tell that to all the people who are eating their pets and breaking into bodegas to steal bread.

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Malcolm Harris

When Occupy Wall Street went bottom-up, blame focused largely on Malcolm Harrisa founder of the movement who’s been accused by fellow left-winger Mark Ames of exploiting OWS to “build his own brand.” Meaning what? Well, when leaders of Occupy Redlands in California invited Harris to give a lecture, they heard back from a speakers’ agency: the fee would be $5,000, plus travel and hotel. This year Harris wrote a piece called “Who’s Afraid of Communism?” – a call for millennials to reject capitalism and take a fresh, “nuanced” look at Mao and Stalin. When the Revolution comes, will he still be allowed to charge five grand for a speech?

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David Sirota

In June, we met chavismo enthusiast and former Bernie Sanders flunky David Sirota. Described by Newsweek in 2003 as “well schooled in the art of Washington warfare,” by the New York Times as a guy with a “take-no-prisoners mind-set” toward Republicans and centrists, and by election expert Nate Silver as a dude who plays “fast and loose with the truth,” Sirota wrote an article after the Boston Marathon bombing expressing the hope that the perpetrator was a white American. Like Dearden, moreover, Sirota has cheered Venezuela’s “economic miracle.” Of course, the only “economic miracle” in Venezuela is that the country, despite its massive petroleum resources, now has to import oil. 

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Colin Kaepernick

On August 26, San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick protested racism in America by refusing to stand up for the National Anthem before a game. This started a trend that has spread to a variety of sports at every level. Whatever one thinks of it, one part of this episode is unambiguously contemptible: at his press conference that day, Kaepernick wore a T-shirt covered with pictures of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. The message was clear: the U.S. is a contemptibly racist nation and Cuba a model of racial harmony. Pure Communist propaganda, of course: in reality, aside from being a totalitarian state, Cuba is a country where intense racial prejudice is still a fact of life. Too bad Kaepernick is so ill-informed – and that his ignorance has given rise to such a divisive movement.

Five more tomorrow.

 

Smearing Elie Wiesel

Imagine the pride of a father who – having made a career as an unscrupulous world-class professional creep – lives to see his son, at a still relatively tender age, surpass his own monumental record for moral iniquity.

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Max and Sid

Whom else could we be talking about here but the execrable Sidney Blumenthal and his evil spawn, Max?

We’ve already looked in on Max a couple of times in the last year or so, noting the breathtaking rapidity with which he rose to the very top of the list of American Jews who make a career out of vilifying Israel (and, as a corollary, defending and justifying Islamic terror). His 2013 book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel was so repulsive that even Eric Alterman, hardly an apologist for Israel, wrote that it “could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).” Max supports the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement; he’s repeatedly accused Israel of apartheid and equated it with Nazi Germany; he’s even gone so far as to cheer, in a talk at the London School of Economics, a massacre of IDF soldiers in 2014 by members of Hamas.

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Elie Wiesel

No one should have been surprised, then, by Max’s disgusting response to the death, on July 2, at age 87, of Elie Wiesel – the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner who provided, in his 1960 memoir Night, an indelible account of the experience of Auschwitz, and who over the decades became an internationally respected prophet of decency and humanity, an eloquent critic of anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of prejudice who, at one moment of crisis after another, reminded the world where its moral duty lay.

All that mattered to Max, however, was that Wiesel recognized the very real difference between Israel (which Max has referred to as JSIL – the Jewish State in the Levant) and its terrorist enemies. And so, on July 2, Max tweeted out the following:

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Blumenthal and one of his most vocal critics, Rabbi Schmuley Boteach

Elie Wiesel is dead. He spent his last years inciting hatred, defending apartheid & palling around with fascists.

And:

Elie Wiesel went from a victim of war crimes to a supporter of those who commit them. He did more harm than good and should not be honored.

In a follow-up article, Max smeared Wiesel as a careerist who’d “secured his brand as the high priest of Holocaust theology, the quasi-religion he introduced.”

Joel Pollak had the perfect comment on all this: “Blumenthal’s bile,” he wrote, “is a perfect tribute to Wiesel, who was the living retort to such nonsense.”  

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Sid with Bill, back in the White House days

As it happens, Max’s dad, Sid, is a longtime Clinton functionary – confidante, adviser, fixer, bagman, snoop, go-between. Several of Hillary’s famous e-mails to Sid reference Max, praising his articles: “He’s so good.” “A very smart piece.” “[P]owerful and touching.” “Max strikes again!” Over the year, both Clintons have kept mum about Max’s vicious savaging of Israel. But his Wiesel tweets made headlines, and Hillary is running for president, and so she apparently felt compelled – finally – to distance herself from him, releasing a statement through her campaign rejecting his “offensive, hateful and patently absurd statements” about Wiesel, whom she described as a “hero.”

Better late than never. But it will take far more than this one incident, one suspects, for the Clintons to cut loose Max’s dad, whose utter lack of the kind of conscience that Wiesel embodied has made him the most useful of factotums.

Hating Israel: Ben Norton

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Ben Norton

Yesterday we started acquainting ourselves with the work of Babyface Ben Norton, whose career as a pundit started three years ago but who’s already compiled a copious oeuvre. Much of it, as we’ve seen, consists of savage criticism of the U.S. and enthusiastic cheerleading for socialism.

Even more intense than Norton’s hatred for America is his animus toward Israel. In his articles for Salon and other outlets, young Ben has routinely repeated familiar anti-Israeli canards, echoed the propaganda of such vile groups as CODEPINK and Adalah and Jewish Voice for Peace, given ample and super-friendly coverage to the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, accused Israel of war crimes (while ignoring Palestinian atrocities), described Israeli teenagers as “violently racist,” promoted the idea that Israeli Muslims live under an apartheid system, and accused Israel of torturing and raping Palestinian children.  

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: Steven Van Zandt performs live on stage during the second day of Hard Rock Calling at Hyde Park on July 14, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
Steven Van Zandt

This past March, he gave Bernie Sanders a thumbs-up for heeding a call by Max Blumenthal and Roger Waters to skip the pro-Israel AIPAC conference. When Steven Van Zandt, the Springsteen guitarist and Sopranos actor, criticized supporters of the BDS movement as “politically ignorant obnoxious idiots,” noting that “Israel is one of our two friends in the Middle East,” Norton strung together the nastiest anti-Van Zandt tweets he could find into an article for Salon.

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Paris, the night of the November 2015 terrorist attacks

As much as he despises Israel, Norton loves Islam – and is quick to skewer any critic of it as a bigot and racist. He routinely cites the ridiculous “hate crime” statistics put out by the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Muslim Brotherhood front group that he invariably identifies as a “civil rights organization.” While “reporting” on allegedly far-right and neo-Nazi violence against Muslims in Europe, Norton has steadfastly ignored the far more prevalent problems of jihadist terrorism and other acts of Islamic brutality on that continent.

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Norton appearing on Al Jazeera

The only exceptions to this habit of silence about European jihad have been articles like “Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Have Tripled in the U.S. since the Paris Attacks,” which mention acts of jihad only to focus on the supposed anti-Muslim backlash, and (even worse) articles like “After Paris, let’s stop blaming Muslims and take a hard look at ourselves,” in which he sought to shift attention from anti-Western jihad to the killing of fellow Muslims by ISIS, the Saudis, and others. (In the latter article, while neglecting to say a word in sympathy with the victims and their loved ones, Norton fretted that too much preoccupation with the Paris massacre would only benefit right-wingers like Marine Le Pen.) 

Similarly, while keeping mum about the terrorist attacks in such U.S. locations as Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando, Nelson managed, back in May, to find a case of a white American woman who had purportedly assaulted a hijab-clad woman outside a Washington, D.C., coffee shop. Norton got a whole Salon article out of this incident.

Still more tomorrow. 

Celebrating terrorism: Max Blumenthal

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Max Blumenthal

Last June, we examined some of the sleazy shenanigans of one Max Blumenthal. Following in the slime trail of his dad, Sid Blumenthal, the longtime Clinton operator, bagman, lackey, factotum, spinmeister, and all-around inside-the-Beltway creep, young Max (he’s 38) has for some time now been pursuing his own career as an amoral political hack and hanger-on, gaining a reputation as —among other things — a shameless apologist for Vladimir Putin and a fierce critic of Israel.

Then again, the word critic isn’t quite strong enough to describe what young Max is up to when it comes to Israel.

As the Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote in January: “A writer should avoid hyperbole. But when it comes to Max Blumenthal…it’s hard to avoid superlatives. Max is quite simply one of the most biased, anti-Semitic, terrorist-defending, Israel-has-no-right-to-exist haters out there.”

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David Mikics

David Mikics, writing in the Tablet in March of last year, summed Max up as follows: “Max Blumenthal’s stock in trade is anti-Zionist polemic dripping with cartoon-like, racially weighted depictions of Israeli Jews. What distinguishes him from many other anti-Zionist writers is not his political views, but the obsessive nature of his work, which seems animated not by moral passion or analysis but by hate.” In 2013, Max published the book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, which, in the words of J.J. Goldman in the Forward, seeks to “show the suffering and unbroken spirit of the Palestinians and the callous cruelty of the Israelis.” Eric Alterman of The Nation, who is anything but an apologist for Israel, wrote in his review: “It is no exaggeration to say that this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).”

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Rabbi Schmuley Boteach

Max, noted Boteach in March, “is known for creating the hashtag #JSIL—the Jewish State in the Levant—a play on the acronym ISIL, aka ISIS. In Max’s twisted mind, the democratic State of Israel is on par with ISIS.” Throughout his writings about Israel, indeed, Max repeatedly likens the Jewish state to the terrorists who seek to destroy it. And, naturally, to Nazi Germany.

hillaryemailsMax’s anti-Israel writings gained a special kind of attention recently when some of the e-mails dating back to Hillary Clinton’s Foggy Bottom days began to be published, and it turned out that Sid was sending excerpts from his son’s poisonous screeds to the Secretary of State – who responded by praising Max’s work. In March, Boteach’s pro-Israel organization, the World Values Network, bought a full-page ad in The New York Times urging Hillary to cut her ties to both Sid and Max. The ad included several anti-Israel quotations by both father and son. Hillary appears to have ignored Boteach’s plea.

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Father and son

Then, in April, the Telegraph published a recording in which Max, speaking at a March event at the London School of Economics, celebrated a 2014 massacre of Israeli soldiers by Hamas commandos who entered an IDF base in Israel through a series of underground tunnel from the Gaza Strip. At the base, these terrorists killed “every soldier they encounter[ed].” Since they wore video cameras on their helmets during the entire operation, moreover, they were able to provide young Palestinians with a visual record of their triumph. For Max, this was a beautiful thing: after being “humiliated” repeatedly by the IDF, those youths had a chance to see their side win a glorious victory over “the occupier” and to recover their own “dignity” by becoming terrorists themselves.

Top ten useful stooges of 2015

We thought we’d wind up 2015 by revisiting some of the folks we’ve covered on this website during the last year. No, these definitely aren’t the ten worst human beings we’ve written about; they’re just some of the people whose activities during 2015 we found despicable in distinctive ways, and we thought that, as the year moves toward a close, they just might be worth looking at one more time.

brandRussell Brand  Last year, the holier-than-thou British comedian came out with an inane book, Revolution, in which he celebrated Castro and Che Guevara, whose transformation of Cuba he presented as a model for the 21st century. This year, his image took a big hit when it was discovered that his line of sweatshirts – which he’d represented as being manufactured in the UK – were, in fact, made by laborers in Bangladesh who worked up to eleven hours a day for 25p an hour. Also, while he’d claimed that the profits went entirely to charitable causes, it turned out that only £1.37 of the take on a £65 sweatshirt was going to charity – and the “charity” in question was a trendy London café Brand opened in March.

stellaStella McCartney  In June, flibbertigibbet clothes designer (and daughter of the immortal Beatle) threw an exceedingly high-profile party with the theme “Cuba Libre.” In the garden of her Manhattan townhouse, such guests as Alicia Keys, Liv Tyler, and Maggie Gyllenhaal sipped rum-and-cokes, grooved to the rhythms of a salsa band, and mingled with two guys dressed up as – we kid you not – Fidel and Che. McCartney’s explanation for this obscene trivialization of totalitarianism: “I simply wanted to have a fun party, and I think Cubans know how to do that.” Almost unanimously, the fashion media applauded what Women’s Wear Daily described as McCartney’s “nod to Cuba.”

maxMax Blumenthal  The spawn of unsavory D.C. operator Sidney Blumenthal, young Max has made a career out of slandering Israel in particularly nasty ways while cheering on some of its most violent enemies. This year, in collaboration with Electronic Intifada and Al Jazeera contributor Rania Khalek, he co-wrote a long piece smearing several U.S. journalists for criticizing Putin – among them Liz Wahl, a reporter who’d recently quit her anchor job at the Kremlin-run TV “news” channel RT America because she was sick of serving up pro-Putin, anti-American propaganda. Writing in Commentary, Seth Mandel called Blumenthal’s attack job “a textbook example of character assassination.”

Lanny-pic-smLanny Davis  In 2015, regular viewers of cable news saw a great deal of this shifty creep, a longtime Clinton crony and spinmeister who, during the current presidential campaign, has spent a great deal of his expensive time trying to extinguish the many scandals that have been swirling around Hillary Clinton. (During a March appearance on Fox News, Chris Wallace asked Davis, “Do you ever get tired of cleaning up after the Clintons?”) When he’s not engaged in this unenviable task, Davis keeps busy shilling for some of the planet’s most corrupt and brutal despots, including Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’Ivoire. 

gloria2Gloria Steinem  In May, the 81-year-old Ms. founder traveled to North Korea “to say we care by being physically present” because “conflicts are far more likely to be solved when people sit down together.” She then led a group of women on a “walk for peace” across the DMZ. The whole thing came off as a PR stunt to polish Pyongyang’s image. It didn’t help that the feminist icon stayed mum about the Kim regime’s treatment of women – and chose as her partner in this dubious undertaking one Christine Ahn, an open admirer of Juche ideology who routinely blames the U.S. and South Korea for North Korea’s problems.

We’ll get to the next five tomorrow. Happy New Year!

Max Blumenthal, Putin slimemeister

American journalist Liz Wahl, whose grandparents fled Hungary after the 1956 uprising was crushed by the Soviets, worked at the Russian TV network RT America for two years. Her job ended on March 5, 2014, when she quit live on-camera, denouncing her employers for serving up Kremlin propaganda about Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Her resignation made headlines; she was widely interviewed. “RT is not about the truth,” she told Anderson Cooper on CNN. “It’s about promoting a Putinist agenda. And I can tell you firsthand, it’s also about bashing America.”

Her action drew predictable condemnation from her ex-bosses at RT America, who called it “a self-promotional stunt.” But that wasn’t all. The far-left website Truthdig.com ran a bizarre attack on Wahl co-authored by fanatical Israel-basher Max Blumenthal, son of longtime Clinton family bagman, consiglieri, and all-around political operative Sidney Blumenthal, and Rania Khalek, a freelancer for such unsavory outlets as Al Jazeera America and the anti-Israeli propaganda website Electronic Intifada.

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Max Blumenthal

In a staggeringly long article that read as if it had been dictated by Putin himself, Blumenthal and Khalek concocted a conspiracy scenario out of whole cloth, representing Wahl’s resignation not as an act of individual conscience but as a put-up job, orchestrated by a “cadre” of Putin-hating U.S. conservatives, chief among them journalist James Kirchick.

Kirchick had known Wahl for several months. In an interview with her posted at The Daily Beast shortly after her resignation, Kirchick wrote that he’d been aware of her growing ethical concerns about working for RT, and that he’d “encouraged her to follow her conscience in making a decision about her professional future.” Any decent human being who was even glancingly familiar with Kirchick’s record of courageous reporting from world trouble spots and of principled opposition to tyranny everywhere would have no trouble accepting his account at face value.

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Sidney Blumenthal

But Max Blumenthal, as he has already conclusively established, is far from the most decent of human beings. He’s made a career of slandering Israel and exculpating some of its most violent enemies. He’s also, as mentioned, the spawn of master manipulator and spinmeister Sidney (“Sid Vicious”) Blumenthal – the ultimate professional behind-the-scenes creep, the guy who gives pond scum a bad name, the man who was recently described by Reason editor Nick Gillespie as one of those “barely human” characters whose “rottenness ultimately overtakes and deforms whatever humanity they once might have possessed.” For Sidney’s scion, whose own oeuvre so far has demonstrated that he didn’t fall far from the tree, it’s only second nature, when confronted by an act of genuine moral principle on the part of an ideological opponent, to set about depicting it as a low scam, motivated by a lust for power, money, and/or attention. (To be fair, given Max’s family background, it’s fully possible that he’s incapable of believing there is such a thing as an act of genuine moral principle.) 

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James Kirchick

Thus the argument, made at epic length by Blumenthal and Khalek, that Kirchick was behind Wahl’s on-air resignation – and that Kirchick, in turn, was acting as part of a vast right-wing conspiracy, motivated not by principle but by an iniquitous desire to rekindle the Cold War. After all, look at Kirchick’s repellent connections: he “worked for part of 2011 out of Prague for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a media network funded by Congress (formerly backed by the CIA) that functions like the American answer to RT in Russian-aligned Eastern European countries.” (This is really all you need to know about Max Blumenthal: he’s the kind of guy who can equate Radio Free Europe with RT.)

But he and Khalek were just warming up. Kirchick, they pointed out, is now a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is linked to something called FPI, which has ties to something called ECI, among whose advisers is some guy who lobbies for the “U.S.-oriented” (horrors!) Republic of Georgia. Aha! See? Gotcha! Kirchick is opposed to Putin not on principle but because he’s on the Georgian payroll. Blumenthal and Khalek backed up their fairy tale with nasty quotes about Wahl from RT employees, who were risibly presented as reliable sources with “no particular affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin or his policies.”

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Rosie Gray

Kirchick, by the way, wasn’t Blumenthal’s and Khalek’s only target. Also smeared was Rosie Gray, a writer for Buzzfeed, who’d committed the offense of writing a splendid, thoroughgoing exposé of RT entitled “How the Truth Is Made at Russia Today.” Like Kirchick, Gray – whose article on RT was as honest, fact-filled, and solidly reported as Blumenthal’s and Khalek’s was duplicitous and packed with innuendo – was also accused by them of being a Georgian tool.

Seth Mandel, writing in Commentary, summed up Blumenthal’s and Khalek’s piece quite aptly: “a textbook example of character assassination.” Indeed, their article made it crystal clear that Max has learned his father’s lessons well: namely, when you’re facing off against upstanding people who have the truth on their side, get to work misrepresenting the facts, inventing new ones, and throwing mud, confident that even the most outrageous lies, if repeated often enough, will convince at least some of your audience.

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Euromaidan square, December 1, 2013

Although Blumenthal does, admittedly, devote more of his time to reviling Israel than to vilifying Putin’s enemies, the article he co-wrote with Khalek wasn’t his only effort in this genre. In a February 2014 piece, he faithfully echoed the Kremlin line that the Euromaidan revolution – which, it will be recalled, overthrew a despotic, Russia-friendly oligarch and replaced him with a democratic Western-leaning government – was engineered by fascists, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. Two months later, in a New York Times op-ed, Polish sociologist Slawomir Sierakowski gave Blumenthal’s vile charges the response they deserved:

Putin Views Russian Arms On Display At ExpoTrue, such people were present at the square, but they were marginal figures, and slogans about ethnic purity never gained popularity. Yes, generally speaking, Ukraine has its skinheads and its anti-Semites and even serial killers, pedophiles and Satanists. They are not present in smaller or larger numbers than in any other country, even in the most mature European state.

None of which truths, needless to say, can be expected to deter Blumenthal in his efforts to serve Putin as loyally as his wily ol’ dad has served the Clintons.

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Konstantin Goldenzweig

Wahl, by the way, wasn’t the last RT reporter to resign for ethical reasons. Four months later, Sara Firth quit the network, admitting that she and her colleagues “work for Putin” and “are asked on a daily basis if not to totally ignore then to obscure the truth.” And just a few days ago, Konstantin Goldenzweig, the Berlin correspondent of Russia’s state-run domestic news channel, NTV, was fired after criticizing Putin in an interview with a German TV station. Goldenzweig said afterward that he was ashamed of having spread “propaganda,” which, he said, included being forced to report Kremlin-invented “news” that had no basis in fact and that had been concocted to defame Ukraine and its leaders. 

Funny how some people are capable of being ashamed – while others make a career out of never feeling any shame whatsoever.