Hillary Clinton on Thursday called for a bipartisan fight against an “epidemic” of fake news, sounding the alarm one month after she lost an election buffeted by the public spread of misinformation.
“This is not about politics or partisanship,” Clinton said during remarks at a tribute to retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “Lives are at risk.”
Clinton’s reference to the “real-world consequences” of fake news comes days after a gunman briefly occupied a Washington pizza restaurant mentioned in false reports of a child sex trafficking ring linked to the former secretary of state. But Clinton went beyond domestic sources of fake news to decry “foreign propaganda,” touting a bipartisan effort in Congress to “boost the government’s response” to it.
Senior Democrats have urged the Obama administration to declassify information related to Russia’s involvement in the election. Members of Congress in both parties have indicated they plan to conduct further oversight on the issue next year, after Donald Trump takes office.
Trump has maintained that he does not see signs of Russian interference in the election, saying this week that politics were at play in prompting U.S. intelligence agencies’ public warning about a Moscow-led hacking operation aimed at influencing the election. The son of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, whom Trump tapped as national security adviser, was removed from a role on the president-elect’s transition after he shared fake news about the pizza-restaurant hoax.
Clinton took the opposite tone, calling fake news “a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly.” She praised tech companies for “starting to grapple with the challenge and the threat of fake news.”
Facebook has begun examining how to more quickly flag false information spread on its platform, but COO Sheryl Sandberg said Thursday that the company does not see evidence that fake news influenced the election.
“It’s imperative that leaders in both the private sector and the public sector step up to protect both our democracy and innocent lives,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, was in attendance for the Reid tribute alongside her longtime aide Huma Abedin, whose estranged husband Anthony Weiner propelled fresh negative coverage of Clinton’s email server that bogged down her campaign in its final weeks.
Clinton’s remarks were not all serious. She kicked off with a self-deprecating reference to the viral photo she took with a woman who ran into her on a hike the day after she conceded to Trump.
“This is not exactly the speech at the Capitol I hoped to be giving after the election,” Clinton told an audience that included more than a dozen current and former members of Congress. “But after a few weeks of taking selfies in the woods, I thought it would be a good idea to come out.”
Beyond Clinton, the Reid tribute was dominated by fond remembrances of the famously blunt Nevadan. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warmly recalled Reid’s tendency to hang up the phone just as his friends and associates were about to “to say nice things about him.”
Vice President Joe Biden was characteristically emotional in his remarks, telling Reid, “I love you, pal. I know that embarrasses you, but I do.”
Biden told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday that he plans to eat at the Washington pizzeria targeted by fake news as a show of support. A Clinton aide told CNN that the Democratic presidential nominee has also contacted the owners of the restaurant, Comet Ping Pong.
Reid’s successor as minority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), teared up at the end of his own heartfelt speech. Schumer thanked Reid for serving as his mentor and remaining authentic throughout.
“There is no one, no one, no one better to have in your corner than Harry Reid,” Schumer said.
Reid himself didn’t hold back in his own speech, thanking retired Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) for casting a pivotal vote for Obamacare in 2010 that sparked Republican fury over the so-called “Cornhusker Kickback.”
Reid also made a controversial recommendation: “Bring back earmarks,” largely banned since 2011. Gesturing to McConnell, sitting at the far end of the dais, Reid added that “one of the great earmarkers of all time is right down there.”
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