Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) grilled Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday, calling him out over the creation of the agency’s new “Disinformation Governance Board,” which many conservatives have compared to the “Ministry of Truth” in George Orwell’s “1984.”
During a tense exchange in a Senate hearing, Paul questioned Mayorkas as to whether the infamous anti-Trump Steele Dossier included “Russian disinformation.”
Mayorkas refused to answer the question directly, which triggered a heated back-and-forth argument about the scope of the highly controversial new government office.
“Here’s my question: The FBI concludes that the Steele dossier was full of Russian disinformation. CNN propagated this disinformation gladly for years and years,” Paul said. “The difference, I guess, between your opinion and our opinion is that as despicable as it is that CNN propagated this disinformation, I wouldn’t shut them down, I wouldn’t lecture them, I wouldn’t put it on a government website that CNN is wrong for propagating disinformation.”
“The problem you have is you’re not even willing to admit — I mean, we can’t even have an agreement on what the FBI said was disinformation,” the senator added, noting that failing to agree on what is and what is not “disinformation” is a major issue.
In response, Mayorkas claimed that the board would not be responsible for policing disinformation in general, but only “when there is a connectivity between disinformation and threats to security of the homeland.”
“Well, the Russians might be considered that. You mentioned the Russians the other day when you tried to pivot away from this being about censorship,” Paul replied. “Let’s just say… you’ve discovered tomorrow Russian disinformation that is going to hurt our national security, and CNN is broadcasting it, what are you going to do?”
Mayorkas responded by giving an example of combatting immigration-related disinformation on social media, completely ignoring the left’s past favorite subject of Russian disinformation. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security had previously stated that a key goal of the board is combatting Russian disinformation. Of course, Mayorkas had to side-step the question in this instance, as the type of “Russian disinformation” being discussed did not fit the left’s narrative.
“Here’s the problem: We can’t even agree what disinformation is. You can’t even agree that it was disinformation that the Russians fed information to the Steele dossier,” Paul replied, continuing to push the issue. “If you can’t agree to that, how are we ever going to come to an agreement on what is disinformation so you can police it on social media?”
Mayorkas responded, once again trying to avoid answering the question, by stating that the board is tasked with ensuring that there are “guardrails, definitions, standards” that protect civil rights, privacy, and free speech.
“I think you’ve got no idea what disinformation is,” Paul fired back.
“Do you know who the greatest propagator of disinformation in the history of the world is? The U.S. government,” he added.
“Think of all the debates and disputes we’ve had over the last 50 years in our country. We work them out by debating them. We don’t work them out by having the government being the arbiter. I don’t want guardrails. I want you to have nothing to do with speech,” Paul continued.
“You think the American people are so stupid they need you to tell them what the truth is?” he asked.
“You can’t even admit what the truth is with the Steele dossier. I don’t trust government to figure out what the truth is,” Paul said.
During the hearing, Mayorkas also admitted that he was unaware that Nina Jankowicz, who has been appointed as the executive director of the Disinformation Governance Board, referred to the Hunter Biden laptop story as ‘Russian disinformation.’