Guest Fox News pundit Wayne Simmons is in a lot of trouble. The 62-year-old Annapolis, Maryland, native was arrested for charges that include fraud against the U.S. and making false statements to the government. There are also wire fraud charges.
Now everyone is trying to determine whether or not Fox News, which gave Simmons space to make some rather questionable statements, was aware they were dealing with a fraud. Thus far, Fox has worked hard to distance itself from Wayne. CNN Money reports that Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti told CNN Wayne Simmons “was never a contributor,” only a “non-paid guest.”
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) October 15, 2015
The denial by the spokeswoman doesn’t stop the issues surrounding his dubious connection to the network. First of all, her statement ignores the fact that there is verifiable footage featuring Wayne appearing on Fox programming. It also overlooks the fact that Fox allowed Simmons to make multiple appearances while labeling him a “former CIA operative.” Even if he appeared as a “non-paid guest,” as Briganti claimed, that doesn’t change the fact that (1) he was exposed to millions of viewers as a trusted CIA expert and (2) he was able to do so through a popular news network.
The Associated Press reported that Simmons appeared on Fox News as recently as April 2015. Aside from the distancing remark by Irena, the spokeswoman declined to make any further comment on the issue.
The implications for Fox News are certainly huge, as the network will no doubt have to prove at some point it had no part in Wayne Simmons’ acts of fraud. Even if Fox News can do so, the fact that the network failed to perform a proper background check and relied solely on Wayne Simmons’ word will not reflect well on the television network.
However, there is an aspect of this situation that might let Fox off the hook — and it comes via the same government agencies coming down on Wayne Simmons for his apparent fraud.
— RT (@RT_com) October 16, 2015
The Associated Press writes that 62-year-old Wayne Simmons claimed to have a 27-year career with the CIA, working in “Outside Paramilitary Special Operations.” This claim, as alleged in the indictment against Wayne, allowed him to seek both top security clearances with the government and work as a defensive contractor. That last part is especially important, as it allowed Simmons to advise senior military personnel overseas.
Even though this means that Wayne Simmons acted in ways that would make him a national security threat, it still would have been incredibly hard for Fox News to verify. The reason is that the CIA is notoriously secretive about who works for them, and even about who doesn’t. CNN Money wrote that this seemed to give Wayne space to make his outlandish claims.
The CIA has since issued a statement, verifying that the agency is “working closely with the Justice Department on this matter.” CNN Money writes that in addition to being charged with falsely representing himself, Wayne stands accused of defrauding an unnamed individual out of at least $125,000. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said this act was “in connection with a bogus real estate investment.”
— Media Matters (@mmfa) October 16, 2015
Wayne Simmons made his first court appearance on October 15. The nature of charges against him means that if convicted, he faces a maximum of 35 years in prison. Given the severe nature of the accusations, there’s reason to believe Simmons could indeed serve serious jail time for these crimes even if he avoids the maximum.
That aside, it’s likely mainstream media outlets have started working overtime to confirm the analysts and specialists they work with are exactly who they say they are. None of them want to be humiliated by a Wayne Simmons-esque character in the way Fox News was.
[Image Credit: Screen grab of FOX News show via YouTube/johnny dollar]