Right-wing conspiracy theorists claimed that a successful Pakistani-American tech specialist was actually responsible for the 2016 Democratic email leaks while working as a “spy” for Islamabad.
Congress paid $ 850,000 to five Pakistani-American tech specialists who were attacked by right-wing conspiracy theorists after breaking a routine misconduct investigation.
According to the New York Times, the payment is among the largest sums the House of Representatives has ever paid to settle complaints of discrimination and harassment.
Congressional assistants also told the Times the payment was made in part to end one of the strangest segments in the House’s recent history. The mediators allegedly offered the severance payment to give a semblance of justice to ex-tech workers who had been subjected to prolonged harassment because of their Muslim beliefs and South Asian origins.
As reported by the New York Times, the House of Representatives, along with three family members and a personal friend, opened a “relatively normal” investigation into Imran Awan’s procurement irregularities.
At the time, Awan was running a technology practice that provided various services to various members of Congress.
However, President Donald Trump’s scarce knowledge of the scandal provided ample fodder for right-wing conspiracy theories. In 2018, Trump, who was standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a press conference in Finland at the time, suggested that a certain “Pakistani gentleman” was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Convention’s email servers during the past presidential campaign.
While most political observers – along with United States intelligence agencies – have blamed Russia for the email hacks, Trump has instead blamed Awan.
Wooden mallet on black reflective surface; Image via pxhere.com, CCO.
Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists were quick to cling to the president’s claims. They began targeting Awan and his family, claiming that the tech specialist had somehow tried to frame the commander in chief by making it appear that the Trump campaign was collaborating with Russia.
Meanwhile, other right-wing conspiracy theorists were spreading rumors that Awan and his staff were “Pakistani spies” intent on discrediting President Trump and American democracy.
And in 2019, the claims escalated when Daily Caller’s “journalist” Luke Rosiak published a book in which Awan was proclaimed the “mole” of Pakistani intelligence. Rosiak went on to claim that Awan and his family members hacked convention servers, stole lawmakers’ cell phones and laptops, and regularly sent intelligence information to government officials in Pakistan.
“It’s tragic and outrageous – the way right-wing media and Republicans, including President Trump, tried to destroy the life of a Muslim-American immigrant family based on bizarre allegations,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) told the Times.
“Their names were smeared on cable television,” he added. “Their children were molested at school and they really feared for their lives.”
“This settlement,” said Deutch, “is an acknowledgment of the injustice that was done to this family.”
The New York Times notes that Awan and his staff have filed a lawsuit against Rosiak, the Daily Caller, and the caller’s parent company, Salem Media Group. This case is currently pending in court.
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