Fox News commentator and “Benghazi expert” Wayne Simmons was and indicted by a federal grand jury last October after it was revealed he had been impersonating a CIA officer, claiming, as CNN reported at the time, that he was an “outside paramilitary special operations officer” for the CIA from 1973 to 2000. On Fox, this was often shortened to “former CIA operative.”
The Department of Justice issued a statement Friday announcing that Former Fox News Commentator Pleads Guilty to Fraud: “Wayne Shelby Simmons, 62, of Annapolis, Maryland, a former Fox News commentator who has falsely claimed he spent 27 years working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), pleaded guilty today to major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.” Originally, it will be remembered, he had entered a plea of not guilty in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.
But the worm has turned for Simmons. As the Justice Department’s statement tells us,
“Wayne Simmons is a convicted felon with no military or intelligence experience,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Simmons admitted he attempted to con his way into a position where he would have been called on to give real intelligence advice in a war zone. His fraud cost the government money, could have put American lives at risk, and was an insult to the real men and women of the intelligence community who provide tireless service to this country. This case is a prime example of this office’s ongoing commitment to vigorously prosecute government fraud and threats to national security.”
“Mr. Simmons lied about his criminal history and CIA employment in order to fraudulently obtain government contracts, and separately, defrauded a victim through a phony real estate investment deal,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “With these criminal actions, Mr. Simmons abused the trust of others, both in and outside of government, for his own personal financial gain. I commend the work of the talented FBI personnel and prosecutors who vigorously pursued this case and brought about today’s guilty plea.”
The Justice Department statement details the charges against him:
- Simmons admitted he defrauded the government in 2008 when he obtained work as a team leader in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program, and again in 2010 when he was deployed to Afghanistan as a senior intelligence advisor on the International Security Assistance Force’s Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team.
- Simmons admitted to defrauding an individual victim, identified as E.L., out of $125,000 in connection with a bogus real estate investment. Simmons admitted to sending E.L. promised monthly disbursements to make it appear as if her funds had been invested as promised, and to repeatedly lying to her about the whereabouts of her money in order to perpetuate the fraud. As Simmons admitted, he simply spent the funds on personal purposes and there was never any actual real estate investment project.
- As to the firearms charge, Simmons admitted that at the time he was arrested in this case, he was unlawfully in possession of two firearms, which he was prohibited from possessing on account of his prior felony convictions, including a prior Maryland felony conviction and two prior federal felony firearms convictions.
Simmons is in a lot of trouble and liberals and progressives will no doubt cheer the news that he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the fraud charges, a maximum of 20 years on the wire fraud count, and a maximum of 10 years for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He will be sentenced on July 15 and as the press release reminds us, “The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.”
Here is the thing though, and it must not be overlooked: Simmons doesn’t actually admit he lied, only that prosecutors will prove that he lied, and there is a distinction, because he maintains that while there is no evidence that he worked for the CIA, he did work for the CIA. In other words, as The Washington Post put it Friday, he “stands by his story.”
As Media Matters for America observes, “Simmons was a frequent guest on Fox News, appearing on the network dozens of times purporting to be a former CIA operative.” Of course, when he was arrested, Fox News immediately pretended that while he had appeared on the network as a “national security and terrorism expert,” he “was never employed by the channel and was never paid by Fox.”
Simmons, Fox News’ go-to “Benghazi expert,” was the perfect “expert” for the right wing propaganda machine, a guy who had absolutely no idea what he was talking about but was willing to tell people what they wanted to hear, a fault he shares with just about every Republican who opens his mouth these days, from the unholy trinity at the top of Trump, Cruz, and Kasich, all the way down to governors, lawmakers, and pundits.
There is a certain symmetry here in the denouement of the story of Wayne Simmons, fake expert for a fake news channel, for as the Justice Department relates, Simmons now admits “making false statements about his financial and criminal history, and admitted that there are no records or any other evidence that he was ever employed by or worked with the CIA, or ever applied for or was granted a security clearance by that agency.”
We could say Fox News is fooling nobody, but Fox News fools many people, and Simmons is hardly the only pundit employed by the network to spread disinformation. In many way, Simmons is a poster boy for the fraud being perpetuated on the American people not only by Fox News, but by the Republican Party it was established to serve.