US writer Josh Trevino admits getting RM1.2mil for anti-Anwar propaganda
His admission came in a belated filing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act on Friday which outlines a propaganda campaign against Anwar Ibrahim spanning May 2008 and April 2011.Trevino had claimed to the Politico blog in 2011 that “I was never on any ‘Malaysian entity’s payroll,’ and I resent your assumption that I was”; he lost his column in the Guardian newspaper after allegations that his relationship with Malaysian business interests wasn’t being disclosed in columns dealing with Malaysia.
According to the filing, Treviño did not deal directly with Malaysian representatives or officials. Instead, he had relationships with and was paid by three groups: the British firm FBC Media, the lobbying firm APCO Worldwide, and the now-closed online consulting firm David All Group.
Treviño was paid to blog at two websites — malaysiamatters.com and malaysiawatcher.com — which have now gone dark, and also to generate and secure the placement of opinion pieces in U.S. media.
He also paid thousands of dollars to 10 other writers — including the conservative writer Ben Demenech, American Center for Democracy director Rachel Ehrenfeld, and Commentary editor Seth Mandel — to write opinion pieces.
The articles appeared in the Huffington Post, the San Francisco Examiner, the Washington Times, National Review, and RedState, and much of the work focused on the campaign against Anwar Ibrahim. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Treviño called the arrangement “a fairly standard PR operation.”
“To be blunt with you, and I think the filing is clear about this, it was a lot looser than a typical PR operation,” Treviño told the website. “I wanted to respect these guys’ independence and not have them be placement machines.”
He rejected accusations that his actions had broken any rules of journalism. “I’m not a journalist and never was,” Treviño wrote. “That’s a pretty key distinction. What most PR does is comment/opinion.”