Disturbing undercover interviews with executives from U.K.-based political research firm Cambridge Analytica have revealed admissions of bribery, entrapment and the use of sex workers to sway political elections around the world, according to an investigative series airing Monday.
The results of a monthslong investigation by Britain’s Channel 4 News revealed Cambridge Analytica’s inner workings as told by Alexander Nix, the company’s chief executive, and Mark Turnbull, the managing director of CA Political Global, to a reporter posing as a client.
The interviews are part of Channel 4 News’ “Data, Democracy and Dirty Tricks” investigation series.
During phone calls and in-person meetings at a London hotel from November 2017 to January 2018, Nix was recorded bragging that his firm and parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) secretly influenced more than 200 elections around the world, including those in Nigeria, Kenya, the Czech Republic, India and Argentina.
Cambridge Analytica was also hired by President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. The firm recently made news for using data acquired by Facebook to build “psychographic profiles” about voters without their knowledge.
According to Channel 4′s meetings with Nix, his firm’s methods for influencing an election included putting certain politicians in compromising positions and secretly recording them, as well as conducting their work using fake IDs, websites, and under different company names so that the company’s relationship with the client is not publicly known.
“We do incognito very well indeed,” Nix said according to one December interview cited by Channel 4.
The company’s chief data officer, Dr. Alex Tayler, is also listed as having attended two of the meetings with the Channel 4 reporter.
During another interview in January, Nix reportedly said that one method of finding dirt on a candidate was to essentially create it.
“We’ll have a wealthy developer come in, somebody posing as a wealthy developer,” he said. “They will offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land, for instance. We’ll have the whole thing recorded on cameras, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the internet.”
In another example, the CEO reportedly said the firm will “send some girls,” specifically Ukranian women, to a candidate’s house to seduce the individual, an act that Nix said “works very well.”
“I’m just giving you examples of what can be done and what, what has been done,” he told the reporter.
Other methods involved making the public believe inaccurate facts about a certain candidate.
“I mean, it sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true, as long as they’re believed,” he said.
... These are things that don’t necessarily need to be true, as long as they’re believed.”
“It’s no good fighting an election campaign on the facts,” Turnbull is reported as saying in November, “because actually it’s all about emotion, it’s all about emotion.”
Channel 4 noted that though Turnbull witnessed Nix’s comments on the use of sex workers, during a Dec. 19 interview, Turnbull said his company isn’t “in the business of entrapment” and “lying, making stuff up.”
“We wouldn’t send a pretty girl out to seduce a politician and then film them in their bedroom and then release the film. There are companies that do this, but to me, that crosses a line…” Turnbull is reported as saying.
A Cambridge Analytica spokesman, cited by Channel 4, denied reports that its firm and affiliates “use entrapment, bribes, or so-called ‘honey-traps’ for any purpose whatsoever ... ”
The firm, in a statement to HuffPost, accused Channel 4 of editing the recorded conversations in a way that would deliberately make them appear unethical.
Nix, in his own response, admitted to discussing controversial practices with the undercover reporter but said he did so only to humor what he thought was a prospective client.
“In playing along with this line of conversation, and partly to spare our ‘client’ from embarrassment, we entertained a series of ludicrous hypothetical scenarios. I am aware how this looks, but it is simply not the case,” Nix stated.