AP staffers Michelle Smith, Serginho Roosblad and Carolyn Kaster teamed up with PBS “Frontline” on a deeply reported all-formats investigative package revealing how retired lieutenant general and former national security adviser Michael Flynn has used public appearances, endorsements and a network of well-funded groups to build a movement centered on Christian nationalist ideas.
Smith spoke with more than 60 people, including Flynn’s family, friends, opponents and current and former colleagues, examined dozens of Flynn’s speeches, interviews and other appearances, reviewed campaign finance records, corporate and charity filings, social media posts and other open-source information, and attended public events where Flynn appeared.
She also landed a rare interview with the retired three-star general. Flynn and his team had rebuffed Smith's interview requests for years and his team denied he would attend Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, but Smith’s reporting said otherwise. When she noticed a Flynn event pop up with little fanfare at a burger bar across the street from CPAC, she and “Frontline” scrambled there on short notice and scored the sit-down.=
The interview, edited by AP investigative video journalist Roosblad, was widely viewed, including more than 500,000 views on Twitter.
Smith, along with Washington-based photographer Kaster and a “Frontline” crew, also attended August’s ReAwaken America tour in upstate New York, where smart planning allowed the team to spend two days reporting with few of the restrictions other media outlets faced.
As a result, while many news organizations have framed Flynn as someone who has “gone off the rails,” the reporting by AP and “Frontline” found Flynn deliberately and systematically driving a far-right political narrative with the goal of influencing elections this year and beyond. One historian and author, an expert on authoritarianism who was consulted for the story, called Flynn “one of the most dangerous individuals in America today.”