Roger Jason Stone Jr. (born August 27, 1952) is an American political consultant, lobbyist, and strategist noted for his use of opposition research, usually for candidates of the Republican Party.
In 1980, he co-founded the Washington, DC-based lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone with principals Paul Manafort and Charles R. Black Jr. It recruited Peter G. Kelly and the firm was renamed Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly in 1984. During the 1980s, BMSK leveraged its "White House connections" to attract "high-paying clients" including "U.S. corporations", "trade associations", and foreign governments. By 1990, it was "one of the leading lobbyists for American companies and foreign organizations".
Stone has variously been referred to in media as a "political dirty trickster", a "renowned infighter", a "seasoned practitioner of hard-edged politics", and a "veteran Republican strategist." Over the course of his political career, Stone has been widely regarded as promoting a number of falsehoods and conspiracy theories. Stone is the subject of a Netflix documentary film, titled Get Me Roger Stone, which focused on his past and role in the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Stone officially left the Trump campaign on August 8, 2015; however, two associates of Stone have claimed that he collaborated with Wikileaks owner Julian Assange in the spring of 2016 to discredit Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Early life and political work
Stone was born on August 27, 1952 in Norwalk, Connecticut, the son of Gloria Rose (Corbo) and Roger J. Stone. Stone grew up in Lewisboro, New York, in a family of Hungarian and Italian descent. His mother was a small-town reporter, his father a well driller and business owner. He has described his family as middle-class, blue-collar Catholics.
In the first grade, Stone claims, he broke into politics to further John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign: "I remember going through the cafeteria line and telling every kid that Nixon was in favor of school on Saturdays...It was my first political trick".
When he was a junior and vice president of the student government at a high school in northern Westchester County, New York, he manipulated the ouster of the president and succeeded him. Stone recalled how he ran for election as president for his senior year:
"I built alliances and put all my serious challengers on my ticket. Then I recruited the most unpopular guy in the school to run against me. You think that's mean? No, it's smart."
Given a copy of Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative, Stone became a convert to conservatism as a child and a volunteer in Goldwater's 1964 campaign. In 2007, Stone indicated that he was a staunch conservative but with libertarian leanings.
As a student at George Washington University in 1972, Stone invited Jeb Magruder to speak at a Young Republicans Club, then successfully asked Magruder for a job with Richard Nixon's storied Committee to Re-elect the President ("CREEP"). Stone then dropped out of college to work for the committee.
Stone's political career began in earnest with activities such as contributing money to a possible rival of Nixon in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance—then slipping the receipt to the Manchester Union-Leader. He also got a spy hired by the Hubert Humphrey campaign who became Humphrey's driver. According to Stone, during the day he was officially a scheduler in the Nixon campaign, but "By night, I'm trafficking in the black arts. Nixon's people were obsessed with intelligence." Stone maintains he never did anything illegal during Watergate.
1972–1977: Nixon administration and Reagan '76
After Nixon won the 1972 presidential election, Stone worked for the administration in the Office of Economic Opportunity. After Nixon resigned, Stone went to work for Bob Dole, but was later fired after columnist Jack Anderson publicly identified Stone as a Nixon 'dirty trickster.' In 1976, he worked in Ronald Reagan's campaign for president, and in 1977, became national chairman of the Young Republicans.
1980–1992: Reagan '80, lobbying, and Bush '88
Stone went on to serve as chief strategist for Thomas Kean's campaign for governor of New Jersey in 1981 and for his re-election campaign in 1985.
Stone, the "keeper of the Nixon flame," was an adviser to the former president in his post-presidential years, serving as "Nixon's man in Washington." Stone was a protégé of former Connecticut Governor John Davis Lodge, who introduced the young Stone to then former Vice President Nixon in 1967.
John Sears recruited Stone to work in Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign, coordinating the Northeast. Stone said that former McCarthyist Roy Cohn helped him arrange for John B. Anderson to get the nomination of the Liberal Party of New York, a move that would help split the opposition to Reagan in the state. Stone said Cohn gave him a suitcase that Stone avoided opening and, as instructed by Cohn, dropped it off at the office of a lawyer influential in Liberal Party circles. Reagan carried the state with 46% of the vote. Speaking after the statute of limitations for bribery had expired, Stone later said, "I paid his law firm. Legal fees. I don't know what he did for the money, but whatever it was, the Liberal party reached its right conclusion out of a matter of principle".
With partners Charlie Black and Paul Manafort, he formed Black, Manafort, and Stone, a political consulting firm, described as "instrumental in the success of Ronald Reagan's 1984 campaign". Republican political strategist Lee Atwater later joined the firm in 1985, after serving the #2 position on Reagan-Bush '84. The firm lobbied for the Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
In 1987–88, Stone served as senior adviser to Jack Kemp's presidential campaign, which was managed by consulting partner Charlie Black. In that same election, his other partners worked for George H.W. Bush (Lee Atwater as campaign manager, and Paul Manafort as director of operations in the fall campaign).
In April 1992, Time alleged that Stone was involved with the controversial Willie Horton advertisements to aid George H.W. Bush's 1988 presidential campaign, which were targeted against Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis. Stone has said that he urged Lee Atwater not to include Horton in the ad. Stone denied making or distributing the advertisement, and said it was Atwater's doing. However, the actual ads featuring Horton's picture (run originally on CNN) were produced by Americans for Bush/NSPAC (National Security PAC), an independent-expenditure group not controlled or coordinated by Atwater and the Bush campaign. FEC records for NSPAC do not indicate any payments to or affiliation with Stone, and the ads were reported in 1988 and thereafter to have been produced by another consultant.
Stone and his first wife Ann E.W. Stone, whom he married in 1974, founded the group Republicans for Choice in 1989. They divorced in 1990.
1993–2003: early work with Trump, Dole '96, and 2000 Florida recount
In 1995, Stone was the president of Republican Senator Arlen Specter's campaign for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination. Specter withdrew early in the campaign season with less than 2% support.
Stone was for many years a lobbyist for Donald Trump on behalf of his casino business and also was involved in opposing expanded casino gambling in New York State, a position that brought him into conflict with Governor George Pataki.
In 1996, Stone resigned from a post as a volunteer spokesman in Senator Bob Dole's campaign for president after The National Enquirer wrote that Stone had placed ads and pictures in racy swingers publications and a website seeking sexual partners for himself and his second wife, Nydia Bertrane Stone, whom he married in Las Vegas in 1992. Stone initially denied the report. On the Good Morning America program he said: "An exhaustive investigation now indicates that a domestic employee who I discharged for substance abuse on the second time that we learned that he had a drug problem is the perpetrator who had access to my home, access to my computer, access to my password, access to my postage meter, access to my post-office box key". In a 2008 interview with The New Yorker Stone admitted that the ads were authentic.
In 2000, Stone served as campaign manager of Donald Trump's aborted campaign for president in the Reform Party primary.
Later that year, according to Stone and the film Recount, Stone was recruited by James Baker to assist with public relations during the Florida recount. His role in the Brooks Brothers riot, the demonstration by Republican operatives against the recount, remains controversial.
In 2002, Stone was associated with the campaign of businessman Thomas Golisano for governor of New York State.
2004: Sharpton '04 and Killian memos
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Democrat Al Sharpton responded to accusations that Stone was working on his campaign, stating, "I've been talking to Roger Stone for a long time. That doesn't mean that he's calling the shots for me. Don't forget that Bill Clinton was doing more than talking to Dick Morris." Critics suggested that Stone only was working with Sharpton as a way to undermine the Democratic Party's chances of winning the election. Sharpton denies that Stone had any influence over his campaign.
In that election a blogger accused Stone of responsibility for the Kerry-Specter campaign materials which were circulated in Pennsylvania. Such signs were considered controversial because they were seen as an effort to get Democrats who supported Kerry to vote for then Republican Senator Arlen Specter in heavily Democratic Philadelphia.
During the 2004 general election, Stone was accused by then-DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe of forging the Killian memos that led CBS News to report that President Bush had not fulfilled his service obligations while enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard. McAuliffe cited a report in the New York Post in his accusations. For his part, Stone denied having forged the documents.
2007–2008: conflict with Bernard Spitzer
In 2007, Stone, a top adviser at the time to Joseph Bruno (the Majority Leader of the New York State Senate), was forced to resign by Bruno after allegations that Stone had threatened Bernard Spitzer, the then-83-year-old father of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer. On August 6, 2007, an expletive-laced message was left on the elder Spitzer's answering machine threatening to prosecute the elderly man if he did not implicate his son in wrongdoing. Bernard Spitzer hired a private detective agency that traced the call to the phone of Roger Stone's wife. Roger Stone denied leaving the message, despite the fact that his voice was recognized, claiming he was at a movie that was later shown not to have been screened that night. Stone was accused on an episode of Hardball with Chris Matthews on August 22, 2007 of being the voice on an expletive-laden voicemail threatening Bernard Spitzer, father of Eliot, with subpoenas. Donald Trump is quoted as saying of the incident, "They caught Roger red-handed, lying. What he did was ridiculous and stupid."
Stone consistently denied the reports. Thereafter, however, he resigned from his position as a consultant to the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee at Bruno's request.
In January 2008, Stone founded Citizens United Not Timid, an anti-Hillary Clinton 527 group with an intentionally obscene acronym.
Stone is featured in Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, documentary on Lee Atwater made in 2008. He also was featured in Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, the 2010 documentary of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal.
Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg considers Stone his mentor during this time, and "surrogate father".
2010–2014: Libertarian Party involvement and Kristin Davis for Governor
In February 2010, Stone became campaign manager for Kristin Davis, a madam linked with the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal, in her bid for the Libertarian Party nomination for governor of New York in the 2010 election. Stone said that the campaign "is not a hoax, a prank or a publicity stunt. I want to get her a half-million votes." However, he later was spotted at a campaign rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, of whom Stone has spoken favorably. Stone admittedly had been providing support and advice to both campaigns on the grounds that the two campaigns had different goals: Davis was seeking to gain permanent ballot access for her party, and Paladino was in the race to win (and was Stone's preferred candidate). As such, Stone did not believe he had a conflict of interest in supporting both candidates. While working for the Davis campaign, Warren Redlich, the Libertarian nominee for Governor, alleged that Stone collaborated with a group entitled "People for a Safer New York" to send a flyer labeling Redlich a "sexual predator" and "sick, twisted pervert" based on a blog post Redlich had made in 2008. Redlich later sued Stone in a New York court for defamation over the flyers, and sought $20,000,000 in damages. However, the jury in the case returned a verdict in favor of Stone in December 2017, finding that Redlich failed to prove Stone was involved with the flyers.
Stone volunteered as an unpaid advisor to comedian Steve Berke ("a libertarian member of his so-called After Party") in his 2011 campaign for mayor of Miami Beach, Florida in 2012. (Berke lost the race to incumbent mayor Matti Herrera Bower.)
In February 2012, Stone said that he had changed his party affiliation from the Republican Party to the Libertarian Party. Stone predicted a "Libertarian moment" in 2016 and the end of the Republican party.
In June 2012, Stone said that he was running a super PAC in support of former New Mexico governor and Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, whom he had met at a Reason magazine Christmas party two years earlier. Stone told the Huffington Post that Johnson had a real role to play, although "I have no allusions (sic) of him winning."
Stone considered running as a Libertarian candidate for governor of Florida in 2014, but in May 2013 said in a statement that he would not run, and that he wanted to devote himself to campaigning in support of a 2014 constitutional amendment on the Florida ballot to legalize medical marijuana.
2016–present: Trump '16 and Russia
Stone served as an advisor to the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Stone left the campaign on August 8, 2015 amid controversy, with Stone claiming he quit and Trump claiming that Stone was fired. Despite this, Stone still supported Trump. A few days later, Stone wrote an op-ed called "The man who just resigned from Donald Trump's campaign explains how Trump can still win" for Business Insider.
Despite calling Stone a "stone-cold loser" in a 2008 interview and accusing him of seeking too much publicity in a statement shortly after Stone left the campaign, Donald Trump praised him during an appearance in December 2015 on Alex Jones' radio show that was orchestrated by Stone. "Roger's a good guy," Trump said. "He's been so loyal and so wonderful." Stone remained an informal advisor to and media surrogate for Trump throughout the campaign."
During the course of the 2016 campaign, Stone was banned from appearing on CNN and MSNBC after making a series of offensive Twitter posts disparaging television personalities. Stone specifically referred to a CNN commentator as an "entitled diva bitch" and imagined her "killing herself", and called another CNN personality a "stupid negro" and a "fat negro". Erik Wemple, media writer for The Washington Post, described Stone's tweets as "nasty" and "bigoted". In February 2016, CNN said that it would no longer invite Stone to appear on its network, and MSNBC followed suit, confirming in April 2016 that Stone had also been banned from that network. In a June 2016 appearance on On Point, Stone told Tom Ashbrook: "I would have to admit that calling Roland Martin a 'fat negro' was a two-martini tweet, and I regret that. As for my criticism of Ana Navarro not being qualified ... I don't understand why she's there, given her lack of qualifications."
In March 2016, an article in the tabloid magazine National Enquirer stated that Ted Cruz, Trump's Republican primary rival, had extramarital affairs with five women. The article quoted Stone as saying, "These stories have been swirling about Cruz for some time. I believe where there is smoke there is fire." Cruz denied the allegations (calling it "garbage" and a "tabloid smear") and accused the Trump campaign, and Stone specifically, of planting the story as part of an orchestrated smear campaign against him. Cruz stated, "It is a story that quoted one source on the record, Roger Stone, Donald Trump's chief political adviser. And I would note that Mr. Stone is a man who has 50 years of dirty tricks behind him. He's a man for whom a term was coined for copulating with a rodent." In April 2016, Cruz again criticized Stone, saying on Sean Hannity's radio show of Stone: "He is pulling the strings on Donald Trump. He planned the Trump campaign, and he is Trump's henchman and dirty trickster. And this pattern, Donald keeps associating himself with people who encourage violence." Stone responded by comparing Cruz to Richard Nixon and accusing him of being a liar.
In April 2016, Stone formed a pro-Trump activist group, Stop the Steal, and threatened "Days of Rage" if Republican party leaders tried to deny the nomination to Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The Washington Post reported that Stone "is organizing [Trump] supporters as a force of intimidation," noting that Stone "has ... threatened to publicly disclose the hotel room numbers of delegates who work against Trump." Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that Stone's threat to publicize the hotel room numbers of delegates was "just totally over the line."
After Trump had been criticized at the Democratic National Convention for his comments on Muslims by Khizr Khan, a Pakistani American whose son received a posthumous Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, Stone made headlines defending Trump's criticism by accusing Khan of sympathizing with the enemy.
During the campaign, Stone frequently promoted conspiracy theories, including the false claim that Clinton aide Huma Abedin was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections
During the 2016 campaign, Stone was accused by Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta of having prior knowledge of the publishing by Wikileaks of Podesta's private emails obtained by a hacker. Stone tweeted before the leak, "It will soon [sic] the Podesta's time in the barrel". Five days before the leak, Stone tweeted, “Wednesday Hillary Clinton is done. #Wikileaks.” Stone has denied having any advance knowledge of the Podesta email hack or any connection to Russian intelligence, stating that his earlier tweet was referring to reports of the Podesta Group's own ties to Russia. In his opening statement before the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on September 26, 2017, Stone reiterated this claim: "Note that my tweet of August 21, 2016, makes no mention, whatsoever, of Mr. Podesta's email, but does accurately predict that the Podesta brothers' business activities in Russia ... would come under public scrutiny."
However, Stone has repeatedly acknowledged that he had established a back-channel with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to obtain information on Hillary Clinton. Stone has pointed to this intermediary as the source for his advance knowledge about the release of Podesta's e-mails by Wikileaks. Stone ultimately named Randy Credico, who had interviewed both Assange and Stone for a radio show, as his intermediary with Assange.
On March 13, 2018, two sources close to Stone, former Trump aide Sam Nunberg and a person speaking on anonymity, acknowledged to the Washington Post that Stone had established contact with Wikileaks owner Julian Assange and that two had a telephone conversation discussing emails related to the Clinton campaign which had been leaked to Wikileaks. According to Nunberg, who claimed he spoke to the paper after being asked to do so by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Stone joked to him that he had taken a trip to London to personally meet with Assange, but declined to do so had only wanted to instead have telephone conversations to remain undetected and did not have advance notice of the leaked emails. The other source, who spoke on anonymity, stated that the conversation occurred before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee, documents that WikiLeaks released in late July and October. Stone afterwards denied that he had contacted Assange or had known in advance about the leaked emails.
Congressional investigation and further scrutiny
In February 2017, The New York Times reported that as part of its ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign, the FBI was looking into any contacts Stone may have had with Russian operatives.
In March 2017, after reports surfaced in The Washington Times that Stone had direct-messaged alleged DNC hacker Guccifer 2.0 on Twitter, Stone admitted to having contact with the mysterious persona and made public excerpts of the messages. Stone claimed the messages were just innocent praise of the hacking. According to a publicly released report by U.S. intelligence agencies, the U.S. intelligence community believes Guccifer 2.0 to be a false persona created by Russian intelligence to obscure its role in the DNC hack. The Guccifer 2.0 persona has since been linked with an IP address believed to originate at the Russian intelligence agency, GRU, in Moscow; apparently this was discovered by the FBI when a user with a Moscow IP address logged into one of the Guccifer social media accounts without using a VPN.
During the congressional investigations of Russia's role in the 2016 election, Stone's role in Trump's campaign and his potential contacts with Russia have come under scrutiny. The Senate Intelligence Committee asked Stone to preserve all documents related to any Russian contacts. The Committee Vice Chair, Senator Mark Warner, called on Stone to testify before the committee, saying he "hit the trifecta" of shady dealings with Russia. Stone denied any wrongdoing in an interview on Real Time with Bill Maher on March 31, 2017, and claimed he was willing to testify before the committee.
On September 26, 2017, Stone testified before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors, but he released a public statement which he had delivered to the Committee shortly before, and supplied to the media afterwards. The Washington Post noted his affiliations with conspiracy sites Infowars, Breitbart.com, and Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories promulgator, Jerome Corsi. Stone also made personal attacks on Democratic committee members Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and Dennis Heck.
On October 28, 2017, Stone became agitated following a news report by CNN that indictments would be announced within a few days. Subsequently, Stone's Twitter account was suspended by Twitter for what it called "targeted abuse" of various CNN personnel in a series of derogatory, threatening and obscenity-filled tweets.
Books and other writings
Since 2010, Stone has been an occasional contributor to the conservative website The Daily Caller, serving as "male fashion editor." Stone also writes for his own fashion blog, Stone on Style.
Stone has written five books, all published by Skyhorse Publishing of New York City. Stone's books have been described as "hatchet jobs" by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times.
- The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ (with Mike Colapietro contributing) (Skyhorse Publishing, 2013: Stone contends that Lyndon B. Johnson was behind a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy and was complicit in at least six other murders. In a review for The Washington Times, Hugh Aynesworth wrote: "The title pretty much explains the book's theory. If a reader doesn't let facts get in the way, it could be an interesting adventure." Aynesworth, who covered the assassination for the Dallas Morning News, said that the book "is totally full of all kinds of crap."
- Nixon's Secrets: The Rise, Fall and Untold Truth about the President, Watergate, and the Pardon (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014: Stone discusses Richard Nixon and his career. About two-thirds of the book "is a conventional biography that is by no means a whitewash of Nixon. Stone writes that the president took campaign money from the mob, had a long-running affair with a Hong Kong woman who may have been a Chinese spy, and even once unwittingly smuggled three pounds of marijuana into the United States when carrying the suitcase of jazz great Louis Armstrong." The remaining one-third of the book is an unconventional account of the Watergate scandal. Stone portrays Nixon as a "confused victim" and claims that John Dean orchestrated the break-in (which he depicts as ordinary politics of the time) to cover up involvement in a prostitution ring. This account is rejected by experts, such as Watergate researchers Anthony Summers and Max Holland. Holland said of Stone: "He's out of his ever-lovin' mind." Dean said in 2014 that Stone's book and his defense of Nixon are "typical of the alternative universe out there" and "pure bullshit."
- The Clintons' War on Women (with Robert Morrow of Austin, Texas) (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015: This book, according to Politico, is a "sensational" work that contains "explosive, but highly dubious, revelations about both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton" with a focus on Bill Clinton sexual misconduct allegations. This book was promoted by Trump, who posted a Twitter message containing the book's Amazon.com page. David Corn, writing in Mother Jones, writes that the book is "apparently designed to smear the Clintons—by depicting Bill as a serial rapist, Hillary as an enabler, and both members of the power couple as a diabolical duo bent on destroying anyone who stands in their way" and said that the book was part of a wider "extreme anti-Clinton project" by Stone.
- Jeb! and the Bush Crime Family (with Saint John Hunt) (Skyhorse Publishing, 2016: The book focuses on Jeb Bush and the Bush family.
- The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017: The book discusses Donald Trump's presidential campaign during the 2016 election.
Personal style and habits
Stone has been noted for his personal style, described as flamboyant. In a 2007 Weekly Standard profile written by Matt Labash, Stone was described as a "lord of mischief" and the "boastful black prince of Republican sleaze." Labash wrote that Stone "often sets his pronouncements off with the utterance 'Stone's Rules,' signifying to listeners that one of his shot-glass commandments is coming down, a pithy dictate uttered with the unbending certitude one usually associates with the Book of Deuteronomy." Examples of Stone's Rules include "Politics with me isn't theater. It's performance art, sometimes for its own sake."
Stone does not wear socks—a fact that Nancy Reagan brought to her husband's attention during his 1980 presidential campaign. Labash described him as "a dandy by disposition who boasts of having not bought off-the-rack since he was 17," who has "taught reporters how to achieve perfect double-dimples underneath their tie knots." Washington journalist Victor Gold has noted Stone's reputation as one of the "smartest dressers" in Washington. Stone's longtime tailor is Alan Flusser. Stone dislikes single-vent jackets (describing them as the sign of a "heathen"); says he owns 100 silver-colored neckties; and has 100 suits in storage. Fashion stories have been written about him in GQ and Penthouse. Stone has written of his dislike for jeans and ascots and has praised seersucker three-piece suits, as well as Madras jackets in the summertime and velvet blazers in the winter.
In 1999, Stone credited his preternatural looks to "decades of following a regimen of Chinese herbs, breathing therapies, tai chi and acupuncture," according to the Times. Stone wears a diamond pinkie ring in the shape of a horseshoe and in 2007 he had Richard Nixon's face tattooed on his back. As of 2007, he owned five Jaguar cars and five Yorkshire Terriers. In 2016, he claimed in a Newsweek interview that at least two of his dogs have been poisoned. He has said: "I like English tailoring, I like Italian shoes. I like French wine. I like vodka martinis with an olive, please. I like to keep physically fit."
Stone's office in Florida has been described as a "Hall of Nixonia" with framed pictures, posters, and letters associated with Nixon. Exceptions are a poster of a stripper and a photo of him standing by a pool with a bikini-clad pornographic film actress, Nina Hartley.