LONDON — The expectations were breathless.
For weeks, backers of Republican nominee Donald Trump hyped the tantalizing possibility that the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks was on the verge of publishing a set of documents that would doom Hillary Clinton’s chances in November.
“@HillaryClinton is done,” longtime Trump associate Roger Stone tweeted Saturday. “#Wikileaks.”
The group’s founder, Julian Assange, did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm, suggesting to Fox News hosts that his scoops could upend the race with documents “associated with the election campaign, some quite unexpected angles, some quite interesting.”
The announcement by WikiLeaks that it would host a major news conference Tuesday only seemed to confirm that the bombshell was ready to burst. The pro-Trump, anti-Clinton media world rippled with fevered speculation.
But if an October surprise about the Democratic nominee really is coming, it will have to wait a little longer.
Over the course of two hours on Tuesday — with the world’s media and bleary-eyed Trump die-hards across the United States tuning in — Assange and other WikiLeaks officials railed against “neo-McCarthyist hysteria,” blasted the mainstream media, appealed for donations and plugged their books (“40 percent off!”).
But what they didn’t do was provide any new information about Clinton — or about anything else, really.
The much-vaunted news conference, as it turned out, was little more than an extended infomercial for WikiLeaks on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of its founding.
Assange, whose group released a trove of hacked Democratic National Committee documents on the eve of the party’s convention this summer, breezily dismissed the idea that anyone should have expected any news at his news conference.
“If we are going to make a major publication about the U.S., we wouldn't do it at 3 a.m.," Assange said at one point, referring to the Eastern daylight start time for the event.
That didn’t go over well with Trump backers who had stayed up through the night, thinking they’d be watching live the unveiling of the death blow to the Clinton campaign.
Assange, as it turns out, had taken a page from Trump’s own playbook by drawing an audience with a tease, only to leave those tuning in feeling that they’d been tricked.
Infowars, the pro-Trump and virulently anti-Clinton media vehicle launched by Texas radio host Alex Jones, had touted the WikiLeaks news conference as “historic” and promised that “the Clintons will be devastated.”
— infowars (@infowars) October 3, 2016
Before Assange took the stage, Jones — who broadcast through the wee hours of the American morning — told viewers and listeners that he was so excited he was worried his heart couldn't stand it.
But by the end, Jones realized he’d been played — or in his words, “#wikirolled.”
— Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) October 4, 2016
He wasn’t the only one. Sleep-deprived Trump backers and Hillary-haters all across the country took to Twitter to convey their displeasure.
— DeplorableScottErnst (@RealScottErnst) October 4, 2016
— Tim Black ™ (@RealTimBlack) October 4, 2016
Best troll ever: Assange asking why I'm up at 4am, while I'm wondering why I'm up at 4am, after he told me to be up at 4am. #OctoberSurprise
— Matt Dougan (@Americooligan) October 4, 2016
But perhaps those waiting for an October surprise shouldn’t lose all hope just yet. Or at least that was the message from Assange, who spoke via video link from the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, where he has been holed up for four years as Swedish authorities seek his extradition over sexual assault allegations.
He promised to reveal documents every week for the next 10. He said some will have a direct bearing on the U.S. election.
“We think they’re significant,” he coyly informed his worldwide audience.
But what will they reveal? And when will they come? Assange wouldn’t say.
Karla Adam contributed to this report.