A Peak Inside The Right Wing Press

Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense have been held up because of, among other things, rumors that he once gave a speech to a controversial group called "Friends of Hamas".

It seems that there is no such group called "Friends of Hamas", but that didn't stop Breitbart.com from pimping the story as if it was true.

Here is a fascinating account of how a made-up hypothetical falls into the hands of faux "journalists" with a right-wing agenda (and no penchant for telling the truth):

Here’s what happened: When rumors swirled that Hagel received speaking fees from controversial organizations, I attempted to check them out.

On Feb. 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did Hagel’s Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed?

Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”?

The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.

Or so I thought.

The aide promised to get back to me. I followed up with an e-mail, as a reminder: “Did he get $25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?” I asked.

The source never responded, and I moved on.

I couldn’t have imagined what would happen next. On Feb. 7, the conservative web site Breitbart.com screamed this headline:

“SECRET HAGEL DONOR?: WHITE HOUSE SPOX DUCKS QUESTION ON ‘FRIENDS OF HAMAS’”

The story read: “On Thursday, Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed one of the reasons that President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has not turned over requested documents on his sources of foreign funding is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called ‘Friends of Hamas.’”

The author, Ben Shapiro, wrote that a White House spokesman hung up on him when he called for comment. That went in the story — to buttress the assertion that the White House didn’t deny the claim.

Shapiro tweeted the link to his nearly 40,000 Twitter followers. Blogs like RedState.com and the National Review’s The Corner linked to it. In Israel, Mike Huckabee said “rumors of Chuck Hagel’s having received funds from Friends of Hamas,” would, if true, “disqualify him.”

Somehow, I was not aware of the firestorm until Sunday, when I glanced at my phone and saw a Slate.com story raising big doubts whether “Friends of Hamas” even exists.

On Monday, I reached my source. The person denied sharing my query with Breitbart but admitted the chance of having mentioned it to others. Since the source knew we spoke under a standard that my questions weren’t for sharing, that’s a problem.

But there was another fail-safe. Since the “Friends of Hamas” speech was imaginary, it was not like another reporter could confirm it, right?

Not quite. Reached Tuesday, Shapiro acknowledged “Friends of Hamas” might not exist. But he said his story used “very, very specific language” to avoid flatly claiming it did.

“The story as reported is correct. Whether the information I was given by the source is correct I am not sure,” he said.

I am, it seems, the creator of the Friends of Hamas myth. Doing my job, I erred in counting on confidentiality and the understanding that my example was farcical — and by assuming no one would print an unchecked rumor.

But of course, they did print the unchecked rumor, while trying to hide the fact that is was just a rumor.

Never trust content from right wing sources.

What do you think?