Reporter Asks Sarcastic Question, Spawns Rumor That Almost Defeats Cabinet Nomination
A NY Daily News reporter is coming clean today, admitting that he is the unintentional source behind an ugly rumor that almost derailed the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. But Dan Friedman insists that the rumor was the result of a big misunderstanding, and seems to lay most of the blame with a congressional staffer and a conservative blogger.
Friedman claims that he was investigating even earlier rumors that Hagel had accepted speaking fees from controversial groups, like pro-Palestinian organizations. Speaking to a “Republican aide on Capitol Hill,” Friedman asked if Hagel had ever accepted fees from such an organization, jokingly offering the exaggerated, hypothetical name “Friends of Hamas” as an example.
Friedman thought his intention was clear:
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.
Friedman says he never heard back from the aide. But days later, he was shocked to see reports, originating from Breitbart.com’s Ben Shapiro, that senators were investigating Hagel’s possible ties to a group called Friends of Hamas.
Shapiro reportedly admitted that Friends of Hamas “might not exist,” but claims his article does not say that it does. (Presumably, he can hide behind the defense that he was just reporting on the senators’ actions and concerns.) However, as of Tuesday morning, Shapiro’s article had no updates, and contains no mention that Friends of Hamas could possibly not exist- much less that the man who inspired the rumor has stepped forward.
Shapiro published a follow-up accusing Friedman of actively lying, trying to cover for Hagel, and acting as an agent for the Obama administration. Shapiro says his anonymous source denied that Friedman originated the claim, even though Friedman himself said the Congressional aide he spoke to did not speak to Shapiro and told other third parties. Finally, Shapiro criticizes Friedman for not divulging sources, though Shapiro also refuses to do so.
And that’s how news is made. What do you think?
[Image via Pete Marovich/ZUMA Press/Newscom]