Reporter Claims He Accidentally Started Hamas Rumor That Dogged Chuck Hagel
In the attempts to derail the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of Defense, one of the major attacks against the former Republican senator from Nebraska was that he spoke to a group called “Friends of Hamas.” The problem is the group is, as memorably described by Dave Weigel, “as fake as Manti Teo’s girlfriend.” Although the existence of the group had already been debunked, no one knew from what dark corner of the anti-Hagel campaign that “Friends of Hamas” emerged.
Who would make up such a group? It turns out the name comes from a joke made by a reporter for the New York Daily News.
Dan Friedman of the Daily News called up a Republican source on Capitol Hill on February 6, asking about controversial groups to whom Hagel delivered speeches. Friedman joked “had Hagel given a speech to, say, the ‘Junior League of Hezbollah, in France’”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”? Friedman never heard back and followed up with a joking email “Did he get $25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?”
The next day, Breitbart.com, a right-wing website, breathlessly reported on Hagel’s ties to Friends of Hamas. The three paragraph story by Ben Shapiro claimed:
Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed that 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.”
Although Friends of Hamas had long since been discredited, it hasn’t stopped Shapiro from standing by his story, which he continues to insist is “accurate and clearly caveated.” He doesn’t mention that it was totally wrong–not to mention another uncaveated difference, left unmentioned by Shapiro, that Breitbart has gone from citing “Senate sources” now to “one Senate source” for its story.
Shapiro does go on the attack against Friedman, claiming that the Daily News writer was knowingly lying as part of “the Obama media, where protecting Chuck Hagel and attacking any media who question Hagel is par for the course.” In Shapiro’s defense, maybe Friedman’s joke didn’t actually lead to “Friends of Hamas,” there’s no way to tell. But, only one of those two published an unsubstantiated story that was rumor at best and a lame smear at worse. And it wasn’t Friedman.
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