Secret Hagel Donor?: White House Ducks Questions On ‘Fox And Friends Of Hamas’
One of the great mysteries of former Senator Chuck Hagel‘s (R-NE) contentious pending confirmation as Secretary of Defense has been solved. A “Breitbart News” story published two weeks ago, entitled “Secret Hagel Donor (question mark) (colon) White House Spox Ducks Question On ‘Friends Of Hamas,'” raised questions about the gullibility of Republicans like former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and current Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), but no one could quite figure out the imaginary group “Friends of Hamas'” origin story. The New York Daily News‘ Dan Friedman has now revealed that he accidentally invented them.
As it turns out, the source of the rumor was a joke, and I’m not referring to Breitbart News’ Ben Shapiro, whose Feb. 6 report cited “Senate sources” (an attribution looser than your average Ex-Lax binge) alleging that the reason for Sen. Hagel’s refusal to comply with a deep-sea fishing request for financial disclosures “is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called ‘Friends of Hamas.'”
Shapiro’s post concluded with a breathless tick-tock of White House press aide Eric Schultz‘s shocking decision to hang up on “Breitbart News,” followed by dramatic reachings of Schultz’s voicemail. Hence, the “ducking.”
In the real world, that would have been the end of it, because most people would greet that report the same way Schultz did, with a spit-take, a guffaw, and a resumption of their daily activities. However, in the land of Republicanistan, this kind of “reporting” catches fire, and is given serious consideration by the likes of Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, The National Review‘s Andrew McCarthy, and Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs. Normal people pointed and laughed, and thanked Shapiro for exposing just a little bit more Republican clownishness.
Still, the question remained: where did this imaginary group come from? Shapiro obviously wasn’t making it up, or he would have also made up a decent attribution, and maybe a quote from Schultz, to boot. Slate’s Dave Weigel reached out to Shapiro:
This morning I wrote Shapiro to clear up the accusation. “Have you found any more proof that this group exists?” I asked. “Is it just shorthand for some people who might support Hagel, or a real group?”
“The original story is the entirety of the information I have,” he said.
Then, The New York Daily News‘ Dan Friedman remembered calling a Republican aide, and asking, jokingly, about Sen. Hagel’s past associations:
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.
Perhaps complicating matters, Friedman sent a followup email calling back to the joke, asking ““Did he get $25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?”
The following day, Shapiro’s item ran, and once he caught wind of it, Friedman contacted his source, and Shapiro:
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.
Of course Shapiro didn’t bother to check (nor has he updated his story to indicate that the group “might not exist”), because that’s what a squirrel does; it tries to get a nut. That’s not really the problem. The problem is that half of the people governing our country don’t know the difference.
Shapiro, at least, has a point: there’s no proof that “Friends of Hamas” exists, but there’s also no proof it doesn’t. On a hunch, I decided to see if the White House was also covering for Hagel’s involvement with “Fox and Friends of Hamas,” which also might not exist, but is also a string of words containing the name “Hamas.” So far, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest have refused to deny the connection, or the group’s existence. Watch this space.
Update: Still no word from the White House on “Fox and Friends of Hamas,” but Wonkette’s Rebecca Schoenkopf notes that Shapiro has totally contradicted Friedman’s account by not contradicting any of it, and revealed, in the process, that gullible Senate scrubs travel in packs of at least three. If you must read it, please note that Friedman says, above, that his source did not speak to Shapiro, but maybe did share the question with the dumbass who did.
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