Reporter claims HE was the one to start the rumor that Chuck Hagel had ties to a fictional group called ‘Friends of Hamas’
PUBLISHED: 15:05 EST, 20 February 2013 | UPDATED: 15:14 EST, 20 February 2013
Much of the controversy over former Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense came because conservative critics claimed he had been paid to speak for an anti-Israel group called ‘Friends of Hamas’.
It was revealed today that the entire story was fabricated by a journalist who claimed that he was using a purposefully exaggerated name of a hypothetical group.
Dan Friedman, a reporter from The New York Daily News, wrote a mea culpa on Wednesday, explaining that he made up the name of the group when he was talking to an unnamed Republican aide on February 6, and only now has the origin of the story become clear.
Friedman was asking for the names of groups that Mr Hagel had spoken to on the lecture circuit. Because the journalist was aware that the nominee was being questioned over his ties with anti-Israel groups, Mr Friedman was reportedly joking when he asked the aide if Mr Hagel had ever spoken to groups such as the Junior League of Hezbollah or Friends of Hamas.
Neither of these groups exist, but that didn’t stop the reporter from following up on his query with an email mentioning them by name.
‘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,’ Mr Friedman wrote in the Daily News.
‘No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.’
via Daily News
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.
Breitbart.com used the headline ‘Secret Hagel Donor?: White House Spox Ducks Question on ‘Friends of Hamas’ for piece on potential Chuck Hagel scandal.
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.
If anyone didn’t know already: Partisan agendas, Internet reporting and old-fashioned carelessness can move complete crocks fast. If you see a story on Hagel addressing the Junior League of Hezbollah, that’s fake too.
Friedman is a reporter in the Daily News’ Washington bureau.
- Friends Of Hamas: Anatomy Of A Rumor (nydailynews.com)
- How Breitbart.com turned ‘Friends of Hamas’ joke into a right-wing firestorm (rawstory.com)
- Breitbot Ben Ran Fake Story About Hagel, Wingers Fell For It (crooksandliars.com)
- NY Daily News Hack Posits He’s Source of ‘Friends of Hamas,’ Lies by Omission (breitbart.com)
- Conservative Websites Print Phony Story Of Chuck Hagel Speaking To Non-Existent ‘Friends of Hamas’ (alan.com)
- Journo: Oops, I Started the Hagel-Hamas Rumors (newser.com)
- Breitbart Editor Believes Hoax About Hagel’s Ties to ‘Friends of Hamas’ (truthdig.com)
- Daily News Reporter Admits: Breitbart ‘Friends of Hamas’ Story ‘Accurate’ (breitbart.com)
- Reporter Claims He Accidentally Started Hamas Rumor That Dogged Chuck Hagel (daily-download.com)