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WASHINGTON â The revelation could have doomed President Obamaâs nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense: He gave a paid speech to a group called âFriends of Hamas.â
Fortunately for Hagel, this claim, which galloped across Michael Kors Discount the Internet, was bogus. I know, because I was the unwitting source.
In the process, I became part of an inadvertent demonstration of how quickly partisan agendas and the Internet can transform an obvious joke into a Washington talking point used by senators and presidential wannabes.
Hereâs what happened: When rumors swirled that Hagel received speaking fees from controversial Michael Kors Discount organizations, I attempted to check them out.
On Feb. 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did Hagelâs 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 âJunior League of Hezbollah, in Franceâ? And: What about âFriends of Hamasâ?
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 Michael Kors Handbags Discount take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed â let alone that a former senator would speak to them.
Writer Dan Friedman posed the hypothetical query that circulated throughout conservative channels and put Hagel in hot water.
Or so I thought.
The aide promised to get back to me. I followed up with an e-mail, as a reminder: âDid he get $25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?â I asked.
The source never responded, and I moved on.
I couldnât have imagined what would happen next. On Feb. 7, the conservative web site Breitbart.com screamed this headline:
âSECRET HAGEL DONOR?: WHITE HOUSE SPOX DUCKS QUESTION ON âFRIENDS OF HAMASââ
The story read: âOn Thursday, Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed one of the reasons that President Barack Obamaâs 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 âFriends of Hamas.ââ
The author, Ben Shapiro, wrote that a White House spokesman hung up on him when he called for comment. That went in the story â to buttress the assertion that the White House didnât 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 Reviewâs The Corner linked to it. In Israel, Mike Huckabee said ârumors of Chuck Hagelâs having received funds from Friends of Hamas,â would, if true, âdisqualify him.â
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 âFriends of Hamasâ 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 werenât for sharing, thatâs a problem.
But there was another fail-safe. Since the âFriends of Hamasâ speech was imaginary, it was not like another reporter could confirm it, right?
Not quite. Reached Tuesday, Shapiro acknowledged âFriends of Hamasâ might not exist. But he said his story used âvery, very specific languageâ to avoid flatly Discounted Michael Kors Handbags claiming it did.
âThe story as reported is correct. Whether the information I was given by the source is correct I am not sure,â 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 Michael Kors Handbags Cheap that my example was farcical â and by assuming no one would print an unchecked rumor.
If anyone didnât know already: Partisan agendas, Internet reporting and old-fashioned carelessness can move complete crocks fast. If you see a Michael Kors Discount Handbags story on Hagel addressing the Junior League of Hezbollah, thatâs fake too.
Friedman is a reporter in the Daily Newsâ Washington bureau.
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