The Daily Caller may have been duped by the Cuban government when they published a series of stories accusing Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) of allegedly patronizing prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, according to new allegations. The Daily Caller previously came under fire for not sufficiently scrutinizing the story before running with it on their front page.
The Washington Post reported on July 7 that Menendez's lawyer sent a letter to the Justice Department asserting that Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence pushed the false claims in an unsuccessful effort to derail Menendez's reelection campaign. The senator is "one of Washington's most ardent critics of the Castro regime," according to the Post.
A former U.S. official also told the Post that the CIA has "obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims." According to the intelligence information, the Cuban agents helped create a fake tipster named "Pete Williams," who told FBI agents and others that Menendez had solicited prostitutes while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. The Post noted, however, that there "was no indication that the information gathered by U.S. intelligence officials alleging Cuba's role in the Menendez case had been fully investigated or proved."
The charges against Menendez were first touted by The Daily Caller in November 2012, which relied on the testimony of two alleged Dominican prostitutes who claimed Menendez had paid them. Matt Boyle, the reporter behind the first Daily Caller story, now writes for Breitbart News.
Fox News aggressively hyped the uncorroborated allegations during at least 22 segments in the following months, according to a search of the Nexis database.
The story began to disintegrate, however, when the Post reported that one of the women had recanted her story and claimed in an affidavit that she was paid to lie about the senator. The FBI has also reportedly found no evidence backing up the tipster's claims, or even linking his emails "back to a real person."
In December 2012, BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins reported that in the wake of their devastating electoral defeat, Republicans were looking to "break their Fox addiction" by working with mainstream outlets, not just conservatives ones. "As operatives are increasingly realizing," Coppins wrote, "many of these outlets have limited reach beyond the fervent Republican base, and the talking points politicians declaim often resonate only in the conservative echo chamber."
A year and a half later, the reaction to Coppins' latest piece shows one roadblock to GOP efforts to reach out to mainstream media and the voters who don't get their news from ideological sources: a jealous right-wing media that wants increased access to Republican leaders.
Coppins' April 28 BuzzFeed profile chronicled how Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is "doing something rather unprecedented for a Republican: He is spending unchoreographed time with poor people," purportedly in order to inform his policy-making in that arena. The BuzzFeed writer was given exclusive access to Ryan during one such trip to visit the impoverished. His article drew swift criticism from progressives who said that Coppins credulously accepted Ryan's rhetoric on the issue while downplaying the impact that the massive cuts to poverty-fighting programs in Ryan's budget would have on the poor if it were implemented.
But right-wing outlets have a very different critique of the article: They think it made Ryan look bad, proving that he never should have cooperated with Coppins in the first place.
Breitbart's Matthew Boyle writes that Ryan "comes across as a deeply awkward millionaire paralyzed by political correctness as he struggles to identify with a black church congregation," citing two anecdotes from the piece. He concludes that Ryan's aides should not have granted Coppins access in the first place. The idea that the Republican congressman from Wisconsin might actually have been awkward in that situation goes unmentioned, with the implication that if Boyle had been the one traveling with Ryan, he'd have reported a more flattering piece.
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt likewise writes that the Coppins profile did not "do much or even any good" for Ryan, and bemoans how Republican press aides "resist having their bosses sit down with their natural allies in the center-right press" instead of giving access to mainstream reporters. He provides a list of reporters at The Daily Caller, TownHall.com, the Weekly Standard, and The Washington Free Beacon, concluding, "Don't ask me why they were not invited along with Ryan but McKay was. Part of the ongoing epic fail of Beltway GOP communications strategy. Hopefully it will change before 2016 arrives."
Boyle and Hewitt are criticizing Ryan for following a strategy that Republican operatives had identified as necessary to improve the party's national standing and win presidential elections.
The Republican National Committee's analysis of the 2012 election found that if the GOP wanted to win national elections, it had to change the minds of voters who believe the party "does not care about people," particularly those living in poverty. Ryan's effort to speak out on poverty seems consistent with that report's advice.
But as the operatives Coppins spoke with in 2012 pointed out, it's difficult to shift the poverty narrative if Republicans only talk about the issue with conservative reporters, as Hewitt and Boyle suggest.
Of course conservative journalists will always want more access and scoops. But demanding them at the expense of mainstream outlets traps the GOP between their conservative media supporters and their desire to win elections.
Right-wing media responded to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) admission that his administration caused a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge as political payback with praise for the embattled governor and used Christie's response to pivot to criticisms of President Obama including invoking the phony Benghazi scandal.
Following Republican Ken Cuccinelli's defeat in the Virginia gubernatorial race, conservative media blamed the Republican Party establishment for not supporting Cuccinelli's right-wing agenda.
Conservative media figures are coming to the defense of Republican Congressman Steve King following widespread condemnation of his comments accusing undocumented immigrants of being drug smugglers.
During an interview with conservative outlet Newsmax, King attacked the undocumented youths known as DREAMers -- those who would have qualified under the DREAM Act proposal that repeatedly failed in Congress and who could meet the Senate immigration bill's DREAM Act provision -- saying that while he has sympathy for children who were brought into this country illegally by their parents, not all of them are valedictorians:
KING: And there are kids that were brought into this country by their parents unknowing that they were breaking the law. And they will say to me and others who would defend the rule of law: We have to do something about the 11 million. And some of them are valedictorians.
Well, my answer to that is - and then by the way their parents brought them here. And it wasn't their fault. It's true in some cases. But they're aren't all valedictorians. They weren't all brought in by their parents.
For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that -- they weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.
Republican Party leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Sen. Raul Labrador (R-ID), have condemned King's comments as"wrong," "hateful," and "inexcusable." Boehner stated: "What he said is wrong. There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language. Everyone needs to remember that."
However, right-wing media figures have rallied to King's defense. On her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham cited cases of undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes and brought up instances of gang activity in border states to argue in support of King's comments.
She later stated: "So who's right? Steve King." She then criticized media outlets for supposedly "vilifying" King, adding, "How about actually do some real reporting on how this stuff is affecting young people and spreading across this country?"
The polling firm Gallup has agreed to pay $10.5 million to settle civil charges that the company had kept two sets of books in order to overbill federal agencies by millions of dollars. The Daily Caller and Fox News had previously floated a conspiracy theory suggesting that the lawsuit was related to supposed efforts by the Obama campaign to "subtly intimidate" the firm to compel them to produce polling results more favorable to Obama.
The Daily Caller had also helped to smear the whistleblower who first exposed Gallup's alleged practices, Michael Lindley, publishing a variety of unsubstantiated criticisms of Lindley from an unnamed "senior Gallup official." Under the terms of the settlement, Lindley, who says he was fired in July 2009 after warning his superiors that he would go to the Justice Department if the company did not stop illegally overbilling the federal government on their contracts with the U.S. Mint and the State Department, will receive $1.9 million.
In a September 6, 2012, story, headlined "Justice Dept. Gallup lawsuit came after Axelrod criticized pollsters," then-Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle wrote:
Internal emails between senior officials at The Gallup Organization, obtained by The Daily Caller, show senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod attempting to subtly intimidate the respected polling firm when its numbers were unfavorable to the president.
After Gallup declined to change its polling methodology, Obama's Department of Justice hit it with an unrelated lawsuit that appears damning on its face.
Boyle summarized on Twitter:
The alleged "intimidation" cited in the emails Boyle highlighted were complaints among Gallup executives that Obama strategist David Axelrod had sent a tweet criticizing Gallup's "methodological problems" in its polling of the presidential race. In June, Gallup acknowledged that their methodology had indeed been flawed, leading the firm to consistently overestimate Mitt Romney's support.
As even conservative bloggers noted, Boyle's conspiracy theory made little sense: a single tweet from an Obama aide did not suggest Gallup's polling was a priority, there was little upside to trying to intimidate the firm, and the timeline showed that the Justice Department had been involved with the case for years before the tweet was issued.
Nonetheless, Fox quickly adopted Boyle's conspiratorial frame. In a September 7 segment on his Fox Business program, Stuart Varney fabricated direct contacts between Axelrod and the Gallup employees to claim that the Gallup executives "had felt threatened." A few hours later on Fox News' America Live, guest anchor Shannon Bream said the Caller's story "suggests a conspiracy theory" between the filing of the DOJ lawsuit and Axelrod's "angry tweet." Both guests, attorney Brian Claypool and GOP pollster Chris Wilson, agreed that there was a connection between the two events; Wilson said it was indicative of "Chicago-style politics" on the part of President Obama and called it "frightening," while Claypool said the DOJ "needs to hire Houdini right now as a legal consultant" to "get them out of this mess."
In fact, the DOJ's own lawyers were sufficient to convince Gallup to pay more than $10 million rather than risk continued legal action.
The Drudge Report is reframing a Senate vote on a border enforcement amendment to the Senate immigration bill as Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) blocking a "fix" to the border. In fact, the Senate bill as drafted already includes tougher border enforcement measures while the amendment Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) proposed continues an enforcement first policy that has been deemed ineffective.
On June 13, the Senate voted to table an amendment by Grassley which would have required strict border controls be in place before undocumented immigrants are able to begin the path to citizenship process.
The Drudge Report highlighted the vote using the headline, "Senate Fight: Reid Blocks Border Fix," and linked to a piece at Breitbart.com by Matthew Boyle that blamed Reid for killing the amendment:
Boyle highlighted Reid's decision to file a motion to table Grassley's amendment and said that Reid "made a move to formally kill" the amendment that would "require border security."
Right-wing media are trying to damage President Obama's nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) by baselessly claiming he was involved in the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious.
The failed gun trafficking sting Operation Fast and Furious ended with the indictment of 34 defendants on January 25, 2011. The investigative tactics, which involved the misguided attempt by Arizona ATF agents to track weapons to high-level targets rather than interdicting the traffickers when the opportunity presented itself, concluded some months earlier. The tactics used in Fast and Furious triggered months of controversy and the resignation of then-Acting Director Kenneth Melson. On August 30, 2011, the ATF announced that B. Todd Jones had been appointed acting director.
Conservative media have nonetheless attempted to use a June 11 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing concerning the nomination of Jones for permanent appointment as a springboard to suggest that he was involved in Fast and Furious, which concluded months before he joined ATF.
Mike Huckabee claimed on June 9 edition of his Fox News program that Jones "allegedly helped cover up the [Fast and Furious] scandal" while misidentifying him as "the former number two boss at ATF." Again misidentifying Jones as "a supervisor at ATF" -- he actually continues to work as a U.S. attorney while serving as acting ATF director -- Huckabee added, "Should we be concerned that here's a guy who knew about Fast and Furious, according to many sources including [ATF whistleblower Vince Cefalu] helped cover it up, now he's going to lead the agency?"
During the segment Fox used a chyron that asked, "What did Obama's pick for ATF Dir. know about 'Fast & Furious'?"
Conservative commentators have also posited that Jones was involved in Fast and Furious because he attended a meeting, in his capacity as chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys (AGAC), that concerned ATF plans to crack down on the trafficking of guns into Mexico. But there is no evidence the tactics used in Fast and Furious were discussed at that meeting.
Esquire's Charles P. Pierce has criticized Breitbart.com for reporting the specific location where President Obama's teenage daughters are vacationing for spring break, warning that such actions by the "'rightwing entertainment complex' are going to get someone killed."
On Monday, Breitbart.com's Matthew Boyle published the location and the name of the resort where the Obama daughters are staying for spring break, ignoring the long-standing journalistic tradition that media outlets should not report on a president's minor children when they are not attending "official and semi-official events."
Pierce responded to Breitbart.com in a blog post, arguing that there was "no possible news value" to the report other than to incite readers and that "[s]ooner or later" the "'rightwing entertainment complex' are going to get someone killed":
What possible interest does this serve, except to titillate the dark and envious nether parts of Boyle's 22 readers? (No link, because fk that pudgy little monster.) There is no possible news value to this. Sooner or later, the frolicks of what my pal Boehlert calls the "rightwing entertainment complex" are going to get someone killed.
Breitbart.com writer Matt Boyle reported on the specific location where President Obama's teenage daughters are vacationing for spring break, ignoring the decades-old journalistic tradition that media outlets should not report on a president's minor children when they are not attending "official or semi-official events" for privacy and security reasons.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) and other news websites similarly reported on a trip Malia Obama took to Mexico in March 2012. At the request of the White House, those media outlets that reported on her spring break vacation in Mexico soon deleted the story from their websites. Politico, which itself removed some details about the trip due to security concerns, received a statement from Kristina Schake, Michelle Obama's communications director about why the stories were disappearing:
From the beginning of the administration, the White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls.
The Washington Post's Paul Farhi reported at the time that this is part of a longstanding and informal agreement between successive administrations and the White House Correspondents' Association, and that "traditional news organizations have long abided by such arrangements":
Presidential administrations have long been protective of the first family's minor children, and reporters in Washington have mostly observed the taboo on stories or photographs of them outside official and semi-official events. The ban on such coverage has existed through many administrations by informal agreement with the White House Correspondents' Association, which represents the interests of journalists who cover the president.
But Breitbart's Matt Boyle disregarded such tradition and related security concerns when he posted an "exclusive" report on Breitbart.com detailing where the Obama daughters were vacationing for spring break. Boyle said that the White House declined to comment and that the Secret Service told him they don't "confirm or deny trips for anyone under the agency's protective detail, including Sasha and Malia."
The Daily Caller's story linking Sen. Robert Menendez to prostitutes continues to disintegrate, as questions emerge about whether the only named source in the original article was paid to make the accusations. While the focus on possible payments to the source further establishes that the story is a farce, it also risks diverting attention from the central fact that the article never should have run in the first place.
The Caller's initial story promoted the allegation that the U.S. senator had visited prostitutes. If true, as editor in chief Tucker Carlson once explained when the target of the story in question was a Republican, that allegation had the potential to bring enough media scrutiny to destroy Menendez's life. If true, it also had the potential to be a hugely important story for the Caller, one that could have undermined previous assaults on the website's credibility and established it as a true player in the Washington media.
For those reasons, one might have expected the Caller to make sure they were on solid factual footing before publishing. That's what an actual news outlet does -- reporters are constantly barraged by a wide array of claims about public figures of varying degrees of truthfulness. It's their job to examine the evidence and report out the stories that are true. Sometimes that means that responsible outlets get beaten by those that don't have such high standards for publication. But more often, this sort of scrutiny prevents the media from scurrying from one story about Barack Obama's gay affairs to another about John McCain being a Manchurian candidate -- ridiculous accusations that lack credible evidence but could serve to distract journalists and thus the public from important issues.
But the Daily Caller didn't engage in this sort of scrutiny. Instead, it appears to have channeled smears peddled by Republican operatives onto its front page without first determining their veracity.
In 2009, Carlson drew boos from the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference for his faint praise of mainstream news outlets, saying "The New York Times is a liberal paper, but it is also... a paper that actually cares about accuracy. Conservatives need to build institutions that mirror those institutions."
It's now apparent that if the Caller was Carlson's attempt to build such an institution, he's failed. As Joan Walsh writes in Salon, what the Caller does "mostly isn't journalism; it's opposition research."
The Daily Caller's lurid, fraudulent story of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) patronizing Dominican prostitutes has taken yet another hit as the lawyer representing the prostitutes, Melanio Figueroa, has reportedly let loose with a variety of outlandish story-changing allegations, among them that he was paid and pressured by various media outlets (the Daily Caller among them) to fabricate the whole affair. Figueroa's credibility is now non-existent, which only serves to reinforce how wildly irresponsible the Daily Caller was to run with the story in the first place.
The Washington Post reported on March 22 that a "top Dominican law enforcement official" said that Figueroa told investigators that in autumn 2012 he had been approached by a man claiming to be from the Daily Caller and offered $5,000 to "find prostitutes who would lie and say they had sex for money with Sen. Robert Menendez." The Daily Caller adamantly denied the allegations, which as of yet lack evidence and appear far-fetched, and the Post acknowledged that the "account provided that Dominican authorities said they received from Figueroa could not be independently confirmed by The Washington Post." The Post also noted that Figueroa's new story is a reversal from his previous denials of having made the whole thing up.
The Daily Caller, meanwhile, has published a story pushing back against Figueroa, reporting that he "blamed four news outlets -- CNN, The Daily Caller, Telemundo and Univision -- for allegedly encouraging him to fabricate false accusations about Menendez." The Caller also reported that "CNN and Univision both issued statements forcefully denying Figueroa's accusations," and pointed out that the attorney has repeatedly contradicted himself in recent days as the Menendez story has collapsed.
President Obama has nominated Thomas E. Perez as Secretary of Labor. Right-wing media used this announcement to push false attacks about Perez based on his service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights work and advocacy.
Breitbart.com is in the midst of a hiring spree that promises to generate more pageviews and money for the publication while keeping its readers chasing Obama administration conspiracies for the next four years.
The publication is reportedly offering reporters from other right-wing outlets big salary increases and annual bonuses to sign four year contracts. It's no wonder that the website has money to spend; in at least one month this fall Breitbart.com passed its rivals to take the lead as the highest trafficked right-wing news site. Traffic drives ad sales, which, together with venture capital, has filled the publication's coffers.
What's significant is what Breitbart.com has done to build the traffic, and who they're planning on hiring with the resulting profits.
Breitbart.com was an important piece of the right-wing media bubble that kept conservatives blissfully unaware of major events during the 2012 election and focused on flawed efforts to "vet" President Obama. The publication fixated on efforts to reveal aspects of Obama's youth and college years, claiming that the media hadn't sufficiently put the president under the microscope in 2008 and set out to correct their failures.
Thus a major right-wing news site spent its resources during the last election running massive investigations into topics like the president's 20-year-old hug of a Harvard Law professor and the claims his literary agent made about his memoir in a 1991 pamphlet. Meanwhile, they worked overtime to try to discredit the vast weight of polling that suggested Obama was cruising to reelection. And shackled to their base, Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP's officeholders were taken along for the ride, latching on to the sorts of claims that made sense inside the right-wing bubble and nowhere else.
Woefully misleading their audience apparently brought in enough money for Breitbart.com to make fat offers to staffers at other right-wing media publications. And they're using it to bring in more "talent" that will keep the Breitbart.com gravy train running and their audience in the dark.
Matthew Boyle was the first to "enlist in Andrew Breitbart's army" in order to "go to war" against "leftwing outlets" like "The New York Times, Politico, [and] NBC News" after several years working at The Daily Caller. His December 2 announcement came less than 14 days after his previous employer had all but retracted one of his stories.
Following President Obama's re-election, House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans would be "willing to accept new revenue" under certain circumstances in order to prevent automatic budget cuts in 2013. Daily Caller investigative reporter Matthew Boyle responded by urging conservatives not to "allow Boehner to cut deals with Barack Obama":