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":
On conservative pundit Frank Gaffney's radio show yesterday, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle falsified congressional testimony by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz concerning Operation Fast and Furious. Boyle incorrectly claimed that Horowitz testified that it was "unfathomable" that Attorney General Eric Holder was unaware of controversial tactics employed during the failed gun trafficking sting.
In actuality, when Horowitz was asked, "Did you find any evidence that Attorney General Holder approved of the gun walking tactics that are under investigation -- that have been under investigation by this committee?" during a September 20 House Oversight Committee hearing, he responded, "We found no evidence that the attorney general was aware in 2010, before Senator Grassley's letter, of Operation Fast and Furious and the tactics associated with it." [C-SPAN via Nexis, 9/20/12]
But in an interview, Boyle distorted this testimony. He indicated that Horowitz stated before Congress that Holder was aware of the tactics used in Fast and Furious. From Boyle's interview:
BOYLE: So the point is, is that at this point in time it's very hard to believe that Holder didn't know. And the IG [Inspector General] has actually said that before Congress. He has actually -- I can't remember the exact quote off the top of my head -- but he said something like that, "It's unfathomable that the Attorney General was unaware of this when everybody who works for him was." So basically what has happened here is there is there is a culture of plausible deniability that has been created around Holder. [emphasis added]
An independent report issued by the Office of the Inspector General on September 19 reached the opposite conclusion, stating, "We found no evidence that Attorney General Holder was informed about Operation Fast and Furious, or learned about the tactics employed by ATF in the investigation, prior to January 31, 2011."
The Daily Caller has an article today that either 1) suggests that the Justice Department joining a lawsuit against The Gallup Organization is connected to a David Axelrod tweet from April criticizing Gallup's polling methodology, or 2) has no news value whatsoever. The Caller presents no material evidence linking the two events, and even the circumstantial evidence the piece provides largely debunks the conspiracy theory.
This article epitomizes one of the more pernicious aspects of The Daily Caller's particular brand of journalism: the outlet's tendency to publish articles that have news value only if you assume the reporter is implying the existence of a malicious Obama administration conspiracy.
Here's the lede of today's story, "Justice Dept. Gallup lawsuit came after Axelrod criticized pollsters," authored by Matthew Boyle:
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.
Is the author suggesting that there is a connection between Axelrod's supposed attempt to "subtly intimidate" Gallup and the DOJ's lawsuit against the company? If not, what is the point of linking the two together in the story's opening paragraphs? They could just as easily have pointed out that the lawsuit "came after" the Miami Heat won the NBA championship.
It would take an exceptional amount of Obama Derangement Syndrome to posit that the Obama administration sued Gallup because they don't like their polling. Conservative bloggers like Ed Morrissey and Gabriel Malor have already weighed in expressing skepticism with the Caller's implication, with Morrissey writing, "Could this be retaliation? It's possible, I suppose, but it's not terribly rational, with no upside and lots of downside over a nearly-meaningless issue."
On August 12, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle published an article trumpeting a book's inflammatory claim that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered raids against medical marijuana dispensaries in California in order to distract from the failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious. But during an interview on NRA News last night, Boyle admitted that there was "not really any evidence" to substantiate the claim.
Boyle's article is largely a regurgitation of allegations made in an excerpt released from the forthcoming book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific, authored by Martin A. Lee. In fact, his article is so reliant on Lee's claims that quotations of the author comprise nearly two-thirds of the 708 word piece.
But on Monday, Boyle acknowledged on NRA News that "there is not really any evidence" to support Lee's claims, only "coincidental ... timing." Indeed, Lee's allegation that "The Justice Department green-lit a scorched earth campaign against medicinal cannabis in order to placate law enforcement and control the damage from the Fast and Furious scandal by deflecting attention to other matters" seems to be based solely on the fact that four federal prosecutors in California announced the raids the same day Holder sent a letter to Issa "defending his handling of the Fast and Furious affair."
From NRA News:
CAM EDWARDS, NRA NEWS HOST: The media was basically ignoring [Fast and Furious]. They didn't want this to be a scandal. I don't know if I necessarily buy the argument that Eric Holder decided to, you know, go after medical marijuana dispensaries in California and crack down and launch this, you know, huge assault to distract from Fast and Furious. Does he have any evidence to back this up?
BOYLE: I mean he is using, basically, the coincidental same timing of everything that's going on at the same time. I mean it does kind of makes in sense in that there's only so many reporters in the mainstream media covering the Department of Justice. And if they've got a choice, "Ok we can cover that Eric Holder is going after medical marijuana dispensaries" or "Eric Holder is arming the Mexican drug cartels." Which one is the mainstream media going to pick? Eric Holder is enforcing the law. That's what they are going to pick. That's the storyline that they are going to cover because we all know that the majority of mainstream reporters are lazy and that they are not going to dig into the real scandals and the real stories that plague this Obama administration. And basically that's kind of where his argument makes a little bit of sense. But I mean he doesn't really have any more evidence other than essentially the politics of coincidence. And the timing all lines up. But other than that -- I mean we will have to wait and see when the book comes out, to see if there is any more real concrete evidence in there --
BOYLE: -- but in the excerpt that was published this weekend, no, there is not really any evidence.
While Boyle said that "we will have to wait and see when the book comes out, to see if there is any more real concrete evidence" of Lee's claims, he did not explain why he chose to write a story on the allegations in the absence of such evidence.
The Daily Caller: Where "the politics of coincidence" are evidence enough to justify an article - as long as it targets the Obama administration.
Fox News and The Daily Caller are promoting the baseless charge that the Obama administration illegally ended a pension plan for workers at Delphi, an auto parts maker, because the workers weren't union members.
The Daily Caller alleges that emails it has obtained show that the Obama Treasury Department was the "driving force" behind the decision to end the Delphi pension plan, instead of the independent federal agency that insures pensions, called the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC). And Fox News has made the same charge. But the emails show nothing of the sort.
The email exchanges come from PBGC employees in 2009, when the government-led rescue of the auto industry was being carried out.
In reality, the emails are so far removed from their context that it's impossible to draw definitive conclusions about them, but the Daily Caller does its best to fill in the blanks by doctoring quotes and ignoring inconvenient information.
Only one of the 16 emails comes from a Treasury Department employee, and it doesn't show pressure to terminate the Delphi pension. In fact, unions aren't mentioned at all in the emails.
Fox has devoted several segments to hyping the cooked-up story. For instance, today, Fox's Lauren Simonetti appeared on Fox & Friends First and claimed that "all along, Treasury and White House officials have claimed that the pension decisions were made by the independent Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Key officials even testified to that under oath. The emails recently obtained by The Daily Caller show that's not the case."
Previously, the Daily Caller reporter who wrote the story, Matthew Boyle, appeared on the August 7 edition of America Live to claim the emails "prove beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the "Obama administration political officials were the ones who ultimately made the decision, coercing the PBGC officials into terminating the pensions of these non-union workers."
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle is reporting that a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) memorandum in the possession of congressional investigators "described a specific operation in which guns were allowed to walk across the Mexican border" during Operation Fast and Furious. The memo was drafted and, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), "forwarded to DOJ headquarters" the day before the Justice Department told Congress that no such gunwalking had occurred. Boyle suggests that this indicates that DOJ knew gunwalking had occurred in Fast and Furious when they issued their statement to Congress, and thus that they "may have tried to cover up" the use of such activities. This assertion is false and is directly contradicted by the memo in question, which does not detail a gunwalking operation.
Instead the memo describes a case where ATF agents were forced to "leave the immediate area" of the stakeout of a suspected gun trafficker to avoid detection. While repositioning, the suspect left the area and eluded capture. From the memo:
Special Agent [Gary] Styers was asked to describe the operations and relayed that one of the operations was a suspected transaction that was to occur at a gas station and detailed agents were asked to cover the transaction. While positioning to observe the suspects, Special Agent Styers and other detailed agents were told by Special Agent [Hope] McAllister that the agents were too close and would burn the operation. Special Agent McAllister told all of the agents to leave the immediate area. While the agents were repositioning, the transaction between the suspects took place and the vehicle took possession of the firearms and eventually left the area without the agents following it.
What was described was an unsuccessful law enforcement operation, not ATF acquiescence to the illegal transfer of firearms. Boyle includes much of the text of that passage in his article, but nonetheless concludes that Styers was describing an operation "in which guns were allowed to walk across the Mexican border." Boyle also neglects to mention that Styers, the author of the memo, wrote that during his involvement in Fast and Furious "he did not see any firearms cross the border into Mexico."
This isn't the first time that Boyle has made false claims in his reporting that are easily contradicted by the very documents he cites. In September 2011, Boyle published an article claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was attempting to hire 230,000 new workers at a cost of $21 billion per year. The legal documents cited by Boyle actually indicated that this was a scenario the EPA wanted to -- and eventually did -- avoid.
Yesterday a federal appeals court unanimously upheld the EPA's finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare, deeming the EPA "unambiguously correct" in addressing climate change through the Clean Air Act. One media
outlet that is curiously silent on the ruling is the Daily Caller, whose reporter Matthew Boyle previously claimed the resulting regulations would cause the EPA to hire an "ARMY OF 230k BUREAUCRATS." The claim was completely false, and their refusal to correct the clear error damaged their reputation and embarrassed employees.
Boyle's claim on Twitter echoed his Daily Caller article misreading an EPA court filing. The EPA said that it avoided a scenario that would require 230,000 workers by using a "tailoring rule" to regulate only the largest polluters -- a rule that was upheld in the recent court ruling. After several outlets ridiculed Daily Caller's error, its executive editor defended the article by making a snide comment to Politico and making several bad rationalizations about why they did not correct their false report.
Funny thing about the Daily Caller: they've never been wrong.
That seems to be their official stance, at least. Even when they are spectacularly in error -- something that happens to every news org now and again -- Tucker Carlson and his retinue will get right in your face and tell you nope, you're wrong, we're right.
Consider the flap over Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro's absurd outburst during President Obama's June 15 statement on the new immigration policy. Nearly every observer, regardless of ideology, agrees that Munro acted unprofessionally, and disrespected himself and his organization. But not Tucker Carlson: "A good reporter gets the story. We're proud of Neil Munro."
Standing by your own is one thing, but this goes beyond merely circling the wagons. Carlson is arguing that Munro behaved as a reporter should -- that he "got the story." This praise is belied by the actual story Munro wrote, which contained little substance, barely touched on the policy at issue, and lacked detail (probably because Munro didn't do any actual reporting while he was at the White House).
Acknowledging miscues is part of the professional news business, but this screw-the-world counterfactual stubbornness is the Daily Caller's go-to response for those moments when they cross the line.
Last September, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle wrote a piece claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency is "asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new greenhouse gas regulations. Boyle's source, a court brief filed by the EPA, actually said the exact opposite: the EPA had issued a rule in May 2010 that allowed the agency to avoid that scenario. Boyle misread the document and got the story completely wrong.
After various media outlets weighed in and confirmed that the Daily Caller had botched the report, executive editor David Martosko penned an editorial note lashing out at critics and declaring: "Our news story was well reported, carefully sourced, and solidly written. Despite the criticisms that some have offered, we haven't changed a word." Defiance notwithstanding, his rationalization for not correcting the story didn't hold up.
Defending the story to Politico, Martosko argued, essentially, that the story had to be right because the EPA is government and government is bad: "What's more likely: that the Obama administration's EPA wants to limit its own power, or that it's interested in dramatically increasing its reach and budget? Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows the answer."
Conservative media outlets are credulously reporting House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's claim that wiretap applications signed by senior Justice Department officials "prove" they "approved" of dangerous gunwalking tactics in the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious, contradicting prior DOJ statements. In doing so, they ignore that the DOJ has repeatedly stated that senior officials do not necessarily review wiretap applications themselves, but rather largely rely on summaries of those applications produced by line attorneys.
"Documents prove senior Justice officials approved Fast and Furious, Issa says," reads the headline of Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's latest foray into reporting on the ATF's fatally flawed gunwalking operation.
Leaning heavily on Issa's just-released letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Boyle reports that Issa has obtained wiretap applications for that operation that were signed by senior DOJ officials. Boyle notes that Issa claims those documents "show that immense details about questionable investigative tactics were available" to those officials via those applications, supposedly disproving numerous DOJ statements that senior officials there were not privy to the details of gunwalking.
But there's one question that this sort of credulous recitation of Issa's claims does not address: Did those officials actually review the wiretap applications that Issa says contained that information? According to prior DOJ statements dating back to at least last year, the answer is no.
This is not the first time Issa has claimed that wiretap applications supposedly proved knowledge of gunwalking techniques on the part of senior DOJ officials. In February, his committee made similar allegations, claiming in a staff report that "Congressional investigators have learned about the information contained in one Wiretap Authorization and Wiretap Affidavit from Fast and Furious that Jason Weinstein signed. The Wiretap Affidavit presented Weinstein with the details of at least two instances in which ATF agents had witnessed illegal straw purchasing and the subsequent transfer of the purchased weapons to other individuals."
But Politico reported at the time that "Weinstein told investigators that it was his 'general practice' not to read the underlying affidavits in such cases but to rely on a so-called cover memo prepared by another Justice Department office." This was consistent with Politico's report last November in response to similar claims that the wiretap applications could have bearing on what senior DOJ officials knew of Fast and Furious:
The Justice official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said wiretap applications are reviewed by another DOJ office which writes a detailed cover memo that is usually the focus of review by Breuer's staff.
"What gets pulled out for their review is therough the lens of those two questions: necessity and probably cause," the official said.
In a letter that the committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), released in response to Issa's letter today, he reiterated these points in even greater detail.
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle is claiming that the Department of Homeland Security has hired "at least four senior staffers and advisers" with "no law enforcement experience into senior law enforcement positions." Boyle went so far as to call them "mini-czars" in a tweet. But the individuals Boyle targeted either do not hold senior positions at DHS or are not involved in law enforcement. By contrast, former President George W. Bush appointed people who lacked relevant experience to head agencies that are currently within DHS.
Boyle attacked the experience of four current or former DHS staffers: Jordan Grossman, Vladimir Skoric, Chris Stelmarski, and Nate Snyder.
Skoric, who began his civil service career in 2008 during the Bush administration, is a special assistant to the deputy under secretary for cybersecurity. In 2011, Skoric was listed as being compensated at a "GS-11" rate, which translates to a mid-level civil service position.
Snyder, who started at DHS in 2009 as a deputy White House liaison, is a special advisor for community partnership and strategic engagement. In 2011, Snyder was compensated at a GS-14 level, higher than Skoric or Stelmaski, but not at the level of the Senior Executive Service, which constitutes the top-level federal civil servants.
And Grossman, who has since left DHS to attend Harvard Law School, was a special advisor and deputy to the deputy chief of staff.
In contrast to the individuals that Boyle identified, Bush really did appoint people without relevant experience to top positions at DHS.
Yesterday's testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder before a House Appropriations subcommittee concluded without the theatrical fireworks that many of his recent appearances before Congress have included. The hearing was so comparably calm that Holder even mentioned that he appreciated the more even-keeled tone of the questions even though some were critical of his tenure at the Department of Justice.
So naturally the right-wing media cherry-picked a brief moment where Holder showed somewhat heightened emotions and made that moment the focus of their hearing coverage, saying Holder was "not able to hold back his emotions," and describing Holder "losing his cool" as he "slammed the table" in response to congressional questioning.
Fox News America Live host Megyn Kelly teased a segment on Holder's testimony by saying "wait until you hear what's ticking off Eric Holder today," later describing an exchange between Holder and Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) by saying that Holder was "not able to hold back his emotions."
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle apparently found this angle so compelling that he wrote a highly derivative article adding little more than misleading hyperbole and bit of background information. Boyle has previously pushed a narrative of Holder of being unable to control his temper, claiming that he "lashe[d] out" during an exchange with a Daily Caller employee. In a separate article solely about complaints from conservative critics about this purported "loss of control," Boyle even paraphrased an activist suggesting Holder may be "dangerously unstable."
Boyle continued that depiction today, writing about the exchange with Rep. Yoder in an article headlined "Holder loses cool during House hearing when asked about the ATF's failed operation Fast and Furious." Boyle:
A visibly frustrated Attorney General Eric Holder slammed the table when responding to a question about Operation Fast and Furious during a Tuesday budget hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.
This is a highly exaggerated description of Holder's testimony, in which Holder forcefully said that he ordered use of the controversial gun-walking tactics associated with Operation Fast and Furious to be stopped as soon as he became aware of them. Watch the exchange highlighted by Boyle and Kelly: