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:
The Daily Caller's headline: "Holder's No. 2 in 2009: Gunwalking, Fast and Furious a 'terrific idea.'"
The Daily Caller's lede:
The head of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division and Attorney General Eric Holder's highest-ranking deputy, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, called Operation Fast and Furious and gun walking a "terrific idea" in emails to now-former Acting Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Ken Melson back in late 2009, according a report released by Republican staff of the House Oversight Committee.
What Melson and Breuer actually said, as reported by the Daily Caller:
On Dec. 3, 2009, Melson wrote to Breuer, "Lanny: We have decided to take a little different approach with regard to seizures of multiple weapons in Mexico. Assuming the guns are traced, instead of working each trace almost independently of the other traces from the seizure, I want to coordinate and monitor the work on all of them collectively as if the seizure was one case. . . We should meet again just to catch up on where we are in our gun-trafficking issues and we could talk about the above idea as well. Let me know what you think."
Breuer responded on Dec. 4, 2009, writing, "We think this is a terrific idea and a great way to approach the investigations of these seizures. Our Gang Unit will be assigning an attorney to help you coordinate this effort."
According to the Republican Oversight Committee staffers' report, Breuer -- Holder's number two -- assigned a prosecutor to help ATF handle Fast and Furious. That attorney, according to the report, was Joe Cooley.
As the Daily Caller's own reporting shows, the emails in question don't mention the idea of allowing guns to be trafficked to Mexico; they deal with how data from seizures of multiple weapons that were recovered in Mexico would be treated by ATF in their investigations.
This isn't the first time the Caller's reporting hasn't matched up with the slant they apply to their stories on Holder and Fast and Furious.
By the way, "Holder's No. 2" isn't Lanny Breuer, it's Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Other than that, the Caller did a bang-up job.
Charlie Savage's New York Times profile of Attorney General Eric Holder and how he has become a "lightning rod" for partisan criticism must have seemed like an early Christmas present to The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle: It lets him accuse The New York Times of bias and attack Holder in one fell swoop.
It was clearly so exciting that he didn't bother to put together even a minimal arrangement of facts before suggesting the Times should issue a retraction.
Boyle suggests that Savage inaccurately reported that neither testimony nor documents have contradicted Holder's statements that he didn't know about the controversial 'gunwalking' tactic used in Operation Fast and Furious. In fact, just as Savage reported, there has not been any documents or testimony that suggest Holder knew about those tactics.
"Mr. Holder has denounced the tactics used in the operation, known as 'gunwalking,' but said he did not know about them or sanction their use," Savage wrote. "No documents or testimony have shown otherwise, but Republicans have pummeled him at oversight hearings and in news media appearances."
Savage made these statements without attribution.
Despite those assertions, Holder's office was provided with multiple briefings and memos about Operation Fast and Furious by top Justice Department officials. The memos contained intimate details of how Holder's DOJ allowed guns to walk.
The claim is specific: neither documents or testimony have shown that Holder himself knew about gunwalking tactics.
Attorney General Eric Holder apparently struck a nerve yesterday when he accurately called out the Daily Caller for effectively creating a movement of congressional Republicans seeking his resignation. Both editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson and reporter Matthew Boyle have since done damage control with extremely friendly media outlets, claiming that they are acting legitimately and attacking Holder for his criticism.
Boyle has led the website's reporters in a month-long effort to find Republicans willing to take a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation, with the stated rationale being the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious. The campaign has led to nearly two dozen articles featuring calls for Holder's resignation from 51 low-level members of Congress, Republican presidential candidates, Sarah Palin, and congressional challengers, among others.
Carlson stopped by Fox & Friends' curvy couch this morning, accusing Holder of being "Nixonian" and saying that "we are not in control of the legislative branch." When co-host Gretchen Carlson asked the Daily Caller editor whether he thought Holder "had that reaction to your reporter because it hasn't been covered as much by the mainstream media," he noted that "our reporter Matt Boyle has written a number of stories on this," but never acknowledged the character of that reporting.
Boyle sounded similar notes in an appearance on NRA Radio (the NRA has called for Holder's resignation). He told host Cam Edwards: "To assume that we're 'behind' the calls for his resignation, I don't know how he can think that. All I'm doing is calling up congressmen and senators and asking them, and then whatever their answer is I print it."
He went on to say that "if he thinks that I have the ability to control what they say and what they don't say, that's unbelievable," adding, "I'd love to know what other conspiracy theories the attorney general can come up with about the media."
Boyle, demonstrating his trademark inability to stick to facts, went on to falsely accuse Holder of previously attacking a Daily Caller article:
The Daily Caller's attempt to pass out pitchforks to GOP members of Congress and send them after Attorney General Eric Holder has now been called out by the target himself.
TPM's Ryan J. Reilly reports:
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday told a reporter with the conservative news website The Daily Caller that the news organization was ginning up calls for him to resign over ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious.
The reporter approached Holder after an event at the White House on the federal government's efforts to combat counterfeit goods.
"You guys need to... you guys need to stop this," TPM heard Holder tell the reporter. "There's not an organic* thing happening, you guys are behind this."
Holder was referencing Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's month-long quest to find relatively low-ranking Republican members of Congress interested in taking a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation. The putative rationale for these calls is the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious; new evidence has been revealed indicating that Holder know about the controversial tactics used in that operation.
You may remember Boyle from his public humiliation over a ludicrously false September report that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to hire "230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new climate change regulations." Boyle's colleagues were reportedly embarrassed by the decision by DC executive editor David Martosko -- who has a long record in conservative political advocacy but none in journalism -- to stand behind Boyle's reporting.
At most publications, a misstep of this magnitude would have consequences. But at the Caller, it's more of a feature than a bug. And so Boyle has apparently spent much of the last month calling around to Republican politicians and asking them whether they think Holder should resign. That's creating a story, not reporting one.
Daily Caller hack Matthew Boyle spent yesterday calling around to the spokespeople for Republican members of Congress and asking them if their bosses think Attorney General Eric Holder should resign over Operation Fast and Furious, and wouldn't you know it, he found a few willing to grandstand in the press. According to Boyle, "Republican Reps. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, John Mica of Florida, Quico Canseco of Texas and Gus Bilirakis of Florida each told The Daily Caller on Thursday that they believe Holder should step down now."
If you think that seems like an odd group of members of Congress that have nothing in common, you're right. If you think that almost definitely indicates that he reached out to some Republican congressional offices who either refused comment or wouldn't say Holder should step down, you're probably right. And if you think that it sounds like Boyle created a story rather than reporting one, you're definitely right.
But because Boyle is a hack, this is an indication that Holder's "tenure in the Obama administration may be coming to an end," because the number of members of Congress calling for his resignation "has doubled in one day." How the fact that relatively low-level Republican members of Congress don't support him would lead to him leaving the administration is left unsaid.
Because the Daily Caller is a hack publication, they are currently running this banner headline:
And of course, they have help from their friends at Fox News:
As we previously noted, Fox devoted nearly four times more evening coverage to a Republican congressman's call for a special counsel to investigate Holder than they gave to Senate Democrats who called for one to investigate Bush AG Alberto Gonzales. It will be interesting to see how much time they decide to give to Boyle's non-story.
Last month, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle published a story that was basically catnip for the anti-regulation crowd. Citing a court brief from the Environmental Protection Agency, Boyle wrote that the EPA was "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 climate change regulations. Boyle also took to Twitter to broadcast how EPA administrator "LISA JACKSON wants an ARMY OF 230k BUREAUCRATS."
Predictably, the story got picked up by Fox News, the office of Sen. James Inhofe, and the usual climate-change-denial suspects. Unfortunately for them, Boyle's story was 100% false. Boyle completely misread the court brief, which detailed how the EPA had avoided the scenario he described.
Boyle's misfire was widely ridiculed, but rather than admit fault and correct the error, the Daily Caller stuck to their guns. Executive editor David Martosko compounded the damage to the publication's credibility by issuing a snide comment to Politico and following that with a misleading editor's note on the Caller website.
Apparently outside observers weren't the only ones aghast at Daily Caller's complete lack of standards. According to a report this morning by FishbowlDC's Betsy Rothstein, "newsroom sources" at the Caller were dismayed by Martosko's defense of Boyle's "pointedly bogus" story and "feared their reputations would be sullied by the widespread negative attention":
Martosko has undoubtedly been a controversial figure from the start. Newsroom sources say his profound defense of reporter Matthew Boyle and his recent EPA piece troubled reporters who believed the story was false and feared their reputations would be sullied by the widespread negative attention the ordeal received in publications such as Politico and parts of the right-wing media. They couldn't conceive why their editor was defending a story many considered pointedly bogus.
I suppose it's slightly reassuring that at least some people at the Caller are capable of acknowledging facts and reality -- too bad their executive editor doesn't seem to be one of them.
This week we caught Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle completely misreading a court brief to claim that the "EPA is asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers" to process greenhouse gas regulations "at an estimated cost of $21 billion." In reality, EPA was describing a scenario that it avoided by issuing a rule in May 2010 significantly reducing the number of facilities required to obtain permits for greenhouse gas emissions.
Boyle's report -- which was circulated by Sen. Inhofe's office and made its way to Fox News -- was just wrong. But rather than issue a correction, Daily Caller doubled down, telling Politico that "anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows" EPA wouldn't try to "limit its own power." As more commentators noticed this brazen disregard for the facts, The Daily Caller came up with a more substantive response, still insisting the story "was spot-on and accurate":
Our story about the EPA was spot-on and accurate. It's true that the agency's court filing outlined a "tailoring rule" as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion. But the EPA was clear that "the Tailoring Rule is calculated to move toward eventual full compliance with the statutory threshold" -- meaning it's not a question of if the EPA wants to triple its budget, but when.
Nope. The brief did not present the tailoring rule "as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion." It presented the rule as a way to circumvent a scenario in which state and local agencies would need 230,000 employees to review 6.1 million permit applications. The rule phases in compliance, "thereby relieving the overwhelming regulatory burdens on both permitting authorities and literally millions of stationary sources."
You don't need 230,000 new workers if you don't have a massive flood of permit applications to process all at once. Instead of 6.1 million sources requiring operating permits, EPA expects 15,550 -- 97 percent of which can add greenhouse gases to the permits they already have for other pollutants.
Tucker Carlson's content farm screwed up big time.
Two days ago, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle reported that the Environmental Protection Agency, in phasing in greenhouse gas regulations, was "asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers." In fact, the EPA was arguing the exact opposite: that they were avoiding a scenario in which 230,000 new workers would be required. The facts are not in dispute: the Daily Caller got it completely wrong.
Normally, in instances like these, corrections are issued. That's what journalists do.
That's not what the Daily Caller is doing.
Daily Caller executive editor David Martosko is standing by the inarguably false story, and is actually claiming that the facts surrounding the story are subordinate to the narrative they're trying to push. He told Politico:
"The EPA is well-known for expanding its reach, especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions. What's 'comically wrong' is the idea that half of Washington won't admit it. The EPA's own court filing speaks volumes," Martosko said in an email.
"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," he added. "The suggestion that the EPA -- this EPA in particular -- is going to court to limit its own growth is the funniest thing I've seen since Nancy Grace's nipple-slip."
This isn't a question of "what's more likely" -- you're wrong. The EPA did not do what you said it did. And the facts of the story actually argue against your hackneyed, preformed notion of the Obama administration's insatiable drive to expand government, which itself is certainly not sufficient basis for a "news" story.
Sweet Nancy Grace joke, though.
EPA explained in a court brief that by phasing in greenhouse gas regulations and focusing on large sources of emissions, the agency avoids a scenario in which 230,000 new workers would be required. Somehow, the Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle concluded from this that "The EPA is asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers." Other conservative media outlets, including Fox News, repeated Boyle's false report.
The Daily Caller is the latest in a long line of conservative media outlets waging a campaign of misinformation about the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Today, in typical Daily Caller fashion, Matthew Boyle simply transcribes the distortions about NLRB made by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), a member of the House Oversight Committee. The committee has been attacking the agency for opening a standard investigation into allegedly illegal retaliation against organized labor by Boeing, Inc.
In an interview with Boyle, Gowdy calls for the elimination of the NLRB, an 80 year-old independent government agency tasked with investigating unfair labor practices and protecting the organizing rights of employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act. Gowdy would prefer the legislation be enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and suggests that the NLRB is a politically partisan agency by deceptively implying that the NLRB is not covered by the Hatch Act, a law preventing most federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. Boyle writes:
"The United States Department of Justice has criminal prosecutors and it also has a civil division," Gowdy said. "It's the DOJ that gets involved in anti-trust issues, it's the DOJ who handles issues looking into behemoth telecommunications companies. Surely to goodness, they've got bright lawyers at DOJ. Surely to goodness, they can enforce the provisions of the NLRA." [...]
"[Federal prosecutors'] allegiance is solely to the truth and they're not sycophants for labor unions," Gowdy said. "I have confidence in career prosecutors; I worked with them. They're necessarily and by law apolitical because of the Hatch Act and we trust them with the other major decisions that we have in our civil and criminal justice system."
The NLRB has typically swung with political tides, being a bit more pro-business under Republican administrations and a bit more pro-union under Democratic administrations.
Had Boyle done a minimal amount of research for his article, he would have discovered that Gowdy's insinuation -- that NLRB attorneys don't fall under the Hatch Act -- is completely false. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel quickly confirmed to Media Matters that "the Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326) governs the political activity of federal civilian executive branch employees, including NLRB employees." In other words, if DOJ attorneys are "necessarily apolitical" because of the Hatch Act, then NLRB attorneys are no different.
Boyle and TheDC are no strangers to lazily parroting conservative distortions, and in this instance Boyle clearly has no desire to present an objective, or even truthful, depiction of the NLRB. He quotes three sources for his 800-plus word article: Gowdy, Republican Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley and Fred Wszolek of the Workforce Fairness Institute. Haley recently called the NLRB "un-American" and has supported dismantling it. Wszolek represents the Workforce Fairness Institute, an organization that has been loudly critical of the NLRB and organized labor and is funded by anti-union business owners.
James O'Keefe III has a funny definition of the word "explosive." Earlier today, he promised over Twitter a "new explosive tape" from his "sting" on National Public Radio. But if you actually watch the video he was referring to, you get the sense that this was less of an explosion than a fizzle. Sure, O'Keefe and the rest of the right-wing attack machine are trying to play it up by claiming it proves NPR was up to something deeply sinister -- the only problem for them is that the video doesn't show that at all.
Here's what it does show: a 40-minute phone conversation between Betsy Liley, NPR's senior director of institutional giving, and O'Keefe croney Simon Templar, here pretending to be "Ibraham Kasaam" of the phony Muslim Education Action Center. The video identifies the MEAC as a "Muslim Brotherhood front group," but there's nothing in the video to give that indication.
Over the course of the call, Liley requests a written letter from the MEAC with more details about the donation and suggests that NPR's legal team and the MEAC hammer out a gift agreement. She also gently prods "Kasaam" to reveal more information about the MEAC's history and legal structure, requests a 990 form, and notes, unprompted, that "At Perdue, we've turned down some significant gifts."
The takeaway was that the discussion over a donation was in the preliminary stages at best, and NPR had not committed to accepting MEAC's offer. There is no evidence in the tape to suggest that NPR ever planned on accepting the gift -- much less that they were going to "hide it from the government" as the Daily Caller blithely suggests. When "Kasaam" asks if "NPR would be able to shield us from a government audit," Liley's response is: "I think that is the case, especially if you are anonymous, and I will inquire about that."
By the way, NPR has released a statement. Politico reported:
NPR released a statement condemning Liley's statements in the video.
"The statement made by Betsy Liley in the audio tapes released today regarding the possibility of making an anonymous gift that would remain invisible to tax authorities is factually inaccurate and not reflective of NPR's gift practices. All donations - anonymous and named - are fully reported to the IRS. NPR complies with all financial, tax and disclosure regulations."
Liley, who was caught on the initial videotape laughing at the suggestion that NPR was sometimes called National Palestinian Radio, was placed on administrative leave with Ron Schiller on Tuesday afternoon.
"Through unequivocal words and actions, NPR has renounced and condemned the secretly recorded statements of Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley. Mr. Schiller is no longer with NPR and Ms. Liley has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation of the matter," the NPR statement continued.
"No stronger statement of disavowal and disapproval is possible. NPR will not be deterred from its news mission and will ultimately be judged by the millions and millions of listeners and readers who have come to rely on us every day."
Expect this to get a lot of play in the hysterical, cyclonic right-wing scandal factory. Big Government's Larry O'Connor, displaying either deep incredulity or a stunning ignorance of American history, has already gone so far as to label this "NPR's Watergate Moment." Others have followed and will follow. Even if there is no money to follow.
UPDATE: NPR has released a series of emails making clear that they were unwilling to accept any MEAC donations without more information about the organization, and that NPR would be required to disclose any such donations to the IRS. Here is one such email:
From: Joyce Slocum
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2011 11:00 AM
Cc: Vivian Schiller; Betsy Liley; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'
Subject: Contributing to NPR
Dear Mr. Kasaam,
We are very grateful for the kind consideration being given by the Muslim Education Action Center to a generous gift to NPR. I'm sure you will understand that we need to verify certain information with respect to any organization that proposes to make a significant gift to NPR. In the case of an organization that holds itself out as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, contributions to which are tax deductible, we need in particular to satisfy ourselves that the organization is in compliance with the applicable requirements of the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), so as to ensure against any risk of being caught up in later compliance activity. In most instances, we're able to verify this information without troubling the donor organization, by using publicly accessible information. Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate the necessary information about the Muslim Education Action Center, and so we need to ask that you provide it.
The Muslim Education Action Center does not appear in IRS Publication 78, which lists all organizations which have received a 501(c)(3) determination letter from the IRS, and whose status as a tax exempt organization has not been suspended or revoked. (Only churches are exempt from the requirement of obtaining an IRS determination letter, though even many churches voluntarily do so.) Since the Muslim Education Action Center does not appear in Publication 78, we need to ask for a copy of the IRS determination letter as to its 501(c)(3) status.
Also, most tax exempt organizations are required to file an annual form 990 in order to maintain their tax exempt status. Failure to file for three consecutive years results in an automatic revocation of tax exempt status. Again, because such organizations are required to make their three most recently filed annual 990 returns and all related supporting documents available for public inspection, we are usually able to obtain copies of these from the organization's own website, or if not there, from GuideStar or the Foundation Center. We have been unable to locate the 990's for the Muslim Education Action Center through any of these sources, so need to ask that you also provide those for our review.
I would very much appreciate receiving the requested items at your earliest convenience, so that I might review them and provide appropriate guidance to my client.Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions or I may otherwise be of assistance.
Joyce D. Slocum