On Wednesday night’s edition of Current TV’s “The Young Turks,” host Cenk Uygur welcomed Gawker.com writer Max Read for a discussion about the right wing media frenzy sparked by the “Friends of Hamas” canard that nearly derailed the confirmation of Defense Secretary nominee Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE).
What began as an offhand joke by New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman quickly escalated into a feeding frenzy in the hands of Breitbart.com editor Ben Shapiro.
Uygur pointed out that it wasn’t just conservative websites that ran with the story, but even Fox News took to the rumor, which was begun when Friedman asked an unnamed Senate staffer about the Hagel confirmation and was offhandedly making up the names of possible controversial groups that the senator could have ties to, like “Junior League of Hezbollah in France” he said, or “Friends of Hamas.”
The host went on to say that we’ve seen these types of stories from right-leaning media before, the Shirley Sherrod tape, James O’Keefe’s ACORN “sting” and other instances where conservatives have jumped on a story and run with it without properly vetting it.
“Is the bigger problem,” he asked, “the media that believes these guys and reports what they’re saying?”
Read replied that it mostly concerns him that when these types of stories surface, not enough time is spent debunking them. The only reporter who bothered to research whether or not “Friends of Hamas” was a real organization was Slate’s Dave Weigel.
“You get the sense that this is something some guy told Ben Shapiro,” Read said, “and he just ran with it, because, ‘Why not?’ There’s no accountability.”
Shapiro, Uygur noted, is “completely unapologetic.” In an article published Wednesday, the Breitbart.com writer claimed that his story was “accurate and clearly caveated.”
Read said that Shapiro was clearly lying in his first article when he said that he had more than one source on the story. Gawker.com, he noted, is a gossip website which sometimes prints rumors, but, he said, on an anonymously sourced story, a writer should have at least two separate sources.
“Shapiro had one guy,” said Read, “one guy who talked to three people, all of whom, it seems, were just talking about this joke that this Daily News reporter had emailed them.”
But as bad as Shapiro looks, Uygur and Read agreed, figures like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and radio host Hugh Hewitt look worse for uncritically repeating the allegation without ever bothering to follow up and find out if there was even a “Friends of Hamas” website.
“It’s insane,” Read said. “It’s a complete bubble. The real world doesn’t even penetrate.”
Watch the video, embedded below via Current TV: