On Thursday, Dylan Byers, who reports on the media for Politico, published this story on the release of a speech that Chuck Hagel failed to disclose during his confirmation hearings:
It turns out that Byers reported that the undisclosed speech "comes up clean" without even watching it. Luckily for Byers, the Twitter machine helped him realize he had failed at the basic journalistic task of distinguishing between a claim and a fact:
So, after realizing he was blindly trusting the claims of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Byers quickly updated the story without noting what specifically was changed. Everyone screws up from time to time, though some own up to their errors, while others "update" their stories without acknowledging them. Luckily for Byers, the tape did in fact lack any bombshell statements from Hagel.
But even with the correction (sorry, "update"), the Politico story remained aggressively stupid. Matthew Continetti, editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon, writes:
“Right-wing media outlets have been aggressively pushing the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League [sic] to locate and release video footage” of a Chuck Hagel speech, Politico readers were informed. And the “hope” of these right-wingers, readers were further informed, was to “reveal more fodder for their case that Hagel has a history of making anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic statements.” How Byers and Weinger knew the hopes and dreams of these conservative nut-balls wasn’t exactly clear, since they never once in their original post quoted directly the speech of an actual living, breathing conservative. But they did quote, directly and extensively, ADC spokesman Abed Ayoub, who said Free Beacon reporters may have come close to committing a hate crime. “They came to our offices—threatening us, demanding information, arguing with security. They got very abrasive, very aggressive. In fact, the FBI was in here last week because of those type of threats.”
As for the Hagel speech in question: “The tape comes up clean,” Byers wrote, over an hour before he actually seems to have watched it and posted it on Politico. The real story was that the Free Beacon appeared at the ADC “and harassed them for the tape.” The real story, ADC went on in a separate press release, was that “Senator Hagel has been attacked over and over merely for speaking to Arab Americans.” You can “send a strong message to those who want to isolate us” by writing ADC a $300 check. But don’t delay, because the intolerant mob could impose their reign of terror any day now. That’s spelled A-m-e-r-i-c-a-n. …
Not once did Byers and Weinger mention in their original post the Free Beacon’s completely legal and innocent request for the ADC’s Form 990. Not once did Byers and Weinger see fit to, I don’t know, pick up the damn phone and ask the WFB reporters for their reaction to charges of racism and hate. Byers and Weinger say that wasn’t necessary because they quoted from a WFB news story reporting on the allegations against our reporters. But the news story was precisely that—a news story—and thus did not contain the personal reflections of the reporters involved in writing it. Nor should it. Have political reporters become incapable of separating their sentiments and emotions from the information they seek to convey to the reading public? And have conservatives become so completely detested in polite society that their sentiments and emotions are not worthy of such conveyance?
And how does the search for a newsworthy speech “come up empty” when the search concludes in the release of the speech in question? Is any serious person willing to say that the video of Chuck Hagel’s address to the 2008 convention of the ADC would have been released had the Free Beacon and our friends not reported on it? And, not incidentally, where was the Form 990 at the center of this bizarre and needless controversy?