Conservative blog Breitbart.com has been caught in an embarrassing falsehood, and its response today is to claim that the evidence against them is actually a vindication.
On February 20, New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman accepted responsibility for unwittingly starting the false rumor that former Senator John Hagel had ties to a group called “Friends of Hamas.” This claim has been used by Senate Republicans to justify the historic filibuster of Hagel, now a nominee for Secretary of Defense.
If this is the actual source of the rumor, which seems likely, Friedman is guilty of nothing more than overestimating the intelligence of the Washington hive mind. When questioning a political operative about accusations that Hagel had contributed to politically incorrect causes, Friedman tossed out the names “Friends of Hamas” and “the Junior League of Hezbollah” as jokes.
“The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically,” said Friedman. “No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.”
Except in 21st century Washington, D.C.
The next day, Breitbart.com was running with the headline that Hagel had ties to the non-existent group, created out of thin air from the imagination of Dan Friedman.
How has Breitbart.com responded to being exposed in this way? The headline Thursday morning reads “DAILY NEWS REPORTER ADMITS: BREITBART 'FRIENDS OF HAMAS' STORY 'ACCURATE.'"
This goes beyond recklessness to intentional deception.
The U.S. has a crisis-level shortage of critical thinking, such that nothing is too bizarre for a certain wing of politics to put forward as a controversy. In the past four years, the American public’s intelligence has been insulted by claims that the president was not a citizen, that the swine flu vaccine was going to be used to insert tracking micro-chips into unsuspecting conservatives, that the health care bill included death panels, and that if re-elected, Obama would immediately take away every conservative’s guns.
It should frighten the world is that such lunatic reasoning is present in the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, and even the Supreme Court. A country with the ability to destroy continents is infected with a virus of reasoning that says fact-checking is unnecessary for those who know they’re right. Worse still, when caught in a falsehood, the response is to scream the false claim even more loudly.