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Weigel writes: "It's been a hard week for Breitbart.com. All of the pain was self-inflicted."

Deceased Washington Times commentator and Breitbart.com webmaster Andrew Breitbart, 02/12/11. (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
Deceased Washington Times commentator and Breitbart.com webmaster Andrew Breitbart, 02/12/11. (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)



Media Ethics 101 From Breitbart.com

By David Weigel, Slate Magazine

24 February 13

 

t's been a hard week for Breitbart.com. All of the pain was self-inflicted. On February 7, the site ran a credulous story about a possible Hagel tie to a fake group, "Friends of Hamas." Other media ran with the story without checking it. Last week, I debunked FOH's existence, and this week, reporter Dan Friedman revealed that he probably invented the rumor, by accident, because he joked about "Friends of Hamas" to a duplicitous Hill staffer and the staffer repeated the name.

Most news organizations, upon being caught out like this, would issue corrections. Breitbart.com hasn't done that. Too bad. I really do like the site and refer to it when it's got a scoop. Who doesn't like to watch a bunch of writers challenge the mainstream media, and win?

Right now it's losing. Every day the site runs another report/editorial about how the story was "accurate and correctly caveated." Yesterday it was editor Joel Pollak's turn to explain the real scandal: That the media failed to chase more rumors about Chuck Hagel, because it was essentially working to confirm him. Like so much Dump Hagel needling, it's subjective, defining a position as controversial, and then shaming the media for not covering it as such. In 2007, Hagel called for "offering to re-open a consulate in Tehran - not formal diplomatic relations, but a Consulate - to help encourage and facilitate people-to-people exchange!" This suggestion was so scandalous that... well, that no Republicans have cited any of this in their list of concerns with Hagel. Surely that's the media's fault.

Eventually, Pollak turns his focus to me.

Likewise, on December 17, Dave Weigel of Slate (falsely) accused the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol of making up Hagel’s infamous remark about the “Jewish lobby” on Capitol Hill. “The quote isn't merely redacted. It's partly fabricated,” Weigel claimed. However, as he later admitted, he had not checked the accuracy of the quote with the author who had recorded it. It was more important to attack Kristol than to ask what had Hagel said. Let's spend some time with this, because it's equal parts misleading and guileless.

1) I did not "accuse Bill Kristol" of making up a quote. In a lede, I mentioned that Kristol had "become the public, famous face" of the Dump Hagel effort, and that he had posted "the text of a memo 'circulating widely on Capitol Hill.'" I asked whether the anonymous author of the memo, not Kristol, had fabricated something. Maybe it's a small distinction, but I think it's important, because the pipeline between anonymous Senate aides and Dump Hagel media outlets is part of the story, a factor that lets accusations filter into the media without a reporter getting hard proof first.

2) I didn't question whether "Jewish lobby" was made up. The memo cited a book that included that Jewish lobby quote, but didn't include Hagel talking about the "political reality" in D.C. As I admitted, once my mistake was pointed out, the author of that book - Aaron David Miller - had recorded more than he printed, and that the recording included the whole quote. As a number of people pointed out, my lazy "gotcha" wasn't even aimed at the two words giving Hagel so much trouble.

3) As Pollak writes, I admitted that I fumbled the story. I published a full correction. That's typically what media outlets do when they stumble but want to retain the trust of their readers. So when is Breitbart.com going to do that with its "Friends of Hamas" stories? On February 20, I noticed that Shapiro's response to the Friedman article altered the sourcing of the initial claim. In his February 7 piece, he cited "Senate sources." On February 20, he cited "our Senate source."

I sent him this email.

In the Feb. 7 story you cite "Senate sources" for the Friends claim. In today's story you cite "Our Senate source." What happened to the other sources?

Shapiro hasn't emailed me back or said anything else in public. If he wants to move on, that's fine. If Pollak or Shapiro want to keep focused on "media bias," also fine. After this week, nothing they have to say about the media and its standards - or their own stories - passes the laugh test.

 

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+101 # flippancy 2013-02-24 10:24
How can you use the words Breitbart and ethics in the same paragraph?
 
 
+71 # juliajayne 2013-02-24 10:38
I too think it's good to call out the main stream (and especially the "mean stream") media when it gets stuff wrong. But Breitbart.com is mostly a site for cranks and kooks and disinformers. They make up stories out of whole cloth and I don't consider them any better than a propaganda outfit. That this writer gives them ANY credibility is suspect after all of the shenanigans they've pulled. That he would think they'd offer a correction is , in my mind, what's wrong with the whole of the media. Their pronpensity for credulity. I see it time and again. This writer does himself a disservice if he thinks Breitbart.com has anything to offer anyone, besides getting the goods on Anthony Weiner's "goods". ;-)
 
 
+25 # dyannne 2013-02-24 11:36
Agree, juliajayne. I don't waste my time reading sites like breitbart when I want facts not fiction.
 
 
+14 # BobbyLip 2013-02-24 11:46
I hold no brief, to say the least, for the Breitbart bottom feeders, but Weigel sounds slightly self-serving here. We're at the point where not only is it ridiculous to use the words "ethics" and "Breitbart" in the same sentence (or even the same paragraph), but increasingly the word hardly attaches to the mainstream media anymore. Too bad. Once, the fourth estate was a pillar of democracy; now it's only a pillar of the government. The authors of the First Amendment turn over in their graves.
 
 
+20 # Regina 2013-02-24 13:22
No, Bobby Lip -- the fourth estate is a pillar of the media owners, part and parcel of the corporate elite. The government as well as the people are their combined punching bags.
 
 
-96 # moafu@yahoo.com 2013-02-24 11:47
Friends of Hamas (FOH) may not be a factual name, but those "friends" roam the halls of this administration and state dept.
 
 
+32 # Gogojoe 2013-02-24 14:16
Quoting moafu@yahoo.com:
Friends of Hamas (FOH) may not be a factual name, but those "friends" roam the halls of this administration and state dept.


No they don't!
Sheldon Adleson and his mi$$pent million$ on behalf of Isreal is the true culprit behind this whole scam. Wing nut media outlets never fact check...they don't have to. Their legions of true believer followers don't care if a story is true or not. They only hope it does damage. Limbaugh lies every afternoon. No problem. Hannity comes on next and makes up "facts" as he goes along. It the standard MO now.
 
 
+10 # loraine 2013-02-24 14:52
Baloney! You sound like Joe McCarthy.
 
 
+9 # loraine 2013-02-24 14:53
When I dislike a politician and his/her attitude, I exclaim, "I wish you would join Breitbart!."
 
 
+41 # Old Uncle Dave 2013-02-24 12:23
It's not a Jewish lobby, it's a Zionist lobby. Not all Jews are Zionists; not all Zionists are Jewish.
 
 
-13 # Rick Levy 2013-02-24 18:20
That makes no difference to the anti-Semites who pretend that they have nothing against Jews, just Zionists.
 
 
+12 # Guy 2013-02-24 19:22
You are obviously a zionist propaganda tool.It is very true that not all Jews are zionist.Not all Jews and zionists are even semetic in spite of the fact that anyone who dares to question the actions of the Israeli administration is labeled as anti semetic.
Check out the many Jews that live harmoniously with the Iranians and do not want any part of zionist Israel.
I have no illusions about convincing you of anything ,I respond for the benefit of readers that might be interested in facts.You see we are all equal,despite what is written in the Talmud.We are all equal as human beings .
 
 
-1 # Rick Levy 2013-02-25 18:29
"Check out the many Jews that live harmoniously with the Iranians and do not want any part of zionist Israel."

In other by your own words regardless of the fact that they are born and live in Iran, they are still considered Jews but not fully accepted as fellow Iranians.

Also how do you know they don't want any part of Israel? Can you imagine the persecution they would face if they openly expressed such support? Probably not. You obviously lack empathy.
 
 
+5 # rockieball 2013-02-25 08:10
Did it ever come to you that that being anti-Semitic also means being against Muslims not just Jews. Both religions draw their beginning from Abraham.
 
 
+16 # dick 2013-02-24 12:25
It's been a hard week for Slate, WASTING time & energy on Goof Balls. Why not do some REAL reporting? Ex., Why did Dems so eagerly capitulate on filibuster reform, leaving Hagel in limbo?
What has happened to the new Dem Senators? Co-opted already?
 
 
+3 # Interested Observer 2013-02-24 12:31
Has a legacy ever been better maintained by its heirs?
 
 
+15 # jhadstate 2013-02-24 12:38
Can you really expect anything else from a scandal sheet brought into being by the likes of someone who backed the ACORN fraud and the fraud against the woman in Georgia? Breitbart.com really is no source at all and your using them makes either for double work in fact checking or having a great many retractions ready to publish.
 
 
+5 # Nel 2013-02-24 13:50
There are no journalists in the MSM, they are all (shameless)typi sts.
 
 
-18 # vgirl1 2013-02-24 13:54
This media / blog outlet is not interested in the truth.

Never has been.

Never will be.

To them, facts no matter how interesting are totally irrelevant.
 
 
+6 # rockieball 2013-02-25 08:11
Fie Fi For Fat, he thinks Fox News is where it's at.
 
 
+20 # Billsy 2013-02-24 13:55
I'm deeply concerned about apologies made by mainstream reporters for Breitbart including those who eulogized the megalomaniacal rabble rouser. All a reporter has ultimately is his credibility and Breitbart and his young cocky staffers lost that when they distributed misleadingly edited tapes that eventually and shamefully I might add brought down Acorn. i heard two insolent members of his 'organization' pathetically attempt to redress the newswoman who corrected VP candidate Paul Ryan during the vice presidential debate, when she appeared as part of a panel discussion on the debates with Jim Lehrer et al.. She was far too savvy to take their bait and swiftly dismissed them.
 
 
+26 # Above God 2013-02-24 19:09
Breitbart.com should have died with Breitbart.
 
 
0 # tom10032 2013-02-27 11:24
Normally I grieve when someone, no matter how reptilian, dies early. With Andrew Breitbart, the tears just would not come despite the 200 pounds of chopped onions. At least I didn't publicly cheer.
At least he is now with his heroes, Joe McCarthy and Dr. Goebbels. RIH, guys.
Much of the right wing media is a propaganda operation; I admire how they spun off the Republican PR machine and turned it into a commercial enterprise.
Where will it all lead? I dunno, but you just can't fool all of the people all of the time; and, what is the true origin of their visceral hatred of the President, I wonder... and no, it's not only race, though that is part of it.
 

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