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Why GOP and Breitbart Smear Machine Fell for 'Friends of Hamas' Joke

February 20, 2013 in Blogs

By Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America




If you want to appreciate how vast the digital divide is that historically separates conservative failures and liberal accomplishments online, and if you want to add some context to the recent New York Times Magazine feature article on how Republicans' chronic online shortcomings dim the party's electoral chances, just look at how the two camps were marking their time in recent days.

Working with Republicans on Capitol Hill trying to block Chuck Hagel's nomination to become Secretary of Defense, Breitbart's Ben Shapiro recently posted a report suggesting Hagel had allegedly received “foreign funding” over the years from a terrorist-friendly group called Friends of Hamas, but that the payments were being kept secret. The allegation served as part of the right wing's relentless campaign to smear Hagel as being anti-Israel.

Fox Business host Lou DobbsNational Review columnist Andrew McCarthy, and AM talker Hugh Hewitt all hyped Breitbart's  conspiratorial narrative about Hagel's nefarious connections with Friends of Hamas.

Slight problem. Last week, Slate's David Weigel detailed how Friends of Hamas doesn't actually exist. And as New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman explained, he unwittingly started the Friends of Hamas rumor when he posed the Hagel question to a GOP aide in the form of “an obvious joke.” According to Friedman, he asked about both Friends of Hamas and the “Junior League of Hezbollah,” and thought that 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.”

The GOP aide then apparently shared the Friends of Hamas inquiry with other partisans and Friedman posits that from there it found its way to Breitbart, which published it in the form of “news” under Shapiro's byline. Tellingly, the fact that the scary sounding group doesn't exist didn't stop a right-wing site from pushing the tall tale; a tale that quickly ricocheted across the conservative media landscape and was touted as a Deeply Troubling Development.

It was against that backdrop of routine right-wing dysfunction that the Times published its lengthy article. Author Robert Draper argued — and many Republican operatives agreed — that the GOP's perennial online failures have made it almost impossible for the party to communicate effectively with younger voters; voters who have developed a deeply hostile perception of the …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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