With all of their previous efforts at creating a boogeyman in time for the midterms having failed, the administration has now chosen to embrace a fact-challenged allegation from a liberal blogger as their last, desperate hope.
The public roll out started last week when President Obama said the following on a syndicated radio show: “When I talk to young people I say they’re trying to hijack democracy from you right now.” It turns out Obama had probably seen a preview of the latest DNC attack ad which makes the same charge but using the word “stealing” in place of hijacking.
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The source of this allegation, believe it or not, is a little known blogger at the leftist outlet Think Progress, one with a long history of bogus scoops. In fact, back in May I wrote a post titled Lee Fang, the Left’s Favorite Fabulist, which described him this way:
[Fang’s] job seems to consist of making wild claims which are momentarily plausible enough to be picked up by ostensibly credible news sources like Paul Krugman, MSNBC, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the DNC.
The most recent example was a video Fang posted in July of this year. It purported to be a collection of clips demonstrating racism at the Tea Parties. Fang later corrected the post to admit that one of the clips he used came from 2006, long before there were any Tea Parties.
What he failed to correct was the use of another clip showing a man saying “I’m a proud racist.” This snippet came from a longer clip which shows the man in question being hounded out of a Tea Party event by members who were understandably offended by his Nazi apparel.
Even worse, Fang deceptively edited a clip of a man saying, “He’s too black to be President…” Sounds pretty racist until you see the full clip in which the man, who was attending with his black wife, says, “It’s not the color of his skin that troubles me, it’s not the blackness of his skin that troubles me. It’s the blackness inside his heart. He’s a bad guy.” This is the kind of blatantly dishonest scoop Lee Fang consistently produces.
A few months before the video, Fang put up a splashy post claiming that Telecom companies had a “Secret Plan to Attack Net Neutrality.” His evidence was a Power Point presentation which purportedly revealed a dastardly marketing plan by giant telecom companies. Slashdot, Boing Boing, and many others quickly jumped on Fang’s scoop.
But when Declan McCullah at CNet took the time to look into Fang’s claims, he found them to be completely and utterly false. The Power Point wasn’t produced by a Telecom company but by a group of MBA students for a class project at a total cost of $173. Both the Power Point and audio of the class were posted on the web. So much for Fang’s secret cabal.
In the Summer of 2009, Fang made a huge splash with this story which also involved a “leaked” memo. Here’s how Fang described it:
The claim was picked up first by Rachel Maddow and then, just five days after Fang’s initial post, the DNC produced a new ad based around his claims. The not-so-subtle title was “Enough of the Mob.” It received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Over an image of Fang’s “leaked” memo, a narrator intones, “This mob activity is straight from the playbook of high level Republican political operatives.”
Only that wasn’t true. As Mary Katherine Ham at the Weekly Standard soon discovered the memo’s author was a small time Connecticut libertarian whose only connection with the Tea Party was a comment he’d left on a website promoted, but not funded, by Freedom Works. MacGuffie’s political organization had a Facebook page with 23 friends and a Twitter feed with 5 followers. His strategy memo had been sent to, at most, 10 people.
Sadly, we’re still not done. Earlier the same summer, Fang put up a post claiming that Tea Parties were Astroturf (fake grass roots). His evidence consisted of a few bullet points with links which supposedly demonstrated that Freedom Works was making this all happen from the top down.
In this instance, I was the one who checked Fang’s story and found it wanting. In fact, most of Fang’s claims are undercut by following his own links. For instance, Fang claims that Freedom Works took over planning of an event in Florida. His evidence of this top down planning is a Freedom Works web page which offering such innocuous advice as “Pick a location” and “Tell your friends.” Apparently Fang believes the Tea Parties wouldn’t exist if not for this critical advice from the top.
But the fact that Fang’s “Astroturf” claims were tendentious at best didn’t stop them from being repeated (practically lifted) by Paul Krugman at the NY Times. In a column published just three days after Fang’s original, Krugman wrote “it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks…”
So it appears that one of two things is true about Lee Fang. Either he’s the unheralded mastermind behind much of the DNC’s strategy over the last 18 months… or he’s a shill for the people who pay his salary. In case you’re not sure who that is, Think Progress is an arm of the Center for American Progress, the liberal interest group most closely associated with the Obama White House. I’m starting to think he might be a bit of both.
For the record, Fang’s latest smear has been denied by the Chamber of Commerce. Even the NY Times finds it to be a stretch noting, “The Democrats have offered no evidence that the chamber is using foreign money to influence the elections.”
But that didn’t stop David Axelrod from repeating the claims on one of the Sunday morning shows. When asked if he had any evidence to back it up, Axelrod directed viewers to Lee Fang’s original post at Think Progress. Okay, I made that last part up but unless Fang really is a shill that’s where all of this nonsense originated.