Bloomberg Law reporter Benjamin Penn is facing a barrage of criticism — even from far-left corporate media — over a hit piece in which he falsely claimed a recently-hired Trump official wrote antisemitic comments on social media in August 2016.
Penn reported on Tuesday morning that Department of Labor official Leif Olson resigned from his position following an inquiry by the reporter to the agency regarding a Facebook post where Olson wrote, in Penn’s characterization, “the Jewish-controlled media ‘protects their own.’” The comment, which was universally understood as sarcasm on Olson’s part, followed a post jokingly describing then-House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 70-point primary victory over challenger Paul Nehlen as “emasculating.” In the same thread, Ryan was referred to as “neo-con,” to which Olson quipped, “neo-cons are all Upper East Side Zionists who don’t golf on Saturday if you know what I mean.”
“That’s what I meant,” a commenter wrote. “He’s a Jew. Everyone knows that.”
“It must be true because I’ve never seen the Lamestream Media report it, and you know they protect their own,” Olson replied sardonically.
Egregiously left out of Penn’s report was a screenshot showing a commenter complimenting Olson for speaking in “sarcasm like a first language.” Such comment underscores the now-former Trump official’s remarks about Jews were for, in fact, mocking Nehlen’s fans as antisemitic.
Tell me, what honest report calls this sarcastic criticism of anti-Semites anti-Semitic? Leif is a friend, and I’d trust him with my Jewish life. I’m appalled at Bloomberg’s hit piece disrupting his life for no reason. pic.twitter.com/Gc6aookkDZ
— (((tedfrank))) (@tedfrank) September 3, 2019
“It was sarcastic criticism of the alt-right’s conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic positions,” Olson said after his resignation.
Far-left news outlets such as The Washington Post, CNN, and Vox slammed Bloomberg Law and Penn over the report, calling it “highly misleading” and suggested a retraction was in order.
CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy tweeted of Penn’s smear:
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) September 4, 2019
The Post’s media critic Erik Wemple wrote for Penn to assert Olson’s posts were antisemitic is to “willfully ignore the tone and intent of the post.”
“Retraction time,” the blogger concluded.
— Jim Hanson (@Uncle_Jimbo) September 4, 2019
Vox’s Dylan Matthews said:
You do not need a PhD in linguistics to correctly identify this as obvious sarcasm — another commenter on the thread praised the post’s “epic sarcasm.” Conservatives, especially ones of a neoconservative bent on foreign policy, have made sarcastic jokes like this about what they perceive as (and what sometimes, as in the case of Nehlen, is) anti-Semitic criticism of neoconservatism, a movement primarily founded by Jewish intellectuals.
Even the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which issued a statement to Bloomberg originally characterizing Olson’s posts as anti-Jewish, later retracted its accusation, telling the Post: “We appreciate Mr. Olson’s clarification that he intended to be sarcastic with his posts, and accept his explanation of the content in question.”
Nonetheless, when reached for comment amid the onslaught of criticism, a Bloomberg press representative confirmed the news outlet still stood behind the baseless article.
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) September 3, 2019
Olson was an employee of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division for a mere 12 days. It is unclear if he will return to his former post. Bloomberg Law has yet to issue a retraction for its false report.