Dan Friedman of the New York Daily News explains how the right wing bought this hook, line, and sinker.
Here’s what happened: When rumors swirled that Hagel received speaking fees from controversial organizations, I attempted to check them out.
On Feb. 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did Hagel’s Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed?
Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”?
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. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them…
I couldn’t have imagined what would happen next. On Feb. 7, the conservative web site Breitbart.com screamed this headline:
“SECRET HAGEL DONOR?: WHITE HOUSE SPOX DUCKS QUESTION ON ‘FRIENDS OF HAMAS’”
Shapiro tweeted the link to his nearly 40,000 Twitter followers. Blogs like RedState.com and the National Review’s The Corner linked to it. In Israel, Mike Huckabee said “rumors of Chuck Hagel’s having received funds from Friends of Hamas,” would, if true, “disqualify him.”
Only, it wasn’t true; it was simply a hypothetical question posed by a reporter to elicit a response.