I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, July 03, 2006

What is left of Malkin, Hinderaker and Horowitz's credibility?

(updated below - updated again with Secret Service confirmation)

As I documented at length this weekend, Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Red State, David Horowitz and many others of that sort spent the weekend engaged in the most vicious and self-evidently misguided attacks on The New York Times based on a puff piece in this weekend's "Escapes" section. Because the article contained a photograph of Don Rumsfeld's vacation home, they insisted that this was reckless and even retaliatory-- i.e., done with the intent to enable Al Qaeda operatives and other assassins to murder Rumsfeld (as well as Dick Cheney), and that it was further evidence of the war being waged by the NYT and its employees on the Bush administration and the U.S.

For so many obvious reasons, based on easily obtainable information -- including the fact that multiple right-wing news outlets such as NewsMax and Fox and others had previously disclosed this same information months earlier, that this information is commonly reported about government leaders in both parties, and the fact that we always know where our top government officials live and spend their weekends because they have Secret Service protection -- these accusations were as false as they were hysterical.

But in addition to those known reasons, I strongly suspected that the Times would not have published those photographs unless they had made certain in advance that doing so would not conflict with Rumsfeld and Cheney's security concerns. But I did not make this argument because I was not sure that it was true, and unlike Michelle Malkin and John Hinderaker, I'd rather wait to obtain the relevant evidence before running around asserting "facts" based on nothing. As a result, I wrote e-mails yesterday to Linda Spillers (the photographer) and Peter Kilborn (the reporter) bringing these accusations to their attention and asking for a response.

Although I haven't heard yet from Kilborn, I received an e-mail from Spillers this morning, in which she said:

Ironically, photos were taken with Secretary Rumsfeld's permission.

The reprehensible lynch mob hysterics - Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Red State, David Horowitz - spent the weekend screaming that the Times was guilty of gross recklessness and/or a deliberate intent to have Rumsfeld killed, by virtue of publication of this article. That bloodthirsty frenzy caused other bloggers to publish the home address and telephone number of Spillers and urged that other NYT editors and reporters be "hunted down." Other followers of Malkin and Hinderaker suggested to their readers that this was yet more evidence of the unpatriotic recklessness of the NYT.

All along, Don Rumsfeld gave his express permission to the NYT for these photographs to be taken. How can anything other than complete scorn be heaped on Malkin, Hinderaker, Horowitz, Red State, and all of the uber-patriotic copycat accusers who spent the weekend spewing the most dangerous accusations possible based on completely false premises? Who would think that any of them have a shred of credibility after seeing how irresponsible and impervious to facts they are -- even when knowingly catalyzing lynch mobs against people?

Once they read the NYT article, was there any reason why they could not have simply inquired with Rumsfeld's office, or Cheney's, or with the demonic NYT itself, as to whether there really were any security threats posed by that article? Why couldn't they have searched to see if other media outlets -- such as Fox or NewsMax -- had previously made this information known? Before accusing the NYT of deliberately enabling Terrorists to murder government officials, isn't there at least the most minimal obligations to verify if those accusations are actually true? But they don't care whether their accusations are true. They are in pure hate-mongering mode against the NYT, and all they want is to whip up as much unbridled rage and contempt for the NYT and its employees as possible.

So, they read a blatantly innocuous vacation home fluff piece this weekend, and without bothering to pause for even a split second to conduct a shred of research or engage in even a moment of reflection -- activities which would have led them to prior, much more revealing articles about the Clintons' Chappaqua home, or prior articles revealing the same information about Rumsfeld and Cheney's home -- they instead launch into their reflexive, mouth-watering attacks on people whom they hate, completely indifferent to the consequences of their conduct and equally indifferent to the truth of what they are saying.

Howard Kurtz puts Hinderaker on CNN virtually every weekend. Malkin and Horowitz are treated like respectable pundits on Fox and other stations. And yet their standards for what they assert are no different than Star Magazine or the lowest, bottom-feeding liars who literally invent facts at will. They spent the whole weekend trying to inflame hatred against the NYT by telling their readers that the NYT article deliberately endangered Don Rumsfeld's security in order to retaliate against him - even though that could not possibly have been true based on known facts, and even though Don Rumsfeld himself authorized the use of those photographs. What possible defense is there for this behavior, and what rational person would consider Malkin, Hinderaker, Horowitz, Red State -- all of them -- even the slightest bit credible in the future?

UPDATE: According to Jonah Goldberg, Bill Bennett also complained on his radio show this morning that the NYT "alerted readers where one of Don Rumsfeld's hidden security cameras is at his home." The always insightful Jonah added: "I bet they wouldn't do that to Barbra Streisand." This is the sort of commentary to which we are subjected on a daily basis. The only difference is that, in this case, there is irrefutable evidence of just how twisted and false it is.

UPDATE II: Greg Sargent of The American Prospect puts the final nail in what ought to be the coffin of whatever vestiges of credibility were left for Malkin, Horowitz, Red State, et al. He confirmed with the Secret Service what I reported earlier (that the NYT photographer had Rumsfeld's permission to take those photographs) and what was obvious all along (that the article did not pose any remote threat as Cheney and Rumsfeld's own spokespeople acknowledge):

But I just got through talking with Hollen Wheeler, director of public affairs for Rumsfeld's office.

She confirmed what Glenn Greenwald has reported -- that the photographer, Linda Spillers, had been granted permission to photograph Rumsfeld's house by Rumsfeld himself.

"She got approval to take a picture," Wheeler told me. "She called, we said fine, go take the picture. And that's it."

Wheeler also added of the picture: "It's already out in the public domain. I'm a little confused about why this has caused such an uproar."

Mr. Wheeler is obviously not a reader of Malkin, Powerline or David Horowitz, because if he were, he wouldn't be at all confused to learn that they created an "uproar" over nothing, over completely invented "facts". It's what they do.

The most minimal standards of integrity compel retractions along with apologies to the NYT and the reporter and photographer of this article from the following accusers:

In a subsequent e-mail to me, Spillers -- the NYT photographer who had her home address and telephone number published in the right-wing blogosphere (by an associate of David Horowitz's) this weekend because of these false accusations -- said this: "Unbelievable how many folks jump to conclusions without having the facts." She also obviously hasn't spent much time reading Malkin and Powerline before, or else such behavior would be anything but "unbelievable."

Hunter has much more on the retraction and apology obligations.

My Ecosystem Details