Dan Friedman, a reporter for the Daily News, acts the innocent in this piece explaining the origins of the rumor that Chuck Hagel received funds from a group called “Friends of Hamas.” The Daily News asserts that Friedman “inadvertently” fostered that suspicion. But as you read his words– not an ombudsman’s words, or an editor’s words, someone who ought to be looking into this matter — reflect that: the Daily News is a big supporter of Israel, and, How innocent is it to send an email to a source on Capitol Hill asking, “Did he get $25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?” It’s not innocent; it’s irresponsible. I would ask Friedman: Show me the rest of your emails on this question. What are you leaving out? Why should anyone trust your account?
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.
Or so I thought.
The aide promised to get back to me. I followed up with an e-mail, as a reminder: “Did he get $25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?” I asked.
The source never responded, and I moved on.
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’”
The story read: “On Thursday, Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed one of the reasons that President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, has not turned over requested documents on his sources of foreign funding is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called ‘Friends of Hamas.’”