Right Wing Media Pushes “Friends of Hamas” Rumor

UPDATE Tuesday, February 26:

The Hill reported Tuesday afternoon:

The Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief in a 58-41 vote, ending the most contentious confirmation fight for a Defense secretary in U.S. history.

Only four Republicans backed Hagel, a former GOP senator from Nebraska whose controversial statements on Israel, Iran and other issues made him a lighting rod on the right and led to the first-ever filibuster of a nominee to lead the Pentagon. GOP Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mike Johanns (Neb.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voted to confirm Hagel.

Hagel Chip Somodevilla:Getty Images

by James M. Wall

One rumor in the anti-Chuck Hagel campaign started as a joking question that quickly swept through the right wing media machine until it reached Fox News business guru, Lou Dobbs.

It was such an outlandish charge that it should have been ignored and tossed into the “birther” trash can. The rumor “implied” that Hagel might have received funds from an organization called “Friends of Hamas”.

Dan Friedman, the New York Daily News reporter who inadvertently launched the “Friends of Hamas” rumor, was shocked to see how quickly a joking question he posed casually over the phone, went from nowhere to everywhere. He tells his sad tale in the Daily News:

On Febrary 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did [Chuck] 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.

Friedman was wrong.

The right wing media machine swung into action, sending Friedman’s joking question on its mission to destroy Hagel.

The aide Friedman had initially called, promised to get back to him. He did not call, so Friedman followed up with a reminder e-mail to the aide that asked:  “Did he get $25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?”  The aide still did not respond.
One day later, Friedman was shocked to see that his joking question had reached the Breitbart News website, under the headline: Secret Hagel Donor?: White House SPOX Ducks Question on ‘Friends of Hamas’
The Brietbart author, Ben Shapiro wrote:
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.’
Shapiro added that a White House spokesman hung up on him when he called for comment, an action Shapiro included in his story, buttressing “the assertion that the White House didn’t deny the claim”.

Shapiro tweeted the link to his Breitbart story to his nearly 40,000 Twitter followers. The joke had become a serious story, treated as such by commentators who did not check to see if it was true. Friedman reports what happened next:

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.”
Noting that Slate.com was one of the first main stream web sites to raise “big doubts whether ‘Friends of Hamas’ even exists,” Friedman continued his narration:
On Monday, I reached my source. The person denied sharing my query with Breitbart but admitted the chance of having mentioned it to others.

When Friedman spoke to him on Tuesday, Shapiro acknowledged “Friends of Hamas” might not exist. But he said his story used “very, very specific language” to avoid flatly claiming it did. Friedman’s joking question had gone very, very wrong.

He concludes his role in the rumor story:
I am, it seems, the creator of the “Friends of Hamas” myth. Doing my job, I erred in counting on confidentiality and the understanding that my example was farcical — and by assuming no one would print an unchecked rumor.
If anyone didn’t know already: Partisan agendas, Internet reporting and old-fashioned carelessness can move complete crocks fast. If you see a story on Hagel addressing the Junior League of Hezbollah, that’s fake too.
The rumor, by this time, had taken on a life of its own. A single rumor became “rumors abound”, in The National Review On Line, where Andrew Stiles wrote:
Rumors abound on Capitol Hill that a full disclosure of Hagel’s professional ties would reveal financial relationships with a number of “unsavory” groups, including one purportedly called “Friends of Hamas.” The GOP aide said it was “noteworthy” that the White House has yet to deny the association. “Maybe it’s not true, but why not provide a list of groups he spoke to and remove all doubt?” the aide said. 
Veteran columnist David Wiegel was the first to do the obvious: He checked out “Friends of Hamas”. On February 14, he wrote that he could find no evidence of its existence.
There’s no proof that “Friends of Hamas” actually exists. At best, it’s an organization so secret that nobody in government has thought to mention its existence. At worst, it’s as fake as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend.
The Treasury Department, which designates sponsors of terror, has done so to many charities tied to Hamas. “Friends of Hamas” is not among them. The State Department doesn’t designate it, either. And a bit less holistically, a Lexis search for the group reveals absolutely nothing.
Lou Dobbs, on his Fox News program, interviewed National Review columnist Andrew McCarthy about the Hagel quandary, and “Friends of Hamas” came up again. (Click here for a video from the Dobbs Fox program. It runs four minutes)
The following interview excerpt provides a flavor of Dobbs as an eager purveyor of the “Friends of Hamas” rumor.
MCCARTHY: There was a report that came out last week-not confirmed yet, but we’re [i.e., the White House] also not denying it very vigorously-that one of the groups behind the speeches may have been an outfit called Friends of Hamas. That is not going to-

DOBBS: That has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

MCCARTHY: Catchy.

Catchy, indeed, and entirely made up from a false rumor created out of a joking question. The rumor spread quickly because the right wing media machine wanted to promote a falsehood for political purposes.  No one in that machine bothered to check out the story .

The Senate hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary will resume next week. The Armed Services Committee has approved the nomination on a party line vote, 14 to 12.

Democratic leaders in the Senate want to present the nomination before Wednesday, February 27, to the full Senate for a final confirmation.

Opponents of Hagel on the Republican side of the aisle continue to mumble against a wounded Viet Nam veteran with extensive government and business experience, purely on spurious grounds.

Hagel’s chief adversaries, John McCain and Lindsay Graham, appear however, to have given up any further thought of a filibuster against Hagel.

The sooner the better. The obvious fakery of the charges leveled against Hagel exposes the pettiness of Hagel’s opponents, both in the right wing media and in the increasingly hard-right leadership of the Republican party.

The photo of former Senator Hagel (above) is by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

About wallwritings

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog April 24, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
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8 Responses to Right Wing Media Pushes “Friends of Hamas” Rumor

  1. DRGardner says:

    Does anyone believe Friedman didn’t know what he was doing?

  2. John Kleinheksel says:

    Misrepresentation. Grasping at straws. According to Stephen Sizer, 200 CUFI (Christians United for Israel, the John Hagee group) were flown to D.C. (by “an anonymous donor), to lean on Senators to quash the Hagel nomination. Fifteen GOP Senators wrote a letter in a last ditch appeal to Obama to withdraw the Hagel nomination (to no avail).
    These are desperation measures to derail the nomination, which now has enough votes even to cut off debate (60).
    Opponents are stooping to new levels of innuendo, slander, falsehood and maliciousness to maintain the status quo in re the US attitude toward Iran and Israel.
    Unless you show complete distrust of Iran and complete support of Israeli paranoia, you will be unacceptable to groups in the US that give total, unquestioning support of the Israeli Occupation.

  3. The right wing echo chamber at its best.
    There’s a real good chance that next week, during the resumption of the hearings, some dimwit junior Republican Senator is going to ask about the Hamas connection.

  4. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    There is obviously a huge misunderstanding here, simply due to Arabic-English mispronounciation.

    Yes, there is a secretive dippin’ group called, “Friends of Hummos”, that has the very original recipe of the famous Palestinian Hummos

    In fact, it is affiliated with another sizzlin’ group called, the “Falafel Brotherhood”, named after its originator, “Abul Falafel”.

    Yes, Hagel did address both groups back in 2005 and did accept a “foreign” gift of a magnificent bottle of Extra Virgin Palestinian Olive oil, made from ancient Palestinian olive trees, First OpPress 1948; Second OpPress 1967.

    Let’s start another rumor that, ever since Hagel dipped into some of that olive oil, he could no longer be corrupted or cowered or brainwashed.

    Only this time, the rumor is TRUE.

  5. Patty says:

    Are the American people really so stupid to elect people to Congress bent on destroying this country? I am afraid so..if Hagel said screw you and screw Israel, screw Hagee and his not so Christian group, It would be justified! This American would applaud as well as millions more!

  6. Robert Assaly says:

    When do we stop calling this ‘democracy’?

    Win or lose, nearly-President McCain and Graham et.al. will just move along to their next scam project, again compromising the nation’s integrity. There is no price paid for fraudulent misrepresentation.

    Indeed for this one, no doubt, they will be rewarded by AIPAC. Upward failure has now taken hold of American politics, squeezing out the truth and the truthful. It’s almost as if they were trying to qualify for positions on Wall Street (my former stomping ground).

    Jim, your great journalistic research provides an antidote to the mainstream media.

  7. Fred says:

    The Isreal Firsters are working hard to bring down Hagel, and will use any smear tactic they can to do it. Fight back! Call the senators you know and tell them to vote for Hagel’s approval, and ask your friends to do it to.

    It is a shame of shames that people are putting the interests of another country above our own–and they are succeeding. We need to make calls and take action to stop this. Post on facebook as well. We need to do what we can, even if we don’t haved big money behind us.

  8. Del on February 27, 2013 said:

    It is time to expand the calls for boycotting and divestiture to those media organizations which support the illegal actions of Israel against Palestinians in land and water seizures. The New York Times, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Mike Huckabee and others like them should not be supported by subscribers, listeners, or investors. I’m not suggesting the government should do it, but common people should. We must confront the enablers and encouragers of atrocious thoughts and actions which enslave Palestinians behind barbed wire and walls of concrete which are like those which Nazi Germans used against Jewish people. If we don’t confront modern Israel’s policies, we have met the enemy and it is us.

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