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February 21, 2013

Breitbart Reporter Accused Of Promoting Fake Hamas Group To Derail Hagel Nomination

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Ben Shapiro, the Editor-at-Large of Breitbart News, has reported a serious accusation against Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, namely that Hagel received money from a group sympathetic to terrorism known as “Friends of Hamas.”

On Thursday, Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed that 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.”

Called for comment and reached via telephone, Associate Communications Director at the White House Eric Schultz identified himself, heard the question, was silent for several seconds, and then hung up the phone immediately without comment.

If true, Hagel’s nomination would face further opposition likely to the point of being derailed completely given the attitudes of the Senate and American public at large towards Hamas.

But Shapiro’s reporting is now under heavy scrutiny starting with Slate writer Dave Weigel who wrote a post asserting that no such group even existed.

Here’s the problem: 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.

Further problems arose for the veracity of the allegation when New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman came forward to say he believed that he accidentally started the “Friends of Hamas” rumor.

The revelation could have doomed President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense: He gave a paid speech to a group called “Friends of Hamas.”

Fortunately for Hagel, this claim, which galloped across the Internet, was bogus. I know, because I was the unwitting source…

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.

From Friedman’s perspective, he did think wrong and Shapiro’s story is actually his joke flying back into the news cycle, a tragic case of Washington’s whisper down the lane game brutalizing the truth again.

But Shapiro is sticking to his story labeling Friedman a “hack” and “lying by omission”. This despite becoming an object of ridicule by Gawker’s editor and having his motives questioned by Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg who claims Shapiro is a “fascist” and has no credibility when reporting on Chuck Hagel.

It seems unlikely that Hagel would take money from a group named “Friends of Hamas” or any group tied to Hamas even if he harbored the deep antisemitic views his other detractors claim he has. But this is surely the ugliest nomination process I have ever seen and seems more a demonstration of the dysfunction of Washington than the failings of Chuck Hagel.


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