Friday, June 3, 2011

Tommy Christopher's Response to My Criticism of His Coverage of Weinergate

(Editor's note: Tommy Christopher sent me an email with a response to my criticisms of his coverage of Breitbart and Markos Moulitsas. He reproduced my blog post and includes his responses in italics. I've added a couple comments that hopefully clarify the presentation of information. My response to Christopher's response can be found here.)

Mediaite Uses Double Standard to Attack Kos, Defend Breitbart

Tommy Christopher of Mediaite wrote a long post that has some good points in it (including a statement by parents slamming an irresponsible media's coverage of Weinergate), but bizarrely uses a double standard to claim that Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos is reprehensible and Breitbart an innocent victim.

This is not true. My piece clearly, carefully presents a narrow defense of Breitbart against a specific charge: " Andrew Breitbart has been repeatedly accused of engineering a hoax against Rep. Anthony Weiner
""when it comes to the publication of factual evidence" "as far as presentation of documentary evidence"
I clearly made a distinction between this specific charge, and other criticisms of Breitbart's conduct:
"There are reasonable criticisms to be made of Andrew Breitbart regarding the Weinergate story (I have made many), and I haven’t seen every statement he’s made on Twitter or TV, so I cannot vouch for their fairness"
(Ed- the following are tweets sent from Tommy Christopher to Breitbart which, I take it, are being presented as evidence that he was recently critical of Breitbart):
.@AndrewBreitbart says @patriotusa76 was "monitoring" @RepWeiner.And Westboro Baptist "monitors" military funerals. #p2

Your story isn't "tight," it's as yellow as a canary driving a taxi. You present no evidence to suggest it wasn't a hack...@AndrewBreitbart

Then you imply that you have some. @AndrewBreitbart

His report of a hack IS evidence it was a hack. In the courts, they call it "testimony." @AndrewBreitbart

Journalism isn't about what you believe, or even what you know, but what you can verify. @AndrewBreitbart

Journalists don't pretend they have more evidence, or withhold it if they really do. Yellow to say "we have more." Put up. @AndrewBreitbart 28 MayNot the point.

Drawing conclusions from an ambiguous fact pattern is yellow. Publicly claiming "we have more"=yellow. @AndrewBreitbart 28 May
It goes on like that for hours, but you get the idea.

Christopher claims that Kos is "reprehensible" because a diarist on Kos's site posted a screen shot of an iphone from one of the suspicious characters in the story, which showed a conversation between that person and a minor who was looking to push a false story about Weiner communicating with one of her friends.

Actually, she was falsely claiming they both engaged in such communication.

I had found the photo myself several days ago, and chose to redact the personal information on the yfrog image I posted because one of the people was in high school. I agree with Tommy to the extent that I personally did not want to share that information. However, that is a different context entirely from what Markos is being accused of. Christopher is attacking Markos because Markos owns a site that allows community diaries and has a policy that is biased very heavily against censorship of the community part of the site. The diary in question was not written by one of the paid front page authors: it was written by one of the community members. Thus, while I personally did not want to share the full information, I don't think it's "reprehensible" for Markos to choose not to censor the content choices of diarists except under extreme circumstances (which is what he said was his policy in an email to Christopher).

3 problems with this: 1. redacting the names would have had no effect on the content's news value. 2. This was an extreme circumstance. Two minor children and their parents feared for their safety. 3. There is no "policy" against it, made clear by his offer to consider a "counter-argument" that he deemed worthy. He never argued the girls weren't being endangered, he just didn't care.

On the other hand, here's what Christopher had to say about Breitbart:
Through our contemporaneous conversations throughout this story, it has been clear that Andrew Breitbart followed leads that were submitted to him, rather than that he engineered any of this, and as far as presentation of documentary evidence, has acted responsibly throughout. He has also refrained from identifying the young women involved, unlike other websites on the left and the right, a fact that is to his credit.
This has led to idiotic gloating from the right-wing blogsphere. For example;

And Hot Air:
The big takeaway, however, is that the reporting from Big Journalism was conducted responsibly, and that Breitbart and Dana Loesch did what reporters do — get data from sources and report on them, rather than manufacture a story, as they were accused of doing.
The problem, however, is that Breitbart's sites clearly engaged in far worse pushing of innocent young women's personal information than anything on Kos. Check out this post from Big Governmnet, where Jim Hoft links to "young attractive coeds," including girls in high school:

After Hoft posted the personal information of these young girls for his knuckle-dragging followers, several of them complained about being harassed online. And unlike the Kos diary, which came from the community, Hoft's diary was hand picked by Breitbart's editors to appear on the site. Your criticism of Hoft's post is valid, your claim of a double-standard is not. As you already know, I reacted the same way to Hoft's original post (at GatewayPundit) as I did to Kos: I denounced it in no uncertain terms, and lobbied to have the information removed:
@Stranahan retweeted that list, already knowing underage girls were targeted for harassment? Disgusting. #p

@Stranahan Yep, even Big Government redacted her name, yet you and other unethical "journalists" irresponsibly pushed it.

.@Stranahan That was a weak move, dude. That list paints bullseyes on innocent girls. Opens them up to this or more:

@Stranahan Why? Do you want to publish their handles and pictures so goons can cyber-bully them? No thanks.

.@Stranahan If you ever publish a list like that with my kids on it, there's gonna be a problem.

@Stranahan And if Jim Hoft published a list like that with your kids on it, we would have a problem.

I could not be more disgusted with Jim Hoft, whom friends tell me is a nice guy IRL. Get him to take that list down.

Even @rsmccain had the decency to redact the underage girl's identity.

How about it? Any decent #tcot think Jim Hoft @gatewaypunditshould take down his jailbait gallery? Anybody? Bueller?
If I am guilty of something, it is not noticing this link in Hoft's BG article, but once I did, I emailed Breitbart to alert him to it. If he sends me back an email saying he's leaving it up because she was asking for it, and I do nothing, then you will have a point. And what are you doing linking to it?

(Ed- Christopher later emailed the following: Since I alerted Andrew Breitbart to the presence of that link in Hoft's story, it has been deleted.)

Furthermore, Breitbart went on CNN to claim that Weiner "had relationships" with "quite young girls" based on nothing more than this garbage and the lies from his sources.. In fact, contrary to what Christopher claimed, Breitbart specifically cited Wolfe for his despicable claims on CNN.

This is why I disclaimed my defense to exclude statements he made elsewhere. What he said on CNN was technically accurate, but unfair. I have made numerous criticisms of this kind of thing, but it is not suggestive of what he's been accused of. Explaining this specific instance would have forced me to divulge protected information (the basis of his claim deals, in part, with another underage girl, and was revealed to me in an off-the-record conversation, but does not rely on anything Patriot or Goatsred gave him. You can ask Breitbart about it if you want a more thorough explanation), and was not relevant to the story I was reporting, which was that Breitbart did not engineer this, and did refuse to run with documentation that turned out to be false.

Yet Christopher claims that Breitbart has acted "responsibly" throughout this mess. Again, what I actually said was much narrower. He acted responsibly with respect to documentary evidence that was presented to him, and took care to protect identities. Unbelievably sloppy "media criticism," if you ask me.

(Ed- My response to Tommy Christopher's response.)

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