A New York Daily News writer says his sarcastic question to a GOP staffer started a rumor that put at risk Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel's Senate confirmation.
When Hagel's paid speeches became an issue of concern, writer Dan Friedman said he tried to find out which controversial groups the former Senator had addressed. He jokingly asked a Republican Capitol Hill aide whether Hagel had spoken to the "Junior League of Hezbollah, in France" or the "Friends of Hamas." He said he figured the names were so over the top, it would be clear they were farcical.
The source did not get back to him with an answer, he said. But the next day he saw this Feb. 7 headline on conservative site Breitbart.com: "SECRET HAGEL DONOR?: WHITE HOUSE SPOX DUCKS QUESTION ON 'FRIENDS OF HAMAS'"
Friedman said the rumor caught fire and became a GOP talking point. The incident, he said, revealed the nature of today's media climate. "I became part of an inadvertent demonstration of how quickly partisan agendas and the Internet can transform an obvious joke into a Washington talking point used by senators and presidential wannabes," he wrote.