Last night, I criticized a story in the New Yorker attacking Roy Moore based on nothing but rumor and innuendo. But some Moore defenders also need to be reminded that rumor is not news. There is a sick irony here: some of the same people who whine about Big Media and “hearsay” love to breathlessly repeat literally any damned stupid thing they see on the Internet. And one of the damned stupid charges thrown around by the more partisan and careless Internet Moore Defenders was the charge that Washington Post reporters bribed witnesses.
These rumors had a traceable source: an anonymous Twitter account called @umpire43 aka “Doug Lewis #MAGA,” which tweeted last week: “A family friend in Alabama just told my wife that a WAPO reporter named Beth offered her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore???” Because it was a stupid and unverified rumor, it was only natural that it would be touted by the fact-challenged Gateway Pundit with the classic statement: “Of course this is HUGE news if true.”
When you read a story that confirms your pre-existing biases but is based on unverified rumor and innuendo, the low-IQ thing to do is to spread that puppy as far and wide as your little typing fingers can work, and that’s what some shameless Moore defenders did. In comments at my own site, the Doug Lewis #MAGA narrative was spread by avowed Trumpers who didn’t bother to link their sources. (You know who you are and you should be ashamed.)
Thing is, the Twitter guy who first leveled the “bribery!” accusation had a . . . questionable personal back story, to put it mildly. When you added up the various assertions in his narrative, he would have had to join the Navy at age 5 for it all to be true:
The dude who says he knows someone who was offered a bribe by #WaPo in the #RoyMoore story. Says he served 22yrs (48-70)in Navy followed by 2 (70-72)in secret service & then 2 (72-75)in State. Also just said he’s 74 yrs old (born in 43). He joined the Navy at 5 yrs old. pic.twitter.com/PphKsNRhSm
— ryan (@Ryan_Kinney11) November 11, 2017
And he couldn’t remember whether he had two Purple Hearts, or three, or four:
The dude attacking my newspaper over the Moore story can't remember how many purple hearts he supposedly has. pic.twitter.com/4iW4FqQR4U
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) November 10, 2017
The editor of a news site for vets started asking Doug Lewis #MAGA some pointed questions, and next thing you know . . . Doug Lewis #MAGA’s tweets were gone. Gizmodo:
[A]fter Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel and Task and Purpose editor Adam Weinstein challenged inconsistencies in the account’s military backstory—like whether he had earned 2, 3, or 4 Purple Hearts—@umpire43 registered for a tweet deletion service and cleared out their account on Monday.
We’re talking tweets going back years:
The Twitter account that launched the hoax that WaPo paid Moore's accusers $1K has now deleted years worth of tweets pic.twitter.com/1qg4zIj9BO
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) November 13, 2017
What is Doug Lewis #MAGA trying to hide? Obviously, more clues that he is a fake.
Especially if you’re going to set yourself up as some kind of arbiter over what is good journalism or not, if you’re denouncing first-person corroborated accounts as “hearsay” while repeating crap like this, you are the problem. If you get your “news” from sites like Gateway Pundit or Conservative Treehouse or other fever swamps, you are the problem. If you’re screaming #FAKENEWS while retweeting Doug Lewis #MAGA, you are the problem.
This concludes today’s public service announcement.
UPDATE: Wow. The Daily Beast just rakes Doug Lewis #MAGA and Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit over the coals. Read it all. It’s a thing of beauty.