Throughout the fight over Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense, a devoted group of pro-Hagel journalists has been determined not only to defend Hagel, but to attack his critics and their credibility. They have gone beyond the “normal” mainstream media bias, which for most outlets merely meant ignoring flaws in Hagel’s record and his refusal to disclose key information. “Team Hagel” has even ignored its own scoops.
For example, BuzzFeed was the first outlet on Feb. 14 to recover and post the prepared text of a controversial speech that then-Sen. Hagel delivered at Rutgers University in March 2007. (The controversy surrounds remarks allegedly made by Hagel about Israel in the question-and-answer session that followed.) BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith immediately took to Twitter to declare: “Nothing eyebrow raising in that prepared text.”
Evidently Smith had not read the speech properly, because he tweeted a few minutes later: “Actually, that ’07 Hagel speech isn’t so innocuous,on a second read. Hagel wanted consulate in Iran, talked cooperation.” For Smith, debunking criticism of Hagel was a higher priority than getting the story right–a story that BuzzFeed itself was the first to have, and could have been the first to break at a critical moment in the debate.
In a similar episode, Politico’s Dylan Byers and Mackenzie Weinger were the first to break the news that a 2008 speech by Hagel to the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) had been recovered and would be released later that day. Byers and Weinger reported, without having viewed the speech for themselves, that there was no newsworthy information in Hagel’s remarks: “the tape comes up clean,” they wrote.