A Daily Caller smear is falling apart after the conservative outlet relied on the word of a Holocaust denier and con artist to accuse President Bill Clinton of having “once praised” him in a letter of commendation. The Daily Caller published that allegation without presenting any evidence they actually saw Clinton's supposed letter of commendation.
The person in question, David Cole, has since said he fabricated his Clinton commendation, and he wrote a year ago that he falsified significant portions of his biography. Despite Cole's long history of hoaxes and being “pathologically duplicitous,” the conservative publication still relied on his claim to attack Clinton.
Cole is a Holocaust denier and serial liar. He appeared in the media in the 1990s questioning various aspects of the Holocaust. In an attempt to make money, Cole then changed his identity to “David Stein” and began producing, according to The Guardian, “respectable, conventional Holocaust documentaries” under the banner of Nistarim/The Tinbergen Archives. He also “started writing op-eds under Stein and other pseudonyms, expressing what he said was his growing fervour for a hawkish foreign policy, a strong Israel and conservative social policy.”
The Guardian exposed his duplicity in a May 2013 piece and noted that despite his attempted conversion to respectability, “Cole today still challenges established Holocaust scholarship, including the certainty about Nazi gas chambers.” Simon Wiesenthal Center associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said of Cole, who is Jewish: “I'm very disappointed that someone who abused his Jewishness to get his five minutes of notoriety still stands by his lies. It's disgusting and puts him in the camp of bigotry.”
The paper added that Cole's former friends and acquaintances “called him pathologically duplicitous, alleging he padded his film resume on the IMDb database with fictitious entries.” Cole/Stein's IMDb biography claims he received a commendation “for his work from President Bill Clinton.”
According to a ZoomInfo.com cache of his former production company's website, Cole/Stein further claimed “Bill Clinton recognized David's film Nuremberg with a special commendation that read, 'It is with great pride that I recognize David Stein and his organization, the Tinbergen Archives, for their part in keeping the memory and the lessons of the Holocaust from ever being forgotten. By discovering the documentary film Nuremberg, they have done the world a great service.'”
Cole's deception extends into other areas during his time as a documentarian. In a January 2014 post on his website, Cole brags about tricking people with his alias “Cal Tinbergen,” who was purportedly the president of “the Tinbergen Archives.” “Tinbergen,” who was named after a character from a Roger Corman sci-fi movie, became a collaborator on several of Cole/Stein's projects and even placed an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. Cole wrote in January 2014 that “there is no 'Tinbergen Archives.'”
Yet the Daily Caller picked up the ZoomInfo.com claim that President Clinton praised Stein and the Tinbergen Archives, despite numerous red flags, including Cole's publicly available admission that the Tinbergen Archives doesn't exist.
Reporter Patrick Howley wrote a December 31 article with the headline, “Bill Clinton Once Praised An Undercover Holocaust Denier For Keeping 'The Lessons Of The Holocaust Alive.'”
Howley presented as fact that such a Clinton commendation letter exists despite giving no indication or evidence that he had actually seen such a letter. Howley quoted Clinton allegedly praising “David Stein and his organization, the Tinbergen Archives.”
The Daily Caller contacted Cole, who “said that the Clinton commendation letter was obtained for his organization by a politically-connected lawyer named Herbert Feiler” who has since passed away. Cole told the website he couldn't “make any real independent verification because at the time when that was sent to me it didn't matter.”
The Caller seemed to acknowledge the flimsiness of its own article, which was posted on New Year's Eve, writing in the second paragraph that “it's highly unlikely that Clinton even knew the man he praised was actually an undercover Holocaust denier using an assumed identity.” As previously noted, during the alleged time that Clinton purportedly wrote the commendation, Cole regularly attempted to con people through his various identities.
Following the publication of The Daily Caller article, AlterNet posted a piece by Cole's book publisher that quoted Cole claiming the Clinton praise cited in the Caller was “a complete invention.”
Cole reiterated his claim that he made up the Clinton commendation in an email to Media Matters' Joe Strupp. When asked why he lied to Howley, Stein claimed he “was stringing him along” and “I wanted to see him get bit in the ass” because he wasn't a fan of the Caller's work.
The Daily Caller has not updated its article to note that Cole has retracted his claim.
The Daily Caller itself had previously promoted David Stein prior to him being exposed as a Holocaust denier. The website gave a hat tip to him on May 22, 2012 (“But it gets even better, as David Stein discovered"), and March 18, 2013 (“Courtesy of David Stein, who notes").
Howley is perhaps best known for sparking a wide backlash in March 2014 after making sexist and inappropriate comments about BuzzFeed reporter Rosie Gray. Howley and Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson were subsequently forced to apologize.