With a few exceptions, the upper echelon of the conservative blogosphere is a mess.
Breitbart's “Big” websites traffic in misleading non-scandals and have published people like 9-11 truther Michael Moriarty, racist penis-enlarger/vagina-tightener Kevin Pezzi, and former SNL actress/spouter-of-incomprehensible nonsense Victoria Jackson. NewsBusters and The Media Research Center spend a lot of time finding the liberal bias in television shows that don't treat their gay characters as ostracized sub-humans.
Atlas Shrugs is run by a woman that is haunted at every turn by Islamic crescents, and whose hatred for the president once compelled her to claim that his penchant for “purple” (actually blue) neckties meant that Democrats were “Flying the Gangsta Colors at the White House.” Confederate Yankee Bob Owens - who also writes for Breitbart and the Washington Examiner - openly speculates about whether he and an army of “freshly-experienced combat veterans and graying patriots” are going to have to start killing people to combat the “slavery” of health care reform.
But despite all this stiff competition, Jim Hoft (aka Gateway Pundit) stands out as uniquely incompetent. Hoft runs with (or spawns) almost every inane story that bubbles up in the conservative blogosphere, has proven that he has absolutely no vetting process for the sources he cites, and apparently has a hard time with basic reading comprehension.
Hoft -- who has modeled for a John Deere catalogue and “played a cop on 'Unsolved Mysteries' twice” -- has “never had any training in politics or journalism,” but now has the "#8 ranked political blog in the United States" that is “frequently mentioned on top national news shows.”
Indeed, in spite of the fact that Hoft embarrasses himself on a near-daily basis and has shown time and again that he is either willfully dishonest or staggeringly inept, he has managed to carve out a role as one of the most-read, most respected writers in the conservative blogosphere. And his influence extends beyond the blogs. Hoft's stories are regularly featured on Fox News' Fox Nation website, and he has been cited as a source on-air by Fox News on multiple occasions.
Hoft's ongoing position of influence in the conservative media is evidence that the entire movement is intellectually bankrupt.
Who are you going to believe - Jim Hoft or your lying eyes?
Hoft regularly posts innocuous images that he twists into nonsensical attacks on Democrats and progressives.
When you look at this picture of Obama, what do you see?
If you answered “the president scratching his face” or “Obama holding up two fingers,” you are right. But according to Hoft, that is actually a picture of the “child president” “flipping off” House Minority Leader John Boehner. In a July post, Hoft announced in a headline that “Obama Flips Boehner The Bird During Racine Speech,” and explained that Obama “just can't help himself.” It's unfathomable that it is necessary to explain this to an influential blogger (or any adult, for that matter), but it is not possible to “flip the bird” with multiple fingers extended on the same hand.
How about this one:
This, of course, is Rev. Al Sharpton speaking at a rally, perhaps waving to someone. But in Hoft's world, this is Sharpton giving a “Nazi salute.” After Sharpton spoke at an August 28 rally in Washington, D.C., Hoft posted video of the speech - and the above still photo -- under the headline "Heil Al!... Sharpton Gives Nazi Salute at Rally?" Hoft was upset that the “media ignored this” shocking story.
What about this image of the Nuclear Security Summit logo?
While the logo may seem non-controversial to you, Hoft's eagle eyes spotted “an Islamic crest” hidden in the design. This was especially “weird” to Hoft, because “we all know [Obama's] a good Christian.” (This particular bit of conservative stupidity, which Fox News and others ran with, was debunked by Jon Stewart, who noted that the “inspiration for the logo is actually the Rutherford-Bohr model of the atom.” )
As long as you don't look at his evidence, Hoft's arguments hold up well
Another of Hoft's neat tricks is to make an outlandish argument and then cite evidence that actually refutes the point he's trying to make.
In the heat of the “Ground Zero mosque” controversy, Hoft purported to “fact check” the AP's assertion that there already exists a mosque five blocks from Ground Zero. Hoft claimed that the mosque in question “was evicted years ago according to their website,” and excerpted the following statement as evidence:
The only way Hoft's “fact check” held up was if you stopped reading after the first sentence. But as the rest of the statement made clear, the operators of the mosque “did not have to close the Masjid” and found a location “just two doors down” from the original. Hoft either did not bother to read past the first sentence, or he did read it, decided it didn't matter, and assumed his readers to be too stupid or gullible to know the difference.
In July, conservatives spent a week lying about the Obama administration supposedly “supporting” the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. The talking point was completely demolished when the State Department released its correspondence with the Scottish Ministry of Justice, which stated in plain English that the administration was “not prepared to support Megrahi's release on compassionate release or bail.” Undeterred, Hoft linked to the State Department letter and declared that the administration “preferred” Megrahi's release.
This up-is-down method of argumentation once led Hoft to accuse Desmond Tutu of being a “Jew-hater.” The article that he linked to as evidence of Tutu's supposed anti-Semitism was about the Anti-Defamation League urging a Minnesota university to allow Tutu “to speak just days after it was revealed that he had been disinvited because of fears he might offend Jews.” The article quoted the ADL's national director as saying that Tutu “certainly is not an anti-Semite and should not be so characterized and therefore refused a platform.”
No filter, no standards, much embarrassment
At this point, you might be thinking, “where does Hoft come up with all of this crap?” With disturbing frequency, the answer to that question seems to be either “he saw it on Free Republic,” or “someone emailed it to him and he didn't bother looking into it.”
On June 7, Hoft ran an article with the breathless headline, “HEAVY WEAPONS Discovered in Cargo of Mavi Marmara.” (The Mavi Marmara was part of a Palestinian aid flotilla that had been raided days earlier by Israeli commandos while en route to Gaza.) He linked to a video that, in his words, “shows the heavy weapons discovered in the Mavi Marmara Gaza Flotilla ship.”
After two minutes of research, we discovered that the video in question predated the Mavi Marmara raid by at least one year. By the time we posted, Hoft had offered a rare sort-of correction, crossing out the entire post and adding a note informing readers “This email that is making the rounds today is a HOAX.” (Note: the post appears to have since been deleted.)
All that could have been avoided had he done a bare minimum of fact checking before basing an incendiary article on a hoax chain email.
But Hoft's problems with source vetting go much further. In April, Hoft was one of the first blogs to pick up a story about French President Nicolas Sarkozy supposedly saying that Obama “might be insane.” Hoft described the story as a “recent report supposedly circulating the Kremlin.” The “report” was from the European Union Times, which, as we detailed, is a ragingly anti-Semitic (and 9-11 truther) website with a section devoted to “Jews” (never a good sign) filled with incendiary articles and images, such as the one below:
Hoft provided no explanation or apology for credibly citing an openly anti-Semitic website.
Promoting the work of bigots is actually a specialty of Hoft's. He spent most of last December promoting smears on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings from anti-gay group MassResistance, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a “hate group.”
And, as you might expect from someone who bases stories on chain emails, he also ends up promoting scam artists. In May, Hoft hyped a press release “warning” about “global cooling” from the Space and Science Research Center (SSRC) -- a source he described as “the leading independent research organization in the US on the subject of climate change.”
As we discovered thanks to a quick Google search, the SSRC is run by John L Casey, a man with no formal background or experience with climate science who Hoft's fellow climate science deniers have labeled “a scam artist trying to get his hands in your pockets.” But Casey's press release reinforced Hoft's already ironclad opposition to climate science, so he ran with it.
That's not journalism; it's hackish stenography, and it's just one of the countless embarrassingly incompetent Jim Hoft posts from this year alone.
If you can think of an absurd right-wing scandal, Hoft promoted it
When he isn't giving a leg up to scam artists and bigots, Hoft can be seen spawning or dutifully promoting almost every absurd “scandal” that bubbles up in conservative media circles.
An abbreviated list:
The hilarious fabrication that Obama wanted to “ban sport fishing” :
Andrew Breitbart's smear of then-USDA official Shirley Sherrod:
(Hoft also “broke” the related fabrication - uncritically repeated by Fox & Friends - that NAACP president Ben Jealous was at Sherrod's speech.)
The "ludicrous" report that the U.S. was “giving land back to Mexico” :
The smear that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf “threatened” the U.S.:
Dick Morris' subsequently-retracted fable about Janet Reno attempting to blackmail Bill Clinton over Waco:
The utterly false story that Michelle Obama stocked the White House library with socialist books:
During a March Fox News interview, Obama defended a provision in the Senate version of the health care bill that, in Obama's words, said that “if a state has been affected by a natural catastrophe, that has created a special health care emergency in that state, they should get help.” Obama added that the provision “also affects Hawaii, which went through an earthquake.” Hoft got the ball rolling on the claim that Obama lied about the earthquake...even though there was an earthquake in Hawaii in 2006. Like many other Hoft scoops, this was uncritically forwarded by Fox News:
Hoft also ran with the absolutely absurd and baseless smear that alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was a “registered Democrat” (though he later updated his headline to claim that Shahzad was merely a “Bush hater” ).
Questionable moral judgments to go with unquestionably awful journalistic integrity
Hoft's disregard for the truth and journalistic integrity is paired with an irrational hatred of all Democrats and progressives (and the policies they espouse), which frequently leads him to make questionable moral judgments.
In June, Secretary of State Clinton announced that for the first time in history, the United States would be included in the annual State Department report detailing human trafficking and the modern day slave trade, which found that “up to 17,500 people are trafficked each year” in the United States. However, the disturbing reality of human trafficking within our national borders was lost on Hoft, who instead attacked Clinton's announcement as “America-hating.”
Hoft has shown that there are no depths he won't sink to in order to smear the people that he disagrees with. In May, President Obama honored slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by signing the “Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act.” Obama's remarks at the signing made clear that he was honoring Pearl's memory (along with Pearl's widow and son.) Hoft took an out of context video clip of Obama saying Pearl's death “captured the world's imagination” in order to suggest that Obama was celebrating Pearl's murder. Hoft purported to correct Obama's “crazy sick” interpretation of Pearl's death by writing: “No, Barack. It was horrifying.”
For this contemptible post, Hoft was rewarded with a prominent link on Fox Nation's website.
All the examples included in this post are from the past year, which is to say that Hoft makes embarrassing, credibility-killing errors on an almost daily basis. If the conservative media had any standards whatsoever, Hoft would be an afterthought in the conservative blogosphere -- a solitary, angry man screaming into the void.
But instead he holds a position of influence. He often drives the conversation not just online, but also on cable news. This is proof positive that the conservative media aren't impressed by “facts” and “reality.”
They prefer shameless hacks like Jim Hoft.
It is a testament to Hoft's unending torrent of follies that I neglected to include the time -- last week, in fact -- that he attacked Mike Castle for the time he supposedly “voted to impeach” George W. Bush. Quite obviously, Castle, a Republican, never voted to impeach Bush. Rather, as we noted, he voted to effectively kill an impeachment resolution by Rep. Dennis Kucinich.