Claims that Chuck Hagel, the U.S. president's candidate for secretary of defense, attended an event held by a group called "Friends of Hamas" appear to be false, a report in the U.S. says.
- U.S. Senate Republicans delay vote on Hagel's nomination
- Two American Jewish organizations call for further review of Hagel statements
- McCain: Hagel likely to be confirmed for defense post
- U.S. Senate confirms Chuck Hagel as defense secretary
Media outlets across the world, including those in Israel, reported last week that Hagel spoke at an event organized by "Friends of Hamas," and received a fee of $25,000. The reports sparked a furor over Hagel's nomination and 26 Republican senators signed a letter requiring the candidate to disclose the foreign bodies and organizations that had funded him over the past few years.
But according to Dan Friedman, a reporter for the New York Daily News in Washington, the claims regarding Hagel are false. An article published on Wednesday describes a chain of events that he claims led to the rumors about Hagel that spiraled out of proportion and became a seemingly reliable news story.
Friedman relates that he talked to one of his sources, a Republican consultant on Capitol Hill, and tried to find out whether opponents of Hagel's appointment knew about various controversial pressure groups acting in Washington. For this purpose he made up names such as "Friends of Hamas," the "Junior League of Hezbollah in France," and more.
According to Friedman, the source did not respond, but a day later the story that Hagel had addressed pro-Hamas organizations was reported on websites that had a Republican slant. One of the articles, by a journalist named Ben Shapiro, said that the reason Hagel had not publicized the documents showing the fees he received from foreign organizations was because one of the groups was "Friends of Hamas."
Friedman claims that he talked to Shapiro, who said that the White House spokesman hung up on him when he called to query this, so he wrote that the government did not deny the claims. According to Friedman, Shapiro also said that he didn't know if the organization exists, but that he relied on his source.
"I am, it seems, the creator of the Friends of Hamas myth," Friedman wrote. "Doing my job, I erred in counting on confidentiality and the understanding that my example was farcical - and by assuming no one would print an unchecked rumor If you see a story on Hagel addressing the Junior League of Hezbollah, that’s fake too," he wrote.