There is a formula for right-wing smears. We see it over and over again, some more elaborate than others. They find a way to be aggrieved at the hands of their targeted group, then blow it way out of proportion on the right-wing blogs and faux media until it makes its way to Fox News and the mainstream, like the Breitbart SWATters managed last summer.
This one, out of Wisconsin, is especially egregious. Follow along, because it's convoluted, which is what wingers love to do to confuse everyone. Via PRWatch:
Kyle Wood, described as a “full-time volunteer” for the Republican congressional candidate Chad Lee, last week told the right-wing website the Daily Caller, that he had been physically attacked and choked in his Madison apartment by an unknown assailant for being gay but supporting a Republican running against a gay Democrat. The odd tale, accompanied by staged-looking photos, was picked up by the Franklin Centersite Wisconsin Reporter and Breitbart blog. The Dane County GOP weighed in, issuing a statement backing Wood and his bona fides: “Wood is a full-time volunteer working with GOP 2nd District Congressional candidate, Chad Lee. He is brilliant, liked and respected by all who have worked alongside him on Lee’s campaign.”
Sigh. It's always the Breitbots in the center of these things. The story first spewed out of Media Trackers, an organization dedicated to inventing insane stories and calling them truth.
On Monday, October 29, the issue went nuclear when Media Trackers printed a list of “text messages” alleged to have been sent from Phil Frank to Kyle Wood. The messages were bizarre, racist, and threatening. The article and related tweets were meant to create the impression that Frank was not only responsible for the messages, but also for the attack on Wood. Media Trackers tweeted out: "EVIDENCE: @Mark Pocan's husband threatened gay Rep. vol. before brutal beating."
But Media Trackers had only Wood's word that the text came from Frank. Media Trackers’ Brian Sikma explained to The Capital Times that they did not see the phone, or the text messages and could not confirm if Wood even knew Phil Frank’s phone number. “He sent us the transcript of the exchange,” Sikma said. But Sikma did talk to unnamed people who told him Wood was a great guy, raising serious questions about the role of Chad Lee's campaign in the matter.
I'll bet you can write the ending, can't you?
On Monday at 5:00 p.m., news broke that Wood had recanted his statements about being assaulted and choked at his home, according to Madison Police Captain Joe Balles, who also told the Isthmus that the text messages “did not occur.” Because the police are referring the matter to the Madison District Attorney’s office they would not elaborate other than to tell CMD that there was “no validity” to the reports on the text messages.
Wood could now face criminal charges that include obstructing police or filing a false police report, and a libel suit by Phil Frank. But the role of Media Trackers in printing the unproven and libelous allegations bears closer examination, especially since days after the story exploded in its face, the organization has failed to take down its libelous tweets or a photo of Pocan and Frank on the front page of their website.
As I write this, the story has been disappeared from the MediaTrackers site with the following explanation:
A gay Republican volunteer beaten last week in Madison by an unidentified individual is alleging that prior to the attack he received harassment from other gays, including the husband of Democratic congressional candidate Mark Pocan. The alleged harasser, Philip Frank, denies the allegations and denies knowing the victim, Kyle Wood.
Media Trackers is continuing to follow developments in this story, but due to the ongoing criminal investigation we have chosen to remove the allegations raised by both sides from our website. All information has been given to law enforcement authorities. As information becomes available, we will stay abreast of the case.
Oh, really? See, when your "victim" recants the accusations altogether, it's not an issue of it being under investigation. It's an issue of a right wing setup, sort of like the one Ashley Todd tried to pull in 2008.
Media Trackers is a project of American Majority, which is a project of the Sam Adams Foundation, which is a Koch-funded effort. PRWatch has their genealogy on the article if you want to follow all the tracks.
This is a formula, this kind of smear. Allege criminal wrongdoing and then recant or fall silent after the story blows up. And as PRWatch notes, it's becoming more and more prevalent at all levels. Online and off, in new media and traditional media, across all lines of decency and fairness.
On Wednesday, Media Trackers was peddling more disinformation on U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin at the same time Sikma was taken apart in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by the state's top reporter for falsely claiming that Baldwin had voted against body armor for U.S. troops, a lie that has now been picked up and peddled by the Tommy Thompson campaign.
Sikma slams Wood's lies as "despicable." The same adjective applies to the misnamed Media Trackers.
Despicable and predictable. This is what they do. It's a formula they use to try to destroy careers and lives.