Glenn Greenwald, who never settles for "shrill" when "hysterical ranting" is within reach, tells the world that Jason Zengerle *might* have fabricated an email from Steven Gilliard when he wrote this post. [UPDATE: I respond to Greenwald's follow-up gas-letting here. Hint - my title is "What Would A Weasel Do", and it is emphatically *not* autobiographical.]
However - it is only in an UPDATE that Mr. Greenwald finally presents some highly relevant information: Mr. Zengerle excerpted THREE emails, including one from Mr. Greenwald himself; and Mr. Greenwald confirms the authenticity of two of them, including his own. That UPDATE sort of undermines the high dudgeon on display here in the original Greenwald post:
What makes this all the more disturbing is Zengerle's claim that he was "re-print[ing] some of the e-mails that were going to the 'Townhouse' list, according to three sources . . . " It is difficult to see how Zengerle's claim about his sources could be true, to put it generously. It is highly unlikely (to put it mildly) that three different sources would send Zengerle the same fabricated e-mail and falsely tell him that it was sent by Gilliard to the Townhouse list. And it is equally unlikely that three different sources would confirm that Gilliard sent an e-mail that he, in fact, simply never sent.
I would say that those additional facts are quite pertinent - Mr. Greenwald's more complete hypothesis seems to be that Mr. Zengerle had two genuine emails and fabricated a third. Somehow that seems to change the balance of probabilities a bit, especially since the "fake" email makes the same point as the two authentic ones - why, one might wonder, would Mr. Zengerle bother to gild the lily with a fake email supporting two real ones? And does it seem "highly unlikely (to put it mildly)" that Zengerle would have three sources confirming two genuine and one fake email?
I would think that if he wanted to allude to the possibility of dishonest behavior by Mr. Zengerle, Mr. Greenwald would take extra care to be honest himself. Oh, well - perhaps subsequent UPDATES will offer even more illumination.
MORE: Absurd squirming by Mr. Greenwald in the comments:
(4) I don't actually think the Gilliard e-mail is irrelevant. Even though it is shorter than the other two which Zengerle published, the fake Gilliard e-mail is really the ONLY one which bolsters Zengerle's point (namely - that bloggers wanted to write about this issue but then didn't when Markos requested silence). The first two e-mails (including mine) simply make the point that Jerome should himself respond to these charges because only he can.
Uh huh. I would say that the email cited by Mr. Zengerle (in an earlier post) as having come from the Kos himself makes the point even more clearly:
This story will percolate in wingnut circles until then, but I haven't gotten a single serious media call about it yet. Not one. So far, this story isn't making the jump to the traditional media, and we shouldn't do anything to help make that happen.
My request to you guys is that you ignore this for now. It would make my life easier if we can confine the story.
So the current Greenwald hypothesis is what - no one has disputed the Kos email, but Mr. Zengerle fabricated the Gilliard email a day later in order to buttress it?
What a tangled web we weave.
UPDATE: Jason Zengerle rejoins the discussion on Sunday evening, telling us that there is a logical explanation but he has no idea what it is. Oh, he does a bit better than that:
Steve Gilliard claims that he did not write the email I attributed to him in this post. After doing some further investigating, I'm afraid to say that he is correct. He did not write that email. I apologize to Gilliard for not checking with him before publishing my post, and I regret the error.
Here's how the error happened: A source forwarded The New Republic three emails purportedly written by members of the "Townhouse" list--Glenn Greenwald, Mike Stark, and Steve Gilliard--expressing concern about the Armstrong-SEC story. The emails lacked timestamps and headers, so TNR checked the emails with two other sources who belonged to "Townhouse." Both of these sources vouched for the authenticity of all three emails (and two of the emails, Greenwald's and Stark's, are indisputably authentic). After returning to these two sources this weekend, TNR learned that when initially shown the three emails, both sources immediately recognized the 181-word Greenwald email and the 389-word Stark email; having determined that those two emails were authentic, the sources just assumed the 22-word Gilliard email was authentic, as well. We now know it wasn't. These were clearly honest mistakes on the parts of the second and third sources; and TNR has been unable to determine why the first source--who has not responded to messages--included this one piece of incorrect information along with the accurate information the source sent us. Therefore, I won't abide by Glenn Greenwald's demand to disclose the identities of these sources. If Greenwald thinks that makes me, as he's hyperventilated, "a new Stephen Glass," then he can take that up with my editor Frank Foer, who knows the identities of the sources and has reviewed all the relevant materials they provided.
Mr. Zengerle has kind words for Steve Gilliard:
I sincerely regret not checking with Gilliard before quoting his purported words, not only because this was unfair to Gilliard--who has behaved more responsibly than anyone involved in this particular matter, myself included...
Let me add that I thought Steve Gilliard came across as a stand-up guy in this post, where he explained that he had not written that email to the Townhouse ListServ, but did hold the sentiments expressed therein:
To be fair, I told Glenn I disagreed with the characterization of it being false, because I may have express some kind of sentiment close to that. The issue to me is not that Zengerle created it out of whole cloth, but if he got it from a source that he was too lazy and sloppy to confirm it with me.
...But even if Greenwald goes farther than I would, the question remains why didn't Zengerle do any interviews for his pieces. Why didn't he extend the basic journalism courtesy of asking if these were my words and if they were sending to the Townhouse list? I mean that's basic shit, Reporting I stuff.
...Now, some people may wonder why I didn't hammer Zengerle up and down the blog and call him a bald faced liar.
Let me explain something: presenting something false as something real and attributed to a person is a firing offense. This is not a game, if he was misled by a source; he deserves the chance to prove it. If he just pulled it out of his ass, I expect Frank Foer to fire him.
For myself, the notion that Jason Zengerle cut that email from a whole cloth never made sense. However, one does hope that his mystery source has an explanation. If I had to guess (and I don't, but...) I would say that the first source ended up attributing to Gilliard thoughts actually expressed by someone else, perhaps in a different forum. Still a mistake, but hardly as monumental as the hyperventilating Greenwald wanted to pretend.
But let's pass the mike to Greenwald himself, from his UPDATE III, so that we can be clear about his view:
Let me be as clear as I can be. I re-iterate my statement that the e-mail printed by Zengerle is fake. Scores of individuals on the Townhouse list have confirmed that Gilliard never sent any such e-mail to Townhouse, and Gilliard has said the same thing. He also says he has no record of sending such an e-mail to anyone. Contrary to the claim of Zengarle or his "three sources," it was never sent by Gilliard to the Townhouse list. Thus, what Zengarle reported -- allegedly based on three sources -- is indisptuably false.
The e-mail was simply fabricated by either Zengarle or his sources.
Emphasis added. At this point, we still don't know how the genesis of the "Gilliard" email. However, if it was written by someone other than Zengerle or his primary source but misattributed, then I seriously dispute the use of the words "fake" and "fabricated".
Hmm. We are puzzling over UPDATE IV from Greenwald, which includes this:
I not only look very forward to that moment [when Zengerle addresses this], but also to what I'm certain will be the candid and straightfoward acknowledgments of error by those bloggers and commenters who spent the day giddily claiming that the e-mail was authentic and/or that no basis existed for the claim that it was false. In case it slips their minds, I'll be sure to remind them.
(For non-link-clickers, I am "giddily").
Well, I have no doubt Greenwald will claim vindication regardless of the actual facts as they become available. However, before he reminds me of his glorious victory, maybe he can remind me of just where it was I said that "the e-mail was authentic and/or that no basis existed for the claim that it was false".
Since what I did say was:
Mr. Zengerle excerpted THREE emails, including one from Mr. Greenwald himself; and Mr. Greenwald confirms the authenticity of two of them, including his own. That UPDATE sort of undermines the high dudgeon on display here in the original Greenwald post:
...Mr. Greenwald's more complete hypothesis seems to be that Mr. Zengerle had two genuine emails and fabricated a third. Somehow that seems to change the balance of probabilities a bit, especially since the "fake" email makes the same point as the two authentic ones.
Since my objection was to his near-total suppression of the existence of two authentic emails alongside the email in dispute, I think he will have a hard time with his claim that I asserted there was no basis for saying the email was "fake". Well, he will have a hard time if he confines himself to the facts.