Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald is Currently Losing His Marbles [updated; again Oct. 20, 2016)]

Oy. This is happening right now, and it's quite convoluted.

Quick intro:

Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald has a story up saying - well, a bunch of crazy shit. Primarily: that he has discovered a Russian news service story that carried a mistake regarding Eichenwald himself (Eichenwald is correct on this!); that the mistake proves that a Hillary Clinton campaign-related email that was recently published by Wikileaks was somehow falsified (wrong!); and that Donald Trump has apparently been fed falsified info related to that email—directly from Russia! (Whacky!)

Let's start slow:

Eichenwald's story is about a story that appeared this morning in the Russian news service Sputnik about an email from Hillary Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal to Clinton champaign chief John Podesta (the email actually says it's to "undisclosed recipients," but this if from the Wikileaks Podesta email dump), which was acquired by hackers, and recently published by Wikileaks. Sputnik's story - now deleted - appears to have incorrectly interpreted/understood/transcribed that email, and incorrectly put Eichenwald's words in Blumenthal's mouth.

Then came the money quote: '"Clinton was in charge of the State Department, and it failed to protect U.S. personnel at an American consulate in Libya. If the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate," said Blumenthal, putting to rest the Democratic Party talking point that the investigation into Clinton's management of the State Department at the time of the attack was nothing more than a partisan witch hunt.'
Those words sounded really, really familiar. Really familiar. Like, so familiar they struck me as something I wrote. Because they were something I wrote. 
The Russians were quoting two sentences from a 10,000 word piece I wrote for Newsweek, which Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta. There was no mistaking that Blumenthal was citing Newsweek—the magazine’s name and citations for photographs appeared throughout the attached article.

Remember: this is Eichenwald quoting the Sputnik story about the Wikileaks email, not the email itself. But Eichenwald conflates the two, and has used the apparent Sputnik mistake to strongly imply (bonus tweet) that the email released by Wikileaks was itself fabricated. That's wrong: here's the email. It doesn't put Eichenwald's words in Blumenthal's mouth, as the Sputnik story apparently did.

This was, if Eichenwald is to be trused on what the Sputnik story said (I believe him), Sputnik's mistake. It does not reflect on the email at all. (And please note that if the email published by Wikileaks was falsified, or simply made up, Podesta and Blumenthal could and presumably would deny writing or receiving it. They haven't.)

Eichenwald goes on to make a huge conspiracy of how Donald Trump came to get this story - he mentioned it in a speech just today - implying that he was fed it directly from Russia.

I am Sidney Blumenthal. At least, that is what Vladimir Putin—and, somehow, Donald Trump—seem to believe. And that should raise concerns not only about Moscow’s attempts to manipulate this election, but also how Trump came to push Russian disinformation to American voters.
This false story was only reported by the Russian controlled agency (a reference appeared in a Turkish publication, but it was nothing but a link to the Sputnik article). So how did Donald Trump end up advancing the same falsehood put out by Putin’s mouthpiece?
At a rally in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump spoke while holding a document in his hand. He told the assembled crowd that it was an email from Blumenthal, whom he called “sleazy Sidney.”
“This just came out a little while ago,’’ Trump said. “I have to tell you this.” And then he read the words from my article.
The logical, not hair-on-fire, not nutty conclusion about how Trump got that info: the same way other people got it - on Twitter, where it was spread around by tons of people. (Here's a tweet - on the actual email - from October 8. More here.)

Note: In case it's not clear, Eichenwald uses the fact that Trump "advanc[ed] the same falsehood" in the story as Sputnik as proof that Trump was fed the info from his best friend, Putin. And it's not even clear that Trump did that. (Elaborated more fully by Marcy Wheeler here.)

Update: Oof:

Update II: Eichenwald is now hilariously claiming to have not said what he did in fact say:

Gleen Greenwald on this here.

Note, October 12 (Aus): Eichenwald has drastically edited and added to the article in question. It now acknowledges that the Wikileaks email was in fact not doctored. (It's still dumb and silly in every other way.)

Update, Oct. 20: Holy shit. (You've got to read it to believe it. It's so crazy and convoluted it's hard to make sense of. The gist: the writer of the Sputnik story, an American in D.C, says he got the bad info via a tweet. And: he contacted Eichenwald about that. The response: pure craziness. Plus: the writer lost his job at Sputnik. His personal story here.)


  1. "has used the apparent Sputnik mistake to strongly imply that the email released by Wikileaks was itself fabricated"

    No, he did not do that. But the rest is true: he did argued that Trump must have gotten the misattributed statement from Russia, which is absurd, since it was all over twitter even before the Sputnik piece went up.

    The sound part of his argument is that this text is not any sort of indictment of Clinton, contrary to the way the RWNJs who retweeted it.

    1. 1. He never says explicitly that the actual email was not falsified.

      2. He very srongly implies it was in this paragraph:

      ' An email from Blumenthal—a confidant of Hillary Clinton and a man, second only to George Soros at the center of conservative conspiracy theories—turned up in the recent document dump by Wikileaks. At a time when American intelligence believes Russian hackers are trying to interfere with the presidential election, records have been fed recently to Wikileaks out of multiple organizations of the Democratic Party, raising concerns that the self-proclaimed whistleblowers group has become a tool of Putin’s government. But now that I have been brought into the whole mess—and transformed into Blumenthal—there is even more proof that this act of cyberwar is not only being orchestrated by the Russians, but that they are really, really dumb. '

      3. He outright says it in many tweets. (Although he's playign games - it's very clear what he's doing.)

      "Russian gov manipulates email to @johnpodesta."


      "Russia govnt falsified an email."