As many of you know, I host a weekly show on PJTV called The Conversation with Tony Katz. My scheduled guests this week were Hot Air‘s Ed Morrissey, Newsbusters‘ Noel Sheppard and comic/blogger Stephen Kruiser. How fortunate that on my way into the studio, I found out that President Obama was having a press conference that morning on the debt. Here is our analysis of the presser, and how little vetting the Obama administration does of itself.
Month: June 2011
Sometimes, a story just comes to you. Not just the idea, but the entire story…the actual people…show up right next to you. That is what happened to me at the RightOnline conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota when the so-called “Hijab Flash Mob” descended on the event to hold a press conference in an effort to attack right-leaning bloggers, and smear Andrew Breitbart.
Here is my original article, as posted on Pajamas Media:
PJTV was at the RightOnline conference in Minneapolis this past weekend: Stephen Kruiser and I were there to hear from bloggers and presidential candidates and to present a panel of our own.
In the same city — and the same hotel! — the left-leaning Netroots Nation conference was also happening.
You may have heard that Andrew Breitbart had an incident when he walked over to the NRN conference. Before he could comply with security requests to obtain media credentials or leave the floor, he was surrounded by NRN bloggers asking him a host of questions. The most prominent questioner was Ryan Clayton, founder of USUNCUT.org — an organization focused on closing loopholes for corporations as a way to get them to pay more taxes.
He asked Breitbart: “Do you still use cocaine?”
He then asked Breitbart about a “right-wing blogger” who allegedly screamed “go home” to a group of Muslim women on Thursday night. Clayton claimed that the “blogger” in question was associated with Andrew Breitbart. (Click here for video.) When pressed by Breitbart for the name of the blogger, Clayton did not have it.
This was not the end of attempts to smear using this story.
On Saturday, I was finishing up an interview with Michigan Representative (and potential presidential candidate) Thaddeus McCotter when a group of about 15 women in hijabs gathered behind us.
They began a “press conference” denouncing Clayton’s accused “right-wing blogger.” Others came from the NRN event to witness the theater: someone dreamed up this spectacle to shame attendees of the RightOnline conference with an unproven, unsubstantiated event.
Soon into the press conference, I started asking the women questions.
Was there a police report? They said “yes.” I asked if they had the report, or the name of the alleged blogger: “no.”
By my third question, the women were obviously flustered that their press conference had attracted … questions. A man in an orange shirt wearing a Netroots Nation registration tried to calm the women and focus them on the stunt.
I asked if the man in the orange shirt was in charge of the press conference, but the women had decided to leave. Security had begun asking them to go, and they were well on their way down the escalator and out the door.
The full video can be found here.
Later that night, PJM learned that a blogger from Minnesota named John Hugh Gilmore had been arrested on Thursday night for disorderly conduct. According to tweets from witness and NRN attendee Jamila Boudlali, VP of the Al-Madinah Cultural Center, the man was “super creepy and drunk.” She also wrote: “Who takes pictures of random girls in the street?”
Gilmore has absolutely no connection to Andrew Breitbart, and Boudlali even tweeted that she had no evidence of any: “Also, we have ZERO info that had any connection 2 breitbart.”
Ms. Boudlali then sent me a series of tweets on Saturday night. She has since deleted them, though none of her messages were rude or offensive in any way. One confirmed that the man in question appeared, to her, to be drunk.
What is now known about Gilmore: he is not listed as a contributor on any Andrew Breitbart website. He has only put up two posts in the last two months on his own blog. And not only is there no evidence that Gilmore had any ties to Breitbart, no evidence has come forward of Gilmore making any claim to work for him, either.
With the Anthony Weiner scandal, the story within was the lack of integrity of the MSM in their attacks on Breitbart and defense of Weiner. Here, we have several people associated with Netroots Nation showing the same lack of integrity, trying to tear down … the exact same man.
They made this story about Breitbart, when the story was about a drunk man who allegedly shouted horrible things at Muslim women. They took the shamelessness further by trying to demonize the RightOnline convention with a press stunt.
Ms. Boudlali wrote about the incident on her blog in a post titled: “Hate, Racism, and Islamophobia take a trip to Minneapolis.” Within the post, she embedded video of the night in question. While it does not show any comments directed at Muslim women, it does clearly show a man who identifies himself as John Gilmore, with Netroots Nation attendees all around. At one point it shows a woman being rather aggressive with Mr. Gilmore: she prevents him from walking on the sidewalk and even follows him across the street.
Boudlali’s post takes exception to my questions, and fabricates what happened at the press conference. She states: “However, when we tried to go back, we were surrounded by media from both conferences and could not leave the premises.”
This is false. As the video shows, Netroots Nation attendees were blocking the path to the escalators. A simple “excuse me” from the women should have sufficed; her statement that they “could not leave” is contradicted by the video she embeds.
This same narrative appeared in a piece on Daily Kos written by Una Spenser. She says she was the spokesperson at the press conference: “One man kept ramming into my back with his camera. As some of you know, I have a neurological disorder. I feel things more sharply than others, so this was painful. And I have lost sensation in my feet, making my balance precarious, so I was worried I would be pushed over. In short, it was intimidating.”
Ms. Spenser came to the RightOnline conference and brought bloggers from Netroots Nation with her to hold a press event smearing them. If she felt intimidated, then based on the facts this is due to her own actions. Was she honestly surprised to receive probing questions at a press conference she was the spokesperson for? Her mention of physical ailments has no bearing on the story, her actions, or the actions of those around her. For the record, PJTV did not touch anyone with a camera; no one’s back was “rammed.”
As to the idea, in both articles, that they received aggressive questioning from me: watch the entire video. I ask questions, I wait for answers. When I do not get an answer, I repeat the question. I can be seen speaking to the man in orange, with the microphone right in front of him, my mouth closed, waiting for his response to be completed. This is not aggressive questioning, this is standard reporting.
Which was evident nowhere among the NRN attendees involved in this incident.
Watch Tony Katz’s interview about this incident on the PJTV Report here.