March 6, 2013

The Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s conservative version of Huffington Post, is at the center of a media controversy. And loving it.

In November, the Caller published a story based on two anonymous Dominican women claiming that New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez had paid them for sex.

ABC News says it received similar information at the same time, as Republican operatives organized interviews with those two women, plus a third woman the Caller did not talk to, all of whom said the senator paid them for sex. But ABC News didn’t run with the story, because “none of the women could produce identity cards with their names, and they all provided the same story almost word for word, as if they had been coached.”

After the Caller’s story was published, things started to unravel.

The Miami Herald scoured the Dominican Republic and found no sign of the women and no evidence.

The Washington Post reported this week that one of the three women swore in an affidavit that it was all a set up. The women were paid to use fake names and pass a fake story to the media.

ABC News confirms that woman was one of the three sources that made the allegations.

The Caller’s statement and a follow-up article written by Executive Editor David Martosko say the woman wasn’t one of its two sources. However, it acknowledged there was a third woman present during its webcam interview who did not get to talk before a laptop battery died.

The Caller stands by its reports, though apparently doesn’t feel the need to prove its allegations right, just to claim that doubters haven’t conclusively proven them wrong. Slate’s David Weigel calls it “a deductive, prove-this-wrong-why-don’t-you theory of the scoop.”

Carlson, meanwhile, seems happy his business is in the spotlight. In an interview with The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi on Tuesday, Carlson said: “Oh, it’s a very good day. It’s a good day because it’s an interesting day.”

And of his critics, Carlson said: “I’m not seeking their approval. Why should I care if a bunch of losers on Twitter don’t like it?”

Farhi notes this has been part of the Caller’s recipe for success:

The put-up-your-dukes attitude has made the Daily Caller a rising star among the new Washington media, particularly the conservative kind. … One of its first attention-grabbing stories was its reporting in 2010 on Journolist, an e-mail group started by Post blogger Ezra Klein in which reporters privately trashed various politicians, most of them conservative.

The outfit again caused a stir when its White House reporter, Neil Munro, interrupted President Obama’s remarks about immigration last year. …

But other Caller “scoops” have fizzled. Carlson went on Fox News last year to hype a 2007 video of Obama praising his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and suggesting that the federal government had shortchanged African American victims of Hurricane Katrina. Despite build-up for the video from the Drudge Report and Fox’s Sean Hannity, it caused barely a ripple. Most of its content had been reported on before — by, among others, Carlson.

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Jeff Sonderman ( is the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute. He focuses on innovations and strategies for mobile platforms and social media in…
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