Amazing sleaze, made more amazing by the fact that there’s no left/right dispute over this. There’s no “cancel culture” pressure from progressives on social media today urging Bloomberg to stand firm in the face of righty attacks on their hit piece about Labor Department attorney Leif Olson. Bloomberg is refusing to restract for reasons I can only call “Trump logic,” that it’s bad to apologize even when the entire world knows you’re wrong.
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) September 3, 2019
I repeat a point from this morning’s post: The fact that the DOL shamefully forced Olson out apparently without considering the substance of the charges against him doesn’t magically make Bloomberg’s hatchet job meritorious. They share blame for the injustice; one’s unjustness doesn’t redeem the other’s. Also, are we to understand from the statement given to Wemple that Bloomberg would now have to admit error if the DOL belatedly admitted error and rehired Olson? It’s a strange thing for a media organization to take its ethical cues from a government agency.
Again, it’s not just right-wingers who believe Bloomberg is in the wrong here. Vox has a post up about Olson being “falsely accused” of anti-semitism. Other lefties are chiming in on Twitter:
I’m not endorsing Olson or his policies, and I’m sure he has all kinds of objectionable beliefs. But firing him as an anti-Semite over this post strikes me as terribly unfair.
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) September 3, 2019
Amazing. The headline said “anti-Semitic Facebook posts” about posts that are not anti-Semitic. Even then, the story did not include the basic facts readers would need to judge the posts for themselves, namely anything about the specific election Olson was referring to. https://t.co/SZPf7EeHVj
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) September 3, 2019
Sarlin’s point about Bloomberg withholding key context to make Olson’s joking comments seem sinister is a good one, and has been noted by others. Trump fans are outraged, as are hardcore Never Trump sites like the Bulwark. The smear is so plain that even a political culture like ours that requires taking sides on every controversy can’t muster dissent this time.
Only one person seems happy with the report. That’s Bloomberg reporter Ben Penn, who got the scalp of a right-wing Trump appointee and is happy to show it off.
Olson may be innocent of anti-semitism, but of the steeper offense of crimes against leftism he stands guilty as charged. By the close of business today, this may end up being a rare case of a news organization flatly admitting, “We whacked this guy for no better reason than that he’s right-wing.” Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote of the incident, “Ideological activists working at putatively ‘neutral’ news outlets now use a standard of miscontrual. If any of your remarks can be read in bad faith, if any of them can be misconstrued, it is the duty of the reporter to misconstrue them for the public. This standard is fatal to real journalism.” That’s the standard Bloomberg is sticking with, for now. If a smear serves the Resistance by taking a soldier for Trump’s agenda off the field then it did its job.
I share Phil Kerpen’s curiosity about what, precisely, Penn sent to the Department of Labor and the Anti-Defamation League when he asked for comment. Did he send the entire Olson Facebook thread or just pull the most incendiary lines completely out of context? Maybe the ADL will admit fault in this case and let us know. While we wait for that, and perhaps for a presidential tweet to come, compare Bloomberg’s handling of this incident to the New York Times’s recent habit of leaping to address lefty grievances against the paper. Today’s error is far more clear-cut than anything the Times has retreated on lately, with no partisan disagreement on the question of whether it should be corrected. Yet Bloomberg refuses. Why?
Update: Your move, Labor Department.
UPDATE to @benjaminpenn article on @olsonleif:
Anti-Defamation League: “We appreciate Mr. Olson’s clarification that he intended to be sarcastic with his posts, and accept his explanation of the content in question,” Hyman said.https://t.co/jpMcrU7lGZ pic.twitter.com/xlswZY4FqO
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) September 3, 2019