I’m going to go out on a limb here to say that Team Hillary is far too sophisticated to try this, but stranger things have happened. Usually they have more reliable sourcing than this when they get reported, though. The owner of The Laugh Factory in Hollywood has told a number of people that he got a threatening call from a campaign staffer over the video of a Hillary Clinton “roast.” Club owner Jamie Masada told KTLA News in Los Angeles that the caller threatened to put him out of business if Masada didn’t remove the clip. Masada claims he refused, saying that comedians would always be free to express themselves in the famed stand-up hotspot:
Masada originally talked to Judicial Watch on Wednesday about the call:
In what appears to be a first for a serious presidential contender, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is going after five comedians who made fun of the former Secretary of State in standup skits at a popular Hollywood comedy club.
A video of the short performance, which is less than three minutes, is posted on the website of the renowned club, Laugh Factory, and the Clinton campaign has tried to censor it. Besides demanding that the video be taken down, the Clinton campaign has demanded the personal contact information of the performers that appear in the recording. This is no laughing matter for club owner Jamie Masada, a comedy guru who opened Laugh Factory more than three decades ago and has been instrumental in launching the careers of many famous comics. “They threatened me,” Masada told Judicial Watch. “I have received complains before but never a call like this, threatening to put me out of business if I don’t cut the video.” …
Masada told Judicial Watch that, as soon as the video got posted on the Laugh Factory website, he received a phone call from a “prominent” person inside Clinton’s campaign. “He said the video was disgusting and asked who put me up to this,” Masada said. The Clinton staffer, who Masada did not want to identify, also demanded to know the names and phone numbers of the comedians that appear in the video. Masada refused and hung up. He insists that the comedy stage is a sanctuary for freedom of speech no matter who is offended. “Just last night we had (Emmy-award winner) Dana Carvey doing Donald Trump and it was hilarious,” Masada said.
At this point, a little skepticism might go a long way. Team Hillary has enough work on its hands trying to keep its candidate above water in general-election polling that it seems difficult to believe that they’d be trolling the web looking for comic takedowns of the boss. Still, it’s not entirely uncorroborated. Breitbart’s Patrick Howley interviews Tiffany Haddish, one of the comedians in the clip, who heard about it second-hand around the club:
“I first heard about that controversy from a couple of my friends,” Haddish told Breitbart News. “They said, ‘Oh my God, did you hear Hillary Clinton is mad at you guys. She’s mad at you.’”
“They asked for my phone number and all this. That’s serious for me,” Haddish said. “If it was really Hillary Clinton, doesn’t she already have that information? She runs the government, doesn’t the government control the telephone companies?”
Er, no, Hillary doesn’t run the government … at least, not yet. Nor does this seem credible, even if it’s not impossible. Reason’s Anthony Fisher tried running down this story yesterday, and not much adds up:
Masada told me the caller’s name was “John” and that he didn’t remember the man’s last name or what his role in the campaign was, but that “John” called the video “disgusting,” asked “who put you up to this,” and demanded that Masada remove it from Youtube. When asked how he could be sure this person was with the Clinton campaign, Masada said the man “sounded like a prominent person” and had asked for the contact info of all the comedians in the video. Masada says he refused and told “John” to “go fuck yourself,” and hung up.
I tried repeatedly to reach the Clinton campaign for comment or clarification of the accusation, but received no response.
The Laugh Factory has been pushing this story to a number of outlets … On Twitter yesterday, T. Becket Adams of the Washington Examiner confirmed that the Laugh Factory had reached out him as well. Adams writes, “I tried to run this story down. He (Masada) won’t say who reportedly contacted him and he won’t say why.”
Michelle Goldberg at Slate got a flat-out denial from Team Hillary after getting no farther with sourcing the story than Fisher. Masada himself backed away from the central allegation, saying that he didn’t actually know whether the caller was connected to Team Hillary:
Masada told me that on Nov. 11, he got a call from a man named John—he doesn’t remember the last name—who sounded “distinguished, like an attorney.” John said he represented the Clinton campaign. He asked Masada “who had put him up” to posting the video. In a menacing voice, he told Masada, “This is not good for your business.” John then asked for the email or phone numbers of the five comedians who were featured in the video. “I told him, ‘Eff you,’ and I hung up,” says Masada.
How does Masada know that John was actually from the Clinton camp? He doesn’t. “I’m glad I’m not in politics or any of that stuff; you might know more than I do,” he says. “Maybe it was a prank, I have no idea. Was it real? Not real? I have no idea. He didn’t call back, that’s all I can say.” Nor is Masada sure how Judicial Watch even heard about the call. “The way I understand it, it’s because one of the [Laugh Factory] employees told a couple of people,” he says.
There are a few possibilities about what might have happened here. Maybe someone from Clinton’s campaign really did think it was a good idea to call a major figure in the world of stand-up comedy and make empty threats over a short video. Maybe the caller was a random, overzealous Hillarybot. Maybe it was a practical joker. Or maybe it was a dirty trickster, who then took steps to send the story ricocheting through conservative media. (For what it’s worth, the Clinton camp tells me the call didn’t come from them. Judicial Watch tells me they stand by their story.)*
Fisher notes that a similar story regarding a Republican candidate would have created a massive outpouring of criticism of the media from the Right, and he’d be correct:
To recap, 4 different people spoke with Masada, and he had at least 2 different explanations for why we don’t know the identity of the caller. That doesn’t mean the call didn’t happen, and it also doesn’t mean the call didn’t come from someone with Clinton’s campaign. …
However, if this exact story—single-sourced, unverified, lacking important details such as a last name or an official title—were published in a liberal or mainstream news outlet about say, Mitt Romney, it’s safe to say there would be predictable howls from conservatives that basic journalistic standards went by the wayside in pursuit of a delicious story that fulfills the preferred narrative. A little healthy skepticism is never a bad thing.
Or to put it another way: That which is too good to be true usually isn’t. But at least everyone knows about the comic barbs aimed at Hillary … and that seems to have been the point all along. So … have a laugh, but don’t take the back story seriously. (Not safe for work!)