If you follow Dave Weigel on Twitter then you probably saw this piece coming. Weigel and co-author Jeff Stein write about the Green New Deal (GND) FAQ and helpfully explain how it’s really just a mistake and contained erroneous information. How do they know? Because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ Chief of Staff said so.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is pushing for a debate on the substance of her “Green New Deal” resolution after her staff distributed an erroneous fact sheet regarding the proposal, leading to confusion over a plan supported by many of the Democratic Party’s leading candidates for president.
Ocasio-Cortez’s staff posted online and sent to reporters a list of “frequently asked questions” about the Green New Deal. Those pages included language and policies not included in the resolution itself such as providing economics security to those “unwilling to work” and ruling out nuclear power as part of the solution to the climate crisis…
“An early draft of a FAQ that was clearly unfinished and that doesn’t represent the GND resolution got published to the website by mistake,” Saikat Chakrabarti, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, wrote on Twitter on Saturday, two days after the document’s release. “Mistakes happen when doing time launches like this coordinating multiple groups and collaborators.”
Notice that Chakrabarti said Saturday the document was a) unfinished and b) published by mistake. Weigel and Stein accept that at face value and yet they report the staff distributed the same document to multiple reporters. Let’s look at this carefully.
First of all, the blog post which Chakrabarti says was published by mistake, went up on Tuesday, Feb. 5th as you can see in this cache on the Internet Archive:
It sat there for two days until after the launch when her office began receiving blowback. Did no one notice the error or that is was unfinished even as they were about to launch this big initiative? That seems unlikely.
NPR, which was the first outlet to report on the content of the GND on Thursday, February 7, had received a copy of the same FAQ from AOC’s office. That’s why NPR’s initial report contained elements from the FAQ as well as those from the resolution itself (Note: NPR’s story has been rewritten but I’m using the text of the first capture in the Internet Archive):
Among the most prominent, the deal calls for “meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.” The ultimate goal is to stop using fossil fuels entirely, as well as to transition away from nuclear energy.
In addition, the framework, as described in the legislation as well as “FAQs” from Ocasio-Cortez’s office, calls for a variety of other lofty goals:
“Overhauling transportation systems” to reduce emissions — including expanding electric car manufacturing, building “charging stations everywhere,” and expanding high-speed rail to “a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary“;
In case there is any doubt, NPR did not stumble upon the FAQ by accident and was not getting the information solely from a blog post on her website. The revised version of the story states, “The ultimate goal is to stop using fossil fuels entirely, Ocasio-Cortez’s office told NPR, as well as to transition away from nuclear energy.” It adds that bullet points came from, “a blog post — containing an updated version of “FAQs” provided to NPR by Ocasio-Cortez’s office — calls for a variety of other lofty goals.”
NPR reported on the FAQ, including the bits about nuclear power and air travel, because AOC’s office gave it to them and told them to report on it. The part about moving away from nuclear power isn’t even attributed to the FAQ, it’s attributed directly to AOC’s office as part of “the ultimate goal.” In what sense it that erroneous information and not an awkward walkback?
It seems more likely that once people began responding to the extreme statements in the FAQ, AOC’s office suddenly realized they had a problem. The pulled the document down Thursday but it was still out there, in part because they had given it out to so many people. By Friday night, one of AOC’s advisers on the GND was on Fox News claiming she’d never said the things in the FAQ and that the extreme language must have come from a “doctored” document. That was false as Weigel and Stein acknowledge:
The confusion was compounded by Robert Hockett, a Cornell professor who acted as an outside adviser to Ocasio-Cortez on the Green New Deal. Hockett told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson that the document calling for help to those unwilling to work had been “doctored” and produced by someone other than Ocasio-Cortez.
That was not true, as Hockett thought Carlson was referring to a parody of the Green New Deal circulated by right-wing activists on Twitter.
What’s missing from this account, aside from any skepticism of Hockett’s explanation, is the fact that AOC retweeted his false claims:
You can claim, as Hockett belatedly has, that he was merely confused about where the language Carlson was reading to him came from. Personally, I suspect he’s not telling the truth about that because by the time he went on the show the line about people “unwilling to work” was everywhere online. But even if you believe he was just confused, AOC clearly knew his statement was wrong. Her Chief of Staff wrote the document. It appeared on her website. Her staff sent it to reporters. Her staff took it down. It’s hard to believe all of this happened without her knowledge. But again, Weigel and Stein simply skip over her involvement in spreading this false claim made by Media Matters.
Finally on Saturday, with Hockett’s attempt to clean this up having blown up in their faces, you get those tweets from Chakrabarti saying the whole thing was a big misunderstanding. This doesn’t look like an innocent mistake to me. It looks like they went out with this jokey, extremist FAQ and quickly realized it was creating a problem. They pulled it down and then one of the team went on Fox and lied about it in an obvious attempt to insulate AOC from the blowback (a lie she helped push to her millions of fans). Then, when that attempt blew up, her CoS comes out and claims it was all a mistake in the first place. And the journalists at the Washington Post simply accept the final version of this meandering story as the truth because that’s the story AOC’s people are (belatedly) telling. Here’s how the Post story ends:
In an interview, Chakrabarti also stressed that the key was to focus on the larger plan to prevent climate change that poses an existential threat to millions of people around the world.
“The major thing here is we have now over 70 House Democrats and every major presidential candidate now on board calling for a gigantic transformation of our economy,” Chakrabarti said in an interview. “People are trying to take the focus away from the big picture to these little typos.”
Just four days ago, someone in AOC’s office, maybe Chakrabarti, was telling NPR that the key was to focus on getting rid of fossil fuels and moving “away from nuclear energy.” Now that’s part of the FAQ we’re not supposed to talk about because…they just don’t want us to talk about it. And the Post is fine with that.