Glenn Kessler's hit-piece-in-progress on Christopher Rufo blew up in his face

I really don’t dislike Glenn Kessler’s work most of the time. He’s certainly head-and-shoulders above some of the other fact-checkers out there and not averse to taking on Democrats as well as Republicans. But in this case he seems to have taken some advice from Wile E Coyote.

As Twitchy pointed out today, Kessler was working on a piece about Critical Race Theory opponent Christopher Rufo. He thought he had found something pretty damaging, evidence that Rufo lied when he claimed one of his stories was based on information from an anonymous tipster. Kessler, through a FOIA request, had found evidence the information actually came from another Twitter user. So not only was Rufo lying about an anonymous tipster, he was actually stealing someone else’s work without credit. Here’s the excited email he sent to the “victim” of that apparent theft:

He was clearly expecting Karlyn to respond with outrage. How dare Rufo steal my story without credit! That would have been great material for a hit piece. And since this was the story that really started Rufo down this path investigating CRT, it would have been a convenient way for progressives to dismiss all of Rufo’s effort as some kind of fruit of the poisonous tree of plagiarism. Really, had this panned out, you’d have heard this Glenn Kessler talking point from then on every time Rufo’s name was mentioned.

What Kessler got instead of that bombshell was a direct response on Twitter making his email public and clarifying that the anonymous tipster was very real.

At this point, the screen should be shrinking to a point while Porky Pig says “That’s all folks!” But Kessler wasn’t done. He sent, Karlyn another message expressing his disappointment that she’d revealed his plans and also claiming he never suggested the anonymous tipster didn’t exist:

So what did this sentence in the earlier email mean: “…he was piggybacking off your research and has been falsely claiming he had an anonymous tipster helping him.” Kessler is clearly claiming that the tipster didn’t exist and that Rufo had in fact stolen the information from Karlyn. There’s no other way to read this. He can’t have been “falsely claiming” the information came from a tipster if the tipster was real. How would that even work?

Karlyn reiterated that the tipster was real and that she wasn’t sorry about spoiling his hit piece in progress (2nd tweet):

She also posted a YouTube clip with a lot more detail about how this happened. Kessler initially asked her to call him and she instead responded by email to force him to spell out what he was doing. She did this because laws in her state don’t allow one party recording of phone calls. To record the call, she would have had to tell Kessler she was recording it.

Christopher Rufo apparently did see Karlyn’s tweet and then used that to gather more information. She was fine with that because it’s the reason she posted it in the first place, so some reporter would follow up. She continued talking with the tipster and sending things to Rufo and at some point she says she realized he was also talking to the same tipster. So Rufo wasn’t lying about the tipster and he wasn’t stealing information on this from Karlyn. In fact, she was giving it to him. Here’s Rufo’s take:

And finally, here’s Karlyn’s clip titled “I just screwed the Washington Post…and it is glorious.”

David Strom 12:41 PM on September 26, 2022