Rumor: Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel received money from 'Friends of Hamas'

An apparent joke by a reporter turned into a full-on bombshell accusation.

UNCONFIRMED: Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel received money from a group called 'Friends of Hamas'

On Feb. 7, right-wing website Breitbart.com published a story by editor-at-large Ben Shapiro under the headline "Secret Hagel Donor? White House Ducks Question on 'Friends of Hamas.'" The story quoted several Senate sources as having said that Secretary of Defense nominee Sen. Chuck Hagel received money from foreign influences, including one called Friends of Hamas. Receiving money from a group tied to what the U.S. labels a terrorist organization would spell doom for Hagel's confirmation hopes. But with no evidence that Friends of Hamas exists at all and now a reporter claiming to have inadvertently started the rumor with a silly comment, it seems that Breitbart's big scoop may have been a big joke.

'Birth of a rumor'

In a piece headlined "'Friends of Hamas': My role in the birth of a rumor" and published Tuesday, New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman says he unwittingly started the Hagel rumor when he was checking into Hagel's past dealings with Israel and the surrounding region (a subject that the senator has received intense scrutiny over) and asked what he called an "over-the-top" question to a source on whether Hagel had given or received money from groups like the Junior League of Hezbollah, in France and Friends of Hamas. The names of the organizations, Friedman says, were meant as an obvious joke, but were later passed along and picked up by Breitbart before even being echoed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Breitbart fires back

Since Friedman claimed to have started the rumor himself, sources who had lent credence to the accusation have backed off. Breitbart's Shapiro, meanwhile, has doubled down on his claim, writing in a new piece that Friedman is "lying" by claiming that he started the rumor and that the source who gave him the Friends of Hamas tip received the information from "three separate sources, none of whom was Friedman." Shapiro does not address the fact that Friends of Hamas appears, by all accounts, to not exist.

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