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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 06:54 PM ET, 03/15/2012

Highly public DNC-Daily Caller spat should have been private


Holder supporter, via Daily Caller (Charles Dharapak - AP)
The Daily Caller’s Matthew Boyle really wanted a comment from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) regarding the federal “Fast and Furious” gun-interdiction program.

In recent months, the Daily Caller has served as something of a wire service monitoring how prominent political figures feel about Attorney General Eric Holder in light of his management of the program. Now Boyle wanted to know whether DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had confidence in Holder.

As BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post have reported, Boyle on Wednesday put this demand to DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse:

I’m giving you until 10 am tomorrow to answer this question, then I’m reporting Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not supporting Holder.

Woodhouse drew outrage from the missive. So much, in fact, that he forwarded the exchange to BuzzFeed and looped Huffington Post in on a more extensive back-and-forth with Boyle.

Politico’s Ken Vogel hopped on Twitter to shout down Woodhouse’s outing expedition: “Disturbing to see flacks leak journo emails-no matter what they say. Whether it’s Bardella or @woodhouseb it’s bad form http://huff.to/yAeSiM” Woodhouse rebutted: “Really? Jounos can report on what we say to u at will but your missives no matter how inappropriate must remain anonymous?”

Vogel has a point: Reporters don’t want to see their proprietary questions broadcast to the rest of the world, lest they lose their scoops and their trust in people to whom they direct questions. Woodhouse has a point as well: On-the-record discussions flow both ways; journalists cannot expect to bully sources and escape consequences.

The question here is whether Boyle’s ploy should trigger the flack’s nuclear option. When asked about the threshold for e-mail leaking, Woodhouse responds:

The fact we were being blackmailed. The reporter threatened to print a position he knew to be untruthful to elicit a response. In the event he did I wanted to make sure people knew what he was up to. We are under no obligation to respond to inquiries from an organization that has a clear slant against us. It doesn’t mean they can make stuff up.

No question that Boyle was pushing the interpretive limits of silence. Not receiving a reply from the DNC, after all, is not the same as inferring that the DNC chairwoman is “not supporting” the attorney general. There can be many reasons why the DNC might not respond, including the possibility that someone got sick or they just plain dislike Boyle.

At the same time, I don’t appreciate Woodhouse’s placing this story in my Twitter and RSS feeds. The e-mails show that Boyle was practicing old-fashioned accountability journalism with barely a pinch of new-fashioned slime. Give the guy the response, chew him out for his boorish nonsense, and give the “forward” function on your e-mail a rest.

(Boyle got his answer anyway.)

By  |  06:54 PM ET, 03/15/2012

Tags:  daily caller, democratic national committee, matthew boyle

 
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