The Daily Caller has just published a story showing how far it’ll reach to allege liberal media bias. The grabby headline: “New York Times reporter advises White House media staff on Twitter.”

Aha, collusion!

Now for the evidence. Here are the tweets from New York Times reporter Jennifer Preston:

NYT_JenPreston RT @macon44: People responding to POTUS shld use #compromise. As he said, it is “time for #compromise on behalf of the American people”

NYT_JenPreston @jesseclee44 Hi Jesse, what’s the hashtag that you guys are urging people to use in their tweets to Congress re: debtceiling?

NYT_JenPreston @macon44 Hi there. I heard the President ask the people to tweet re: debt ceiling. Are you guys using specific hashtag?

NYT_JenPreston President Obama asked the people to tweet to their members of Congress about debt ceiling. What hashtag?

Some identifiers here: @macon44 is Macon Phillips; @jesseclee44 is Jesse Lee. Both are White House aides. Preston specializes in social-media reporting.

With that context in hand, Preston’s tweeting looks far beyond reproach. Here’s what happened: The president urged people to tweet their position on the debt crisis. A social-media reporter from the New York Times then asked a logical follow-up: What hashtag are you using?

The Daily Caller uses the tweet traffic to make the nonexistent case that Preston threw in her two cents for a hashtag:

Preston tweeted her own suggestion to a White House flack, saying “@macon44 Hi there. I heard the President ask the people to tweet re: debt ceiling. Are you guys using specific hashtag?”

I’ve read that tweet 15 times and still can’t find a suggestion in it.

Yes, it’s possible that the White House hadn’t considered what hashtag to push out there. It’s also possible that Preston’s tweet awoke staffers to that omission. If so, that’s not Preston’s fault. Politicians and their aides are allowed to be edified by a reporter’s smart inquiry.

Preston is now getting killed on Twitter. Here’s a representative sample: “@NYT_JenPreston Thanks for twitting for the regime. Goose-step home now.”

In her capacity as a social-media reporter, Preston says she wanted to know what hashtag the president was using to better track popular response to his appeal. “I wasn’t doing it to help the White House. I was doing it to help myself,” she says, noting that she often uses Twitter like e-mail. “I didn’t hear his address, and I was simply trying to find out what the hashtag was.”

An inquiry to the Daily Caller reporter behind the story, Neil Munro, is pending.