Not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like this before.

As you may have heard, the Daily Caller took a terrible hit yesterday after falsely reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency is looking to hire 230,000 new “bureaucrats” — at a cost of $21 billion! — to implement new climate rules. The tale quickly went viral on the right as the latest example of Obama overreach and government run amok, and the fact that the tale was comically absurd on its face didn’t seem to slow the frenzy.

But now the Daily Caller is doubling down on the story, and the argument it’s making in its own defense is really something to behold.

To back up: As Kate Sheppard noted yesterday in her post debunking the original Daily Caller story, there are only 17,000 employees at the EPA, which alone makes the Daily Caller’s claim ridiculous. Not only that, but the legal brief that formed the basis for the Daily Caller story was actually pointing to the 230,000 new employees as a theoretical outcome to be avoided. That is, EPA was arguing that the high number of new employees would be neccessary if the agency didn’t have a so-called “tailoring rule.” This rule, which actually restricts the EPA’s regulatory powers to limiting emissions from the largest greenhouse gas producers, is being challenged in court, and EPA is trying to defend it.

Case closed, right? Well, no, of course not.

Today, in response to the criticism, Daily Caller executive editor David Martosko said the publication is standing by the story:

“The EPA is well-known for expanding its reach, especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions. What’s ‘comically wrong’ is the idea that half of Washington won’t admit it. The EPA’s own court filing speaks volumes,” Martosko said in an email.

“What’s more likely: that the Obama administration’s EPA wants to limit its own power, or that it’s interested in dramatically increasing its reach and budget? Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows the answer,” he added.

This truly is low comedy. The Daily Caller is now claiming that the original tall tale is true, simply because, well, the government regulatory apparatus by definition wants to expand rapaciously in reach and power. Once it has been established that government regulation is inherently onerous and bad and relentlessly expantionary, literally any fact at all can be pressed into service to support that unshakable overarching truth — even facts that directly contradict it. Nothing else could possibly be true, and therefore, it isn’t.

This isn’t meant in a glib way. Recognizing the absolute irrelevance of the facts at hand is central to understanding what’s really going on in situations such as these. This is an old story, but you almost never see examples in which the cynicism is quite this brazen. In this sense, the Daily Caller really has revealed a larger truth, albeit not the one it intended.


UPDATE: Daily Caller executive editor Martosko sends over a longer statement defending the story:

Our story about the EPA was spot-on and accurate. It’s true that the agency’s court filing outlined a “tailoring rule” as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion. But the EPA was clear that “the Tailoring Rule is calculated to move toward eventual full compliance with the statutory threshold” -- meaning it’s not a question of if the EPA wants to triple its budget, but when.

This whole kerfuffle illustrates how easy it is for left-wing agitators to manipulate reporters.