Rep. Jim Jordan’s latest “weaponization of government” hearing rolled around on Thursday, and it was as unpleasant and lie-filled as you could imagine, with Jordan scrambling to make up ground after the previous hearing was widely seen as a flop. This episode was about the “Twitter Files,” Elon Musk’s effort to unveil the company he had bought as unfairly biased against conservatives despite large amounts of evidence to the contrary, and suffice it to say, it once again didn’t produce the fireworks Jordan wanted.
In Thursday’s hearing, two of the handpicked “journalists” to whom Musk fed internal Twitter information to produce the desired narrative did their best to give Jordan what he wanted just as they had given Musk what he wanted. Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly used some of his time to show that Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger had been very selective in what they looked for when they built their narrative about bias at Twitter.
Connolly’s basic question was simple: What did you find about Donald Trump leaning on Twitter to get what he wanted? And the answer, basically, was that they never even looked.
RELATED STORY: Democrats have exposed the basis of the House hearing on Twitter as Republican disinformation
“When you release information,” Connolly asked, “have you released any information of for example right-wing elements or the Trump White House attempting to moderate content at Twitter?”
“No, not the Trump White House per se, although I did report in the first Twitter Files that the Trump White House had made a request that had been honored,” Taibbi responded.
“I did not find that,” Shellenberger answered.
“You didn’t find that?” Connolly asked in mock surprise. “So we had a hearing the other day, on Twitter, and we had four witnesses, three for the majority, one for the minority, and all four testified under oath they had never received a request for content moderation or takedown from the Biden White House, but they did from Donald Trump’s White House.”
Connolly went on to sketch out the exchange between Trump and Chrissy Teigen, in which, after Teigen called Trump a “pussy ass bitch” (words Connolly did not quote directly), “the White House called Twitter to try to take down the content.”
Taibbi copped to having heard about this in the news, but said he had not seen any email exchanges from the Trump White House, then rushed to mention that he had seen requests from Democrats. “Yeah, nice try,” Connolly responded. “We’re talking about the Trump White House and people under oath confirming it, and my question is, in the Twitter Files, did Elon Musk or Twitter provide you with that exchange with Chrissy Teigen?”
“No, but that’s probably because the searches that I was making ...”
“Well, it’s probably because it didn’t confirm the bias that this is all about, as the gentleman from Texas would say ‘the left’ attempting to control content when in fact the evidence is that the Trump White House most certainly attempted content at Twitter. Mr. Shellenberger, were you aware of that or is this all news to you?”
Shellenberger admitted that “the Teigen exchange was news to me.”
So, to be clear: These two men supposedly got all kinds of access to Twitter internal documents to look at how Twitter handled content moderation, and they were at the House testifying specifically about Twitter’s interaction with government agencies, and they admitted that in their searches of all these voluminous documents they just kind of missed the part where the White House pressured Twitter to take something down not because it threatened national security or violated the law, but because a model and influencer had called Donald Trump a name.
Taibbi and Shellenberger knew the assignment, and it wasn’t to find evidence of Republicans trying to control what was posted at Twitter.
Taibbi valiantly tried to continue playing the part of the fair dealer, noting that they had found evidence of intelligence agencies targeting people on the left as well as the right. Because he can drop in a sentence or two about that every now and then to preserve his image as not a tool of Musk and Jordan, knowing that all the attention is going to go to build false claims about the government suppressing the right.
“In some ways what you just said undermines the premise of this select committee,” Connolly responded, “which is that the federal government has been organized to weaponize against conservative voices, and of course what you’ve just indicated in your testimony is, well actually that’s not the evidence you’ve found.”
That’s where Taibbi really went for laughs, piously saying his understanding was that this committee was all about free speech. Yes, that’s the big concern of the party of book-banners, the party passing law after law limiting what teachers can say in classrooms. Free f’ing speech. Jim Jordan just created this committee and called this hearing not for any partisan reason but because he is such an advocate of free speech. Indeed, as Connolly’s time ended, Jordan was visibly smirking as he embraced the idea that the hearing was about free speech.
Connolly’s point was made, though. Taibbi and Shellenberger are presenting a seriously slanted view of how government interacted with Twitter, and looking at what they left out, what information we know is available somewhere in Twitter’s email archives that didn’t make it into their “reporting,” shows what the real intention was all along. As if the fact that the Twitter Files were an Elon Musk production and this hearing was a Jim Jordan production didn’t make that crystal clear.
Jordan's big 'weaponization' hearing flopped so badly that even Fox News didn't carry it
Markos and Kerry luxuriate in the battle going on between Donald Trump’s ascending fascism and Mitch McConnell’s disappearing neocon establishment. The fighting has become much sharper recently as the MAGA-media outlet Fox News has traveled further and further away from reality.