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Democrats repeatedly attempted to bully independent journalists Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger into giving up their #TwitterFiles sources — and the answer, every time, was a resounding and emphatic “NO.”
Taibbi and Shellenberger appeared before Congress for a Thursday morning hearing with the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government — and in addition to badgering them for information on their sources, the Democrats on the committee verbally attacked them, calling them Twitter owner Elon Musk’s “personal scribes.”
The committee’s ranking member, Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-USVI), began the attack in her opening statement, referring to Taibbi and Shellenberger as “so-called journalists” before they’d even been called on to answer the first question.
Plaskett then claimed that “all the so-called ‘Twitter Files’ really showed was a discussion on content moderation,” arguing that the two journalists were only there because their work on the Twitter Files was seen as politically advantageous to Republicans.
“Ranking Member Plaskett, I’m not a so-called journalist,” Taibbi objected, adding, “I’ve won the National Magazine Award, the I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and I’ve written 10 books, including four New York Times bestsellers.”
Plaskett then repeatedly attempted to get the pair to reveal their sources.
BREAKING: Democrats Attempt to Force Taibbi to name his sources in open hearing. He REFUSES pic.twitter.com/pHLnT2UxYY
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) March 9, 2023
“Who was the individual that gave you permission to access the emails?” Plaskett asked.
“The attribution for my story is ‘sources at Twitter’ and that’s what I’m going to refer to,” Taibbi replied.
“Okay, did Mr. Musk contact you?” Plaskett tried a different tack.
“Again, the attribution for my story is ‘sources at Twitter,'” Taibbi repeated.
Plaskett pivoted to Shellenberger with the same question: “Did Mr. Musk contact you?”
Shellenberger said no, that he had been brought in to help with the story by his friend and fellow Twitter Files journalist Bari Weiss.
“Mr. Taibbi, have you had conversations with Elon Musk?” Plaskett tried again, and when Taibbi conceded that he had, she pressed harder: “Did Mr. Musk place any conditions on the use of the emails —”
At that point, Committee Chairman Jim Jordan interrupted, asking Plaskett directly whether she was attempting to get a journalist to reveal a source.
“No, I’m not,” she insisted, but Jordan shot back, “Well, it sure sounds like it.”
Later in the hearing, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) tried a different approach to get to the source information.
Rep. Garcia: "So you're not gonna tell us Musk first approached you?"
Matt Taibbi: "You're asking a journalist to reveal his sources."
Garcia: "So you consider Musk to be the direct source of all this?"
— Real Mac Report (@RealMacReport) March 9, 2023
Garcia began by asking when Musk had approached Taibbi about writing the Twitter Files — and he refused to answer, saying it went to the issue of sourcing and that he was not going to divulge that information.
“When was the first time that Mr. Musk approached you about writing the Twitter Files?” she asked. “I just need a date, Sir.”
“Again, Congresswoman, that would be — but I can’t give it to you, unfortunately, because this is a question of sourcing, and I don’t give up — I’m a journalist, I don’t reveal my sources,” he replied.
Garcia insisted that it was not a question of sourcing so much as timing — but Taibbi remained firm in his position and did not answer. She then pivoted to ask him about Musk directly, prompting Jordan to interrupt again and chastise her for repeated attempts to force him to reveal his source.
“What he has said is he is not going to reveal his source, and the fact that the Democrats are pressuring him to do so is such a violation of the First Amendment,” Jordan said.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) used her time to attempt to first discredit Taibbi himself — claiming that simply agreeing to be a witness before a Republican-led committee undermined his objectivity as a journalist — and then to discredit the story by suggesting the sources had “motives.”
“Every reported story that I’ve ever done across three decades involves sources who have motives,” Taibbi shot back.
Wasserman Schultz responded by asserting that Taibbi had leveraged his work on the Twitter Files for personal profit.
His reply: “I think it’s probably a wash, honestly.”