Call it a conflict of interest or maybe just a bitter media feud. Wherever the truth lies, one thing is for sure: relations between the liberal magazine The Nation and the conservative online newspaper the Washington Free Beacon have hit a new low.
On July 26th, The Nation's blog posted an article by Lee Fang entitled "Conservative 'Free Beacon' Fronts for Taiwan Lobby." The post claimed that "a lobbyist for a firm dedicated to helping Taiwan advance its policy agenda" is the the key sponsor behind the right-leaning Washington Free Beacon.
Fang charged that Michael Goldfarb, the Beacon's founder and chairman of the 501(c) group which sponsors the paper, is also a partner at Orion Strategies, a lobbying and public relations firm which contracted with Taiwan's ambassador. Orion's consulting, Fang wrote, "has centered on promoting US authorization to sell Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan."
And here's where the conflict of interest charge comes in. Fang believes it's no coincidence that the Beacon has published "multiple posts calling for more F-16 fighter jet sales to the island nation." He wrote: "As Goldfarb's firm quietly peddles influence for Taiwan's arms agenda in Congress, his site provides a megaphone." The writer chastises the Beacon for not disclosing "that its chairman is paid to lobby for Taiwan and other interest groups." He goes on to connect Goldfarb to Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who met with lobby firm Orion and later placed a hold (a move that stops a motion from reaching a vote on the Senate floor) on a presidential appointee "until the administration reconsidered the sale of 66 new F-16 jets to Taiwan." The Beacon then "celebrated" this hold, Fang concluded.
Five days later, at 5 am on July 31st, Beacon senior writer Adam Kredo shot back with the pun-ladened post: "High Times at the Nation [sic]: Cloud of controversy trails left-wing blogger Fang to new mag." Kredo, who was mentioned in Fang's original post, opened his riposte with, "One of the Nation magazine's newest hires, Lee Fang, is a far-left Democratic operative with a history of publishing error-riddled and misleading reports."
The story carried two pictures of a young Fang smoking and is choked with pot puns. It delves into Fang's political past, noting his term as president of the UMD College Democrats, his internship for Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), and his time as researcher for Progressive Accountability, which is associated with the liberal blog Think Progress.
Kredo continued his attack by pointing out instances of Fang's past misreporting. "In April 2011," Kredo writes,"Fang accused the Koch brothers of "manipulating the oil market," though his claims were later debunked. The article remains uncorrected." He then points out liberals critical of Fang's work.
A little over two hours after the Beacon published Kredo's screed, Fang tweeted, "I wrote about the Free Beacon's lobbyist leader being paid by Koch/Taiwan embassy, and they respond by posting leaked pics of me age 19."
Kredo and Fang got into it via their personal Twitter feeds, and then the publications' official Twitter posts went at it as well. One such dig: The Beacon appended "#winning" to Matt Yglesias's charge "Free Beacon scores important victory in race to the bottom against the daily Caller."