The Free Beacon Did Not ‘Correct’ My Record

On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh shared with his listeners a portion of my article detailing the way the Washington Free Beacon helped launch the character assassination of Carter Page. Citing information originating with the Free Beacon itself and new revelations contained in the book authored by the owners of Fusion GPS, here’s the gist: Glenn Simpson contacted a “longtime Republican politico” in August 2015 to pitch his anti-Trump project. According to Simpson’s book (p. 15), the next month, that politico informed Simpson that the Washington Free Beacon would hire Fusion for $50,000 per month to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. (Simpson also confirmed in his congressional testimony that Fusion’s “flat fee” for that type of work.)

That relationship lasted until January 2017—a fact that the Free Beacon originally attempted to conceal—and the Beacon posted the first known hit piece on Carter Page on March 23, 2016. The Free Beacon, according to widespread reporting, is backed by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who opposed Trump’s candidacy in 2016.

Let me back up here: My readers know that I have been a big defender of Carter Page. I have interviewed him several times and wrote a piece in June 2018 referring to Page as the biggest victim of the collusion hoax. Now that Page has been cleared and the American public knows how Barack Obama’s FBI spied on him for a year, anyone who participated in the character assassination of Page should apologize. Further, as I argue in my article, any “conservative” outlet that published hit pieces on Page should retract their attacks and apologize to him. We now know that the lies told about Page originated with Fusion GPS and were part of an anti-Trump propaganda campaign.

But the Free Beacon, instead of doing the right thing, is continuing to defend themselves. In an email to Rush, Michael Goldfarb, the Free Beacon’s founding chairman, attempted to refute my article. Rush read Goldfarb’s full response on-air Wednesday; it is posted on Rush’s website.

Goldfarb’s response, however, is pure deflection and fails to disprove any of the key assertions in my article. The only claim Goldfarb accurately corrects is that founding editor Matthew Continetti is no longer the editor-in-chief of the Free Beacon, although he remains a contributor. We corrected that fact early after the piece appeared on Tuesday.

But when the Beacon retained Fusion, Continetti was still the editor-in-chief. He is also Bill Kristol’s son-in-law and Kristol was, and remains to this day, an ardent NeverTrumper. Continetti is not responsible for his father-in-law’s opinions, but this connection is not an insignificant fact.

Here are some of the strawman arguments Goldfarb makes:

Bill Kristol was my first boss when I came to Washington 20 years ago. He remains a friend, but he’s not affiliated in any way with the Washington Free Beacon. The Washington Free Beacon does not in any way reflect Bill Kristol’s view of the president.”

I never claimed that Kristol is affiliated with the Beacon. I merely pointed out the fact that he is a NeverTrumper and that Continetti is his son-in-law. (According to all the available evidence,  Continetti now appears to be supportive of Trump and his presidency. But that has no bearing on the substance of my article concerning the Beacon’s previous activity and Continetti’s role in it.)

We are not and never have been a Never Trump publication. Our editor was on CBS this weekend making the case against impeachment.”

That’s nice and helpful, but it has nothing to do with their coverage in the lead up to the 2016 election or with their relationship with Fusion in late 2015 and throughout 2016 or their coverage of Carter Page. That is the point of my original story. We know that Paul Singer, at the time, was a financial supporter of the Free Beacon. According to Fusion’s book, Singer was opposed to Trump’s candidacy, a fact not disputed by Goldfarb. Glenn Simpson, in fact, referred to the Beacon as his “NeverTrump” client. (Page 44 of Fusion’s book.)

“We had nothing to do with the dossier. We had nothing to do with the smearing of Carter Page. The smearing of Carter Page was the product of the Clinton-financed Steele dossier, which was in turn the basis of the FISA warrant . . . ”

I did not use the word “dossier” in the article here in question. I did not assert or even suggest that the Beacon played a role in funding the dossier or that they extracted information from the dossier. But there is no doubt the Beacon relied on Fusion’s anti-Trump material for their reporting; in fact, the Beacon itself admitted as much.

In October 2017, as the House Intelligence Committee—then under the leadership of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)—zoned in on Fusion’s role in orchestrating the bogus collusion hoax, Continetti issued a statement: “During the 2016 election cycle, we retained Fusion GPS to provide research on multiple candidates in the Republican presidential primary, just as we retained other firms to assist in our research into Hillary Clinton. All of the work that Fusion GPS provided to the Free Beacon was based on public sources…”

The Beacon confessed they hired Fusion and used their “research” in their reporting. A few days later, Continetti had to issue another statement: “Prior to October 27, 2017, the Washington Free Beacon published several articles referencing the research firm Fusion GPS that did not disclose the relationship between Fusion GPS and the Washington Free Beacon,” Continetti wrote. “The reason for this omission is that the authors of these articles, and the particular editors who reviewed them, were unaware of this relationship.”

Screenshot of the Free Beacon’s disclosure of their relationship with Fusion GPS.

The March 23, 2016 article written by Lachlan Markay clearly is a hit piece. It represented the first article accusing Page of being sympathetic to Russia and argued that this raised alarms among establishment think tanks and in the Cruz campaign since Page, at the time, was a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign.

“The Beacon published one story in the spring of 2016 when Carter Page’s role with the campaign was first announced focusing on Carter Page’s goofy views on Russia. It was based entirely on his public statements, and made no insinuations that he was or is a spy.”

Goldfarb did not dispute my claim that the March 23, 2016 article appeared to be sourced from Fusion. And his insistence that the Free Beacon only posted one story on Page “in the spring of 2016” is less than completely forthcoming.

The Free Beacon published two articles in July 2016—just as Fusion was peddling its Russian collusion propaganda to the news media—on Page. One is a 1,230-word piece about Page’s speech in Russia that month, an article designed to fuel speculation that the Trump campaign was tight with the Kremlin.

Parts of the column border on the absurd. “A slide Page displayed during the lecture suggested that the United States could collaborate with Russia by providing the country with ‘emerging technologies and potential capital market access (contingent upon U.S.’s refocus toward resolution of domestic challenges),” wrote Morgan Chalfant. “Page’s speech was highlighted by state-owned Russian media.” 

Who cares?

That month, July 2016, is when Carter Page began receiving death threats thanks to the widespread reporting, seeded by Fusion, about his fealty to Russia.

The entire purpose of “conservative” outlets reporting on a completely unknown campaign volunteer was to sow concern about Trump’s supposed ties to the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin—a ruse concocted and executed by Fusion with help from the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and the Trump-hating press.

It is shocking that any news/opinion outlets, knowing what we know now, would attempt to defend their role in the scheme and portray their reporting as legitimate. As I also pointed out in my piece, National Review and The Weekly Standard published similar and egregious articles attacking Page.

Goldfarb cannot rewrite history. We know that the Free Beacon was working with Fusion from 2015 through 2017; we know that they hired them to dig up dirt on Republican candidates; we know that Fusion was peddling the Trump-Russia hoax during the period they were working the Beacon; and we know that Free Beacon published three stories targeting Carter Page. You do the math. If they regret it, they should own it and apologize rather than pretending it didn’t happen. 

Regardless of the Washington Free Beacon’s current (and convenient) pro-Trump stance, they cannot and should not dismiss the damage they inflicted on an innocent man; their confirmed ties to the political hit machine that produced the collusion hoax; and their earliest involvement in the biggest political scandal of all time. 

Goldfarb and Continetti should issue a public apology to Carter Page instead of waving away their complicity with Fusion’s concocted arguments and irrelevant factoids Fusion presented as suggestive of nefarious intent on the part of Page.

Carter Page, not the Free Beacon, is the victim. To portray it any other way only adds to the outrage. As I wrote at the end of my piece: “If editors and journalists are truly serious about wanting redemption for Carter Page, they should first hold their own accountable. Fire anyone who peddled the bogus Fusion-sourced dirt on Page, scrub your website of any references, and beg Page for forgiveness. Then maybe you will be taken seriously. Until then, NeverTrump is as culpable for the character assassination of Carter Page as James Comey is.”

About Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. After college graduation, she served as a policy and communications consultant for several Republican candidates and elected officials in suburban Chicago. She also volunteered for her local GOP organization. After staying home for more than 10 years to raise her two daughters, Julie began teaching cooking classes out of her home. She then started writing about food policy, agriculture, and biotechnology, as well as climate change and other scientific issues. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1990 with a degree in communications and minor degrees in political science and journalism. Julie lives in suburban Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and (unfortunately) three dogs.

Photo: (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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