Verbal fireworks erupted during a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, as Democrats repeatedly attacked the two Twitter files witnesses and tried to make them reveal their sources.
Democrat journalists Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger appeared before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government to talk about Twitter’s collusion with the federal government to censor speech. Taibbi and Shellenberger, along with reporters Bari Weiss and Alex Berenson, were given access to Twitter’s internal communications late last year, resulting in a series of blockbuster reports about the government’s efforts to influence content moderation on social media.
“We learned Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other companies developed a formal system for taking in moderation ‘requests’ from every corner of government: the FBI, DHS, HHS, DOD, the Global Engagement Center at State, even the CIA,” Taibbi testified.
While he said the government’s actions posed a “grave threat to people of all political persuasions,” Taibbi estimated that suppression of conservative speech outnumbered suppression of liberal speech by a factor of “20 to one.”
The former Rolling Stone reporter slammed social and corporate media outlets for going along with the federal government’s efforts to create “a form of digital McCarthyism” in the 21st century.
In his opening statement, Shellenberger described the coordination between social media, corporate media, and the federal government as a terrifying “Censorship-Industrial Complex” of the sort “seen in totalitarian societies.”
— SOMETHiNG WiCKED (@som3thingwicked) March 9, 2023
In her opening remarks, the ranking Democrat on the Committee, Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.), derided Taibbi and Shellenberger as “so-called journalists and as “Elon Musk’s public scribes.” She also accused them of releasing “cherrypicked” and “out-of-context” emails designed to promote the “chosen narrative” of Musk and Republicans.
Plaskett said Taibbi and Shellenberger posed a “direct threat” to the people who oppose them.
Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) strongly objected to her comments and demanded that her words be struck from the record.
Taibbi addressed her insult by citing his decades of experience in the field of journalism, as well as his numerous journalism awards.
Taibbi fires back: "I'm not a so-called journalist. I've won the National Magazine Award, the I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and I've written 10 books." pic.twitter.com/8KrBqg5S4i
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 9, 2023
“Who gave you access to these emails? Who is the individual who gave you permission to access the emails?” Plaskett later asked Taibbi.
“Well, the attribution for my story is sources at Twitter and that’s what I’m going to refer to,” Taibbi responded.
“Did Mr. Musk contact you, Mr. Taibbi?” the congresswoman insisted.
“Again, the attribution for my story is sources at Twitter,” Taibbi replied.
Plaskett went on to ask Shellenberger the same question. He told the congresswoman that he was invited to the project by his colleague Weiss.
When Rep. Jordan chastised Plaskett for trying to pressure the journalists to reveal their sources, the Democrat denied that she had done that.
“I think this is interesting. First the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is asking for your backgrounds, and now the ranking member on the Committee on the Weaponization of government is asking for your sources!” he exclaimed.
“I never asked them for their sources!” Plaskett interjected defensively.
ROLL THE TAPE. pic.twitter.com/JUVSuD0n61
— House Republicans (@HouseGOP) March 9, 2023
Later on, Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) tried to get Taibbi to reveal his sources.
“When was the first time that Mr. Musk approached you about writing for the files?” Garcia asked the journalist.
Again, Taibbi said he couldn’t answer the question without giving away his source. Garcia countered that the “only logical conclusion” was that Musk was a source. Taibbi shot back that she was “free to conclude” whatever she wants.
Democrats now want journalists to:
1. Expose their sources publicly
2. Expose their conditions for publication
Have we ever seen such an attack on the First Amendment in a congressional hearing? pic.twitter.com/bWdzHvJ4KJ
— Weaponization Committee (@Weaponization) March 9, 2023
Garcia went on to ask Shellenberger if he was in a “threesome” with Weiss and Musk, prompting Shellenberger to burst out laughing. The congresswoman also appeared to be unfamiliar with online platform Substack, calling it “kind of like a web page.”
Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D) has unintentionally provided amazing comedic relief during the #TwitterFiles Hearing:
— Gain of Fauci (@DschlopesIsBack) March 9, 2023
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) used her five minutes to suggest Taibbi and Shellenberger were involved in the Twitter Files for fame and fortune.
“It’s quite obvious that you’ve profited from the Twitter Files,” Wasserman-Shultz told Taibbi. She asked him if he has indeed profited from this reporting.
Taibbi said it was probably “a wash” since he has had to hire a team of journalists to work with him with his own money.
Schultz went on to assert that the fact Taibbi had been called as a Republican witness “casts a cloud” over his objectivity. She described him as “Elon Musk’s handpicked journalist” before adding, “pardon the oxymoron.”
Concerned about the Democrat attacks on the witnesses, Jordan asked Taibbi about recent revelations that the FTC’s demanded that Twitter Inc. “identify all journalists” granted access to company records.
“Do you find that scary Mr. Taibbi that you got a federal government agency asking a private company who in the press were you speaking to?” Jordan inquired.
The reporter said he did find it scary because “it’s none of the government’s business which journalists a private company talks to and why,” before adding “I think every journalist should be concerned about that.”
Taibbi lamented that there is no longer an “esprit de corps” among journalists where they all look out for each other.
“That is gone now,” he said. “We don’t protect one another.”
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) March 9, 2023
Taibbi dropped a new Twitter File thread Thursday morning, ahead of the hearing, showing how the CDC called for the censorship of truthful information that was deemed inconvenient to the government narrative, also known as “malinformation.”
In the name of fighting “vaccine hesitancy,” the CDC called for censorship of true stories, such as accurate posts about vaccine injuries, or factual posts about foreign countries banning the COVID jabs, according to the report.
1. TWITTER FILES:
Statement to Congress
THE CENSORSHIP-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX pic.twitter.com/JLryjnINXS
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) March 9, 2023
Rep. Massie (R-Ky.), who was censored on Twitter himself, spoke on the CDC’s efforts to throttle truthful information about the pandemic.
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) March 9, 2023
Rep. Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.), who has the ludicrous habit of bringing up either the Russia, Ukraine and/or Jan. 6 fake government narratives at every hearing no matter how unrelated to the subject matter, told the witnesses that they could not “find any actual evidence of government censorship of lawful speech.”
Jordan countered by citing an actual instance of the government specifically requesting the removal of a tweet by Children’s Health Defense founder Robert Kennedy Jr.
Rep. Daniel Goldman (who bought a congressional seat) says "you cannot find actual evidence of any direct government censorship of lawful speech."
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 9, 2023
The email in question came from Clarke Humphrey, the Digital Director for the COVID-19 Response Team at the White House, who asked someone at Twitter to censor RFK Jr. Humphrey said her team was “wondering if we can get moving on the process for having it removed ASAP” and to “keep an eye out” for more.
In the offending Tweet, Kennedy had simply drawn attention “to a wave of suspicious deaths among the elderly” following administration of the COVID shots, noting that Hank Aaron’s demise followed that pattern.
#HankAaron's tragic death is part of a wave of suspicious deaths among elderly closely following administration of #COVID #vaccines. He received the #Moderna vaccine on Jan. 5 to inspire other Black Americans to get the vaccine. #TheDefenderhttps://t.co/vbuHt22bJz
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) January 22, 2021
Another email revealed that the Biden White House directed Facebook to censor Tucker Carlson and Tomi Lahren.
Rob Flaherty, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Digital Strategy in the Executive Office of the President, targeted Carlson because he had tweeted that the jabs didn’t work, and Lahren, simply because she had stated that she wasn’t getting the vax. Senior Pandemic Advisor to Biden, Andy Slavitt, was also copied on the email.
Missouri’s new attorney general, Republican Andrew Bailey, released the emails back in January.
The entire hearing can be viewed below: