The July 6 blog item was republished with no additional reporting by dozens of pro-militia and other right-wing websites. It jumped to Fox News in the July 8 broadcast of Special Report with Bret Baier, which featured an interview with "online journalist" Mike Vanderboegh, one of the bloggers who posted the original item. Vanderboegh was a leading figure in the 1990s militia movement who more recently led the Alabama Minuteman Support Team, a border vigilante group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Vanderboegh was also one of the first to report on the failed Fast and Furious investigation.
"Mike Vanderboegh communicates with a host of ATF agents daily on his web site," said Fox News reporter William La Jeunesse. "Agents told him Wednesday Operation Castaway out of the Tampa office, also knowingly sold guns to criminals, in this case, 1,000 to buyers for the violent drug gang, MS-13. Those guns to Honduras."
. . . La Jeunesse gave no indication that he'd made any attempt to confirm Vanderboegh's story. He simply gave the blogger a national platform.
Later in the same program Baier reported, "We also know that there's another effort by ATF that we're just learning about to get guns from Tampa to Honduras, violent gangs called MS-13 down there."
The origin of the MS-13 detail is murky; Vanderboegh made no reference to the notorious criminal syndicate in his original post. . .
Media Matters also contacted Mike Vanderboegh outside the hearing and asked him about Operation Castaway. After some initial name calling on his side, he repeatedly stressed that he'd never definitively claimed the ATF walked guns to Honduras as part of Operation Castaway, he'd only raised the question of whether it had. In other words, he left himself wiggle room. . .
When pressed about his Operation Castaway reporting Vanderboegh told Media Matters, "I wrote 'Castaway' with a question mark, you jerk."
Fox News stripped off the question mark and ran the story. This adds to the network's long history of uncritically amplifying conspiracy mongering and unsubstantiated claims, especially if they are aimed at the Obama administration.
As a result, it took only 48 hours for the Castaway allegations to make their way from anonymously sourced blog items to the Fox News echo chamber. Two weeks later, they're being touted in the halls of Congress.
He's just jealous. ;-)
Of course, the fact that we've been consistently right about this scandal from the very beginning might militate in our favor when a journalist makes a judgment about whether or not to believe us on a particular new revelation.
Let's review stories that we broke that have been confirmed so far:
Phoenix gunwalking? Check.
National scope? Check.
Lanny Breuer? Check.
White House involvement? Check.
As it happens, I confirmed with "responsible authorities" while in Mordor-on-the-Potomac that the Tampa allegations are being taken seriously and are being investigated. "Yeah, it happened," I was told. I stand by my stories, and I communicated to Congressman Bilirakis' office that the allegations were solid. I reiterated my caution that we have no evidence at this time that the case was called "Castaway" although agents and supervisors involved in Castaway were also involved in the gunwalking to Honduras. In fact, it may not have had an operational name assigned to it at all.
"Media Matters" is unconcerned that Tampa gunwalking to Honduras evinces a national scope to Project Gunrunner. They are reduced to picking nits about the imprecision of politicians' speech and media headlines. Oh, now there's something that doesn't happen every day. One wonders if George Soros considers the millions he spends on "Media Matters" to be a good investment. I mean, if this is the best they can do. . .