Over the past six months, Mother Jones has published a series of articles investigating one of the nation's largest tea party organizations, the Tea Party Patriots. The stories have not gone over very well with at least one of the group's leaders, Mark Meckler, who ignored repeated requests to be interviewed for the stories.
While he's dodged speaking to me, Meckler has given a couple of comments lately to extremely sympathetic and unquestioning interviewers bashing Mother Jones and accusing me personally of spreading lies and falsehoods about his organization. The most recent appeared in a NewsReal blog post by Walter Hudson, the founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots. Hudson asked Meckler whether he planned to respond to my stories on the group's startling lack of transparency—issues no other news outlet has covered. Here's his reply:
No. I don’t want to give them credence. That’s not journalism. I respect journalists who criticize us. That’s fine. Feel free. And plenty of them do. The only journalist in the world who I won’t speak to is Stephanie Mencimer [the author of the Mother Jones series]. I mean literally. I talk to Dave Weigel, of JournoList fame, who came across as hating conservatives. We still speak, because why? He’s always covered us fairly. He doesn’t agree with us, I don’t think, philosophically. But he’s never lied about us. He’s never mischaracterized anything about us. He’s just critical of us sometimes. I don’t care. Criticize us. That’s absolutely fair. That’s fair game. If we choose to be out there in the public, then people can criticize us. But when you step over the line, when you fabricate, when you accept lies without doing the research, that’s not journalism and I just don’t participate in it.
As Meckler hasn't identified a single specific inaccuracy in any of our coverage of him or Tea Party Patriots, and now that he's called me a liar, here is a follow up question Hudson and others might want to ask him: What exactly were the lies in those stories?
- Meckler was once a top distributor for Herbalife, a company accused of running a pyramid scheme and sued successfully for injuring people with products loaded with the now-banned herbal stimulant ephedra?
- Two years after its founding, Tea Party Patriots has failed to file tax returns that would reveal information about how it's spending all its donated money?
- The group has cozied up with people implicated in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, including former Oklahoma congressman Ernest Istook and Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed?
- Several former TPP employees report having been offered (donated) money to sign confidentiality agreements to prevent them from ever criticizing TPP or disclosing information about the group's finances? And that people who have asked questions about its finances have been drummed out of the organization?
- TPP has put a man who owes the IRS more than $500,000 in charge of managing its money as the assistant treasurer? Or that he happens to be married to Meckler's co-coordinator Jenny Beth Martin?
- TPP hired two GOP-connected telemarketing firms that are harassing tea party activists with fundraising calls, from which the firms will keep 75 percent of any money raised?
- Meckler and Martin accepted the use of a private jet from a wealthy Montana businessman without disclosing the name of the donor?
- TPP was spreading false Internet rumors that Sarah Palin would be attending the group's policy summit in Phoenix last month to announce her presidential candidacy?
If there are any errors in these stories Mark, please let us know. We'd be happy to correct them.