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A fake source, a credulous MSM

by Brad A. Greenberg

November 17, 2008 | 2:14 pm

I was on another continent last week—Africa, maybe—as I finished two stories for this week’s paper. And a few juicy news stories full of blog fodder flew under my radar. But I just stumbled across this fantastic story behind the post-election trashing of Sarah Palin—particularly that she thought Africa was a country and didn’t know the members of NAFTA.

There was much speculation about the source of the leaks, which Palin supporters have called a particularly dirty and fallacious, though anticipated, attack. Then last Monday MSNBC anchor David Shuster reported: “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks.”

Not exactly. The New York Times explains:

Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.

And the claim of credit for the Africa anecdote is just the latest ruse by Eisenstadt, who turns out to be a very elaborate hoax that has been going on for months. MSNBC, which quickly corrected the mistake, has plenty of company in being taken in by an Eisenstadt hoax, including The New Republic and The Los Angeles Times.

Now a pair of obscure filmmakers say they created Martin Eisenstadt to help them pitch a TV show based on the character. But under the circumstances, why should anyone believe a word they say?

“That’s a really good question,” one of the two, Eitan Gorlin, said with a laugh.

(For what it’s worth, another reporter for The New York Times is an acquaintance of Mr. Gorlin and vouches for his identity, and Mr. Gorlin is indeed “Mr. Eisenstadt” in those videos. He and his partner in deception, Dan Mirvish, have entries on the Internet Movie Database, imdb.com. But still. ...)

The pranksters behind Eisenstadt acknowledge that he was not, through them, the anonymous source of the Palin leak. He just claimed falsely that he was the leaker—and they say they have no reason to cast doubt on the original story. For its part, Fox News Channel continues to stand behind its story.

Mr. Gorlin and Mr. Mirvish say the blame lies not with them but with shoddiness in the traditional news media and especially the blogosphere.

“With the 24-hour news cycle they rush into anything they can find,” said Mr. Mirvish, 40.

I learned pretty early in my career that many experts are more created by the media than their own achievements. L.A. journalists know the five or six regional experts always phoned for questions about the economy or good governance or court rulings. Not that these folks aren’t knowledgeable and helpful—it’s just amazing how I’ve seen myself go back to the same expert numerous times just because I saw them quoted elsewhere first. This story, though, is beyond belief. I mean, look at the names of the news organizations that got duped ...

The Eisenstadt Project is in fact all over YouTube, and a little observation would tell you it’s a spoof. Like Bill Maher’s “Religulous.”

Part eight of “The Last Republican,” in which Eisenstadt visits a Jewish home for the elderly and says the United States should bomb Iran, is after the jump:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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