Declaring that Attorney General Eric Holder “isn’t fit to run a lemonade stand,” a Texas Republican is calling for a Congressional investigation into what he called the “close interaction” between the Department of Justice and Media Matters for America, the liberal watchdog group that tracks conservative politicians and advocacy groups for inaccuracies.
Rep. Blake Farenthold said on Tuesday he wants the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, headed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent critic of the department, to look into the ties between Media Matters and DOJ, and that Media Matters’ tax-exempt status ought to be questioned.
“I think we need to look at the 501(c)3 status of Media Matters, and I think this is just more evidence that the Justice Department under Eric Holder is out of control,” Farenthold said. “And it’s more evidence that Mr. Holder is not fit to run a lemonade stand.”
Farenthold’s comments were made in a radio interview with an arm of the National Rifle Association and were reported by The Daily Caller, founded by the conservative commentator Tucker Carlson, now The DC’s editor in chief. The DC earlier this year published an exposé of Media Matters founder David Brock’s “erratic behavior” and “struggles with mental illness.” Media Matters was formed in 2004 to police what liberals see as biased Fox News reporting. Liberal funder George Soros donated $1 million to the group in 2010.
The DC set off the latest clash between the DOJ and Republicans by using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain emails between Media Matters and Tracy Schmaler, the head of the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs.
In a report on Tuesday about the emails, The DC said “dozens of pages” of messages show Schmaler working closely with Media Matters, to discredit conservative journalists chronicling the failures of the DOJ.
For example, the Daily Caller cited a July 8, 2011 email that Media Matters’ Matt Gertz wrote to Schmaler about “debunking what I think is a conservative media myth” about Operation Fast and Furious.
“Several media outlets, including Fox News this morning, are claiming that Fast and Furious was paid for with stimulus dollars,” Gertz wrote to Schmaler. “My research suggests that this is not true, and I was hoping you’d be able to confirm that.” He said he wanted a response “by 1 p.m.” because the issue was “likely to snowball if it isn’t stopped.”
Schmaler responded in under two hours. “You’re right,” she replied, saying she had consulted “budget folks” in DOJ. Gertz wrote back: “Thanks again for your help, here’s the piece.”
The Daily Caller and Fox News both said Schmaler and Media Matters had declined to comment to them about the emails.
Farenthold said he was incensed by the disclosures. “I just could not believe that the Justice Department, who you think is an objective arbiter of things, is actually coordinating with — beyond what anybody would consider to be reasonable — with an advocacy group,” Farenthold said, according to The DC’s account.
The conservative website also noted that another Justice Department spokeswoman, Xochitl Hinojosa, is a former Media Matters staffer.