Sidney Blumenthal is one of those oddly permanent figures in American politics. Starting in the mid-1990s, the journalist has been an enduring presence around the Clinton family, and he is thought to be one of Hillary Clinton’s closest confidants. What exactly he does and how exactly he earns his paycheck has always been a matter of some murkiness, and he’s inspired no shortage of conspiracy theories and intrigue throughout his years within the Clinton orbit. During the House hearings on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy spent a considerable amount of time questioning Blumenthal over his role in the Clinton circle and his role in the Benghazi cover-up.
The revelations in today’s Los Angeles Times, then, come as no great surprise. The House Democrats released transcripts of the hearings, but redacted some portions at Gowdy’s request; the redactions, though, proved feckless against the vast powers of one journalist’s cut-and-paste function. What that journalist found is confirmation of the rumor that Blumenthal had received considerable payment — to the tune of $200,000 — from Media Matters, a heavily pro-Clinton media “watchdog” helmed by David Brock, a Clinton operative who goes after any journalist or politician who criticizes the presumptive Democratic nominee.
And defending Hillary Clinton has often meant defending Sidney Blumenthal. Media Matters has done so on numerous occasions over the past few years, especially in the context of the Benghazi hearings. Sometimes, those defenses have come directly from Brock himself, who published a lengthy piece last June on the committee’s questioning of Blumenthal. Brock identified Blumenthal as “my longtime friend,” but made no mention of his inclusion on Media Matters’ payroll.
That’s their modus operandi, it seems — defend, but don’t disclose. Last October, Media Matters posted the transcript of a Shepard Smith show in which Smith suggested that questioning Blumenthal deflected from the committee’s mission; the piece didn’t note that Blumenthal is paid by Media Matters. A long post about the committee’s questioning of Clinton — which noted, in large font, that Republicans had asked 35 questions about Blumenthal — also didn’t mention the $200,000 payments. Same with a post about Chuck Todd’s and Gowdy’s exchange about Blumenthal.
Assuming that Blumenthal has been on the payroll for at least a year — which is quite likely to be the case — not disclosing his exact relationship to Media Matters in that organization’s many posts defending him would seem to constitute a severe breach of journalistic integrity, especially given that Media Matters aspires to be a “fact-checking” platform. And the revelation about Blumenthal’s role in the organization might go a long way in explaining why Brock and his staffers are so vigilant in defending his reputation against pretty much anything.