Conservative-populist blogger Jim Hoft is likely to be disappointed—bitterly so—after spending Monday morning trying to persuade the Senate Periodical Press Gallery to grant a permanent credential to his Donald Trump-friendly, liberal-loathing, conspiracy-minded Gateway Pundit web site.
While the verdict had yet to be officially announced as of this writing, sources said the gallery’s executive committee of correspondents voted not to revisit their May ruling that the web site is mainly a content aggregator and thus doesn’t qualify under gallery rules. (Late Tuesday, the executive committee informed Hoft by letter that Gateway Pundit’s application has been rejected.)
According to the gallery’s Rule 2, which the executive committee cited in its original decision, “Applicants must be employed by periodicals that regularly publish a substantial volume of news material of either general, economic, industrial, technical, cultural, or trade character”—a requirement that Gateway Pundit was adjudged not to meet.
Military Times correspondent Leo Shane III, chairman of the gallery’s executive committee made up of Capitol Hill beat reporters, said he and his colleagues reached their original conclusion, admittedly subjective, after analyzing Gateway Pundit’s frequent reliance on the work of other outlets as opposed to its own original reporting—a finding Hoft disputed.
“We told them before we left that we’re going to continue, whatever the decision is today, and work through the appeals process,” an aggrieved Hoft told The Daily Beast after he made an hour-long presentation at the Capitol along with Gateway Pundit’s pugnacious Washington correspondent, Lucian Wintrich, and their First Amendment lawyer former Bloomberg Media in-house counsel Charles Glasser.
“We believe we deserve the credential as one of the largest news sites in Middle America. Middle America deserves a voice,” Hoft added, citing Google Analytics for his claim that Gateway Pundit, a frequently linked fave of the Drudge Report, receives upwards of 15 million page-views per month. “They deserve someone that can tell their story. The fact that [gallery officials] are interfering with our access is very troubling, and we will take this as far as we can go.”
During Monday’s proceeding, the gallery committee, citing long-established rules against cameras and audio recording, denied access to a freelance television crew that was following Hoft and Wintrich around Washington “because they were interested in our plight,” Hoft said.
“It’s very bizarre,” Hoft added. “We’re all reporters, so why would they want to hide anything around the process or the comments?—if they’re good reporters. It strikes me that maybe these people aren’t.”
If a second appeal fails to obtain the coveted credential, the website’s options might include a lawsuit against the press gallery and its executive committee, Hoft said.
The site has eagerly promoted Barack Obama birtherism, and given credulous, splashy treatment to more than 20 liberal-bashing hoaxes and bogus conspiracy theories during its 13-year existence, according Media Matters for America.
Among the examples compiled by the left-leaning press watchdog group: “Gateway Pundit Falsely Claimed Michelle Obama Deleted Hillary Tweets”; “Gateway Pundit Suggested Hillary Clinton Had ’A Seizure On Camera’ ”; “Gateway Pundit Falsely Claimed Obama Was Going To ‘Ban Sport Fishing.’”
The 28-year-old Wintrich, a gay alt-right controversialist in the mold of fired Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopolous, achieved notoriety most recently by claiming that former first daughter Malia Obama physically threatened and angrily scolded him at a nightclub party last March in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood.
It’s testament to his talent for attracting attention that Wintrich was featured in a March 20 New Yorker article about the Trump-worshiping fringe media’s invasion of the White House press room.
Both Hoft and Wintrich argued on Monday that if the gallery’s executive committee sticks to it guns and refuses to award the credential—without which they cannot move freely around the Capitol as legitimate journalists reporting on Congress—the reason would be ideological distaste for the web site’s opinions rather than a decision based on gallery rules, and thus a violation of constitutional protections that ensure a free press.
Hoft was especially irked that during Monday’s session, members of the gallery’s executive committee questioned his self-identification on his Twitter account as well as on the Gateway Pundit site as a Tea Party “activist”—a pursuit that could violate gallery rules against journalists or their organizations working to enact legislation before Congress.
Hoft scrubbed that description three months ago from Twitter, and from Gateway Pundit’s website last week, as Gateway Pundit’s credential application was being considered and the executive committee pointed the problem out to him.
“For these people to accuse me of being an activist, when I look at some of their reporting, I think there is a level of deceit,” Hoft said. “They’re blind to their own errors. I just thought it was a cheap shot.”
Leo Shane, the gallery committee’s chairman, dismissed Hoft’s complaint, arguing that ideology has been not a factor in considering Gateway Pundit for a credential.
“That’s simply not true,” he said, noting that Hoft’s activism was not a reason for the committee’s rejection in May. “He is welcome to say that, but we would disagree.”
Shane added: “We treated them the same way as we treat every publication. Others have come before the committee for credentials and we have found problems that have nothing to do with their political content.”
The liberal ThinkProgress and the conservative Daily Signal outlets, for instance, were both denied credentials because they are creatures of advocacy organizations. “They didn’t receive credentials because they didn’t conform to the rules that have governed the gallery for years,” Shane said.
Shane declined to comment on the committee’s still-unreleased decision.
Gateway Pundit lawyer Charles Glasser also reserved comment. In a legal memo to the executive committee, he argued that Gateway Pundit’s tendency to aggregate from other news sites should not be disqualifying.
“The Committee is treading on ground dangerous to the First Amendment because news summaries are protected by our cherished free-speech jurisprudence. We all may lose that protection if the Committee’s view of republication and news summaries gain a foothold,” Glasser wrote.
“It is worth adding that many of our friends and colleagues have begun to look inward to ask if we are genuinely diverse and inclusive of ideas with which we may not always agree.”