Why Cernovich?

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We now know that in 2015 Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) settled a sexual harassment claim with a former staffer. The story originated when the notorious alt-right figure Mike Cernovich provided settlement documents to Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed, rightly, independently confirmed the story. The story was thus based on the documents but no longer relied on the documents or their authenticity. Conyers’ office has now confirmed the key details of the story. Conyers denies the underlying accusations and notes that he admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. But that’s really beside the point since that’s in the nature of confidential settlements.

That story of the Conyers settlement now stands on its own without any reference to Cernovich. Numerous Democratic colleagues, including Nancy Pelosi, have now called for an ethics investigation of Conyers.

But that still leaves us with a separate question, one which has no bearing on the validity of the accusations against Conyers. Because again, the facts of this settlement have been confirmed by Buzzfeed and Conyer’s office.

Who was Cernovich’s source for these documents? He says he brought them to Buzzfeed because he knew credentialing and confirmation from a legitimate news organization would add credibility to the story, as it did. But again who is his source?

Normally, all sorts of people can be possible sources and leakers. And a number of people probably had these kinds of documents in their possession. Conyers’ office, the Congressional office that adjudicates these claims, the alleged victim, her legal representatives, members of Conyers staff. There are a number of people who likely had documents like this legitimately in their possession, which is to say not stolen. Whether or not they were allowed to link them is a different question. Leakers are often breaking some rules to leak. But I’m focusing on people who legally possessed them or had legal access to them. People in those positions could have lots of motives for leaking the documents: a desire for justice, revenge, simple belief that the truth should come out.

But here’s my question: which of all the people who had legitimate access to these documents would choose Mike Cernovich to bring them to? He’s an avowed racist. He’s a notorious conspiracy theorist and fabulist. Any of these people could have gone to the Post, the Times, countless news organizations. It is hard for me to figure why they would go to Mike Cernovich. For now I’ll just leave it as a question. Because I have no answer.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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