If you happen to follow Richard Grenell on Twitter, you may have noticed the Republican operative and Fox News contributor questioning the journalistic chops of several reporters on Thursday.
That’s nothing new for Grenell, a self-styled media critic and former spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign, but the source of his outrage this time was a piece in the New York Times by reporter Jennifer Steinhauer.
Steinhauer wrote about the parade of neoconservatives, including Grenell’s former boss at the United Nations, John Bolton, who have surfaced on television in recent weeks to “to say ‘We told you so’ on Iraq.”
The description of Steinhauer’s efforts to land an interview with Bolton, the former UN ambassador, struck many as peculiar.
“Mr. Bolton’s spokesman, Richard Grenell, said Mr. Bolton would not agree to be interviewed for this article unless the reporter had a Republican lawmaker email on her behalf,” Steinhauer wrote in the piece, which was published online on Wednesday.
That nugget was highlighted by reporters like Time’s Michael Scherer and Politico’s Dylan Byers, prompting a lecture on journalism ethics from Grenell, who said they should have checked sources before repeating a false story.
Grenell disputed the notion that he is Bolton’s spokesman, but it wasn’t totally clear what else in Steinhauer’s piece bothered him. When Scherer asked Grenell what actually happened, Grenell said he gave his “side to a real journalist who is working on a story to show the silly error.”
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) June 19, 2014
The journalist turned out to be The Daily Caller’s Patrick Howley, who published Grenell’s account on Friday morning. Grenell said he made it clear immediately to Steinhauer that he “didn’t work for John Bolton” and that he “was suspect of her and her paper’s agenda.”
He told the Daily Caller that Steinahuer emailed him several times “with odd quips and shorthand messages defending her credibility and trying to be humorous about it.” Steinhauer also “tried talking a little trash about an official Bolton gatekeeper,” Grenell added.
And Grenell told the conservative website that it was Steinhauer who proposed having a Republican lawmaker vouch for her credibility.
“In the course of her trying to make the case that she was a fair journalist, she said that there were ‘many Republicans that would vouch for my fairness.’ I responded, ‘then tell them to email Bolton and tell him. Maybe it will help.’ She said she could easily do it. I never heard anything else about it. It was a 15 second exchange,” Grenell told the Daily Caller. “The idea that my comment was a later characterized by Steinhauer as a condition is A) laughable and B) ridiculous given she knew I didn’t work for Bolton and wasn’t his spokesman.”
Grenell also said Steinhauer “consecutively” mocked Bolton’s mustache (She made two references to his facial hair in her piece.).
In an email to TPM, Steinhauer disputed Grenell’s account and said she has no record of Howley reaching out to her for comment. Howley wrote that she “did not return a request for comment for this report.”
1. to my knowledge this daily caller reporter did not contact me. i have no VM or emails or tweets from him. maybe he did some other form that i missed as i was on the hill yesterday
2. we had tons of odd quips. it was an odd exchange overall for weeks.
3. no i would not consider releasing my emails. they were exchanges between myself and mr grenell.
4. in our final phone conversation, mr grenell told me if i had a republican lawmaker email mr bolton on my behalf he would consider giving me an interview. i did not opt for that and after weeks of appeals for an interview gave up.
5. that’s all i got! thanks for asking. JS
Grenell also declined when TPM requested to see the email exchange.
Steinhauer told TPM in a subsequent email that she had good reason to believe that Grenell is Bolton’s spokesman.
“I was told by colleagues he was my contact. Over the course of several weeks he presented himself as that, explaining to me that he went to Mr. Bolton at my behest,” she wrote. “In our final call, he provided a great deal of background on Mr. Bolton in what appeared to be a spokesman capacity. He also has a spokeswoman for his PACS.”