In early January 2018, hackers targeted the emails of Los Angeles businessman, political activist, and philanthropist Elliott Broidy, his wife, and his personal assistant. Over the course of the next several months, according to a legal complaint filed this summer, these cyberattackers accessed thousands of confidential documents and communications on his company’s server and in email accounts.
Although Broidy isn’t known to many outside political circles, his story serves as a harrowing warning of the capacity of a hyper-partisan media to be influenced by foreign operatives in an effort to “take down” President Trump. Indeed, by the end of February, political operatives had allegedly combed through Broidy’s personal records, packaged them into storylines, and began feeding them to reporters.
In no time — and through the next several months, continuing even until last week — a flurry of embarrassing stories about Broidy appeared across major publications. The latest salvo came from The New York Times, where former Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel lodged the paper’s 10th major story on Broidy in the last 19 months, which was later followed by an 11th designed solely to amplify and condense the 10th.
Amid the hundreds of articles, amplified by the echo chamber of anti-Trump resistance, it becomes important to ask why the press is so focused on Broidy. Broidy has never served in or sought any kind of political office. He’s a longtime GOP donor and fundraiser for pro-Israel and conservative causes, especially as they relate to America’s national security and the War on Terror.
But he’s hardly the Republican mega-donor prototype the left usually attempts to eviscerate, such as Sheldon Adelson, Bernie Marcus, or the Koch brothers. He garnered the ire of the left because, in 2017, he became this country’s most prominent critic of Qatar and its support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Left’s Alliance with Qatar
Qatar and the American left make for odd bedfellows. But, as David Reaboi has written here at The Federalist, Qatar’s cunning strategy of aligning itself with the American left has paid incredible dividends. Qatar’s enemies are now the left’s — and by default, the media’s — enemies. Reaboi writes:
In a messaging decision that has had profound strategic consequences, the tiny Gulf emirate has been deftly speaking the left’s language. Qatar was able to appeal to partisan journalists by tailoring its propaganda and messaging to find a receptive audience. By echoing issues of concern to the political left — like Islamophobia, anti-capitalism, white supremacy, and the like — Qatari media outlets, lobbyists, and agents of influence have been able to amass a great deal of goodwill from this very powerful community with giant megaphones.
In summer 2017, shortly following President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel, a tense conflict broke out between Qatar and its neighbors. The Gulf monarchies, which have long been American allies in the region, demanded the Qataris cease their promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood and use of their Al Jazeera network to broadcast anti-regime agitation into their countries. The Saudis, Emiratis, and others instituted a blockade against Qatar, which defiantly clung to its support for the Brotherhood Islamists, including the antisemitic hate preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Broidy’s Warnings About Threats of Islamism
For the last two decades, Broidy has been among those warning about the threat of political Islam, financially supporting many of the experts doing research and advocacy on behalf of a robust response to this danger. He served on President George W. Bush’s Homeland Security Advisory Council from 2006 to 2009, engaging with a spectrum of security officials, ranging from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to former CIA and FBI Director William Webster to terrorism expert and lecturer Walid Phares.
When the cold war broke out between Qatar and its neighbors, Broidy reasoned that America’s Muslim allies in the Middle East could deal a significant blow to the Islamist movement he saw as a threat to this country and Israel. As a result, according to The New York Times, Broidy engaged in business in the region based on this shared view of the threat posed by the Brotherhood, especially in the United Arab Emirates.
While Broidy was shoring up allies in the Middle East to combat the Brotherhood, Qatar was engaged in a massive public relations offensive. It funded media outlets (outright and through millions in advertising dollars) and think tanks such as the Brookings Institution and the International Crisis Group. It also was employing a massive retinue of lobbyists at many millions of dollars per month. Broidy, The Daily Beast writes:
…was particularly incensed that Nick Muzin, a former staffer to Sen. Ted Cruz with deep ties to Jewish leaders, had signed on to lobby for the government of Qatar. They’d run in the same tight-knit circle of Jewish Republicans and Broidy saw Muzin as a traitor. The country’s connections to Iran — with which it shares a huge gas field — have long angered many in the pro-Israel community. And its ownership of Al Jazeera also fuels opposition from many supporters of Israel.
‘I want to Puke,’ he wrote in an email to his wife on Sept. 6 . ‘What a moron.’
‘Is this guy a self-hating Jew or an idiot?’ she replied. ‘What can you do?’
Broidy pushed back against Qatar’s charm offensive in the United States, and particularly inside the Beltway. The New York Times reports on the campaign Broidy launched to warn of the dangers of the Islamist-supporting emirate, including sponsoring conferences at think tanks such as the Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Broidy paid honoraria for speakers at these events and to generate reports and research, providing a much-needed platform for legitimate criticism of Qatar and its funding of terrorism and Islamist incitement.
Journalists Doing the ‘Dirty Work’
Cyberattacks like this, weaponized by a press corps ethically unconcerned with receiving stolen and hacked documents, are a brutal new way of fighting an information war. To explain, refute, or contextualize the accusations (which could often be baseless or fabricated) involves getting down into the mud with journalists and operatives with limitless budgets and no concern for fairness, especially when dealing with anyone who supported Trump. For a hyper-partisan media, every response is an excuse to highlight the story once more.
Interestingly, David Kirkpatrick and Declan Walsh of The New York Times are listed as having contributed to Vogel’s recent story. National security writer Jordan Schachtel notes all three reporters are listed on Foreign Agent Registration Act filings for meeting with Qatari lobbyists about the ongoing operation against Broidy.
While Broidy’s lawsuit alleges a campaign by Qatar’s agents and lobbyists to hack and distribute his stolen materials, such accusations haven’t yet been established as factual in court. We do know, however, that registered foreign agents of Qatar are meeting with scores of journalists, which lends a great deal of credence to the accusations.
I found docs showing both u & the 2 other journos on this piece all communicated w/ Qatari lobbyists for their DC embassy prior to publishing story. Shouldn't NYT readers know what foreign regimes u are getting info from when reporting on MidEast affairs?https://t.co/wFxJ8X5lM1
— Jordan Schachtel @ dossier.substack.com (@JordanSchachtel) August 13, 2019
In addition to his stance on Qatar, Broidy’s closeness with the president made him a likely target of the left’s anger. Indeed, the recent (and frankly, absurd) fury at investor Stephen Ross for attending a Long Island fundraiser with the president is a prime indication that, for a growing segment of the left, no association with those of differing political views can be tolerated.
For those unfamiliar, Ross is chairman of the company that owns controlling stakes in the exercise chains Equinox Fitness and SoulCycle, both popular spots in America’s hyper-progressive metropolitan areas. In response, the media was able to promptly generate the requisite outrage stories, urging Trump-hating liberals to cancel their gym memberships due to the utter heresy.
The Dangers of a Hyper-Partisan Press
The media’s behavior toward Broidy, whether stemming from a desire to protect Qatar or to bash Trump, is deeply troublesome. The treatment of Broidy evinces a growing acceptance among reporters to use illegally hacked documents (in Broidy’s case, from operatives working for Qatar) and then to hide the sources for their stories.
The allegations Broidy put forth paint a stark picture: a foreign government hacking an American citizen in an attempt to silence him by tarnishing his reputation. Given the number of New York Times articles Vogel has penned about Broidy, based on these stolen emails, the reporter apparently has a long-standing relationship with people who allegedly committed a serious crime and is eagerly assisting their alleged crusade against the former Republican donor.
Moreover, there is great irony in the coverage Vogel and his media colleagues have offered. Their coverage endlessly suggests Broidy was attempting to influence the American political debate on behalf of foreign interests. Yet Vogel’s articles, like so many others about Broidy, are based on emails allegedly supplied by Qatari hackers seeking to destroy a prominent critic. If the allegations are true, who is actually doing public relations work for a foreign country here?
To be sure, the kind of policy advocacy The New York Times is alleging is well within the bounds of activity that is common for think tanks. Donors approach a think tank with broadly aligned policy and ideological visions and pay them to do the work they would ordinarily engage in. Like any recipient of a donation, a think tank is free to refuse funds if it appears strings are attached or if the donor’s vision conflicts with the organization’s mission or priorities.
What isn’t common, however, is the weaponization of hacked documents and the strategic laundering of that information through the press. Broidy’s alleged plight highlights the dangers of having a hyper-partisan press, whose biases make them susceptible to foreign influence — if that influence happens to hate Trump enough.