More Fake News From Jane Mayer and the New Yorker

Jane Mayer is a failed reporter for the New Yorker who has tried to make a career out of smearing Charles and David Koch. Her latest effort is headlined, “One Koch Brother Forces the Other Out of the Family Business.”

The story begins with the merest kernel of truth: David Koch, a 78-year-old cancer survivor, is in declining health. Accordingly, he is retiring from his positions at Koch Industries. David’s retirement was announced in a letter to the company’s employees written by Charles:

That warm tribute would seem to speak for itself, but it isn’t enough for vicious haters on the Left. Thus, Jane Mayer writes:

Charles also appears to have dominated David’s decision to retire. According to two well-informed individuals close to the family, David, who has been in declining health for several years, had resisted resigning, but Charles forced him out. A business associate who declined to be identified, in order not to jeopardize his ties to the family, told me, “Charles pushed David out. It was done with a wink, and a nod, and a nudge.” A second longtime family associate confirmed this, saying, “Charles had been pushing him out for quite some time. David kept resisting. It was bad. Charles took control.”

And that, of course, was the headline: one Koch brother “forces the other out.” On its face, this is an implausible claim. David and Charles Koch have long collaborated in one of America’s most consequential partnerships. The brothers are extremely close and have been partners, working smoothly together, for decades.

Moreover, as Mayer says, Charles Koch has long been the dominant member of the team when it comes to public policy. Why would he have any reason to “force out” his ailing, but always loyal, brother?

Mayer’s article, like most “news” stories these days, is based entirely on anonymous sources. There are two: “[a] business associate who declined to be identified,” and “[a] second longtime family associate.” So, who are these sources? The leaders of America’s second-largest privately-owned company have countless “business associates” and “family associates.” So who are these two? Someone who works for a company who buys construction materials from Georgia Pacific? A woman who once babysat for David Koch? Without knowing who they are, we have no reason to assume that they have any basis to speculate about the relationship between Charles and David Koch. This is, in other words, a pure smear.

I would go beyond that. What reason do we have to believe that the “business associate” and “family associate” who are the purported sources for this smear actually exist? Why couldn’t Jane Mayer simply have made up the whole thing? If she is not willing to tell us who her sources are, I am not willing to assume that they exist. The only argument for their existence is Mayer’s reputation for reliability, but Mayer has no such reputation.

Jane Mayer is no different from many other reporters; the New York Times and Washington Post come to mind. A majority of their most explosive stories are based entirely on anonymous sources. Do these sources exist? And if so, do they have a legitimate means to know the “facts” that they anonymously leak to political allies in the press? Or are those sources non-existent, made up out of whole cloth by the reporters?

In short, is there any reason why we should ever attribute any credibility to a “news” story based on anonymous sources that is peddled by a partisan reporter like Jane Mayer? I don’t think so.