Proof

Earlier this week I wrote about the press release and web page on the investigation of Ilhan Omar’s 2009 marriage to her brother in “A tale of Minnesota crime & politics.” Toward the end of my post I noted Miranda Devine’s New York Post column on the investigation. Devine appeared for a three-minute segment on Tucker Carlson Tonight discussing her column. I wrote about it yesterday in “Omar’s Daily Beast of burden.”

Daily Beast contributing editor Justin Baragona purported to take on or take down Carlson’s segment with Devine in “Tucker and Guest’s Source to ‘Prove’ Ilhan Omar Smear? An Accused Child Sex Trafficker.” Baragona wrote (emphasis added, links omitted):

For years now, Omar—a naturalized American citizen born in Somalia—has been dogged by unproven and largely baseless rumors from the right that her ex-husband is actually her biological brother and that she married him so he could obtain American citizenship. As The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer wrote back in 2019, the origin of the conspiracy centers on a single anonymous online post on an obscure Somali diaspora forum.

Despite no proof surfacing to support the politically motivated smear, Carlson—who has maligned Omar as “living proof” U.S. immigration laws are “dangerous”—has been undeterred, relentlessly promoting the conspiracy on his show and hosting anyone who will breathe more life into it. On Wednesday, he brought on New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor Miranda Devine as the latest person to make the case.

As I wrote yesterday, this is Goebbels-level propaganda consistent with the Daily Beast’s approach to the case. Over the past five years we have published voluminous “proof” (i.e., evidence tending to support the existence of a relevant fact) of the sibling relationship between Omar and Elmi, her first legal (illegal) husband.

From the beginning, my approach to the case has been incremental. Building on my own work as well as that of Preya Samsundar and David Steinberg, the Spectator’s pseudonymous Cockburn — in this case, Dominic Green — examined the “proof” in the June 2019 column “Ilhan Omar lawyer: two marriages hard to explain.” Green is an eminent professional historian and now the editor of Spectator World. He knows how to review and assess evidence. That is what he did in the linked column.

Britain’s widely read Daily Mail also did its thing on the question whether the man Ilhan Omar married in 2009 is her brother. The story by Ross Ibbetson appeared under the headline “Does this photo prove Trump tormentor’s second marriage was a sham? Far-left Ilhan Omar is pictured with her first husband AND her second husband – as Trump accuses him of being her BROTHER and he posts from a beach.” As a bonus, the Daily Mail republished the Cockburn’s Spectator column. Like Cockburn, the Daily Mail compiled available documentary, photographic and social media evidence for the reader’s consideration (i.e., “proof”).

Around the same time we published “David Steinberg: Tying up loose thread in the curious case.” It is a post full of evidence that Steinberg has compiled in the course of his dogged work on the case.

Baragona cites Will Sommer’s 2019 Daily Beast column on the case. I wrote about Sommer’s column in “Daily Mail versus Daily Beast” and in “Stand by your sham: Fact-check edition.” Sommer’s column is hilariously bad. Sommer was unable even to get the year of Rathergate right; he located it in 2000 rather than 2004.

This is an error I pointed out to Sommer that he has silently corrected. Sommer’s link to the wrong Star Tribune story on a point he makes still stands. In any event, the point doesn’t follow from the story Sommer meant to link. He doesn’t understand the problem.

These errors are illustrative of the shoddy quality of his column at the most basic level, but they are the least of it. Like Baragona’s story, Sommer’s column is a pathetic specimen. Sommer started with the conclusion that the question whether Omar married her brother is a “smear” that crawled out of the “fever swamp” and wrote a story to fit. Most of what didn’t fit Sommer missed, misunderstood, ignored, or overlooked.

To take just one example, Sommer overlooked the Star Tribune’s participation in the “smear” campaign along with Omar’s regurgitation of her stock nonresponse and imputation of bigotry to the paper that has treated her almost entirely like a hometown hero. Sommer must have overlooked it because it belied the thesis that we are mired in the “fever swamp.”

When Sommer arrived at a datapoint that he could not overlook or absorb into his “fever swamp” thesis, Sommer wrote: “In 2012, Omar was reunited with Hirsi and had another child with him, but did not legally marry him. In 2014 and 2015, Omar and Hirsi filed joint tax returns together, even though she was still married to Elmi.” Sommer commented: “the political significance of this history is confusing,” and moved on.

Anyone who has followed the story knows that we now have documentary evidence, social media posts, the campaign finance board investigative file, and Omar’s own comments to take into account. Baragona to the contrary notwithstanding, this is what is known as “proof.” Baragona’s story is itself proof that the Daily Beast is something other than it purports to be.

NOTE: I wrote Sommer about his story at the time:

Will: I have read your Daily Beast Omar piece. I think your concern for accuracy is well reflected in your assertion that Power Line “became briefly famous in the 2000 election for discrediting forged documents on George W. Bush’s National Guard service.” I won’t comment on your gibe that we were briefly famous long ago, to borrow the Dylan phrase, but we have survived, and it was the 2004 campaign.

It’s easy to make a mistake like that when you’re in a hurry. However I think you willfully misrepresent the facts. You assert that in my original August 2016 Power Line post on Omar I “speculated’ she had married her brother. I don’t think that is either fair or accurate. I dispute it.

As you know, but do not tell your readers, I called and wrote the Omar campaign to ask whether Elmi was her brother. I received an insulting nonresponse response from a criminal defense attorney, which I quoted verbatim. (My further questions for Omar, sent to the attorney as she had directed, went with no response at all.) You do not link to my post, note my inquiry to the Omar campaign, or refer to Omar’s insulting nonresponse response. Why?

My original Power Line post, referred to above, is “Ilhan Omar: Her back pages.” Sommer responded to my email: “Hey Scott, in terms of the speculation stuff — you were absolutely speculating. So I’m happy with that.” On the contrary, however, I drew a reasonable inference from the attorney’s nonresponse response to my inquiry. The reasonableness of my inference has been borne out many times over since then. The inference was something other than pure speculation, but this is a subtlety far beyond the world of the Daily Beast.

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