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Koch Brother Front Group Americans For Prosperity Pushes Smear Campaign Against Me

By Lee Fang  

"Koch Brother Front Group Americans For Prosperity Pushes Smear Campaign Against Me"

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Levi Russell, Americans for Prosperity Director of Public Affairs, contributed to a blog post calling Lee a "liar." Russell, however, erroneously quoted the conversation and has refused to issue a correction.

Levi Russell, Americans for Prosperity Director of Public Affairs, contributed to a blog post calling me a “liar.” Russell, however, erroneously quoted the conversation and has refused to issue a correction.

Yesterday, Americans for Prosperity, the corporate front group founded and financed by the Koch Brothers, posted a blog post titled: “Lee Fang Lies.” The post, which was Tweeted and promoted by other conservative groups, accuses me of misrepresenting myself at the Americans for Prosperity Defending the Dream Summit last Friday. The allegations are all demonstrably false. I called AFP on the phone today to explain that their post was false and gave them an opportunity to retract it. The Americans for Prosperity’s Levi Russell, the press person involved in the smear, responded: “No, I’m not going to correct it.”

The Americans for Prosperity blog post claims that, in order to receive a press credential, I said that I was a student from California (view a copy of the post here):

Lee Fang, a blogger with “Think Progress,” lied to event organizers about his residency and status in an attempt to gain media access to the Defending the American Dream Summit, held this past weekend at the Washington Convention Center. Fang told Americans for Prosperity Foundation that he is a student “visiting from California,” who “had to fly home tomorrow” and had really hoped to cover the event.

However, Fang is listed as a “resident of Prince George’s County, Maryland” on his ThinkProgress author page. His wikipedia page says that he “attended college at the University of Maryland, College Park.” [...] Fang regularly impugns conservative authors as dishonest, yet characteristic of his reporting, his preferred tactic is dishonesty and lies.

I did say that I live in California, and that I was hoping to attend the conference before going home the next day. That is because I live in California and was traveling home that Saturday. Despite Americans for Prosperity’s best research efforts, I moved away from my native Prince George’s County several years ago, and relocated finally to northern California about seven months ago. The biography page cited by Americans for Prosperity is obviously out of date. Moreover, Americans for Prosperity never reached out for a clarification and, if they had looked past Wikipedia, I broadcast the fact that I now live in California on a regular basis when I appear on television and radio.

Unfortunately for Americans for Prosperity, I had been interviewing folks going into to the event on my way into the conference, and had a voice recorder still on in my pocket during the exchange with the group’s media staffers. The transcript of the entire conversation between myself, my ThinkProgress colleague Travis Waldron, and the Americans for Prosperity media staff is on tape, and clearly shows that I introduced myself as a ThinkProgress reporter, not a “student.” Click more at the bottom of the screen to read a transcript of the tape, or listen below here:

Contacted today, Americans for Prosperity public affairs director Levi Russell said he was responsible for the post because he “wanted to call you out.” Russell would not tell me the last name of the other Americans for Prosperity staffer I spoke to, who identified himself as Adam. Asked to issue a correction and apology for the smear, Russell said: “No, I’m not going to correct it.”

For a full transcript of our conversation with Americans for Prosperity, click more.

FANG: Over here. Media’s here. Hi!

AFP PRESS STAFFER (ADAM): Hi.

FANG: How you doing?

AFP PRESS STAFFER (ADAM): Good, you? [inaudible]

FANG: We e-mailed a couple of times, didn’t get a response back. But uh, we’re trying to cover this conference.

AFP PRESS STAFFER (ADAM): Where you from?

FANG: ThinkProgress.

AFP PRESS STAFFER (ADAM): ThinkProgress? Okay. Um, who’d you send it into?

FANG: The–

WALDRON: The media@…

FANG: AFPHQ–

WALDRON: And then I called [inaudible]

AFP PRESS STAFFER (Adam speaking to AFP’s public affairs director Levi Russell): Hey we got Lee and Travis from ThinkProgress. Did we get their…

RUSSELL: Um… did you guys send an e-mail registering?

WALDRON: Yeah, I sent an e-mail Tuesday and another one yesterday. And then I called [inaudible]

RUSSELL: Did you get a confirmation?

WALDRON: No, I didn’t. That’s why we’re here.

[sound of people next to us registering]

RUSSELL: Let me just look through what I’ve got.

FANG: Thanks, Levi.

RUSSELL: [inaudible] You submitted the e-mail?

WALDRON: I did. W-A-L-D-R-O-N. That’s my last name.

[sound of people next to us registering]

[Lee Fang chats with Evan McMorris-Santoro from Talking Points Memo]

RUSSELL: I do have an e-mail from Travis, I don’t see any requests from you.

FANG: I thought he did a +1 for me?

WALDRON: Because I asked for two–

RUSSELL: This ain’t the prom night. There are no +1′s. You gotta make your request just like everybody else.

FANG: Uh, do you think you can make any kind of accommodations?

RUSSELL: Well, I can’t find anything you sent in, but he sent it in. So I’m making an accommodation for Travis.

WALDRON: I made mine for both of us–

RUSSELL: You might have another person with you but there wasn’t any follow-up. This event’s been in the works for months and months and months.

FANG: Yeah, I live in California. I didn’t know I would be here this long, but I’m just doing a longer trip. But it would be great to just cover this–

RUSSEL: Yeah. Sorry.

FANG: Just one quick exception?

RUSSELL: Are you here tomorrow?

FANG: I’ll be here for half the day tomorrow. My flight’s tomorrow night.

RUSSELL: There is, if you’re interested, you can buy a registration for tomorrow. That you can–

FANG: But I can’t buy one for today? I don’t mind paying.

RUSSELL: It’s closed. The registration for today, we’re at capacity.

FANG: Ah, nuts. Hm.

RUSSELL: Yeah, sorry about that! But hold up just for a second, let me get yours.

WALDRON: Okay.

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