Washington Babylon — November 13, 2008, 9:43 am

Martin Eisenstadt: America’s Best Pundit

There was a funny, well-executed hoax edition of the New York Times published yesterday, with a main headline of “IRAQ WAR ENDS.” Then this morning someone sent me an email link to a very amusing Times story about a hoax pulled on journalists and bloggers by a phony fellow at the non-existent Hardy Institute for Freedom and Democracy. This might be a hoax story about a hoax, but for the moment I’m assuming it is genuine:

It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Mr. Shuster said. Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.

And the claim of credit for the Africa anecdote is just the latest ruse by Eisenstadt, who turns out to be a very elaborate hoax that has been going on for months. MSNBC, which quickly corrected the mistake, has plenty of company in being taken in by an Eisenstadt hoax, including The New Republic and The Los Angeles Times…

They [the hoaxers] say the blame lies not with them but with shoddiness in the traditional news media and especially the blogosphere. “With the 24-hour news cycle they rush into anything they can find,” said Mr. Mirvish, 40. Mr. Gorlin, 39, argued that Eisenstadt was no more of a joke than half the bloggers or political commentators on the Internet or television.

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More from Ken Silverstein:

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