During questioning, Delegate to the US House from the Virgin Islands and ranking committee member Stacey Plaskett questioned Taibbi about who gave him access to the documents that he would later use as the basis for his reporting on the inner workings of Twitter, which became the Twitter Files. Taibbi had said that a source contacted him and asked him if he'd be interested in seeing those documents, and it was about a week later that he first released his reporting on the topic.
Plaskett asked, "Did Mr. Musk contact you Mr. Taibbi?"
"The attribution for my story is sources at Twitter," Taibbi replied. Plaskett asked Shellenberger the same question.
"No," Shellenberger replied, noting that former New York Times journalist Bari Weiss, now of The Free Press, had brought him in to do reporting on the topic. "There's been a lot of misinformation, or disinformation about that."
"So Mr. Weiss brought you in," Plaskett interrupted, revealing by her use of "mister" that she has no idea who Weiss is. Plaskett continued speaking over Shellenberger, refusing to let him answer the question.
"Mr. Taibbi," Plaskett pivoted, "have you had conversations with Elon Musk?"
"I have," he replied. Plaskett asked about the "conditions" that were placed on Taibbi's reporting on the documents from Twitter.
Ohio's Jim Jordan, the chair of the committee, asked Plaskett to yield a second of her time and asked her outright if she was "trying to get journalists to expose their sources?"
"I'm not," she said.
"It sure sounds like it," Jordan replied.
At the outset of the hearing, Plaskett had called Taibbi a "so-called' journalist, and he countered by listing off his awards and detailing some of the finer points of his journalistic resume, which is expansive.
Only a short while later, Texas' Democrat Sylvia Garcia addressed Taibbi, saying "I want to follow up a little bit on the ranking member's questions. When was the first time that Mr. Musk approached you about writing the Twitter Files?"
"Again, Congresswoman," Taibbi began, only to be interrupted by Garcia.
"I just need a date, sir."
"But I can't give it to you, unfortunately," he said, "because this is a question of sourcing and I'm a journalist, I don't give up my sources."
"It's not a question of sources it's a question of chronology," Garcia said, though Taibbi said that no, it was a question about sourcing. Garcia continued to press the point, saying "Because you earlier had said that someone had sent you through the internet some message about whether or not you would be interested in some information."
"Yes," Taibbi confirmed, "and I referred to that person as a source."
"So you're not going to tell us when Musk first approached you," Garcia said, making assumptions that were unfounded based on Taibbi's testimony.
"Again, Congresswoman," Taibbi attempted to explain, "you're asking a journalist to reveal a source."
Garcia continued with the assumptions, asking "So you consider Mr. Musk to be a direct source of all this?"
"No," Taibbi said, "now you're trying to get me to reveal that he is the source, I just can't answer your question."
"Well either he is or he isn't," Garcia said. "If you're telling me you can't answer because it's your source well then the only logical conclusion is that he is, in fact, your source."
"Well you're free to conclude that," Taibbi said.
"Well you can't have it both ways," Garcia said, trying to move on. She was interrupted by Jordan.
"No, he can, he's a journalist," Jordan said.
"No, he can't," interrupted Plaskett, "because either Musk is the source and he can't talk about it or Musk is not the source, and if Musk is not the source, then he can discuss his conversations—"
Jordan reminded Plaskett that she was speaking out of turn and had not been yielded any time. A heated argument over who was allowed to speak during those moments ensued, with Plaskett unable to contain her commentary.
"He has not said that," Jordan broached. "What he said is that he's not going to reveal his source, and the fact that Democrats are pressuring him to do so is such a violation of the first amendment."
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