House Democrat Rep. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., falsely claimed that “Twitter Files” journalist Matt Taibbi lied under oath during his congressional testimony and threatened him with prosecution and imprisonment.
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The backlash against journalists reporting on the Department Homeland Security’s reach into social media platforms took an ominous turn in recent days.
In a letter I exclusively obtained, Rep. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., falsely claimed that “Twitter Files” journalist Matt Taibbi lied under oath in his congressional testimony, floating the possibility of criminal prosecution. Plaskett, the same lawmaker who described Taibbi as a “so-called journalist” during his March 9 testimony, also demanded sourcing information and asked that he detail his interactions with Elon Musk.
The Plaskett letter claimed that Taibbi “intentionally” provided false information during his testimony and mentioned the potential consequences of such actions. “Under the federal perjury statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1621, providing false information is punishable by up to five years imprisonment,” Plaskett wrote.
The letter was swiftly condemned by press freedom organizations when reached for comment.
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“It’s disturbing that a member of Congress would attempt to threaten a journalist with imprisonment for summarizing his reporting during a congressional hearing,” said Seth Stern, the director of advocacy with the Freedom of the Press Foundation, in a statement. “It seems apparent that she had no good faith basis to threaten a perjury prosecution and that the threat is an intimidation tactic.”
“Whatever one may think of Taibbi or his reporting on the Twitter files, baselessly threatening to imprison journalists is reprehensible, no matter if the threats are from Democratic members of Congress or Donald Trump,” noted Stern.
“The letter is shocking. The mistake in Taibbi’s tweet does not show that he knowingly lied to Congress,” said Aaron Terr, director of public advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. “It’s hard to think of anything more chilling to a free press than threatening a journalist with prison time based on a single, corrected mistake in their reporting.”
“Whether one agrees or disagrees with whatever practices are uncovered, interactions between the government and big tech are a legitimate focus for journalistic inquiry,” said David Segal, the executive director of Demand Progress.
According to guidance issued to staffers via an email obtained by Axios, the White House refused to pay $8 for Twitter Blue verification.