The top Democrat on the House subcommittee probing the weaponization of the federal government is threatening “Twitter Files” journalist Matt Taibbi with prison time for “false and misleading” testimony before the panel last month.
Stacey Plaskett, the nonvoting delegate for the U.S. Virgin Islands, cited an error in Mr. Taibbi’s reporting in which the journalist referenced the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, as having partnered with Stanford University’s Election Integrity Project in censoring disfavored speech.
The error was included in an installment of the Twitter Files released minutes before Mr. Taibbi appeared before the committee on March 9, in which he warned lawmakers of a sprawling “censorship industrial complex” that has eroded Americans’ freedom of speech.
Mr. Taibbi then told lawmakers: “What we see in The Twitter Files is that Twitter executives did not distinguish between DHS or CISA and this group EIP. For instance, we would see a communication that said, From CISA escalated by EIP.”
“We have come to the realization that this bright line that we imagine that exists between, say, the FBI or the DHS or the GEC and these private companies is illusory and that what’s more important is this constellation of kind of quasi-private organizations that do this work,” he testified.
In a subsequent interview, MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan accused Mr. Taibbi of misleading his audience that the federal government was behind Twitter censorship by conflating CISA, a government outfit, with the non-profit Center for Internet Security.
Mr. Taibbi admitted to the mistake and corrected the Twitter thread following the interview.
A former Intercept reporter who was also given access to the internal Twitter vault, Lee Fang, came to Mr. Taibbi’s defense soon after the Hasan interview.
He clarified that despite the acronym flub in Mr. Taibbi’s thread, he had unveiled other instances of CISA working in cahoots with non-profit groups to influence Twitter.
“Hasan claimed that only CIS, the government contractor, was involved, not CISA. That’s clearly not true, and not something that even CISA, EIP or CIS has claimed in the past,” Mr. Fang wrote on Substack. “The government agency CISA worked hand-in-glove with CIS, in support of EIP. Hasan isn’t explaining any of this to his viewers and is instead engaged in a vicious character assassination effort.”
But according to Ms. Plaskett, Mr. Taibbi has not corrected the record in Congress.
“I would like to provide you with an opportunity to correct the hearing record to ensure accuracy in a congressional hearing and so that the public and their representatives are not misled,” Ms. Plaskett wrote in an April 13 letter to Mr. Taibbi.
“At the beginning of the March 9 hearing, you swore ‘under penalty of perjury that the testimony you [were] about to give [was] true and correct to the best of your knowledge, information, and belief,’” she wrote. “Under the federal perjury statute…providing false information is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.”
She gave Mr. Taibbi until April 21 to respond to a series of questions about the accuracy of his statements to Congress and other installments of the Twitter Files. She is also demanding Mr. Taibbi reveal what role Twitter owner Elon Musk had in the release of the Twitter files.
Mr. Taibbi was one of several journalists given access to Mr. Musk’s vault of internal documents exposing the extent to which the platform, under its previous ownership, pushed to censor disfavored speech.
In December, Mr. Taibbi exposed the extent to which the FBI worked with Twitter executives to moderate content on the platform.
Those efforts included weekly meetings with Twitter executives before the company suppressed the New York Post’s report in 2020 exposing emails found on Hunter Biden’s laptop computer.
The steady drip of internal documents also revealed Twitter’s left-wing bent that led to the censorship of conservative viewpoints and the unprecedented banning of then-President Donald Trump from the platform.
Mr. Taibbi appeared alongside fellow journalist Michael Shellenberger for the hearing before the weaponization panel.
The two witnesses were met with sharp lines of questioning from Democrats.
Ms. Plaskett chided Mr. Taibbi and Mr. Shellenberger as “Elon Musk’s public scribes” and accused them of spreading a “false narrative” of widespread government censorship.
Other Democrats took a similar approach to try to discredit the two witnesses.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, Florida Democrat, said the Twitter Files raised ethical concerns with how journalists “receive and present certain information.”
She called the two journalists “Elon Musk’s handpicked journalists” and accused Mr. Taibbi of profiting from the series of bombshell revelations.