Flashback: Remember When The Media Loved Assange?

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Phillip Stucky Political Reporter
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The media rejected Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for publishing hacked emails allegedly from the Clinton campaign, but it wasn’t long ago that liberal journalists praised Assange as a “patriot” for revealing Bush administration secrets.

Vox Editor-in-Chief and columnist for The Washington Post Ezra Klein defended Assange and whistleblower Edward Snowden throughout several posts in 2013 before changing his stance just three years later.

Klein quoted President Barack Obama when he said that U.S. security is handled “with open debate and democratic process.”  “If that’s so, then Edward Snowden should be hailed as a hero. There’s simply no doubt that his leaks led to more open debate and more democratic process than would’ve existed otherwise,” Klein wrote in a piece published in August, 2013, under the title, “Edward Snowden, patriot.”

“Assange isn’t whistleblowing or leaking,” Klein wrote. “Both of those are targeted acts focused on an identified wrongdoing or event. He’s simply taking the private and making it public, with relatively little in the way of discrimination.”

Klein himself appeared in the leaked emails, in which staffers of the Clinton campaign identified Klein as a potential “attack dog” for the campaign to use in order to keep other journalists in line.

“I think that person, the degree to which they exist, is Ezra Klein. And we can do it with him today,” Jennifer Palmieri wrote to senior advisor Cheryl Mills in a leaked email.

Klein’s perspective appears to have changed, as the columnist asks why Assange hates Clinton in an October, 2016, article published in Vox. “So what’s going on? Why does it seem like WikiLeaks hates Clinton so much?”

“In recent months, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed has started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers,” Robert Mackey wrote in The Intercept.

Klein’s assertion that Russia could be behind the Clinton leaks comes from the simple idea that Trump wasn’t harmed from any of the Wikileaks releases. “Trump has his secrets — like, say, his tax returns — yet WikiLeaks isn’t publishing those,” Klein argued.

“So where is WikiLeaks’ information coming from? Is it from Russia, which seems to have been responsible for the DNC hack? And if it is, what’s the nature of the Russia-WikiLeaks connection,” Klein asked, before acknowledging that actually proving the Russian allegations would prove incredibly difficult.

“But the fact that they even have to be asked at all raises troubling questions about the role WikiLeaks is playing in the US election,” Klein asserts.

Klein was hardly the only journalist that supported Assange when he revealed Bush-era secrets. The New York Times published a glowing review of the man willing to brave the ire of the most powerful nation of the world to bring truth to the masses.

“The reporters came to think of Assange as smart and well educated, extremely adept technologically but arrogant, thin-skinned, conspiratorial and oddly credulous,” The Times reported in a glowing 2011 article. “At lunch one day in The Guardian’s cafeteria, Assange recounted with an air of great conviction a story about the archive in Germany that contains the files of the former Communist secret police, the Stasi.”

The hard-hitting news featured Assange’s youthfulness as well, “Schmitt told me that for all Assange’s bombast and dark conspiracy theories, he had a bit of Peter Pan in him,” the article said.

“One night, when they were all walking down the street after dinner, Assange suddenly started skipping ahead of the group. Schmitt and Goetz stared, speechless. Then, just as suddenly, Assange stopped, got back in step with them and returned to the conversation he had interrupted.”

The Times printed an August, 2016, Associated Press article published by Frank Augstein that noticed just how much Russia benefited from Assange’s leaks.

“Notably absent from Mr. Assange’s analysis, however, was criticism of another world power, Russia, or its president, Vladimir V. Putin, who has hardly lived up to Wikileaks’ ideal of transparency,” the article asserted.

Assange appeared to bat away such arguments by asserting that countries like Russia are a “bit player” on the global stage, and asserted that the actions of the U.S. and China are much more important to focus on due to the depth of influence the two countries have on global affairs.

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