Young Turks journalist David Sirota is known for stirring division within the Democratic Party. Throughout 2015 and 2016, he dedicated most of his reporting to attacking Hillary Clinton while showering Bernie Sanders with praise, despite receiving criticism for failing to disclose his ties to Sanders (for whom he'd worked as a spokesperson when Sanders was a Congressman).
Since then, Sirota has used his platform to attack centrist Democrats rather than cover the Republican Party's misuse of power. In the past 24 hours, he has said nothing about the GOP's plans to hobble the powers of incoming Democratic governors and attorney generals in states like Wisconsin and Michigan; instead choosing to spend most of his time launching a series of attacks at one of the Democrats' rising stars, Beto O'Rourke.
In a series of tweets, Sirota implied that O'Rourke was the second-biggest recipient of oil and gas industry donations during the 2018 election cycle:
However, Sirota's claims simply don't add up when subjected to the most basic levels of scrutiny. During his campaign, O'Rourke pledged not to take any money from PACs, and for the most part, he stayed true to his word, eschewing big corporate donors like the ones he was accused of accepting. O'Rourke's commitment to taking small donations from his supporters made him the best-funded Senate candidate in 2018. According to independent, Texas-based journalist Leah McElrath, the numbers Sirota cites come from individual donors - not corporations.
Since the majority of O'Rourke's donations came from Texas residents, it's only natural that people who worked within the oil and gas industries would have given to his campaign. And while he was the number one recipient of funds from oil and gas employees, he was also number one across many other fields as well:
Beto Donations by Industry
The numbers from oil and gas become more paltry when compared to other contributions from industry and non-industry folks alike:
McElrath wasn't the only person to point out Sirota's faulty logic. Many prominent Democrats and left-leaning journalists chimed in as well:
This kind of accusation sets a dangerous precedent given it can be used to attack any candidate without context. If you wanted to apply the same logic to Bernie Sanders, you could use the same website, opensecretes.org, to accuse him of receiving huge donations from military, healthcare, and agricultural industries. These donations of course, all came from individuals associated with those industries, and not PACs.
Sirota has spent the last 12 hours defending his statements, saying that they "prompted a meltdown by Centrist Twitter." He insists it's fair game to attack someone based on their donors because Hillary Clinton did it to Obama during the 2008 primaries. He then tried to portray O'Rourke as a servant to big energy, by taking this statement below completely out of context:
Let's look carefully at what O'Rourke actually said:
"I think that natural gas that we use as a cleaner energy source here in this country could be something that replaces coal-fired plants in China, in India — two of the largest economies on the planet that are burning coal and contributing to climate change. I’d much rather they burn natural gas from Texas that’s connected to jobs here. It’s connected to a much cleaner way to produce energy than coal. I think that’s a great job opportunity and an environmentally responsible opportunity."
The science on this is clear: burning natural gas produces nearly half as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy when compared with coal. While not perfect, O'Rourke's plan to replace coal-fired plants in China and India with natural gas plants in Texas would radically reduce global CO2 emissions. If you read Sirota's tweet that highlights only a few words, you'd get the impression O'Rourke was actively trying to destroy the environment.
These dishonest attacks on centrist Democrats are something of a Sirota speciality. He has built a brand on holding the Democratic party to impossible standards of perfection, and is apparently willing to destroy his own integrity in the process.