The Case Against Tom Matzzie

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 25 2013 2:58 PM

The Case Against Tom Matzzie


Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The left has hoisted Tom Matzzie on its collective shoulders like the quarterback who just threw the game-winning ball in the big game against State. Matzzie live-tweeted what former NSA boss Michael Hayden was telling a journalist as a "former administration official"—afterward, the former MoveOn activist got a picture with the former spook.

This has come as unwelcome surprise to Matzzie's critics on the left. Mike Elk, a labor reporter for In These Times, writes in to warn his peers:

It’s so hypocritical for Matzzie to paint himself as some kind of progressive hero for eavesdropping on former Bush Administration CIA Director Michael Hayden hypocritically bashing on background to reporters the Obama Administration's record on overseas spying. If you remember the story I did on CREW selling out, Matzzie lied about representing the for-profit college industry and then smeared well intended education activists by claiming that they were secretly being on the payroll of Wall Street short seller. He then smeared me then a 24 year old unknown reporter so hard that the American Prospect, which published the piece, had to write a blog post essentially defending the integrity of the story.
When I wrote my piece on CREW, I later heard from someone that Matzzie was going around saying "Elk is Crazy" and then pointing out a 2009 piece I wrote on my struggle with Asperger’s syndrome. I can't prove he said that about Asperger’s, but I do have an email where Matzzie ensued that I was a liar and inferred that I was smearing him in order to "whore traffic". Later, Matzzie had to correct the record that indeed his firm was employed by the for profit school industry in order to keep his spot as HuffPost blogger (see here).  
Ironically, Matzzie engaged in the same type of dirty smearing off me off the record that he is now criticizing Michael Hayden over. Tom Matzzie is being hailed as a hero by many in the progressive media, but he is no hero. He is a hypocrite and a liar who was secretly employed as a corporate lobbyist to use his progressive credentials to smear well intended education activists as being corporate sellouts and then attempted to smear me as lying to "whore traffic". Matzzie will surely try to use the attention garnered by his Today Show appearance and a segment on Chris Hayes tonight to relaunch his career as a progressive superstar activist, but progressive should be weary of how Matzzie previously used his progressive credentials to falsely smear well intended education activists and my credibility as a then-unknown freelance reporter.  
I hope you ask him about what he did on CREW because I have never seen a progressive activist sell out by hurting the reputation of so many honest progressives as Matzzie did. 

UPDATE: Sorry, this deserved a bit more context. The NSA scandal is a scrambler of old ideological and intra-ideological alliances. There is tomorrow, for example, a "Stop Watching Us" rally in D.C. that's endorsed by lefty groups and by libertarians like Gary Johnson. The presence of libertarians there has been attacked at great length by Mark Ames and by Tom Watson, who are telling the like-minded that the old right is only co-opting the movement. Is the outrage enough to overcome this sort of civil warring? We're awful early in the process; an actual bill to restrict the NSA's activity will only be introduced in the House on Tuesday.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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