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Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington February 10, 2011. The CPAC is a project of the American Conservative Union Foundation.  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was concerned about Chuck Hagel's links to the fictional "Friends of Hamas" group
It should have been stupid enough: Earlier this month, Breitbart.com launched a sensational attack against defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel suggesting that he had been on the payroll of a shadowy terrorist organization called "Friends of Hamas." The only problem? No such group exists.

But the fact that it was entirely imaginary didn't stop Republicans from running with it, including both a U.S. Senator, a  former Republican presidential candidate, and the right wing media. That was a hilarious demonstration of the right's desperation, but we still didn't know how the story got wings in the first place. Today, we learned the answer.

It turns out that "Friends of Hamas" entered the right-wing discourse thanks to a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill who didn't realize that a reporter was telling a joke when he asked that staffer whether Hagel had ever received backing from "Friends of Hamas" or France's "Junior League of Hezbollah." As New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman writes:

The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.

Or so I thought.

That was on February 6. The very next day, Breitbart.com's story came out. Friedman's source denied pitching Breitbart.com on the "story" but told him that he had discussed the group (which, don't forget, was imaginary) with others. As Friedman says, you'd think that even despite not getting his joke that that somebody along the line would have taken five seconds to figure out that Friends of Hamas doesn't exist, but apparently these guys are serious about not letting anything get between them and a good story.

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