Reuters reporter takes heat for sitting on Beto O’Rourke hacker story until after Senate race against Cruz

Reuters is facing ethical questions after admitting that reporter Joseph Menn sat on an unfavorable story about media darling Beto O’Rourke until after his crucial Senate race against Ted Cruz.

Reuters published its report Friday on the “Cult of the Dead Cow,” a famous group of hackers credited with inventing the term “hacktivism,” and revealed that now-2020 presidential candidate O'Rourke was a member. The group is responsible for a variety of shady activity like stealing credit card numbers to pay for long-distance telephone service, violating copyright laws and hacking into computers, according to the report, which stressed that O'Rourke himself never "engaged in the edgiest sorts of hacking activity."

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The report also revealed that a teenage Beto, in connection with the group, wrote bizarre fiction stories under the name “Psychedelic Warlord” -- including one story detailing the murder of two children.

The report was embarrassing for O’Rourke, who expressed regret for his past actions and writings shortly after the article's publication.

But the reporter, it turns out, knew about this history since 2017 -- and sat on it. According to Menn, members of the hacking group were protecting O'Rourke's identity and wouldn't confirm his affiliation unless the reporter promised not to write about it until after the November election. They apparently struck a deal.

Reuters reporter Joseph Menn agree to sit on an unfavorable story about Beto O’Rourke until his Senate race was over.

Reuters reporter Joseph Menn agree to sit on an unfavorable story about Beto O’Rourke until his Senate race was over.

“After more than a year of reporting, Menn persuaded O’Rourke to talk on the record. In an interview in late 2017, O’Rourke acknowledged that he was a member of the group, on the understanding that the information would not be made public until after his Senate race against Ted Cruz in November 2018,” Reuters wrote Friday in a piece headlined, “Backstory: How Reuters uncovered Beto O'Rourke's teenage hacking days.”

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Cruz – who defeated O’Rourke – took to Twitter to vent over Reuters' decision.

“So Reuters had evidence in 2017 that Beto may have committed multiple felonies -- which Beto confirmed on the record -- but deliberately withheld the story for over a year to help him win his Senate race? But when he’s running against Bernie etc, NOW it’s news?” Cruz tweeted.

“This is -- yet again -- a chilling example of just how pervasive the liberal media bias is today. It’s not just in how they report stories, but when and the standards they use to employ for that coverage. At every turn conservatives are held to a different standard than liberals,” conservative strategist Chris Barron told Fox News.

Reuters defended the outlet's handling of the story when reached for comment Monday.

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“While he was on leave from Reuters and writing a book on the Cult of the Dead Cow, Joe Menn made an agreement regarding the embargo date of his interview with Beto O’Rourke. This is a common arrangement between journalists and sources, which we described in detail in a Reuters Backstory article on Friday,” a Reuters spokesperson told Fox News.

Menn attempted to explain the situation in a series of tweets, saying nobody would discuss O’Rourke’s involvement until he promised not to jeopardize his chance at unseating Cruz -- but he was fine with it because he wanted the information for his book.

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“That was OK: I wanted the full story for my book, which spans decades, rather than 1 scoop ahead of a state vote. I offered O’Rourke the same terms. He accepted, and we spoke,” Menn wrote.  “No one thought he would lose the Senate race & immediately enter onto an even bigger stage, but here we are, and the embargo is up. The book is out soon, O’Rourke is running for president, and people should hear the missing part of his story.”

But conservative commentators were stunned.

Mark Levin called it “another shocking media fraud,” while radio host Hugh Hewitt said the move is “troubling.”

“This is a weak attempt to cover his own backside. He wanted to be first to break the story about Beto after he announced for President so he went ahead and did so on Friday. Then when it got out that he hid the story in 2018, he starts using his book as an excuse. It doesn’t add up,” RedState’s Bonchie wrote. "If he truly wanted to save it for his book he would have, you know, actually saved it for his book."

“This is why people do not trust the media,” Daily Wire reporter Ryan Saavedra wrote.

“Walter Cronkite used to claim that the media reported the news straight and let the chips fall where they may. But they don't. Liberals hold their chips like they're always playing political poker. Transparency is often delayed, or never employed,” Media Research Center director of media analysis Tim Graham wrote about Menn’s decision.

Fox News’ Liam Quinn contributed to this report.