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Reuters reporter agreed to sit on Beto O’Rourke’s inappropriate past until after the Senate election

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Robert Francis O’Rourke, aka Beto, was a member of the hacking group “Cult of the Dead Cow,” and a reporter with Reuters knew this ahead of the 2018 election, yet told  O’Rourke, who was locked in a battle with incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, he’d sit on the story until after the election.

And while O’Rourke lost that election, he has since thrown his hat in the ring to run for the Democratic nominee for president, and Reuters reporter Joseph Menn offered an exclusive report Friday on O’Rourke having a secret membership in the infamous hacking group.

Cult of the Dead Cow “is notorious for releasing tools that allowed ordinary people to hack computers running Microsoft’s Windows,” Menn reported, adding there’s “no indication that O’Rourke ever engaged in the edgiest sorts of hacking activity, such as breaking into computers or writing code that enabled others to do so.”

Although, he apparently did steal long-distance phone service for his dial-up modem.

Reuters published a backstory on how O’Rourke’s hacking days were discovered and revealed Menn approached the then-congressman in late 2017, who agreed to talk in exchange for the information being held until his Senate election was over.

More from Reuters:

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.

 

Menn admitted as much during an interview with Reuters senior producer Jane Lee.

“I met Beto O’Rourke. I said ‘I’m writing a book about Cult of the Dead Cow, I think it’s really interesting. I know you were in this group,” he explained. “This book is going to publish after November and your Senate race is over. And he said, ‘OK.’”

“And he told me about his time in the Cult of the Dead Cow.”

Reuters also reported about experimental writings from the “misfit teen in El Paso, Texas,” as the then 15-year-old O’Rourke was described.

Writing that exposed an odd mindset, as he fantasized about running over children in a car — O’Rourke has profusely apologized for these thoughts.

“I’m mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed, but I have to take ownership of my words,” he said, according to the Washington Examiner. “Whatever my intention was as a teenager doesn’t matter, I have to look long and hard at my actions, at the language I have used, and I have to constantly try to do better.”

Menn took to social media to defend his actions, which he described as offering an “embargo,” saying in part he had no sources to confirm his suspicions that O’Rourke was in the group — never mind that he was told directly by O’Rourke that he was.

He also noted that his efforts were outside his “day job,” although the headline of the backstory shows Reuters taking full credit: “Backstory: How Reuters uncovered Beto O’Rourke’s teenage hacking days.”

“To be clear, I offered an embargo because it was for a book I was on leave to write, not for my day job,” Menn tweeted, “and because no one else who knew would confirm the facts before the election.”

But, as Reuters already acknowledged, he agreed in late 2017 not to divulge what he knew, which was a year out.

The journalist was also clear that he wanted “the full story for my book.”

Tom Tillison

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