Josh Trevino: A Chat with the Prominent Texan Conservative Voice Outed as Malaysian Agent
That delay, and that inability for journalists to access subsequent public records, allowed Treviño to deny any involvement with Kuala Lumpur. When confronted by these fiscal allegations in 2011, Treviño was blunt. "I was never on any 'Malaysian entity's payroll,'" he told Politico's Ben Smith, "and I resent your assumption that I was."
Now that these new payments have come to light, Treviño has ended his denial. He offered a public apology to Smith -- via Twitter, at least -- and has refrained from chastising subsequent media coverage.
"I think the media coverage has been generally fair," Treviño told Hair Balls. "They've done their proper due diligence."
Meanwhile, Treviño wanted it known that the reason such information came out wasn't due to some Woodwardian sleuthing, but because he opted to follow the letter of the law.
Maybe he got confused by the fla -- HEY, is that a Muslim crescent?!?!
"It's important to emphasize the reason the story came out -- I voluntarily decided, upon learning of legal requirements, to file this paperwork," Treviño said. "I approached the [Department of Justice] and made full disclosure to it."
Unfortunately for Treviño, this is not the first time his work and his words have landed him in controversy. In 2011, observing the raid on a Gaza flotilla, Treviño Tweeted, "Dear IDF: If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla - well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me."
Interestingly, since the fiscal information has come to light, Treviño has repeatedly denied that he should be characterized as a "journalist." While this claim is presently true -- TPPF is anything but unbiased within its literature -- Treviño has maintained columns for both the UK's Guardian and Texas Monthly, both of which let him go due to public pressure and undisclosed ties to the Malaysian government.
"He's playing semantics," Jowett told Hair Balls. "This line between journalism and blogging and commentating has become so blurred that it's so difficult to establish where one ends and the other begins."
Dr. Lindita Camaj, a UH communications professor specializing in journalistic ethics, said that despite Treviño's repeated points on the legality of his actions, his credibility and ethical standing have seen a marked drop.
"You need to understand that when it comes to this profession, legality doesn't really cut it enough -- being legally justified is not the same as being ethically responsible for your work," Camaj told Hair Balls. "Even if it was only PR, the fact that is still that he lied about this issue, which brings up ethical issues, because even PR people have certain ethical standards."
As to how the current controversy will reflect his relationship with TPPF, Treviño is clear.
"I don't think there's anything more to say, as far as the Foundation goes," Treviño said. "I've severed the ties close to [the Malaysian relationship]."
Indeed, while speaking with Hair Balls, Treviño sounded distinctly calm for a man whose entire objectivity and conscience have just been outed and trampled. He sounded almost ... chipper.
"He's got his money in the bank, that's why," Jowett said. "Does that mean everything he did in the past should be wiped out? ... What he did is clearly reprehensible journalistically, but also, more importantly, it undermines the whole concept of the internet as being essentially a place where you can now buy voices."
While Treviño does admit that he should have come clean in 2011, he reiterated that, as far as his professional career entails, he sees little wrong with any of his actions. Despite shilling for one of the more reprehensible governments in Asia, despite enrolling conservative characters whose choice to write on Malaysia reads like one large non sequitur, Treviño says he wouldn't do a thing differently.
"I'm fine -- I'm fine," Treviño told Hair Balls. "You have these experiences, and you try to learn from them. I knew this would come to pass. It's important to do right thing, and if I had to do it again, I would."