I don’t know what possessed Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton, reportedly a smart dude, to start yammering about Islamic State collaboration with Mexican drug cartels. But he and his staff should probably have just backed away from the craziness instead of offering WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler sources for the Estado Islamico “story.” Kessler traced it back to unsupported gossip appearing in the birther tribune World Net Daily, and authored by a truly reliable source:

The whole thing seems to have started with a highly speculative account on July 4 in WND, labeled an “exclusive” and titled: “New Border Risk: ISIS Ties to Mexican Drug Lords.” (ISIS and ISIL are other names for Islamic State.) The article quoted Michael Maloof, who it described as a former “top Defense Department analyst” and “expert on the Middle East….”

Who is Michael Maloof? He gained notoriety in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as one of the key people involved in a DOD intelligence effort to demonstrate that Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaeda and was likely to provide weapons of mass destruction to terror groups….

Maloof was later stripped of his security clearance after unauthorized contacts with a Lebanese American businessman who was under federal investigation for gun-running. His supporters claimed the action was politically motivated.

Maloof did not respond to an e-mail asking whether he had any evidence for his speculation about the Islamic State and drug cartels.

Perhaps Kevin Drum is right: this and similar is “stories” emerged spontaneously from the conservative zeitgeist and required no evidence. What are “facts” when it comes to the deeper truths of life?

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.