In recent days, WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah has been railing against a group he described in a Sept. 20 column as "holding conferences on selling out America's infrastructure to foreign private concerns" after it allegedly barred WND from attending. "If these folks think we'll just leave them alone to conspire in secret about matters of public interest in this country, they have another think coming," Farah thundered. Farah followed up in an Oct. 1 column, again attacking this "secret meeting where plots are hatched to sell off pieces of America's infrastructure to foreigners."
But Farah hasn't told his readers what he's been doing for the past few days: taking part in a secret confab of his own.
Via Salon, we learn that Farah spent his weekend at a Salt Lake City meeting of the Council for National Policy, a secretive right-wing group that barred all media except friendly ones -- like WND -- from covering its activities. As the Salt Lake Tribune noted, "the only media in attendance will be executives from religious-oriented operations Good News Communication/The Christian Film & Television Commission, Salem Communications Corp. and the editor-in-chief of worldnetdaily.com, an online publication that routinely attacks gay rights, evolution and Democrats."
We've previously noted that Farah is a member of the CNP.
This explains why the only bit of news from the conference -- that evangelicals are threatening to bolt the Republican Party if Rudy Giuliani is the presidential nominee -- first surfaced at WND. The Sept. 30 article did not have a byline and did not attribute its claims to anyone, nor did it note Farah's attendance at the CNP meeting -- despite the fact we can deduce that Farah was the source for all of this information (cleared with his CNP overlords, of course) and presumably wrote the article.
That Tribune article, by the way, also reported that Joe Cannon, a former state Republican chairman who recently became editor of the Mormon Church-owned Deseret Morning News, was scheduled to give a speech to the CNP. (What liberal media?) From the Tribune:
Cannon says he will try to interview and write about a few of the people attending, some of whom are friends from his lobbying days.
"I'm not pretending to cover the event," he said. "I believe I can do a service to the readers of our paper by talking to some of these people - and a lot of them are newsmakers."
But the policy council's director Steve Baldwin sees Cannon's invitation differently. "He is a speaker and is part of the program," Baldwin said in an e-mail. "We are closed to the media."
The article goes on to quote Kelly McBride of the journalism think tank the Poynter Institute:
"I have problems with journalists ever attending something and saying that it's not as a journalist or not acting as a journalist," says McBride. "Journalists need to be very clear - either stuff is on the record and it is open for being recorded or it's off the record.
"If it is off the record, there has to be a good journalistic reason," she said, such as protecting a whistle blower.
The bar is even higher when the attendees are public officials and former public officials, McBride said. "Whenever you have high-powered people who are paid by taxpayers, there is an even higher threshold to allowing those people control of what you cover."
Indeed, among those public officials in attendance is Vice President Dick Cheney. and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The Tribune also detailed the secrecy surround the gathering:
Members are told not to discuss the group, reveal the topics discussed in the closed-door meetings, or even say whether or not they are members of the organization.
"You're not supposed to be here," said a grinning Foster Friess, who was pleasant but steadfast in his unwillingness to talk about the group.
An attempted interview with Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum, was interrupted when a volunteer stepped in front of Schlafly and advised her she didn't have to talk to reporters and guided the conservative matriarch by the arm to her next event.
It appears that Farah's demand for openness about covering meetings of public importance doesn't apply to the ones he attends, where he reports only what they want him to report. Farah should explain his double standard to his readers.