Nowhere is the distinction between WorldNetDaily and real news organizations clearer when both cover the same story.
A May 22 WND article by Jerome Corsi claimed that Barack Obama purportedly has "extensive ties with extreme anti-American elements, including agents of the Moscow-controlled Communist Party USA, in Hawaii and Chicago," citing a report by "two experienced internal security investigators." One of those is Cliff Kincaid, whom Corsi calls an "investigative journalist."
We'll pause while you laugh.
Kincaid, of course, is the Accuracy in Media writer who is in the midst of a full-froth anti-Obama frenzy, making false claims and ascribing opinions made by fictional characters to Obama himself. While Corsi does note Kincaid's ties to AIM and his own little anti-United Nations group, America's Survival Inc., nowhere does he point out Kincaid's obvious partisan agenda.
(The cover of Kincaid's report rather laughably insists, presumably in a window-dressing effort to hide political advocacy behind its nonprofit tax status, that "nothing in this report shall be construed as an attempt to influence any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office or any political party." Why else would Kincaid be doing this report if he wasn't trying to influence a political campaign?)
The other "experienced internal security investigator" on the case is Herbert Romerstein, whom Corsi describes as "a former investigator with the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities." A 1999 New York Times profile, meanwhile, depicts Romerstein as something more than that: an obessed anti-communist, so much so that he informed on his high school teachers and classmates who were Communists and worked for a notorious blacklisting publication. Romerstein has been accused by the son of muckraking journalist I.F. Stone of hurling tainted and distorted evidence in portraying Stone as a Soviet spy.
Corsi treats Kincaid and Romerstein's claims as serious, uncontested fact, refusing to apply skepticism where it is necessary, nor does Corsi apply an ideologicial label either even though there is clear ideological motivation. Corsi also fails to make any apparent effort to gather any response from anyone to their charges.
For a more realistic treatment of the Washington event at which Kincaid and Romerstein released their report, we must turn to The Washington Post, where Dana Milbank wrote in a May 23 article:
These and many other implausible accusations were offered by a group of conservatives yesterday -- including a living relic from the House Committee on Un-American Activities -- in a Capitol Hill basement. The charges ranged from the absurd to the merely questionable, but anybody who watched the Swift Boat campaign of 2004 make John Kerry look like a war criminal knows that's not the point.
The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy took a blow with Hillary Clinton's collapse. But it is regrouping, and finding plenty of sinister things to say about Obama -- even if he didn't trade cattle futures.
The group, assembled by something called America's Survival Inc., gathered in the basement of Ebenezer Coffee House at Second and F streets NE. They shared the stage with a big drum set, and posters documenting items they would seek to tie to Obama: an SDS newsletter from 1969 (when he was 7), and a police killing from 1970 (when he was 8).
"We believe that any public figure with links to foreign and hostile interests should be asked to explain those associations," the organizer, Cliff Kincaid, told about two dozen conservatives and a few reporters. "In the case of Obama, a relatively new figure on the national scene, we submit the facts suggest that he would have serious difficulty getting a security clearance in the United States government. An FBI background check was once used to examine one's character, loyalty to the United States, and associations."
But the star of the show was the ancient Herbert Romerstein, who once plied his trade for the Un-American Activities committee. "We decided to start going back and seeing what things influenced him even before he was born," Romerstein announced without a trace of irony, before tying Obama to the Communist Party of the 1930s in Hawaii and Soviet spies on the island. "This is the atmosphere that young Barack Obama grew up in."
The smoking gun? Obama's "mentor" during his teens, according to Kincaid, was "a key member of a Soviet-controlled network that was sponsored by Moscow and active in Hawaii."
These accusations fall somewhere between guilt by association and guilt by invention, but the accusers were just getting started.
"It's clear that the communists and the socialists are backing him," Kincaid confirmed.
The questions continued: "The Obama-Muslim connection . . . the background of Michelle Obama . . . How he gave $23,000 to this church . . . Was it connected with Tony Rezko . . . the results from Gary, Indiana, which were so late in being released."
It was beginning to sound like a UFO convention. But the panelists took it seriously, firing questions back at the audience. "Was Barack Obama working for Bill Ayers?" Kincaid wondered aloud. Romerstein demanded: "How come for 20 years he sat in the pews and listened to a raving anti-American racist? How did he bring his two young children to this church to hear Wright rave on?"
A responsible journalist would have taken the history of political smears and the history of the accusers into account as an indicator of how serious to take said accusers' claims. Milbank did; Corsi didn't. To this, of course, we can also take into account the reporters' reputations as well. Milbank is a somewhat snarky writer; Corsi turns his personal grudges into "news" articles.
And that's the difference (well, one, anyway) between a real news organization and WND.