A Nov. 27 WorldNetDaily article details the latest happenings in the libel lawsuit filed by Tennessee businessman Clark Jones over an 18-part series of Al Gore-bashing articles WND ran before the 2000 election. Of particular note is this quote by WND editor Joseph Farah:
Good journalism often makes people uncomfortable. But uncomfortable does not equate with inaccurate, libelous, actionable, unfair or malicious. WorldNetDaily has made every effort to ensure that its reporting in this series –- and in everything it has covered – was fair, honest, truthful, balanced and accurate.
That, of course, is a lie -- a casual perusal of the ConWebWatch archive will uncover multiple examples of WND coverage being unfair, dishonest, untruthful, unbalanced and inaccurate. Indeed, this very article doesn't even live up to Farah's lofty claim.
It is unfair and unbalanced because no effort was made to contact Jones his attorneys, even though Farah, his lawyer, and one of the two reporters who wrote the articles, Charles C. Thompson II and Tony Hays, are prominently quoted. Further unfairness is shown by lovingly detailing the resumes of the two reporters; no such fawning descriptions are offered of Jones, whom WND has regularly referred to derogatorily as a "Gore crony."
The article also cites a case of dubious relevance to WND's role in the lawsuit:
In a related development, the California Supreme Court has ruled that websites that publish inflammatory information written by others cannot be sued for libel. The court concluded that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides broad immunity from defamation lawsuits for people who publish information on the Internet that was gathered from another source.
The ruling leaves open for damages only the original source of the statement, the ruling concluded.
On the surface, this reads like WND's attempt to throw the reporters under the bus if Jones' libel suit is successful -- the article also claims that "WND only became aware of the writers after the articles already were completed." But it may also not be relevant. The case to which this is referring involves a woman who posted an attack on two doctors written by someone to two Internet newsgroup sites. But there are two major differences between this case and the WND-Jones case:
- WorldNetDaily is not a newsgroup where anyone can post; it is an edited site in which only content screened by its operators gets printed. These articles were approved for printing on WND by people paid to do so.
- WND didn't just passively repost the content of others; it reprinted all 18 articles written about the case, then took credit for running them. As a June 2001 article states: "WorldNetDaily’s uncompromising series on Gore and his cronies, such as Clark Jones, arguably played a major factor in Gore’s loss, according to some Tennessee political observers."
It's disingenuous for WND to simultaneously embrace and run away from these articles. If Farah is as proud of them as he claims he is, why is he looking to invoke immunity from reprinting them?
P.S. Our challenge to WND still stands. If WND really wants to be fair, honest, truthful, balanced and accurate, it would post all legal documents filed in this case to its website and disclose the donors to its legal defense fund.