Shocker: CNS Debunks *Conservative* Talking Point Topic: CNSNews.com
Now, here's something you don't see every day: the ConWeb debunking an emerging-but-false conservative talking point.
A Dec. 1 CNSNews.com article by Randy Hall rather definitively shoots down the claim that newly elected Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, would be sworn into the House with his hand on a copy of the Koran, correctly pointing out that no member of Congress is officially sworn in with their hand on any book, including the Bible, and that the Constitution specifically prohibits a "religious test" for holding office.
This is all the more surprising because, as we've noted, Hall was CNS' point man for conservative attacks on John Murtha, has forwarded other conservative attacks, and has otherwise sought to promote conservative talking points and bash liberal ones.
WND Continues to Obfuscate on Libel Lawsuit Topic: WorldNetDaily
A Nov. 30 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh on the libel suit filed against WorldNetDaily and others by Tennessee businessman Clark Jones over a 2000 series of Al Gore-bashing articles focuses on the least relevant aspect of it -- the amount of money Jones is suing for, $165 million. After all, most civil lawsuits are settled for less (sometimes much less) than the original asking amount.
While Unruh busied himself with such irrelevancies -- he also throws in a recent history of libel claims -- he makes no effort to contact Jones or his lawyers for a response, though he quotes WND's Joseph Farah and WND's lawyer. Unruh also fails to address a series of conflicting claims WND has made about the articles over which it is being sued -- as we noted, it is simultaneously standing behind the articles but also looking for escape hatch by arguing that it merely reposted the articles and had nothing to do with their content.
Also on Nov. 30, WND conducted a poll asking, "Why is WND's record libel suit not getting national coverage as a 1st Amendment battle?" But this ignores the fact that WND itself has downplayed the lawsuit, at least until now. As we've previously noted, WND went 3 1/2 years -- from December 2002 to July 2006 -- without publishing a news article about it. This -- along with WND's one-sided coverage of it and its refusal to acknowlege our challenge to post all relevant legal documents filed in the lawsuit on its website as a show of objectivity and transparency -- suggests that there are things in those legal papers that WND would rather not see the light of day.
AIM's Double Standard on Killers As Victims Topic: Accuracy in Media
In a Nov. 30 Accuracy in Media column, Cliff Kincaid purports to be outraged that the public defender for Nicholas Gutierrez, a "deranged homosexual man" convicted of murdering "Chicago Catholic and mother of four" Mary Stachowicz in 2002, claimed in her defense that, in the words fo anti-gay activst Peter LaBarbera, whom Kincaid copiously cites in his article, Stachowicz "became enraged to the point of violence over [Gutierrez's] homosexual lifestyle." Kincaid quoted LaBarbera calling this "ugly anti-Christian bigotry -- the legal equivalent of spitting on Mary's grave." Kincaid added that Stachowicz "is not politically correct. So she will not be portrayed sympathetically. Indeed, her killer, an admitted and active homosexual, may get the media's sympathetic ear."
But Kincaid -- nor, to our knowledge, LaBarbera -- raised any similar objections when one of the men who killed Matthew Shepard tried a similar blame-the-victim defense. In fact, in a Dec. 8, 1998, column, Kincaid and Reed Irvine were eager to endorse it. The column noted that "Newsweek magazine reports that Shepard had apparently tried to pick up another man in another setting"; rather than condeming it, as Kincaid did with Guiterrez's defense, he and Irvine linked it to Shepard's purported desire to "go after sex in public or semi-public settings" and used it as an example of why gays should not be protected under hate-crimes laws:
This is disgusting behavior and no one really wants to talk about it. But an understanding of this subculture is necessary when considering passing hate crime laws to protect homosexuals.
A Nov. 2, 1998, column by Kincaid and Irvine similiarly noted that "Some reports indicated [Shepard] was attacked after cruising for sex," but didn't condemn it as a defense.
When one of Shepard's killers, Russell Henderson, went on ABC in 2004 to claim that Shepard was killed as part of a robbery and not because he was gay, Kincaid was all too accepting of Henderson's story and used a Dec. 22, 2004, column to suggest that Shepard deserved to die, calling him "a heavy drug user who was HIV-positive." In recounting Henderson's "gay panic" defense, Kincaid not only doesn't criticize Henderson for using it and, he blames political correctness for Henderson's resorting to it in the first place:
The gay rights movement wanted to depict Shepard as an innocent victim of a homophobic society. This played into their demands for legislation to curb so-called "hate crimes." One of the perpetrators used that to his advantage, arguing when he went on trial that he went into a panic when Shepard tried to proposition him at a bar. His girlfriend made the same claim in the media, including on "20/20." But now they say it was all a ruse, designed to get him a reduced sentence by suggesting that he wasn't in control of his faculties when the murder occurred.
As we've previously detailed, Henderson has a history of giving "multiple, conflicting accounts of what happened" the night Sheppard died. Apparently, as far as Kincaid is concerned, a convicted felon is more trustworthy than a gay person.
NewsBusters Ignores Evidence That Substantiates AP Story Topic: NewsBusters
A Nov. 30 NewsBusters post by Al Brown quasi-acknowledges the Associated Press' defense of a story of Sunnis burned alive in Iraq and its source, but it mostly ignores what the AP has to say, relying instead on claims by Iraq and CENTCOM officials that one AP source for that story, Jamil Hussein, doesn't exist.
Nowhere does Brown detail the AP's defense beyond stating that "So far, the Associated Press is standing by their story, claiming that their reporters visited Jamil Hussein at his police station." Brown also fails to note, as we did, that the AP has claimed other eyewitnesses to the incident.
Brown should try fully reporting all sides of this story and be a little less eager for a scalp to nail on his anti-liberal-media wall.
A Double Standard on Mount Rushmore Topic: NewsBusters
In a Nov. 29 NewsBusters post, Tim Graham is irked that Regis Philbin said of Dan Rather, "It’s like lookin' at Mount Rushmore!"
Funny, we don't recall Graham objecting to Chris Matthews suggesting that President Bush belonged on Mount Rushmore. Then again, that would mess with the MRC's script that Matthews is a diehard liberal (never mind that Matthews regularly bashed President Clinton, which the MRC heartily approved of).
Will NewsMax Correct the Record on Pelosi's Vineyard? Topic: Newsmax
NewsMax heavily promoted Peter Schweizer's book "Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy," even offering special deals on it through its online store. Among the lead claims in that book -- teased in NewsMax's promotional materials as well as severalother NewsMax articles, most recently a Nov. 1 article by Jim Meyers -- is that House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi supports unions, but the vineyard she owns employs non-union help.
Turns out there's a lot more to that story that Schweizer and NewsMax hasn't told anyone.
Think Progress reports that a San Francisco TV station looked into Schweizer's claim and found some interesting things:
Pelosi treats her workers better than unionized vineyard workers, offering them higher-than-union wages.
Pelosi is prohibited by law from helping her workers unionize. A United Farm Workers Union representative explains: “It is patently illegal for any grower to even discuss a union contract, which is the only way you can supply union workers, without the workers first having voted in a state conducted secret ballot election.”
Even more interesting (and hilarious), Schweizer defends his lazy reporting: “It’s not my responsibility to go and find out how every single particular circumstance is handled on the Pelosi vineyard.”
Any chance NewsMax will tell its readers the whole Pelosi story? Don't count on it.
But NewsMax isn't the only ConWeb sector that needs to clarify the record (and probably won't): threeWorldNetDailyarticles promoting Schweizer's book and twocolumns by Joseph Farah repeated the highly misleading claim.
A Nov. 27 NewsBusters post by Greg Sheffield, headlined "It's Official: Media Body Burning Story Is Bogus," asserted that an incident forwarded by the Associated Press stating that six Sunnis in Iraq were "captured by Shiites, doused with kerosine [sic] and burned alive -- "never happened. Furthermore, the Iraqi 'spokesman' relied on to give all information regarding this event is as fictional as the story itself."
Whoa there, Tex. Not so fast.
As blogger Bob Geiger points out, AP has since cited witnesses to the immolations and claims to have confirmed the identity of "spokesman" Jamil Hussein, pointing out that he "has been a regular source of police information for two years and had been visited by the AP reporter in his office at the police station on several occasions."
NewsBusters has yet to acknowledge AP's defense of its article, though it ran a Nov. 27 post by Al Brown similarly questioning the existence of Jamil Hussein.
UPDATE: David Neiwert offers his take on this, with a focus on lead promoter Michelle Malkin.
The headline of a Nov. 29 NewsMax article states, "Jim Webb Threatens to 'Slug' President Bush." But the article makes no such claim.
Rather, it accurately recounts a report from The Hill newspaper that Webb, the newly elected Democratic senator from Virginia, "was so infuriated by a remark from President George W. Bush that the former Marine officer was tempted to punch the commander-in-chief." Webb issued no threat.
Breaking: Aaron Klein Names A Military Critic of Olmert Topic: WorldNetDaily
This time, amid his latest anonymously sourced attack on Israel's Ehud Olmert, WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein throws in an actual name of a critic. But, being an Aaron Klein article, it's misleading.
The headline on Klein's Nov. 28 WND article reads, "Israeli military not consulted before cease-fire," but that's contradicted by the very first paragraph, which states that Olmert "did not fully consult with the Israeli army before agreeing to a cease-fire with Palestinian militants two days ago." (Italics ours.)
Klein attributes this claim to Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz -- which may be a first for Klein in actually naming a military official who has been critical of Olmert. But Klein also mixes in more anonymous claims as well; his heavy reliance on them -- something we can't imagine WND editor Joseph Farah tolerating if similarly anonymous "military officials" were being similarly critical of President Bush's prosecution of the Iraq war -- and his longtimehatred of Olmert raises the likelihood that Klein is using these "anonymous" officials in a partisan bid to keep up his anti-Olmert jihad.
Finkelstein Still Doesn't Say Why Iraq Isn't In Civil War Topic: NewsBusters
A Nov. 28 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein claims that NBC "apparently seeks ... to shape US policy" by calling the situation in Iraq a "civil war," asserting that "[t]he NBC game-plan becomes clear. ... make sure the conflict is 'branded' a civil war" with the only option being to "extract ourselves." He concludes:
In sum, it appears that NBC News' trumpeted decision to label the situation in Iraq a 'civil war' was no mere exercise in semantics. It reflects NBC's calculated attempt to influence public opinion and US policy on the most serious national security issue of the day. Such is the role that the MSM has arrogated to itself."
But again, as he did the previous day, Finkelstein offers no evidence that the situation in Iraq is not a "civil war." As someone who "recently returned from Iraq," as his tagline states, he would presumably be able to offer a little insight into the situation. Yet, he does not.
Fellow NewsBuster Clay Waters similarly tsk-tsks at the New York Times for also adopting the "civil war" terminology, but he also doesn't explain why the Times is wrong.
If you're going to attack NBC for using the term "civil war," shouldn't the first thing you do in support of your attack is explain why they're wrong? Finkelstein and Waters seem to think that it's axiomatic that it's not a civil war because the Bush administration says it's not.
At least MRC chief Brent Bozell, appearing on "Hannity & Colmes," did offer a reason why it wasn't a civil war, even though his argument essentially boils down to that it isn't because he says it isn't. We suspect that Bozell would be calling it a civil war if a Democrat was president.
Meanwhile ... Topic: Media Research Center
Media Matters' Eric Boehlert does a fine job of decimating Brent Bozell's false and misleading claims of liberal bias in media coverage of the 2006 elections.
Getting It Wrong: Joseph Farah and Illegals Topic: WorldNetDaily
It seems like only yesterday that WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah was claiming that the reporting "everything" WND has covered "was fair, honest, truthful, balanced and accurate." (Oh, wait, it was yesterday.) Farah manages to prove himself wrong yet again.
A Nov. 28 WND article, written by Farah himself, claims that more Americans "were murdered this year by illegal aliens than the combined death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since those military campaigns began." He then immediately states in so many words whether that's even true:
Though no federal statistics are kept on murders or any other crimes committed by illegal aliens, a number of groups have produced estimates based on data collected from prisons, news reports and independent research.
Twelve Americans are murdered every day by illegal aliens, according to statistics released by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. That's 21,900 since Sept. 11, 2001.
First, it's not Peter King but, rather, Rep. Steve King of Iowa who is making that claim, as the press release to which the article links demonstrates -- which, by the way, doesn't even reference the death-toll claim. (WND has since corrected this; a screen shot of the original, erroneous reference to Peter King is here.)
Second, Farah apparently made no effort to investigate or verify King's figures, apparently content to repeat an inflammatory claim because it sounds good. In fact, King's numbers are highly supect. As Colorado Media Matters details, King has cited as support for his claim a GAO study purportedly claiming that 28 percent of prison inmates are "criminal aliens." King claims to have "extrapolated" his death toll from that number.
In fact, King's claim that 28 percent of prison inmates are "criminal aliens" is itself questionable. Statistics from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and has found no support for his assertion; according to the BJS, 6.4 percent of all state and federal inmates at midyear 2005 were "noncitizens."
Further, Farah's comparison of the alleged deaths due to illegal immigrants -- numbers he essentially admits are not on solid statistical ground -- with the number of deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is misleading. The soldiers' deaths are taken from a much smaller population -- roughly 200,000 U.S. personnel on duty there, vs. roughly 300 million Americans -- so the soldiers' death rate is much higher than even Farah's alarmist numbers on illegals.
It may be "accurate" that King made claims using these numbers, but it doesn't mean the numbers themselves are accurate. Farah's reliance on unverified numbers forwarded by those with an anti-immigration agenda makes his entire article suspect (not to mention unbalanced, another violation of Farah's alleged quality standards).
With such factual inaccuracies and misleading claims (not to mention the plagiarism), it escapes us that Farah can credibly claim to head a "news" organization.
WND Simultaneously Embraces, Runs Away From Articles in Lawsuit Topic: WorldNetDaily
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.
This Is A Depiction Of A Martyr? Topic: NewsBusters
A Nov. 27 NewsBusters post by Warner Todd Huston claimed that an Associated Press article on Malachi Ritscher -- who doused himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire as an apparent protest of the Iraq war -- was "sympathetic" to Ritscher, 'lioniz[es]" him and "tries its darndest to turn this man into an anti-war hero," claiming it is "filled with quotes from his admiring friends and laments about his 'cause.' " Huston writes that "The AP also goes to pains to make readers believe that 'Malachi' Ritscher might not have been mentally disturbed in an obvious attempt to legitimize his final action," then goes on to wax indignant about Ritscher's "rather unbalanced mental state," not to mention his "utter lack of knowledge about the political system our Founding Fathers created."
But nowhere does Huston actually quote from the AP article. That may be because the article, in fact, does not "lionize" Ritscher. It points out the circumstances surrounding his death:
It took five days for the Cook County medical examiner to identify the charred-beyond-recognition corpse. Meanwhile, Ritscher's suicide went largely unnoticed. It wasn't until a reporter for an alternative weekly, the Chicago Reader, pieced the facts together that word began to spread.
The article also quotes the man as calling Ritscher "a very lonely and tragic man," and notes that "Mental health experts say virtually no suicides occur without some kind of a diagnosable mental illness."
Perhaps what irks Huston so about this article is that it didn't didn't come to the conclusion he wanted it to -- that Ritscher is a loon whose death was meaningless and, therefore, must be ignored. In fact, the article reaches no conclusion; it raises the martyr angle but provides enough details of his mental history to let readers reach their own conclusions.
Perhaps the idea that someone -- especially a news service like AP -- won't follow his conservative beliefs and dismiss other beliefs out of hand and will come to their own conclusions is what irks Huston the most. Not exactly the stuff of quality media criticism.
Civil War in Iraq? Finkelstein Doesn't Say Why It's Not Topic: NewsBusters
A Nov. 27 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein chastises NBC for calling the sectarian violence in Iraq a "civil war":
The MSM has experienced embarrassing episodes of premature declaration before, notably in Florida 2000. Is the case stronger here? Is this quibbling over terminology, or is there something larger at stake?
Note also [Matt] Lauer's statement that NBC News consulted with "a lot of people," and that McCaffrey chose to "weigh in on the side of calling this a civil war." That seems to suggest that there was another "side" among people NBC consulted who took the opposing view. But Today never told us who they were or what they had to say.
Finkelstein certainly seems to disapprove of NBC using the "civil war" terminology, as his flip reference to the 2000 election indicates. But he fails to offer any argument for why it shouldn't be used. If one is going to attack the logic of others -- and, specifically, attack them for not substantiating their claim -- shouldn't one offer a logical, substantiated claim in response?
A tag at the end of the item notes that "Finkelstein recently returned from Iraq." But the articles he wrote for CNSNews.com about his trip were puff pieces mostly concerned with attacking the idea of immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq -- something no major U.S. politican has pushed. He did, however, quote Iraqi deputy prime minister Barham Salih as saying that "extremist forces were trying to push Iraq into all-out civil war, and he predicted that in the next few weeks, the Iraqi government would have to make some very serious choices."
So Finkelstein appears to know that using "civil war" to describe the situation in Iraq is not an outlandish assertion, since he used it himself. So why not defend his argument instead of resorting to flip claims about "premature declaration"?