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Wednesday, September 19, 2007
'Medieval' and Misleading
Topic: NewsBusters

A Sept. 18 NewsBusters post by Ken Shepherd repeats a claim by InsideCatholic.com blogger Mark Shea that "the mainstream media" has called Pope Benedict XVI "medieval" 169,000 times. Shepherd changed "mainstream media" to "biased secular media."

The problem is, the only evidence Shea and Shepherd offer in support is a Google search. Shea offers no indication that he narrowed Google's search parameters to focus on only "mainstream media," nor does he indicate that he weeded out articles in which the word "medieval" is not specifically describing the pope. Indeed, Shea appears to have done nothing more than plug "Benedict XVI" and "medieval" into the general Google search engine, which pulls in much more than the "mainstream media" (or even the "biased secular media").

Given the MRC's lax research standards, though, that appears to be good enough for Shepherd to declare "bias."


Posted by Terry K. at 6:10 PM EDT
New Article: Aaron Klein's Hebron Hijinks
Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily's Jerusalem reporter again hides the right-wing extremist backgrounds of the people he's writing about -- and won't admit they're linked to the "outlawed" extremists he purports to deplore. Read more.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:17 AM EDT
Quote of the Day
Topic: Accuracy in Media

From a Sept. 18 Family Security Matters column by Mike Cutler, reprinted at Accuracy in Media, about the DREAM Act, which would would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrant students and permit them to be eligible for in-state college tuition rates:

So what would the provisions of this amendment provide?

1. In-state tuition for illegal aliens, a benefit that even our own US citizen college kids do not have.

Actually, "US citizen college kids" who attend college in the state where they live do, in fact, receive in-state tuition rates (which would seem to be the self-evident point of it). Further, the benefit is not for all "illegal aliens," as Cutler appears to claim, but for those who meet certain criteria -- foremost among them having arrived in the United States as a child.

According to his bio, Cutler "is a Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and a well-respected authority on immigration and border security issues." On what planet are such absurd, non-factual claims considered "well-respected"?


Posted by Terry K. at 9:15 AM EDT
Knight: 'Inaccurate' to Call Gay Marriage Ban a Gay Marriage Ban
Topic: NewsBusters

A Sept. 18 NewsBusters post by Robert Knight (a version of a Culture and Media Insitute item) is headlined, "Post Can’t Disguise Disgust for Pro-marriage Maryland Ruling." In it, Knight claimed that the Washington Post showed "bias" by calling a law upheld by a Maryland appeals court defining marriage as between one man and one woman "the state’s ban on gay marriage": "That’s as inaccurate as describing the law as 'the state’s ban on polygamous marriage,' or 'the state’s ban on incestuous marriage' or perhaps 'the state’s ban on interspecies marriage.'"

Well, no. Knight is playing the longtime conservative rhetorical game of treating homosexuality as akin to incest and bestiality. Can Knight identify any significant movement supporting "incestuous marriage" or "interspecies marriage" in Maryland? No, he can't.

Conservatives weren't forcing the passage of "defense of marriage" laws out of fear of "incestuous marriage" or "interspecies marriage"; they feared gay marriage. Thus, since the motivation behind the law was to stop gay marriage, and it does in fact ban gay marriage -- which is exactly what Knight wants -- it's hardly "inaccurate" to call it a "ban on gay marriage."

UPDATE: Knight might want to send a memo to his co-workers at CNSNews.com, who headlined a Sept. 18 article on the case "Maryland Court Says No to Same-Sex Marriage."


Posted by Terry K. at 12:50 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2007 2:19 PM EDT
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Shocker: WND Prints Substantive Criticism of Its Reporting
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily typically pretends that criticism of its reporting comes from people who are ideological enemies and don't get their brand of journalism (even though bias, false claims and plagiarism are universally understood journalistic failings). Also typically, the only criticism of WND that it highlights is of the most extreme type in order to paint that as representative of all criticism of it.

So it was a surprise to see WND run a critical letter that focused on WND's journalistic failings, regarding a Sept. 15 article on a study purporting to show that "some homosexuals can change their 'orientation' through religiously mediated guidance." Since WND refuses to archive its letters and it will cycle out after a week, we'll reprint it here:

I am extremely disappointed at your extreme bias in the report of conversion therapy for gay people. While quick to tout the report as a success and demonize those who were criticizing it, you failed to mention key aspects of the report according to Dr. Throckmorton. There were 25 participants who failed to continue the study. The failure to follow up with these people would automatically disqualify it from any legitimate psychological journal. If you include those 25 people to make up a total of 98 participants in the study, there was only an 11 percent success rate of conversion from identifying as gay to identifying as straight. Of those reporting heterosexual feelings, the following statement was part of the study:

    "Most of the individuals who reported that they were heterosexual at Time 3 did not report themselves to be without experience of homosexual arousal, and did not report heterosexual orientation to be unequivocal and uncomplicated. … We believe the individuals who presented themselves as heterosexual success stories at Time 3 are heterosexual in some meaningful but complicated sense of the term."

You also falsely stated that the study disputes the contention by the American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association that change is not possible. Neither association has ever made such a claim. Of course your readers ate up your story and responded to your poll in kind. Why are you afraid to report the truth, the whole truth? Are you afraid that your own basis for being against gay people is rooted in hatred?

Micah Bergdale

Of course, there's no indication that WND has actually done anything to correct its shoddy reporting. Pushing its ideology on its readers is much more important than fulfilling the journalistic mission of telling them the full truth.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:49 PM EDT
Of Cherry-Picking and Censorious Desires
Topic: NewsBusters

In a Sept. 15 NewsBusters post promoting his cherry-picking attack on the Huffington Post, Tim Graham criticized "leftist Web sites like MoveOn.org" for "demanding" that the Democratic Party "provide no bow of respect or prestige to Fox News, since it was a 'mouthpiece for the Republican party, not a legitimate news channel.'" Graham added: "Leftist bloggers like Matt Stoller of MyDD.com were explicit in their censorious desire that Fox News should not exist: 'The lies of FOX News and Roger Ailes have no place in public discourse, journalism, or the Democratic Party presidential debates.'"

First, note Graham's conflation of Stoller's comment about "the lies of FOX News and Roger Ailes" to an "censorious desire" that all of Fox News be muzzled. Of course, Stoller never said that, unless Graham is admitting that everything on Fox News context is a lie.

Second, by applying similar conflation to Graham's work: By attacking Huffington Post, isn't he expressing a similar "censorious desire"? Isn't it Graham's sweetest dream to see HuffPo shut down? Graham, through his study, is trying to use a tiny fraction of objectionable post to tar the entire operation -- the best way to accomplish such a thing, even if he won't say the words.

And cherry-picking is exactly what Graham does, by the way: Out of the tens of thousands of posts made on HuffPo over the past two years, Graham specifically cites just 19. Graham then claims: "These blogs may not be typical, but they are common." Since Graham did no statistical analysis of objectionable content in HuffPo blogs -- that is, comparing the number of posts with objectionable content to the total number of posts made on the site -- he has no factual basis for that statement.

Graham makes his bias clear in his "study" by his disparaging attacks on HuffPo's bloggers as an "all-star far-left cast of celebrity dilettantes," "celebrit[ies] toasted by the leftist elites" and "Arianna’s cast of hate-speech specialists." Remember, Graham is making this judgment on the content of just 19 posts out of thousands.

Would Graham and his MRC compadres be similarly offended if, say, the entirety of NewsBusters was judged by objectionable content by commenters on a single post? You bet they would. That's why we accuse NewsBusters of forwarding false or misleading claims and smears, we don't merely cherry-pick hither and yon. We back it up.

And remember, NewsBusters has run ads from a company that sells a T-shirt that says, "Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required." Does Graham find that more or less offensive than what he plucked out of HuffPo?


Posted by Terry K. at 9:25 AM EDT
Timmerman Joins in CIA-Bashing
Topic: Newsmax

Apparently, hatin' on Michael Sulick is what all the cool conservative kids are doing these days.

Joining the Washington Examiner's Rowan Scarborough in Sulick-bashing is NewsMax's Kenneth Timmerman in a Sept. 17 article. Like Scarborough, Timmerman depicts ex-CIA chief Porter Goss as a noble reformer and Sulick as a career agent who threw a fit over it. Also like Scarborough, Timmerman hurls unsubstantiated allegations at Sulick and his co-worker Stephen Kappes:

As I will reveal in my upcoming book, "Shadow Warriors: Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender," Kappes had been implicated in a serious security breach at a CIA station overseas, but was never disciplined by the Agency.

Furthermore, both he and Sulick were engaged in activities to lobby members of Congress in their own districts that violated U.S. law. When Goss tried to discipline them, the two men resigned in protest.

Timmerman offers no evidence for these claims -- apaprently, NewsMax readers don't need to have claims substantiated. Might sell a few more copies of that book.

Timmerman then goes on to claim that Sulick’s rehiring "sends a 'terrible message' to CIA officers who are trying to do their job and stay out of politics, and suggests that the CIA bench is so thin they have no other candidates for the critical job as head of the Clandestine Service." He attributes this claim to "former agency officers." He also relays a complaint by Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra, former chairman of the House intelligence committee, that he wasn't consulted when Kappes was rehired as CIA deputy director.

Both Scaborough and Timmerman are so eager to defend Goss that they don't mention who was CIA executive director -- the agency's No. 3 position -- under Goss: Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, currently under indictment for corruption. Neither of them explain why Sulick and Kappes are worse hires than Foggo.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:27 AM EDT
Clinton Derangement Syndrome Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In a Sept. 17 WorldNetDaily column headlined "Hellary's chilling honesty," Doug Powers uses the obligatory unflattering photos of Hillary Clinton to illustrate his semi-entertainingly paranoiac version of Hillary's camapign:

Here's the Clintons' philosophy on national security: Your enemies usually won't want to harm you as long as there are still cheap goodies available in your national garage sale.

[...]

Ads that ran in Iowa and elsewhere featured Hillary touting what will happen if she's elected: Americans "will no longer be invisible to their government." Well I don't doubt it – she's got our FBI files and a heck of a bright flashlight. 


Posted by Terry K. at 12:04 AM EDT
Monday, September 17, 2007
Graham Attacks Anti-War Protesters, Ignores Popularity of Withdrawal
Topic: Media Research Center

In a Sept. 13 NewsBusters post and Sept. 14 MRC CyberAlert item, Tim Graham wrote to the Washington Post quoting "radical left" anti-war protesters as saying, "The antiwar movement 'is far from where Bush would like you to think we are, that we are the fringe. They are the fringe. We are the mainstream." Graham asserts that the Post "help[ed] far-left protesters" by doing so.

In fact, when one defines "anti-war" not by the actions of a relative handful of extremists or Graham's subjective labeling but, rather, the opinion of Americans on whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq -- and polls show that a majority of Americans favor a withdrawal of at least some U.S. troops -- the anti-war protesters are, indeed, in the mainstream.


Posted by Terry K. at 2:24 PM EDT
WND's Standards Fall Further
Topic: WorldNetDaily

First, it was the hiring of a gay-porn actor as its Iraq correspondent. Now, WorldNetDaily's standards slip further as, according to a Sept. 17 article, managing editor David Kupelian plans to make a appearance on "Mancow's Morning Madhouse."

This is a show that WND itself criticized in 2003 for rejecting an attempt by a man to purchase a "pro-God" ad during the show. Mancow also has a history of obnoxious and offensive behavior.

By contrast, WND stopped linking to Salon.com articles in 2001 because if offered "galleries of erotic art and photography."

Is Kupelian so desperate to peddle his book that he will team up with a smut merchant like Mancow to do it? Yep. It's the second time this month WND has done so; on Sept. 6, WND news editor Joe Kovacs made an appearance.

Of course, there's a couple of mitigating factors that WND doesn't mention in its Kupelian promotion.

First, as the 2003 WND article noted, Mancow has "usually conservative or libertarian political views" and offers a "staunch defense of the U.S. Constitution. Second, Mancow is syndicated by Talk Radio Network, with which WND has a synergistic relationship.

For a news outlet that has made a big deal about having a certain set of standards, WND is sure eager to violate them.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:04 PM EDT
Human Events' Jeffrey Joins CNS
Topic: CNSNews.com

CNSNews.com announced in a Sept. 17 article that Terence P. Jeffrey, editor of Human Events, has joined CNS as editor-in-chief. This doesn't bode well for CNS' recent attempts at balanced reporting, given his record of advancing conservative misinformation:

  • He has falsely asserted that Hillary Clinton has "high negatives in her own party." 
  • He has misleadingly claimed that the White House and Congress examined the "same information" on the Iraqi threat during the buildup to war in late 2002. 
  • He claimed in March that "we also didn't have ... a careful enough debate in Congress about the potential consequences" of invading Iraq, though in 2003 he asserted that claimed that "people have a very realistic and well-informed opinion about our policy towards Iraq."

In the CNS announcement article, Jeffrey is quoted as saying: "I am honored to join CNSNews.com. ... Its ability to debunk liberal bias by delivering legitimate news is unsurpassed. I look forward to seizing new opportunities to perpetuate the mission of Cybercast News Service and the Media Research Center." So it looks like he may not be terribly interested in forwarding CNS' actual stated mission to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story" and will boost the conservative propaganda function instead.

Welcome to CNS, Mr. Jeffrey. We'll be watching. 


Posted by Terry K. at 9:30 AM EDT
Freedom's Watch Funder Has NewsMax Ties
Topic: Newsmax

How lazy of a reporter is NewsMax's Ronald Kessler when it comes to reporting non-fluff about conservatives? He didn't bother to pass along what NewsMax itself had reported on the funding behind Kessler's new favorite conservative group.

As we noted, Kessler wrote in an Aug. 23 article promoting the pro-war group Freedom's Watch that "the total assets of the organization and the largest sources of funds are not being disclosed," but he made no attempt to explain why (though he attacked George Soros for funding liberal groups). A Sept. 7 article by Kessler about Freedom's Watch was similarly uninterested in delving into the group's funding, though he claimed the group "has more funding than MoveOn.org and other George Soros operations." 

But Kessler could have found out by looking at ... NewsMax.

The same day Kessler's first article ran, NewsMax reprinted an Associated Press article about Freedom's Watch, which listed some of the people behind it:

Freedom's Watch was organized as a nonprofit organization under IRS rules and is not required to identify its donors or the amounts they give. The group named some of its financial backers but Blakeman said others wished to remain out of the public eye.

Among those publicly behind the effort are billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a fundraiser for Bush and chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and conservative philanthropist John M. Templeton Jr. of Bryn Mawr, Pa. Both men have been major contributors to conservative causes. Also backing Freedom's Watch are top Republican donors Anthony Gioia, Mel Sembler and Howard Leach, all former ambassadors in the Bush administration. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is a founding member of the group. 

One of those names should sound quite familiar to NewsMax readers. John Templeton Jr. is the son of John Templeman, whose financial analysis NewsMax has been touting for years -- as far back as 2005, as this promo for NewsMax's Financial Intelligence Report shows.

An Aug. 17 article by Christopher Ruddy at NewsMax's MoneyNews site shows that the relationship between NewsMax and the elder Templeton is not just casual:

Back in later 2004, I was invited to see Sir John Templeton in the Bahamas. It was my second visit with the legendary investor.

Templeton saw it all coming. A massive liquidity boom had been fueled by artificially low interest rates. The Fed under Greenspan had created the largest bubble in history. As night turns to day, it would inevitably pop. Go here now to read our exclusive interview with Templeton.

Templeton didn't know the "when" moment. But it would arrive.

FIR readers were warned in February 2005 of my meeting with Templeton about the impending residential home decline and were advised to take defensive actions: avoid housing stocks, sell residential REITs, mortgage, finance and banks linked to the residential boom.

In fact, the relationship between Ruddy and Templeton Sr. goes back even further. A March 2001 profile of Templeton by Ruddy is very fawning, calling him "an extremely unpretentious and robust man" and proudly noting that Templeton's philanthropic foundation has John Templeton Foundation in Radnor, Pa. "assets [of] $235 million." Ruddy added: "In 1995, Templeton's son, Dr. John M. Templeton Jr., left his successful surgical practice to serve full time as president of the foundation."

So, there's some linkage here, through Templeton, between Freedom's Watch and NewsMax that NewsMax should have disclosed in some form (though it didn't disclose its funding from Richard Mellon Scaife to its readers until we started calling them on it). Kessler, meanwhile, should demonstrate a little less fealty to his conservative buddies and show a little more journalistic initiative.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:47 AM EDT
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Sheppard: Warbloggers Are 'Extreme Right'
Topic: NewsBusters

In a Sept. 16 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard praised the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz for calling it "a step forward" that President would meet with conservative pro-war bloggers even though, as Sheppard wrote, "it seemed almost a metaphysical certitude the President would be lambasted for catering to the extreme right."

Is Sheppard really calling warbloggers "extreme right"? By applying Sheppard's own logic -- as demonstrated by a Sept. 15 post in which he declared that Keith Olbermann's questioning of why John Edwards ran an ad immediately after President Bush's address on Iraq, adding, "I don't think I'm saying anything unknown to the audience, I don't think he would have gotten a hard time from this particular network," as an admission that MSNBC is liberally biased -- the answer is yes.

Sheppard also ignored that Kurtz's praise of conservatives isn't as surprising as he depicted: last week, he declared that Fox News is "entitled" to "pose[] as a news organization and puts out dangerous misinformation [and] is a cheerleader for the Bush administration, that it is misinforming our society." 


Posted by Terry K. at 2:49 PM EDT
WND Still Pushing Folger's Less-Than-Factual Anti-Gay 'Facts'
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily is still promoting Janet Folger's not-so-factual "facts" about "hate crimes" laws being used to silence anti-gay protesters.

In a Sept. 12 article, Bob Unruh -- as he has done in the past -- cited Folger's laundry list of purported descriptions of "arresting people for stating their religious beliefs that homosexuality is wrong" as "the facts." But as we've detailed, Folger and Unruh leave out the full context of the incidents. There's another incident on the list we seem not to have covered:

Madison, Wis. David Ott, a former homosexual, was arrested for a "hate crime" for sharing his testimony with a homosexual at a gas station. He faced a $10,000 fine and one year behind bars. Seven thousand dollars in legal fees later, [he] was ordered to attend re-education classes at the University of Wisconsin conducted by a lesbian. 

Folger and Unruh don't state that the incident is not a recent one; it dates to 1997. And as the court's summary of the case shows, Ott was not "arrested for a 'hate crime'"; he was charged with disorderly conduct with a "hate crime" modifier -- not the same thing. (h/t Snopes comment thread.)

Ott's case has apparently been a anti-gay rallying point for some time. From the June 28, 1999, issue of of the Moonie-run conservative Insight magazine:

Meet David Ott, a former homosexual who approached a practicing homosexual and engaged in conversation. David, holding his toddler at the time, was making no threats but merely disagreeing. A few months later he got a knock on the door and a court summons. He was charged and convicted of a "hate crime" and sentenced to a reeducation class led by a lesbian whose opening premise was, "Homosexuality is normal." It cost Ott more than $7,000 in legal fees to fight the alleged "hate crime" of disagreeing. Seven thousand dollars for disagreeing? So much for freedom of speech. 

There is no easily available independent information about the Ott incident, but we can assume by their track record that Folger and Unruh are misrepresenting what happened and leaving out important information.

This information has been added to our article on Folger. 


Posted by Terry K. at 2:06 PM EDT
Examiner's Scarborough Attacks New CIA Official
Topic: Washington Examiner

In a Sept. 14 Washington Examiner article, national security reporter (and former Washington Times writer) Rowan Scarborough disparagingly portrays new CIA clandestine service head Michael J. Sulick.

Scarborough's attack comes in a defense of former CIA director Porter Goss, calling Sulick "a CIA retiree who left Langley in 2004 to protest reforms launched" by Goss; the article's headline reads, "Spy who left CIA in huff returns as head of clandestine service." Scarborough goes on to describe the "huff" incident this way:

In an incident that symbolized Goss' rocky tenure at CIA, Sulick quit in November 2004 as associate deputy director of operations (now the clandestine service) rather than except a transfer to New York.

Goss and his team of ex-congressional aides were trying to transform the clandestine service into a more productive branch and decided to replace Sulick with their own appointee. Sulick called Goss' chief of staff a "Hill puke," tossed a memo at the aide and stalked out of the room. 

Scarborough offers no attribution for this version of events -- unusual since it is not common knowledge or necessarily the undisputed depiction of what happened. The "Hill puke" statement has also been reported by Time and the Weekly Standard; both attributed the claim to anonymous sources, all the more reason for Scarborough to state where his version of events is coming from.

Further, Scarborough's simplistic description of the event -- leaving the impression that a hot-headed Sulick fought Goss' noble attempts to make the CIA "more productive" -- leave out details other have reported about Sulick's relationship with the CIA under Goss. Here's Time's description of things:

[Stephen] Kappes [then-clandestine service chief] and his deputy, Sulick, complained in a meeting with Goss and Patrick Murray, Goss's chief of staff, about Murray's pointed critique of a Sulick memo laying out a proposed D.O. outreach program for members of Congress. Twice in that session, Sulick tossed pieces of paper at Murray. After Goss left for another meeting, Sulick, who is in his 50s and is a Vietnam vet, told Murray, who is 40, that he wasn't going to be treated like some "f___ing Democratic Hill puke," says a CIA source. Disturbed by the episode, Murray asked Kappes a few days later to reassign Sulick. Kappes refused, and the two took their dispute to Goss, who told both men to work things out. The matter festered over a weekend, and when Kappes came to work on Monday, he told Goss he and Sulick would be resigning. Goss tried to persuade Kappes to stay on, says a CIA source, but both men quit anyway.  

Kappes has also returned to the CIA as deputy director; we're guessing that grates on Scarborough's nerves as much as Sulick's return.

Note that Scarborough in his article did not identify Murray by name, calling him only "Goss' chief of staff." Murray, the former Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, was indeed one of several of what the Washington Post called "Hill staff members" who followed Goss, a former congressman, to the CIA. The Post added that these staffer were "not well regarded by senior officials because they lack managerial and operational experience, and are believed to have treated career officers disrespectfully."

Further, Newsweek reported:

One former CIA official told NEWSWEEK that Murray leaned on him more than once to declassify information so he could use it to "embarrass the Democrats." Murray was irritated when the agency declined. He regarded much of the CIA as a nest of obstructionist bureaucrats, time-servers who had schemed to undermine the administration's policies—especially in Iraq. 

There's a lot that Scarborough left out of his article. But he's apparently in the tank for Goss and filled with animosity for career CIA employees like Sulick and Kappes. In a Human Events interview with Scarborough to promote Scarborough's new book, "Sabotage: America’s Enemies Within the CIA," Jed Babbin summarized the book as "mak[ing] the case that the CIA is a rogue agency, not answerable to the president. That they’re not following his policies or trying to support him in this war." Scarborough went on to say in the interview: "When Porter Goss took over the CIA in 2004, really trying to reform it, what happened? He died by a million leaks. It was a cut every day, until Porter Goss by 2006 actually was forced out."


Posted by Terry K. at 12:58 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, September 16, 2007 1:11 PM EDT

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