As should be expected from someone with a history of attacks on Barack Obama, Newsmax's Ronald Kessler used his March 18 column to criticize Obama's speech on race matters and the controversial statements made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
In his eloquent speech in Philadelphia, Obama sought to distance himself from that record while retaining support from blacks who — as my friend Fox News commentator Juan Williams puts it — revel in looking at themselves as victims.
As in the past, Obama carefully parsed his words. Without specifically saying he heard these extremist comments, Obama acknowledged hearing comments by his longtime minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., that “could be considered controversial.”
“Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views?” Obama asked. “Absolutely — just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.”
In making that remark, Obama maligned the vast majority of clergymen who would never utter the kind of anti-American hatred that Wright spews forth on a regular basis.
Obama went on to malign the many black churches that would never condone featuring such hatred in their services.
Obama also acknowledged in his speech that "a similar anger exists within segments of the white community" on racial issues, but Kessler didn't refer to that as a victim mentality -- in fact, he didn't mention that at all.
Also, nowhere does Kessler mention the controversy over his March 16 column, in which his claim that Obama attended a church service in which Wright made inflammatory remarks has been disputed by the Obama campaign. Newsmax added a passive-aggressive "clarification" in which it stood by the claim, not acknowledging that New York Times columnist William Kristol, who repeated Kessler's assertion, has retracted it.
(Meanwhile, Jim Davis, the writer of the August 2007 Newsmax article from which Kessler took his claim, now specifically claims Obama attended an early-morning service before leaving for a speech in Miami. The Newsmax "clarification" does not make a claim as to which service Obama is purported to have attended that day, nor have Kessler or Newsmax further addressed the issue.)
WND Keeps Blackout on Homeschooling Family's History Topic: WorldNetDaily
A March 17 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh continues his refusal to detail the dysfunctional history of the California family at the center of a court ruling regarding homeschooling.
As we've detailed, Unruh has refused to tell his readers the history of abuse in the family of Phillip Long, which leaves the impression that Unruh and WND condone such abuse in the service of promoting the cause of homeschooling.
As Unruh has frequently done in the past, Unruh plays the Nazi card, claiming that that those he perceives as critics of homeschooling "echoed the ideas of officials from Germany, where homeschooling has been outlawed since 1938 under a law adopted when Adolf Hitler decided he wanted the state, and no one else, to control the minds of the nation's youth."
UPDATE: Let's give Unruh a little credit, though; for the very first time, he links to a copy of the appeals court ruling (though not the Dependency Court's ruling containing the full history of the family), while treating it as something that was revealed in a Facebook group of opponents of the ruling (it wasn't; the AMPS blog posted a copy on March 2). Of course, nowhere does he note that the court ruling stated that the homeschooling education the Long children have been receiving was described as "lousy," "meager" and "bad," nor did he note the shifting excuses the parents have given for not sending their children to a real school, as cited in the ruling.
CNS Still Won't Let Planned Parenthood Respond Topic: CNSNews.com
A March 18 CNSNews.com article by Penny Starr reported on a Republican congressman's proposed effort to "prohibit funding for Planned Parenthood." While Starr also quotes a Democratic congresswoman defending Planned Parenthood, the bulk of the article is tilted toward the Republican's arguments. Further, while Starr has audio of the Republican, Mike Pence, her quoting of the Democrat, Lois Capps, is restricted to "a statement to Cybercast News Service."
As has been Starr's pattern in herrecentattacks on Planned Parenthood, there is no evidence offered that she made any effort to give PP officials an opportunity to respond.
WND Adds Ron Paul Column, Ignores Paul's Extremist Ties Topic: WorldNetDaily
A March 16 WorldNetDaily article declared that Ron Paul's column will appear at WND "first thing Monday mornings." The article contains the usual promotional blather and fails to mention WND's own reporting -- namely, a December 2007 article stating that Paul "is planning on keeping a contribution from a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan."
Meanwhile, a look at WND's archives shows that it has never reported on Paul's newsletter having a history of publishing bigoted claims, as detailed in a Jan. 8 New Republic article. The only mention of it anywhere on WND came in a Jan. 18 column by Ron Paul endorser Ilana Mercer, who described the bigoted statements, "unearthed strategically by The New Republic," merely as "politically incorrect" and "unsavory," hastening to add, "none of which bore Ron Paul's byline." In fact, most of the inflammatory claims carried no byline, while the newsletter carried the name of Ron Paul, thus "implying that Paul was the author," as the TNR article noted.
In a March 17 NewsBusters post, Brent Baker accused the TV networks of a "blackout" of "Reverend Jeremiah Wright's 2001 charge that the U.S. earned the 9/11 attacks."
Of course, Baker's employer, the Media Research Center, is in the midst of its own blackout of the controversy over John McCain endorser John Hagee's anti-Catholic rhetoric. As we've noted, only a March 4 CNSNews.com article has repeated the specific claims, and Hagee was not otherwise addressed at all until the controversy over Wright gave the MRC cover to dismiss Hagee as unimportant by comparison -- even though Hagee's words had not become any less offensive.
Did Kessler Make False Claim About Obama? Topic: Newsmax
In a March 16 Newsmax column, Ronald Kessler -- citing Newsmax correspondent Jim Davis as a source in a article he wrote last August -- claimed that, contrary to Barack Obama's suggestion that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright "had not used such derogatory language in any of the church services Obama attended over the past two decades," Obama "was present in the South Side Chicago church on July 22 last year," when, according to Kessler, Wright referred to the "United States of White America" and that the "illegal war" in Iraq was "based on Bush’s lies" and is being "fought for oil money."
But there was a problem: As The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder pointed out when New York Times columnist William Kristol repeated the claim, Obama spent the day campaigning in Miami.
This resulted in a strangely passive-aggressive "clarification" being appended to Kessler's article:
Clarification: The Obama campaign has told members of the press that Senator Obama was not in church on the day cited, July 22, because he had a speech he gave in Miami at 1:30 PM. Our writer, Jim Davis, says he attended several services at Senator Obama's church during the month of July, including July 22. The church holds services three times every Sunday at 7:30 and 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central time. While both the early morning and evening service allowed Sen. Obama to attend the service and still give a speech in Miami, Mr. Davis stands by his story that during one of the services he attended during the month of July, Senator Obama was present and sat through the sermon given by Rev. Wright as described in the story. Mr. Davis said Secret Service were also present in the church during Senator Obama's attendance. Mr. Davis' story was first published on Newsmax on August 9, 2007. Shortly before publication, Mr. Davis contacted the press office of Sen. Obama several times for comment about the Senator's attendance and Rev. Wright's comments during his sermon. The Senator's office declined to comment.
While the "clarification" makes a point of detailing the church's service times that would have purportedly "allowed Sen. Obama to attend the service and still give a speech in Miami," nowhere does Davis or Newsmax state exactly which service Obama is purported to have attended that day, nor is it made clear whether Wright gives a sermon (or the same sermon) at all three services. Newsmax then blamed Obama's office for not returning calls to Davis before publication of his 2007 article.
Kessler clearly has an anti-Obama bias:
In a March 14 Wall Street Journal op-ed -- a retooled version of his March 6 Newsmax column -- Kessler selectively quoted a New York Times article to leave out Obama's previous criticism of Wright's remarks.
In a March 5 Newsmax column, Kessler claimed that Obama "dissemble[d]" in his denunciation of Louis Farrakhan, while remaining silent about anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee's endorsement of John McCain.
A Jan. 7 article by Kessler attacked Obama's "racist church" because it claims to be "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian" with a “non-negotiable commitment to Africa” and a "Black Value System." But Kessler ignored that Wright has stated that the church's philosophy does not "assume superiority nor does it assume separatism." Kessler claimed by way of comparison: "Imagine if Mitt Romney’s church proclaimed on its website that it is 'unashamedly white.' The media would pounce, and Romney’s presidential candidacy would be over." He doesn't mention that the Mormon church has arguably been for a good part of its history "unabashedly white," with a history of anti-black racism. (Kessler was a disturbingly sycophantic booster of Romney's campaign.)
Kessler falsely suggested that the only statements Obama has made on the issue of Farrakhan was one in which Obama said the decision by a magazine published by the church he attends to honor Farrakhan was "is not a decision with which I agree" and that it "showed a lack of sensitivity to the Jewish community." But Obama has also said that he has been a "consistent denunciator of Louis Farrakhan, nobody challenges that."
In a Dec. 31, 2007, column , Kessler claimed that "Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last August voted against revising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow NSA to continue to monitor calls by foreign terrorists without a warrant even if all parties are situated overseas." As we detailed the last time Kessler did this, Clinton, Obama, and other Democrats who opposed the bill did not do so because they opposed revising FISA in the manner Kessler wanted; rather, the main point of contention was court oversight of the warrantless wiretapping program. Democrats wanted meaningful court oversight; Republicans didn't. Kessler didn't mention the court oversight controversy.
Meanwhile, Kristol has issued a correction for his citing of Kessler:
In this column, I cite a report that Sen. Obama had attended services at Trinity Church on July 22, 2007. The Obama camapaign has provided information showing that Sen. Obama did not attend Trinity that day. I regret the error.
Will Newsmax get around to noting this?
UPDATE: Davis, aka Free Republic poster Philo1962, now says his notes for his story have long since been thrown away and he can't verify what he wrote. Davis adds: "If they didn't see any need to immediately correct a story about Barack Obama attending a sermon filled with hatred and racial animus, then in my opinion, they don't deserve to win a presidential campaign." So it looks like Davis has a anti-Obama bias too.
UPDATE 2: Newsmax has previously embraced Obama smears by Andy Martin.
UPDATE 3: TPM's Greg Sargent notes that Kessler has been trying to scrub references to the controversy off his Wikipedia page.
WND Silent On McCain-Hagee Controversy Topic: WorldNetDaily
We've previouslynoted that the ConWeb has mostly stayed away from addressing evangelist John Hagee's endorsement of John McCain and Hagee's history of making anti-Catholic (among other various anti-) statements. One place where the silence has been total is WorldNetDaily: Not only has there been no original "news" article about it, no columnist has so much as breathed a word about it.
Which is strange because WND editor Joseph Farah deplored the idea of evangelicals endorsing McCain a year ago.
In a Feb. 12, 2007, column, Farah expressed dismay that "several major American Christian leaders seem ready to accept the possibility of a John McCain presidency," including "my friend John Hagee." Indeed, Hagee is enough of a friend to have written a column for WND for a time in 2002, and WND's online store sells at least one Hagee-penned book.
Farah went on to bash McCain as "morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest and emotionally unequipped for the Oval Office," as well as "emotionally and psychologically unstable" in the tradition of Hillary Clinton, Captain Queeg and "Charles Logan, the fictional president in season five of '24.'" He then praised Focus on the Family's James Dobson because he "all but ruled out supporting McCain under any circumstances."
So there is a history here. Why is WND being silent now?
The short answer appears to be that as much as Farah despises McCain, he also doesn't want to offend his friend Hagee, so WND will not put Hagee on the spot and either call him out for his controversial statements or run to his defense (after all, WND has a bit of anti-Catholic bias itself).
That would seem to be a contradiction of WND's mission statement to be "credible, fearless, independent." There's nothing credible, fearless, or independent about being afraid to offend a friend of the owner.
WND also sells a book by Rod Parsley, so don't expect WND to delve too deeply into that little McCain-related controversy either.
By contrast, it should not be a surprise that WNDisallover controverisal statements made by Barack Obama's pastor.
Sheppard's Disturbing Double Standard Topic: NewsBusters
In a March 15 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard claimed Al Franken showed "gall" and was being "disingenuous" when he denied what CNN's Kiran Chetry said he said "concerning Scooter Libby and Karl Rove being executed for their involvement in the Valerie Plame Wilson affair," which Sheppard called a "disturbing joke."
We have to wonder: Did Sheppard find it similarly "disturbing" when Ann Coulter "joked" that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens should die by rat poisoning? Or when Coulter "joked" that Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the New York Times building? Because we sure don't recall him (or anyone else at the MRC, for that matter) being particularly disturbed by such "jokes."
Huston Makes False Claims About McCain and Hagee (And, Of Course, Equivocates) Topic: NewsBusters
Warner Todd Huston joins in the Obama Equivocation with a March 15 NewsBusters post: "Obama had many decades of intimacy with Rev. Wright proving that Wright's hate speech could not possibly have bothered Barack very much at all, much less have come as any surprise. While John McCain had only just met John Hagee proving that his history of anti-Catholic statements is not something that McCain could have had long and intimate contact with."
"McCain had only just met John Hagee"? Wrong. McCain has known Hagee since at least July 2007, when he attended an conference run by Hagee's group, Christians United for Israel. McCain also specifically sought out Hagee's endorsement. Shouldn't he have done a better job of vetting Hagee before accepting that endorsement?
Huston also claims that it was "late last week" that Hagee's anti-Catholic attacks "began to surface." That's false too: As fellow NewsBuster Tim Graham has noted (heck, Huston even linked to Graham's post), Hagee's statements surfaced a good two weeks before Huston (not to mention the rest of the MRC) finally got around to noticing it.
Newsmax Treats 6-Year-Old Incident As New, Then Misleads Further Topic: Newsmax
A March 14 Newsmax article claims: "Ted Kennedy has called Nantucket Sound near his Massachusetts estate “a national treasure” — but that didn’t stop the senator from having oil dumped from his yacht into its waters." Just a couple things wrong here:
1) The Cape Cod Today blog entry from which Newsmax cribbed its item states the the alleged incident occured in 2002 -- information missing from Newsmax's article.
2) Newsmax offers no evidence (nor does Cape Cod Today, despite claiming that it was "him dumping diesel fuel from the bilge of his yacht") that Kennedy ordered, participated in, or even knew about the diesel fuel (mixed with bilge) that was allegedly dumped from the boat into the sound. Indeed, both articles state that the "crew member left aboard" the yacht was doing the alleged dumping, not Kennedy.
The Cape Cod Times blog entry goes on to state:
Why run 6-year old photos? The answer is simple - we received them two days ago sent anonymously to our Investigative Reporter (and Blogger) Peter Robbins.
Cape Cod Today, in a WorldNetDaily-esque ethical breach, offers no evidence that it made any effort to verify the anonymous claim. Apparently it's just as eager to throw out unverified smears as Newsmax is.
MRC Finally Mentions Hagee -- Then Equivocates Topic: NewsBusters
We've detailed how the Media Research Center has generally ignored the controversy surrounding the endorsement of John McCain by anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee. Tim Graham finally mentions Hagee in a March 15 NewsBusters post -- then tries to equivocate it away:
If you have liberal friends who try to rebut you and say that the same networks that had largely ignored Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright also ignored John McCain being embraced by harshly anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee, you can first say that there’s a huge difference between someone’s selected pastor of two decades and a new endorser.
Graham then notes network coverage and concludes: "McCain satisfied the Catholic League that he had rejected Hagee's whore-of-Babylon wheezing." What Graham doesn't address is why the MRC is essentially ignored the controversy until now, even though it's normally quick to pounce on any perceived anti-Catholic bias in the media, or why the Catholic League's satisfaction with McCain's rejection of Hagee's statements (though not his endorsement) was worth noting but not the Catholic League's original criticism two weeks earlier.
We've theorized that Graham, Brent Bozell and Co., by giving McCain a pass, are putting aside their religious faith in service of partisan politics -- they don't want to be seen as attacking the presumtive Republican candidate for president, even though they would in all likelihood have jumped on the McCain story if he hadn't yet clinched the nomination.
Meanwhile, the MRC folks have jumped all over the controversy over Wright's words -- and, in contrast to Graham's meek acquiescence to the Catholic League's acceptance of McCain's quasi-rejection, seem to think that no condemnation Obama makes, no matter how strong, is not enough.
A March 15 post by John Stephenson concedes that Obama made a "STRONG condemnation," then insists that there are "holes in Obama’s repudiation," and finally huffing, "I’m not convinced." Stephenson doesn't explain what, if anything, Obama can do to satisfy him.
An earlier post by Stephenson likened Wright to the notorious gay-haters at the Westboro Baptist Church -- if we're going to play the equivocation game, it should be noted that Stephenson offers no evidence that any member of Wright's church, Obama included, travels around the country hurling slurs at funerals -- but he makes no mention of Hagee and McCain spiritual adviser Rod Parsley, whose combinedhistory of statements certainly approach the Westboro-esque.
What Aaron Klein Didn't Dispute Topic: WorldNetDaily
A March 13 article by Ari Berman in The Nation cites WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein as a prime source of smears against Barack Obama. In a March 14 WND column, Klein fired back.
Berman singled out a Feb. 24 WND article in which Klein played guilt-by-association by trying to tie Obama to a former '60s radical with whom Obama had once served on a nonprofit group's board and to a pro-Palestinian activist, Rashid Khalidi, to whom that board awarded a grant.
Klein tried the technicality approach: "I never reported Khalidi was an Obama adviser. I also never stated anywhere as fact that Khalidi was employed by the PLO. ... I fairly note Rashid Khalidi has denied working for the PLO." But it's clear that Klein wanted to leave in the impression that Khalidi worked for the PLO in his Feb. 24 article: Klein's statement that Khalidi "reportedly has worked on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization" appeared in the second paragraph, but his statement that "Rashid Khalidi at times has denied working directly for the PLO" doesn't appear until paragraph 20.
Klein also clearly wanted to leave the impression that Obama has some sort of close relationship with both Khalidi and former Weather Underground radical William Ayers, even though Klein proves nothing beyond serving on a board with Ayers that awarded a grant to Khalidi's group. Yet Klein insisted that this somehow ads up to Obama having "relationships with extremely questionable, terrorist-supporting, anti-American elements."
Even as he plays the victim by claiming Berman "attempt[ed] to smear my factual reporting," Klein unloads a truckload of smears himself. He calls The Nation "a small-circulation extreme leftist magazine popular with philosophy majors and owners of vegan restaurants in Manhattan's East Village" that "has reportedly lost money in all but three or four years of its operation and is said to be sustained in large part by donations." (We suspect that WND's recent libel lawsuit settlement will not be positively impacting its financial situation.) He called Berman's article a "drunken tirade" and a "lying rant" and Berman himself "hysterical" and an "Obama-hack" who is "a symptom of a malignant messianic infatuation with Obama evidenced by the drive-by media for whom Obama can do no wrong." Sounds like Klein has some issues with Obama, which means we can see more smears from him like his Feb. 24 article.
Klein further claimed, among numerous other unsupported accuations, that Berman "falsely depicts my public relations representative, Maria Sliwa, as a 'Christian publicist,' when she is no such thing." In fact, according to an article in the Christian magazine Charisma:
Sliwa dusted off a Bible a Christian friend had given her as a wedding present and for the first time dug into the Scriptures with an open mind. She discussed spiritual concerns with her friend, who invited her to a Pentecostal church on Long Island, where she surrendered her life to Christ. "I got radically saved," she says.
Several weeks later she was baptized in the Holy Spirit at Christian Pentecostal Church. "It gave me a new boldness I never had," she says. "I knew then my whole life would be devoted to the Lord."
So Sliwa is a Christian and a publicist, which, in fact, does make her a "Christian publicist."
Never challenged by Klein, however, is the section in which Berman links to a ConWebWatch article as support:
Klein made a name for himself by getting terrorists to say nice things about Democrats and allying himself with extremist elements of the Israeli right, whom he frequently quotes as sources in his articles--when he bothers to quote anyone at all. Klein originally called Hillary Clinton the "jihadist choice for president," but when Clinton stumbled, he turned his fire to Obama, attempting to expose his so-called "terrorist connections."
While Berman seems to have overstated things a bit, so does Klein. And let the record show that Klein has never challenged, let alone contradicted, anything we have written about him.
Not All Anti-Catholicism Offends Bozell Topic: Media Research Center
Brent Bozell has dedicated his March 13 column to bashing comedian Lewis Black for making what he called anti-Catholic statements. "Now, on the cusp of the Easter celebration, it’s Catholic-hunting season again," Bozell fumed.
But while Bozell and the rest of his MRC crew regularly attacks perceived anti-Catholicism (as we've noted), no MRC employee, Bozell included, has seen fit to denounce John McCain for accepting the endorsement of anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee.
Why won't Bozell do what would be logical for him, as an activist Catholic, to do? Perhaps because he and the MRC must avoid doing anything to jeopardize Repubican chances in November, no matter how much it pains them to defend a Repubican presidential candidate it considers insufficiently conservative. Had Hagee's endorsement occured before McCain clinched the nomination, the MRC would be beating it into the ground in order to boost more conservative candidates.
In other words, Bozell is sacrificing his religious faith for partisan politics. That doesn't exactly make him a good Catholic, does it?
A March 13 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh on the Phillip Long homeschooling case in California remains silent about Long's control-freak history. Unruh and WND thus continue to effectively condone child abuse.
And, of course, Unruh indulges in another of his obsessions, likening anyone who isn't sufficiently supportive of homeschooling to Nazis.
In a March 12 NewsBusters post, Matthew Sheffield wrote regarding media analysis pieces about why Eliot Spitzer did what he did: "[A]n article like this would never be written trying to 'add context' to a Republican plagued by a sex scandal. Mark Foley or Bernard Kerik would have killed to get such press."
But Foley and Kerik got great press from the ConWeb, at least until the depths of their offenses proved too much for even them to continue to whitewash.
As we detailed, Newsmax and WorldNetDaily initially portrayed Foley as the victim of "radical activists," the "Clinton War Room" and groups funded by George Soros, and CNSNews.com did its best to try and distract people away from it. Even NewsBusters' own Mark Finkelstein forwarded the idea that the revelation of Foley's dalliances with teenage male congressional pages was "part of a calculated campaign to keep the story in the news and inflict maximum political damage on the GOP."
As for Kerik, Newsmax was his biggest booster upon his nomination as homeland security secretary, decrying revelations about his past as "unverified" and "journalistic hatchet jobs." And Kerik's extramarital affairs were arguably the least of Kerik's problems (though the fact the apartment where Kerik carried on said affairs was supposed to be for the use of 9/11 cleanup workers was decidedly egregious); being linked to the mob, for instance, was a tad more important.
If Sheffield feels that a journalistic void exists for "context" articles that explain away conservative scandals, why doesn't he fill it? His "news" compadres at CNS would presumably be happy to publish them.