ConWebBlog: The Weblog of ConWebWatch

your New Media watchdog

ConWebWatch: home | archive/search | about | primer | shop

Monday, February 18, 2019
Newsmax's Hirsen Pretends Extortion Isn't Extortion
Topic: Newsmax

James Hirsen, who claims to be a lawyer, did a lawyerly job doing a little pro bono work for the National Enquirer in his Feb. 11 Newsmax column in attempting to insist that the apparent extortion attempt the Enquirer's parent, American Media Inc., is using against Amazon chief and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos really isn't extortion at all.

AMI threatened to publish compromising photos of Bezos if, as Hirsen tells it, "he did not publicly state that the tabloid’s reporting on his affair was not motivated by political concerns." But even as Hirsen admits, "David Pecker is the CEO of AMI, and he is known to be an associate and friend of President Donald Trump," and that Bezos "cited ways that the president and Pecker had cooperated in the past." It would seem, then, that AMI is demanding that Bezos state something that appears to be a lie.

He even concedes that the story "illustrates the hunger on the part of many in the mainstream press for anything that can be weaponized against the president and used to ratchet down his poll numbers" -- inadvertently acknowleging that it's legitimate for Bezos to breing up the Trump angle.

Hirsen insists that a "superficial read" is leading to claims of extortion. But, he adds, this is merely a business negotiation:

In analyzing this email, it is important to focus on the context within which both parties are seeking to settle a dispute.

In settlement negotiations, it is common practice for the parties to propose that each side will release the other from any potential claims. This is what was communicated through its legal counsel in the subject e-mail by AMI, along with a proposal that Bezos would agree to tell the public that AMI's coverage of Bezos was not politically motivated.

In return, AMI would agree not to publish the texts and photographs.

Outside of the settlement discussion context, criminal extortion would exist in a case such as this if money was demanded as payment for not making public an embarrassing secret. However, in this instance the key difference revolves around the settlement backdrop.

Why would the two sides be negotiating a settlement? It is clear that Bezos has been raising potential civil legal claims against AMI, while AMI has suggested that Bezos’s Washington Post planned to publish a false news story about AMI.

These cross assertions are arguably the basis for both parties to be pursuing a settlement of their respective claims. A settlement agreement would mutually release the claims of both parties.

[...]

Prosecutors would have an uphill battle in attempting to use these facts as a basis for a criminal extortion case. Additionally, the First Amendment creates further problems for the prosecution, since Bezos is a very well known influential public figure and a power player in Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C., and Hollywood.

Hirsen is incorrect in claiming that it's only extortion if money is involved. As Slate detailed, the federal extortion statute prohibits communication "containing any threat to injure the … reputation of the addressee" in order to extort "money or other thing of value." The statement of exoneration AMI is demanding from Bezos is clearly a thing of value, and the compromising photos it's threatening to print if it doesn't get that statement are clearly intended to injure Bezos' reputation.

(Hirsen curious doesn't mention that other prominent people have also been on the receiving end of AMI's sleazy tactics.)

Further, Hirsen does not supply any evidence that this was an actual "negotiation." If Bezos' telling is correct, AMI made demands of Bezos, and when he "didn’t react to the generalized threat with enough fear," it raised the ante by bringing up the compromising photos.

If this was really a First Amendment issue based solely on Bezos' newsworthiness as a "very well known influential public figure and a power player in Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C., and Hollywood," AMI would not need to negotiate with Bezos --  it would simply publish the photos. Every other legitimate news organization would do that.

Hirsen's column reads more like an audition as an attorney for AMI than a serious look at the legal issues involved here.


Posted by Terry K. at 5:31 PM EST
CNS Devolves Into Echo Chamber for Trump's Policies
Topic: CNSNews.com

When President Trump says "jump," CNSNews.com asks, "how high?" That's the editorial agenda of CNS these days -- bolstering whatever pronouncement Trump makes with sycophantic echoing and random, anecdotal claims.

For instance, when Trump started ranting about claims of human trafficking over the southern border in order to justify building a wall -- which experts on the issue say is wildly overblown -- CNS rushed to bolster it:

  • Melanie Arter wrote a Feb. 4 article featuring an activist who claimed that "human traffickers take advantage of the United States’ open borders to smuggle children into the country and force them to have sex for money."
  • The next day, Arter wrote an article featuring a Border Patrol official claiming "human traffickers are using children to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border as a family unit and recycling the children back across the border to be used again."

When Trump announced that the U.S. would pull out of Syria and prematurely declared ISIS defeated, CNS continued the support mode there it started when Trump first made the announcement:

  • A Jan. 16 article by Susan Jones complained that Trump's announcement "drew an instant backlash," then highlighted that "an undisclosed number of U.S. troops were killed on routine patrol in Syria."
  • On Jan. 21, Patrick Goodenough noted another ISIS-linked bombing in Syria targeting U.S. troops.
  • A Jan. 29 article by Jones pushed Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats' claim that "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will seek to 'avoid conflict' with two of America's allies as he consolidates power in Syria and continues to 're-take territory' from what remains of ISIS." Jones then added a partisan spin by noting, "This is the same dictator that the Obama administration tried to topple."
  • A Feb. 3 video featured Trump declaring that the U.S. needs to get out of "endless wars" like in Syria.
  • On Feb. 5, Jones featured a report claiming that "ISIS is regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria."
  • Dmitri Simes wrote a Feb. 7 article touting Sen. Rand Paul's endorsement of Trump's proclamation.
  • The same day, Goodenough promoted Trump's claim that "he expects the military coalition fighting ISIS to formally declare the end of the terrorist group’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq as soon as next week."

We've already seen hwo CNS worked to echo Trump's public pronoucements on the government shutdown, even as those views constantly shifted.

Acting as a political echo chamber is not the same thing as journalism.

(Updated to note earlier Syria support.)


Posted by Terry K. at 2:38 PM EST
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2019 8:29 PM EST
WND Projects In Accusing Liberals of Projection
Topic: WorldNetDaily

The current issue of WorldNetDaily's sparsely read Whistleblower magazine is titled "MASTERS OF PROJECTION: How today’s Democrats accuse their opponents of the very evil they perpetrate," and it's promoted thusly:

In psychology, projection is just one of many defense mechanisms people unconsciously employ to avoid facing uncomfortable feelings within themselves – by ascribing these unpleasant qualities to another person.

But in today’s political and cultural battles, projection is a tactic of all-out warfare.

The plain truth is, on issue after issue, one side in the raging war over America’s future is literally accusing the other side of the very attitudes, offenses and crimes of which it itself is guilty.

[...]

“After 20 years of producing Whistleblower magazine for WND,” says best-selling author and WND Managing Editor David Kupelian, “this has turned out to be one of my favorite issues. It’s smart, original, and it shines a fresh new light on the vexing political and cultural wars now ravaging our nation. On issues from ‘Russia collusion’ to racism, and from tolerance to voter fraud, we document how the left literally accuses others of their own misdeeds.”

Kupelian and Co. will never admit it, but WND is a major source of projection. To name just a few examples:

Kupelian's column on the subject, published at WND on Jan. 27, expanded on the theme, declaring at one point that "The left is so good at projection, it even projects the accusation of projection onto others!" He added as one example: "Members of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign did spread the theory that Obama was born in Kenya and constitutionally ineligible to be president." The 2016 McClatchy article to which Kupelian links to prove this also notes that the one Clinton campaign staff who spread the story was fired and that a reporter who whom Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal fed the claim (he has denied doing so) investigated it and found it to be false.

In other words, it would have died a discredited claim had WND not picked it up and spent the next eight years pushing it. Kupelian is simply seking retroactive justification for pushing a story he knew or should have known was false for the sole purpose of engaging in the politics of personal destrution against Obama.

Isn't that projection too?

Kupelian also unironically wrote: "There are no rules when you’re battling Hitler, and that’s exactly how the left likes it – no rules. Of course, Trump is not Hitler and the GOP is not fascist, Nazi or evil." Kupelian, Joseph Farah and the rest of WND also likes it when there's no rules -- that's why it had no problem tarring Obama with the Hitler slur it now conveniently despises.

The lack of irony continued in an anonymously written Feb. 7 WND article on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that Trump is "projecting his own unruliness" when he attacks his critics. But instead of directly responding to Pelosi, the article turns into a promotion for the magazine, copying liberally from the earlier promo and Kupelian's column.

In attacking liberals for allegedly projecting in their criticisms of Trump, Kupelian and WND are themselves projecting. Now that's irony.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:39 AM EST
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Acosta Derangement Syndrome Watch, MRC Edition
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center has had a raging case of Acosta Derangement Syndrome for a while now, and it seems to be only getting worse.

The MRC's chief Acosta-hater, Curtis Houck, spent an entire Jan. 24 post ranting at Acosta for writing a book, tossing his usual insults at Acosta like "pompous" and "carnival barker." Apparently feeling that he hadn't insulted Acosta enough, he included more Acosta-bashing comments from right-wing bloggers. At one point Houck sneers: "Okay, Jim! Time to call in The Avengers! And we’ll assume you’ll want to play Captain America, right?"

Randy Hall joined in with his own rant on Jan. 28 by finding the one thing in a new book criticizing the Trump White House that worked with the MRC's agenda:

It’s certainly no surprise that CNN's Jim Acosta would go to virtually any length to criticize President Trump and anyone in his administration.

The most recent example of this behavior comes in an excerpt from a new book written by former Trump administration official Cliff Sims, who wrote that Acosta and his channel “peddled slime” with “unsubstantiated misinformation from a disgruntled ex-Trump campaign aide.”

Entitled Team of Vipers: My Extraordinary 500 Days in the Trump White House and released on Monday, Breitbart published on Sunday produced an exclusive excerpt stating that a story based on a single anonymous source claimed that the President had been “upset with” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Since Hall is simply cribbingfrom Breitbart, he can't be bothered to find out whether Acosta and CNN still stood by the story that Sims claims had been "completely made up" (since Breitbart didn't either).

Scott Whitlock tried his hand at hurling invective at Acosta in a Feb. 15 post, claiing that the "self-agrandizing" Acosta "offered a typically attention-grabbing question" at President Trump's press conference declaring a national emergency over the southern border, and that he was "lectur[ing]" and being "condesending" toward parents whose children had been killed by illegal immigrants. In reality, Acosta accurately pointed out that Trump doesn't "stick to the facts" on illegal immigration and asked the "angel moms" to respond to the declaration.

Yes, the MRC spends this kind of time to personally attack a journalist.


Posted by Terry K. at 11:09 PM EST
CNS' Jeffrey Rehashes Old, Bogus Attack On Obama Over Abortion
Topic: CNSNews.com

CNSNews.com editor in chief Terry Jeffrey devoted his Feb. 6 column to rehashing a old attack on Barack Obama: ascribing sinister motive to bills he opposed as an Illinois state senator that would require care of a fetus that was still alive after an abortion. "At that time, Illinois state law did not protect the rights of these abortion-surviving babies," Jeffrey writes, adding that the state senator who introduced the bills "just wanted to protect the constitutional rights of all born babies. Not Obama."

In fact, as we documented when the attack first surfaced during the 2008 presidential campaign, Illinois already had a law requiring medical care for a viable fetus that survived an abortion -- contradicting the source Jeffrey used for his column, anti-abortion activist Jill Stanek that only "comfort care" is permitted.

While Jeffrey cited one single defense Obama made of his opposition to the bill -- that it would give legal status to a previable fetus -- Obama also pointed out that the legislation was really intended to restrict abortion rights and it would likely be struck down by the courts since federal law did not permit it under Roe v. Wade, since it did not include a "neutrality clause" stating that the law would not change anyone's legal status.

The fact that Obama has been out of office for more than two years isn't stopping Jeffrey from falsely attacking him -- though perhaps it should be a sign he should give it up.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:35 PM EST
Saturday, February 16, 2019
Trump Gets Fact-Checked Too Much, MRC's Graham Complains
Topic: Media Research Center

One of Media Research Center bigwig Tim Graham's current obsessions is to rail against fact-checkers who keep proving that President Trump is a lying liar who lies. For instance, he whines in a Jan. 28 post:

We've made it a routine point that the media's "independent fact-checkers" spend most of their time fact-checking President Trump, and the rest of the politicians (especially Democrats) get far less attention. This was confirmed in a recent article in the British leftist paper The Guardian. The headline on Adam Gabbatt's piece was "The 'exhausting' work of factcheckers who track Trump's barrage of lies."

[...]

So if these websites want to be perceived as "nonpartisan," won't that be difficult if the overwhelming target of your checking is a Republican president? Kessler said “It was more difficult to fact-check Obama because there was always a modicum of truth there. You ended up going way down in the weeds with officials who were highly knowledgable and wanted to defend their case. With Trump a lot of times the White House won’t defend what he’s saying because they have no defense.”

Someone should ask Kessler: How much time do you think the president has, when you're tagging him with 15 "false claims" a day?

Graham's attitude requires him to be oblivious to two things: 1) If Trump wants to be fact-checked less, he should lie less, and 2) No evidence has been presented that any single Democratic politician -- or even a large group of them -- lie as much as Trump does.

Further, Trump is a target-rich environment -- he lies often and blatantly.  Graham can't seem to even admit that Trump has lied (though he doesn't actively dispute it).

Graham followed up with more whining on Feb. 8, this time trying to paint fact-checker PolitiFact as biased because it fact-checks Trump a lot. First, he insists PolitiFact is lying about not basing fact-checks on ideology because "PolitiFact has been sustained by large grants from liberal foundations including the Ford Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the leftist Craig Newmark Foundation." Graham seems to think -- without evidence, of course -- that liberal donors to nonpartisan organizations demand the same ideological loyalty that donors to the MRC do.

Then, Graham threw some numbers around (boldface in original):

Let's take a quick check of 2017 and 2018 to see what happens when you actually care about who is fact-checked more and less. 

-- President Trump was fact-checked on their "Truth-o-Meter" 297 times in the last two calendar years, and 205 of those statements were ranked Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire. That's 69 percent of the time.

-- Nancy Pelosi, then the House Minority Leader, House leader Nancy Pelosi was checked 12 times. Six of them were on the False side (50 percent), zero Pants on Fire. Five were True or Mostly True, and one was Half True. 

-- Charles Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, was checked 9 times. Four of those were on the False side (44 percent), three on the True side, and two Half Trues.

-- President Trump was rated a "Pants On Fire" liar 33 times, more than these two Democrat [sic] leaders were rated at all (21 times).

-- In the partisan breakdown of "Pants on Fire" ratings in 2017-18, Republicans/conservatives were tagged 98 times overall and Democrats/liberals merely 15 times. That's a margin of more than six to one.

In the "Blue Wave" year of 2018, Barack and Michelle Obama were rated....Zero times. Hillary Clinton was rated.....Zero times. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was rated....Zero times. Bill Clinton drew one...for claiming they were poor when they left the White House. 

It's not just Trump. Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren were both elected to the Senate in 2012. Cruz was assessed for truth on 135 occasions by PolitiFact through 2018, but Warren? Only five.

And for the record, PolitiFact has never evaluated Warren on the “Truth-o-Meter” when she claimed to be part-Cherokee Indian.

Graham never explains why, for instance, the Obamas or the Clintons should hjave been fact-checked in 2018, given that none of them had any central role in that year's elections. Nor does he explain how, exactly, PolitiFact could have examined Warren's claim about her heritage without, say, obtaining her DNA.

Graham concludes with one lasat whine: "Like the rest of the Liberal Media, PolitiFact treats conservatives as much more likely to lie and mislead." But he offers no evidence to the contrary; he cites not one single example of a claim by a Democrat that PolitiFact should have fact-checked but didn't.

If Graham really wants to do other than try to make cheap political points and actually prove his thesis correct, he should put his money -- or, more to the point, the Mercers' money -- where his mouth is: a MRC fact-checking operation that goes after the things PolitiFact purportedly won't. On the other hand, running one's mouth is much easier...


Posted by Terry K. at 10:41 AM EST
WND Touts Another Dubious Lawsuit Against SPLC
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Last month, WorldNetDaily touted a frivolous defamation lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center by a man who's mad the SPLC exposed his support and legal work for a neo-Nazi group. Now it's found another guy suing the SPLC because it exposed him:

Gavin McInnes, the conservative commentator and host of the internet-based program “Get Off My Lawn,” is suing the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center for designating him a “hate” figure, charging the group’s “concerted, obsessive and malicious actions” were designed to harm him.

“SPLC’s defamatory, false, and misleading designation of Mr. McInnes as a ‘hate’ figure is purposefully deceitful and intended to tarnish Mr. McInnes’s reputation, disparage Mr. McInnes’s good name and work, inflict harm and financial damage, reduce Mr. McInnes’s goodwill and standing in the community, expose Mr. MicInnes, his family and anyone else associated with him to public scorn, harassment, intimidation, and potential violence, and to denigrate, malign, and ridicule Mr. McInnes to countless individuals and potential employers and partners around the world,” Monday’s lawsuit by McInnes explains.

[...]

McInnes’ complaint contends that while he is an “avowed and vocal opponent of discrimination based on race, religion or sexual preference, and of ideologies and movements espousing extremism, nationalism and white supremacy,” SPLC still gave him its “hate designation.”

In the lawsuit, McInnes says SPLC is “defaming him by use of the SPLC Hate Designations, and publishing other false, damaging and defamatory statements about him.”

The case was filed in Alabama District Court.

McInnes alleges SPLC “harassed” him, his family and friends, and lied about him.

Tellingly, WND does not link to the SPLC page on McInnes and the Proud Boys -- the only reference to which in the WND is a bland note that it was founded by McInnes but that he "left it in 2018" -- and WND does not identify specific claims by the SPLC about McInnes beyond being a "hate" figure. In fact, the SPLC documents McInnes' ties to racism and hate and the Proud Boys' descent into violence:

McInnes himself has ties to the racist right and has contributed to hate sites like VDare.com and American Renaissance, both of which publish the work of white supremacists and so-called “race realists.” He even used Taki’s Magazine — a far-right publication whose contributors include Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor — to announce the founding of the Proud Boys. McInnes plays a duplicitous rhetorical game: rejecting white nationalism and, in particular, the term “alt-right” while espousing some of its central tenets.

[...]

Despite the pains they’ve taken to distance themselves from open white nationalists and antisemites, Proud Boys have been present at high-profile alt-right events, including the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “[J]ust don’t fucking wear your Fred Perry, or decide to belt: ‘Proud of Your Boy,’” McInnes limply warned followers before the event. “[I]f you decide to rub elbows with those people [while] in colors, you very well could find yourself disavowed.”

But they did show up, which McInnes evidently expected. In the first episode of his Compound Media show after the August rally, McInnes said he had been “just combing through all the media reports going, ‘Don’t say Proud Boys, don’t say Proud Boys, don’t say Proud Boys,’” hoping the “lunatic Nazi” who allegedly killed Heather Heyer wasn’t a member of his group. He wasn’t, but the white nationalist Jason Kessler — who has been filmed undergoing his second-degree Proud Boy initiation — was the rally’s principal organizer. Less than two months earlier, Kessler had been a guest on “The Gavin McInnes Show,” where he promoted Unite the Right and, in a chummy interview, laid out the ideological overlap he and McInnes shared. “What’s really under attack is if you say, ‘I want to stand up for white people. I want to stand up for western civilization. I want to stand up for men. I want to stand up for Christians,’” to which McInnes nodded in agreement and added other examples: “I’m against immigration…I’m against jihadis. I’m against radical Islam."

[...]

Around the same time, Proud Boys member Kyle Chapman announced he was forming a new “tactical defense arm” of the Proud Boys — with McInnes’ “full approval” — called the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK). The paramilitary wing positions itself as a defensive organization formed to protect right-wing activists at political demonstrations. Chapman, who has an extensive criminal history, first gained renown within the alt-right when he was photographed hitting a counter-protestor over the head with a stick at a March 4, 2017, pro-Trump rally in Berkeley, California.

Now referring to himself as “Based Stick Man,” Chapman has been making the rounds of far-right rallies around the country, doing little to create rhetorical distance between the Proud Boys and outright white nationalism.

[...]

A number of journalists who’ve written about the group have received cease-and-desist orders from Proud Boys’ lawyer Jason Van Dyke insisting they “do not now, nor have they ever, espoused white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, or alt-right views.”

The statement is especially remarkable coming from Van Dyke, a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter and known neo-Confederate. Van Dyke’s affair with far right extremism stretches back until at least his college days, when Michigan State University police searching his dorm found extremist literature, including The Turner Diaries and Protocols of the Elders of Zion.In 2000, the university suspended Van Dyke for several semesters after he was arrested for domestic violence, possession of a banned weapon and firearm safety violations. 

Van Dyke's penchant for violence appears on his Twitter page, where in 2014 he made death threats against another user. Alongside a picture of a noose, he wrote, “Look good and hard at this picture you fucking nigger. It’s where I am going to put your neck.”

(That's who McInnes pals around with. He quit the organization he founded only a few months ago, shortly after the FBI reportedly tagged the Proud Boys as an "extremist group with ties to white nationalism."

(We've previously noted some of this stuff about McInnes.)

WND doesn't want to tell you that -- so averse is to telling the full story that it didn't bother to contact the SPLC for a response. And it references the earlier frivolous lawsuit that was filed without mentioning the fact that the guy's mad the SPLC exposed him as a "neo-Nazi lawyer."


Posted by Terry K. at 1:35 AM EST
Friday, February 15, 2019
MRC Whines That Networks Exercised Editorial Discretion In Not Airing WH Press Briefing Live
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center's Curtis Houck pours a bottle of whine in a Jan. 28 post:

On Monday, the White House held its first press briefing in 41 days, a stat passed around the press about how it was the longest span between briefings since cameras were brought in during the Clinton administration. 

Despite this kvetching, CNN and MSNBC chose not to air a single second of the briefing live, which included an announcement of new Venezuela sanctions plus questions for National Security Adviser John Bolton, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Council of Economic Advisers head Larry Kudlow and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The briefing began at 3:33 p.m. Eastern and the Fox News Channel immediately went to it during Your World, but CNN Newsroom aired two tape-delayed soundbites on the Venezuela sanctions before moving on.

[...]

Meanwhile, MSNBC Live featured hosts Katy Tur and Ali Velshi joking sarcastically about briefings with Velshi wondering to Tur if she remembers what those were. Velshi later insisted MSNBC was standing by for it, but like CNN, they didn’t air it aside from a brief soundbite of Bolton announcing the sanctions.

[...]

So to be clear, these two liberal cable outlets have long suggested that the President was eroding American press freedoms. But when it came to the news media allowing viewers to decide things for themselves, the former thinks they should be in charge of what the latter sees.

But as Houck seems to concede, the only actual news from the press briefing was the announcement of the Venezuela sanctions, and he further concedes that both CNN and MSNBC reported on that soon after the announcement was made, showing that they were, in fact, monitoring the briefing and not ignoring it. He does not explain, however, why that was so newsworthy that it demanded to be aired live, beyond the increasing rarity of such briefings. He also does not explain why all channels must air it live if Fox News was already doing so.

Houck doesn't seem to understand that the lack of White House press briefings erodes press freedoms whether or not a given news organization chooses to air them live. Did Houck and/or the MRC ever attack Fox News if they refused to air a press briefing from the Obama White House live and in its entirety? Not that we can recall.

As the Washington Post's Erik Wemple points out, CNN and MSNBC were acting like genuine news organizations by making an editorial decision not to air the presser live:

There is, in fact, no contradiction in a news network pushing for White House briefings and then declining to carry them live. Even as CNN and MSNBC were airing other material Monday, their correspondents were in the briefing room seeking answers to their questions. Later on, if real answers actually materialize, they can air the footage, an approach that matches the prescription of two former White House press secretaries. It’s a fair approximation of journalism.

Of course, Houck and the MRC do not actually want to see a "fair approximation of journalism" -- they want ceaselessly fawning coverage of the Trump administration.


Posted by Terry K. at 2:39 PM EST
WND's Farah Slobbers Over Trump's State of the Union Speech
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah has been fawning over President Trump for some time and sucking up to him whenever possible -- most recently pretending there's no evidence that Trump has exhibited racism. Farah has taken the fawning to new embarassing levels by devoting not one but two columns to slobbering over Trump's State of the Union address.

In the first column, Farah added random capitalizaton to quotes from Trump's speech:

  • “We have not yet BEGUN TO DREAM,” he said.
  • “I am asking you to CHOOSE GREATNESS,” Trump said.
  • “There is a new opportunity in American politics, if only we have the courage to seize it,” Trump added. “Victory is not winning for our party. Victory is winning for our COUNTRY.”

In the second column, Farah's sycophantic gushing just wouldn't stop:

It was more than words read on a teleprompter.

It was a supreme performance – dignified, positive. It provided America with an alternative view of a potential future.

Let’s just cut to the chase: It was the very best State of the Union in my lifetime – which is nearly 65 years. It may have been the best ever.

He explained that we don’t have to become a socialist nation, setting ourselves up for economic failure and the end of liberty.

He explained that we don’t have to become a nation that takes the lives of its inconvenient and innocent citizens on both ends of life’s age spectrum.

He explained how we need to protect the lives and property of our own citizens by defending our borders and sovereignty.

It was a supreme lesson in what government’s responsibility is to its people – as well as what its limits should be in a free society.

How was it received nationally?

With 76 percent approval and only 24 percent disapproval, according to a CBS poll.

In other words, he did what most Americans would have thought impossible in a time of ferocious division. He united the country.

In fact, Trump did not unite the country; according to the article on that poll to whifch he links, "When broken down by party, almost all Republicans, 97 percent, said they approved of Trump’s speech. ... Only 30 percent of Democrats, however, say they approved."

If Farah thinks Trump actually believes any of the things he's saying and isn't merely sucking up to right-wing evangelicals like himself in a cynical attempt to gain their support, he's more deluded than we thought.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:13 AM EST
Thursday, February 14, 2019
CNS Still Falsely Suggesting Federal Money to Planned Parenthood Pays For Abortion
Topic: CNSNews.com

CNSNews.com has spent more than a decade falsely implying that federal money that goes to Planned Parenthood pays for abortion, and CNS' newest reporter, Emily Ward, isn't about to disturb that record.

So it's no surprise that Ward wrote in a Jan. 21 article:

Planned Parenthood released its 2017-2018 annual report over the weekend, revealing that the organization did 332,757 abortions in the fiscal year that ran from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017.

Planned Parenthood also reported that it received $563.8 million in revenue from “government health services reimbursements & grants” for the year ending June 30, 2018.

Ward's juxtaposition suggests the two are linked. They are not: Federal policy prohibits federal money from paying for abortion. 

Ward followed with another attack on Planned Parenthood on Feb. 1, this time over online chatbots offering teens "instant sex and relationship advice." Ward doesn't cite any answers provided that were inaccurate or even offensive, though she did seem disturbed that the chatbot offers "no judgment." Surprisingly, Ward doesn't even contact the usual right-wing suspects to denounce the dissemination of accurate information; instead, she irrelvantly repeats the number of abortions performed at Planned Parenthood clinics (though, surprisingly, not the amount of federal money it has accepted).

Ward appears to have taken Penny Starr's place on CNS' anti-abortion beat, but it's not translating so far into stories on the subject being more fair and balanced.

UPDATE: Ward pushed the false funding meme again -- while also taking an unusual shot at Republicans -- in a Jan. 24 article that complained "Planned Parenthood did more than 2 million abortions while receiving federal funding through appropriations approved by the House of Representatives when the House was controlled by Republicans from the beginning of 2011 through the beginning of 2019." She did not explain that none of those appropriations paid for any of those abortions.


Posted by Terry K. at 6:17 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, February 17, 2019 11:45 AM EST
MRC Pushes Dubious Claim of 'Rejected' Super Bowl Ad
Topic: Media Research Center

Knowing a good right-wing anti-media narrative when he sees it -- and being a terrible media critic -- the Media Research Center's Tim Graham leaped on the claim by tiny Nine Line Apparel that CBS rejected its Super Bowl ad for being too patriotic. Graham huffed: "Networks are well-known for rejecting overt political messaging....unless it's from a sponsor like Nike that has multinational-conglomerate heft, and the message leans a bit left. Liberal messages are also allowed by CBS if you're an arrogant newspaper that imagines you're the saviors of democracy."

Just one problem with this story: it was apparently too good for Graham -- or the Washington Examiner's notoriously right-wing gossip columnist, Paul Bedard, the "friend" from whom Graham lifted the story -- to fact-check. Both rely solely on Nine Line's insistence that CBS' claim that it questioned the company's ability to pay for the ad, which would cost roughly one-third of its annual revenue of $25 million, was just an excuse to reject the ad's content.

Neither Graham nor Bedard bothered to contact CBS for comment. An actual news outlet did: According to USA Today's For the Win blog, a CBS spokesperson said the network never rejected the ad.

Claiming your Super Bowl ad got "rejected" is a cheap way to generate publicity. As we reported last year, the promoters of AML Bitcoin -- which made a deal with WND to give away pieces of it to donors -- claimed its Super Bowl ad was "banned," when in fact it had never bought airtime and the network doesn't review content unless airtime is purchased.

That appears to be what happened here. If CBS didn't think Nine Line couldn't pay for the ad, there's no need to review its content -- which is why CBS can credibly say it never rejected the ad.

Is Graham and the MRC going to apologize for promoting this bit of fake news? Doubtful -- it advances a right-wing narrative.


Posted by Terry K. at 3:30 PM EST
NEW ARTICLE: Shutdown Shenanigans at CNS
Topic: CNSNews.com
CNSNews.com had to follow Trump's flip-flops on the shutdown to keep parroting the party line, on top of its refusal to fact-check anything Trump says or tweets. Read more >>

Posted by Terry K. at 9:21 AM EST
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Another WND Columnist Upset By News Website Trust Monitor
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Craige McMillan writes in his Feb. 1 WorldNetDaily column:

Let’s go to the organization NewsGuard and see how it might work. My first observation is that the website, newsguardtech.com, is somewhat vague in explaining how it does what it does: “Our trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism – and which are not.”

As I read that, NewsGuard is rating websites, not specific articles. They then assign a thumbs up or down based on … we don’t know how many articles, or which specific articles. It seems to me that if you were evaluating a specific article, you would need to review the journalist’s research sources, inspect – at the very least – the journalist’s notes regarding human source interviews and look at the series of revisions from rough draft to final story. Otherwise, how could you tell if the article was made up, or carefully researched and written?

I am very skeptical that NewsGuard is doing this, because I don’t see many journalists handing out their research, much less human sources, and exposing their writing skills to a stranger. I’m skeptical, as in “it ain’t gonna happen.”

To learn anything about News Guard’s human component, you have to add “about” to their main page. I’ll link to this page, but they may change it. Beyond management, they list 14 staff, and 16 contributors. They list three technical people.

I have not looked into the backgrounds of News Guard’s staff and contributors, but will leave that for a future article. NewsGuard itself could be a legitimate effort to apply human understanding and judgment to the news dissemination business. It could be algorithm-driven, and the staff and contributors merely deal with complaints. It could even be a modern outgrowth of Operation Mockingbird.

The thing that concerns me most at this point is NewsGuard’s attempt to shut down advertising to websites they have branded unreliable. Google and Facebook already have roughly 70 percent of the internet’s advertising. We need to find out about these two firms’ involvement in the News Guard project, or its principals. Another concern is ideology. It is a hallmark of the political left to shut down dissent. On its face, that is what News Guard is doing.

This is basically a gentler version of the anti-NewsGuard screed WND editor Joseph Farah wrote a while back. Both share the basic conceit that operations like NewsGuard are a liberal conspiracy to silence conservatives, though their real fear is having WND's history of shoddy journalism quantified (though we've been doing exactly that for years).

Contrary to McMillan's assertion, one does not need "the journalist’s notes regarding human source interviews and look at the series of revisions from rough draft to final story" for every single article a news operation publishes to determine whether "tell if the article was made up, or carefully researched and written." The final article itself is proof enough and can be easily analyzed.

Take, for instance, the story we just highlighted about WND freaking out over meditationin schools as some government-Buddhist plot. We know the article was not "carefully researched" because reporter Bob Unruh quoted only the right-wing American Center for Law and Justice, whose legal action Unruh's article was promoting, and makes no attempt to contact any school or government official involved in the story. It's a highly biased article, and one does not need to look at all rough drafts of it to conclude otherwise (though it might be entertaining in this case to see if the article was even more biased in earlier drafts).

NewsGuard must be on to something it WND is getting this nervous about it.


Posted by Terry K. at 7:50 PM EST
MRC's Double Standard on Schadenfreude, Or: Dancing on the Newseum's Grave
Topic: Media Research Center

A Jan. 25 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein admonished former Republican aide Rick Tyler against engaging in "schadenfreude" over the arrest of Trump confidate and overall sleaze Roger Stone, becuase "to take such manifest pleasure in another political operative's indictment is not a display of civility and compassion in politics." Nobody at the Media Research Center apparently read Finkelstein's warning, because it was in full schadenfreude mode just a few hours later over the sale of the Newseum property.

Scott Whitlock wasted no time dancing on the Newseum's grave in a post whose headline called it a "self-indulgent journalistic shrine." Whitlock sneered that the Newseum was a "temple dedicated to journalists by journalists," complained that the Neweum didn't uniformly lionize conservative journalism and right-wing talk radio, then scowled:

How bloated and ridiculous is the seven floor Newseum? Even the liberal Politico in 2017 opined that “it deserves to die.” Well, now it is. If you’re a family of five interested in spending over $80 to see journalistic self-praise, you have until December 31st, 2019. But if you would rather go to better, free museums, they are all over Washington D.C. 

The Newseum undeniably had its problems due to poor management and its origin as something of a vanity project by longtime newspaper executive Al Neuharth. But  Whitlock's kneejerk denigration a museum that has 9/11 artifacts among its exhibits and tries to explain how people working in news do their jobs shows how much the MRC absolutely loathes journalism and is dedicated to destroying it in order to replace it with a partisan model demonstrated by its ridiculously biased "news" division, CNSNews.com.

This is a reminder that the MRC has always been anti-media, especially if it doesn't follow a right-wing agenda.


Posted by Terry K. at 2:16 PM EST
Why Did WND Illustrate Article On Meditation Class With Pic Of A Briefcase Full of Money?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily writer Bob Unruh has freaked out about yoga in the past, so it's no surprise that even the benign practice of meditation would set him into freakout mode as well.

A Feb. 2 article by Unruh rewrites a press release from the right-wing American Center for Law and Justice that attacks a school "trying to push a Buddhist-based meditation program on preschoolers," purportedly with federal education money. As usual for Unruh, he can't be bothered to talk to any school or federal official for the other side of the story; ACLJ appears to be his only source of information. Thus, there's no explanation of how meditation itself, or seeking "discernment, insight, wisdom, enlightenment," can only been seen as promoting the religion of Buddhism, or why that can't have a secular purpose.

(Of course, while the ACLJ presents this as imposing religion in public schools, it has no problem when the religion being imposed is Christianity.)

Unruh writes that the ACLJ "wants to find out from the Department of Education how many grants it has awarded for the programs 'and how it justifies using federal taxpayer dollars to implement them,'" citing as one alleged example "a $3.3 allocation to Portland State University for a MindUP program, 'a mindfulness-based social emotional learning program to be implemented on preschool-age children in 120 schools in Oregon.'" But mindfulness is not necessrily meditation; it's the ability to be fully present in where you are and whatever you're doing. That is not an explicitly religious principle.

Unruh and the ACLJ won't tell you this, but mindfulness programs in schools appears to work in improving student behavior and test scores.

The weird thing, though, is that WND chose as its lead image for the article a briefcase filled with money:

The federal government should be trying to fund educational programs that work (which mindfulness does). But it's utterly ridiculous to portray that funding as suitcases full of cash presumably being shoved across or under a table.

These sort of outrageously biased editorial choices are just another reason why nobody believes WND.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:54 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2019 9:19 AM EST

Newer | Latest | Older

Bookmark and Share

Get the WorldNetDaily Lies sticker!

Find more neat stuff at the ConWebWatch store!

Buy through this Amazon link and support ConWebWatch!

Support This Site

« February 2019 »
S M T W T F S
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28

Bloggers' Rights at EFF
Support Bloggers' Rights!

News Media Blog Network

Add to Google