Gal Beckerman at CJR Daily reminds us what the whole Associated Press "authorized source" controversy that NewsBusters is promoting is really all about:
It is important to get to the truth here. But the point is that the bloggers and the U.S. Army, who reflexively denied the initial account, did so not because they were concerned with accuracy. They picked on it because they saw a chance to use a potentially false story -- though it seems clear now that it might be true after all -- as a way of throwing into question all the reporting from Iraq and, more specifically, undermining the characterization of the situation in the country as abysmal.
Finkelstein Misleads on Murtha's 'Megalomania' (?) Topic: NewsBusters
Mark Finkelstein is just not gonna admit that Rep. John Murtha has a point about the situation in Iraq. From Finkelstein's Dec. 4 NewsBusters post:
'Today' invited John Murtha in for a victory lap this morning, and the Dem congressman from PA responded with breathtaking megalomania seasoned with anti-Americanism. Calling America "the enemy" in Iraq, he preened over having been "way ahead" and demanded the US now "take my advice."
Finkelstein then repeats himself, throwing that M-word out again: "Murtha later took his megalomania one step further. After calling the United States 'the enemy' in Iraq, he claimed 'it's time to take my advice.' " But Finkelstein's claim that Murtha "call[ed] the United States 'the enemy' in Iraq" is taken out of context. Here's what Murtha actually said, according to the video attached to the item:
MURTHA: We're adding to terrorism because we're the occupiers. We've become the enemy, and we're caught in a civil war. Who's paying the price --
MATT LAUER: But if you have a weak government there that can't quite protect its own people, doesn't it become a safe haven for terrorism?
MURTHA: It's the opposite. They'll get rid of the terrorists. The terrorists are there because of us. There was no terrorism before we went it. There was no Al Qaeda. There was no weapons of mass destruction. They have come there because the United States is the target. We're inciting terrorism by being in Iraq. We need to change direction, we need to redeploy our troops, and a very small percentage of people in this country are paying the sacrifice. It's easy to sit back here, Matt, and say "Stay the course." It's chaos already. We lost nine or 10 people over the weekend, Americans, and the Iraqis been killed -- mass killings by the Iraqis, so it's time to take my advice.
As you can see, what Murtha said is a lot different that what Finkelstein claimed he said. And it certainly isn't "megalomania"; such demonizing makes it hard to take Finkelstein seriously, however much he likes to tout that he "recently returned from Iraq" (where he used his platform to attack imaginary claims that American politicians want "abrupt withdrawal" of U.S. troops from Iraq).
Al Brown Won't Stop Hiding Truth About AP Topic: NewsBusters
A Dec. 4 NewsBusters post by Al Brown not only fails to give the Associated Press' side of the story in asserting that the AP's reporting from Iraq is "discredited" -- as is his habit -- he goes on to insist that a New York Times article on the controversy doesn't ask "the most troubling question of all: whether or not al Qaeda propagandists are using the Western media to foment civil war in Iraq." (Italics his.)
Of course, nowhere does Brown offer any evidence that the AP is, in fact, using "al Qaeda propagandists" in its reporting. He also doesn't ask why the U.S. military or the Iraqi government is inherently more trustworthy as a source of "authorized" information about goings-on in Iraq. In fact, Brown goes on to laud the efforts of the Iraq Interior Ministry in discrediting any source it doesn't approve of as not offering "real, true news," claiming that it has a "legitimate interest in seeing that rumors and disinformation propagated by their enemies are not being published as 'news.' "
All of Brown's fulminations that the AP is reporting "rumors and disinformation" ignores the fact that the AP found witnesses to the burning of six Sunnis and is standing by one source for that story, Jamil Hussein. Why is it so difficult for Brown to admit that little fact? Perhaps because by ignoring something that less than black-and-white, he's able to throw words like "discredited" around, even though no such determination has been made by anyone without a partisan (conservative bloggers) or personal (CENTCOM and the Iraq Interior Ministry) stake in the story.
Is it too much to ask for Brown to admit the full truth about the AP? Apparently so.
Lack of Disclosure Watch Topic: WorldNetDaily
A Dec. 2 WorldNetDaily article promoting the latest anti-liberal children's book by Katharine DeBrecht fails to note that it has a business relationship with the book's publisher, World Ahead Publishing. As a Nov. 28 WND article notes, World Ahead will be "exclusive distributor of WND Books beginning Jan. 1, 2007."
Meanwhile... Topic: WorldNetDaily Bartholomew details the background of Charl van Wyk, author of a new WorldNetDaily-published book which purports to make "a biblical, Christian case for individuals arming themselves with guns." Turns out he's linked to an evangelist named Peter Hammond, who apparently once took his children out on Halloween to shoot paintballs at trick-or-treaters, because they consider Halloween to be an "occult holiday celebrating human sacrifice, witches and goblins."
NewsBusters Still Not Telling AP's Side of the Story Topic: NewsBusters
A Dec.. 3 NewsBusters post by Al Brown continues NewsBusters' streak of ignoring or downplaying the other side of the story regarding the Associated Press' use of what Brown calls a "bogus" source, Jamil Hussein, in stories from Iraq. The Boston Herald columnist bashing the AP at least notes that AP is standing by its story -- but Brown doesn't include that in his excerpt of the column.
A Dec. 3 NewsBusters post by Robin Boyd takes a similar tack, pounding the AP for using "one of the unauthorized sources from CentCom's list." Why is it CentCom's business what sources the AP uses? It's not like the U.S. military has a stellar record of telling journalists the truth.
FrontPageMag Misleads About Democratic Intel Staffer Topic: Horowitz
In a Dec. 1 FrontPageMag.com article attacking the New York Times for "publicizing classified information that undermines our allies in the War on Terror," Ben Johnson wrote:
The closest the administration has come to plugging the source of these covert disclosures came when the House Intelligence Committee suspended Democratic staffer Larry Hanauer upon suspicions he leaked a classified National Intelligence Estimate report on Iraq. However, last week outgoing Chairman Pete Hoekstra, R-MI, dropped an investigation and "restored" Hanauer’s security clearance.
But Johnson failed to tell the whole story about Hanauer's suspension and reinstatement -- namely, that there was never any substantive evidence linking Hanauer to the NIE leak -- only that he requested a copy of the NIE shortly before the Times wrote about it, and even though Hanauer swore out an affadavit stating that he played no role in the leak. In fact, Republican Rep. Ray LaHood admitted on Fox News that Hanauer's suspension was done in retaliation "because Jane Harman [a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee] released the Duke Cunningham ... report."
While Johnson implies guilt on Hanauer's part, even the Washington Post article to which he links points out that Hanauer signed that affidavit. Johnson offers no evidence that Hanauer played any role in the leak.
Johnson, you may recall, was the author of a error-filled report about Teresa Heinz Kerry's charitable giving.
Another Shocker: WND Allows Atheist to Rebut Articles Topic: WorldNetDaily
What has gotten into the ConWeb? It's coming down with a severe case of fair journalism. First, CNS debunks a false conservative talking point; now, WorldNetDaily allows one of the targets of its "news" coverage to comment -- and lets it stand without additional comment.
Not just any target, mind you; we're talking Michael Newdow, the atheist best known for trying to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance -- and who also briefly sued WND for libel in 2003 (Newdow later dropped the lawsuit).
So, it's surprising to see on WND's commentary page a Dec. 2 column by Newdow in which he criticizes WND'sreporting of his legal actions to remove "In God We Trust" as a national motto as "quite misleading." From his column:
WND's assertion that "Newdow has admitted that ... [he] ... wants to ... install his own belief system that does not acknowledge God" is similarly misleading. By focusing on the elimination of "acknowledgments" of God's existence, it is implied that it is atheism ("his own belief system") that I seek to have government endorse. But the fact is that if the government adhered to my atheistic views and claimed that God is a myth, I would demand the elimination of that assertion as well. The "belief system" I'm striving to uphold is the one based on equality, not on any religious opinion – including my own. The real question is not why I am fighting for that "belief system" (i.e., equality), but why others are fighting against it.
That I'm for "[b]anning references to God or Christianity in the public sphere" is yet another bogus contention. Let me be clear on this: I want God and Christianity in the public sphere.
But the right of individuals and groups to voice their own religious opinions is very different from the "right" to have the government join them in their endeavors. In fact, that posited "right" is no right at all; it is precisely what the Establishment Clause prohibits. In other words, when it comes to religious issues, that "public sphere" belongs only to the public, not the government.
Granted, WND buried Newdow's column on a low-readership weekend, but the fact that it not only ran it as a archived column rather than a letter to the editor that will disappear within a week, but also ran it unchallenged, says something (though we're not sure what) about a possible change in WND's standards. Are they tacitly admitting their articles were wrong or misleading? That's not something WND normally does; as we've noted, when WND's Aaron Klein suggested that Fox News paid a ransom for two kidnapped reporters, it went on the defensive, took refuge in word-parsing and denied that Klein suggested such a thing (though he did). If it means that WND is taking its journalistic endeavors a little more seriously -- and accurately -- that's a good thing.
NewsBusters Again Ignores AP's Defense of Story Topic: NewsBusters
While NewsBusters' Greg Sheffield doesn't share fellow NewsBuster Tim Graham's "macaca" obsession, he does share his penchant for ignoring inconvenient facts.
In a Dec. 2 post claiming that the Associated Press "used a government source that doesen't exist," Sheffield excerpted a UK Guardian article stating that the Iraq government "wants to make sure the AP and other media outlets cannot get away with similar fraudulent activity" by forming a "press monitoring unit." But Sheffield's excerpt of the Guardian article in his post stops when it gets to AP's defense:
AP rejected the accusation and said it does not pay for information. In a statement, AP's executive editor Kathleen Carroll said the reporter concerned had been in regular contact with the Captain for more than two years, often meeting in his police station in west Baghdad. Other witnesses to the attack had also been interviewed.
"The Iraqi spokesman said today that reporting on the such atrocities 'shows that the security situation is worse than it really is.' He is speaking from a capital city where people are gunned down in their cars, dragged from their homes or blown apart in public places every single day," said Ms Carroll.
"Good reporting relies on more than government-approved sources. We stand behind our reporting."
NewsBusters bloggers have a history of downplaying or ignoring AP's claims and reporting in standing by its story of six Sunnis burned alive and its source, Jamil Hussein.
Further, in placing his faith in military authorities, Sheffield ignores the U.S. military's history of distortion of news from Iraq, as David Neiwert details:
The cold reality, backed up by case after case, is that the information being released by the American military in Iraq for the duration of this misbegotten war has been not merely PR on steroids, but a psy ops operation targeting the Iraqi population only tangentially. Its chief target all along has been the American public.
The first people to come into conflict with such operatations have always been journalists, particularly those trying honestly to do their jobs. This has always been the case, and will always be so.
Graham Praises Will's Column, Fails to Note It's Misleading Topic: NewsBusters
A Dec. 1 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham praised George Will for writing a "brutal column" about Virginia Sen.-elect Jim Webb and "scouring him for being rude to President Bush at a reception" (though was critical of him for waiting until after the election to do so and bashing Will for "scouring Sen. George Allen ... seven days before the election"). But Graham failed to note the misleading nature of Will's column on Webb.
As Media Matters and Greg Sargent point out, in describing an exchange between Webb and President Bush, Will omitted a phrase uttered by Bush that would help to explain to readers why Webb was somewhat testy with the president. Will wrote:
Wednesday's Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq." When the president again asked "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy."
Will cut out the line from the President where he said: "That's not what I asked you." In Will's recounting, that instead became a sign of Bush's parental solicitousness: "The president again asked 'How's your boy?' "
Will's change completely alters the tenor of the conversation from one in which Bush was rude first to Webb, which is what the Post's original account suggested, to one in which Webb was inexplicably rude to the President, which is how Will wanted to represent what happened.
Graham also continues his obsession with the George Allen "macaca" incident, bashing not only Will but the Weekly Standard for being critical of Allen before the election, in which he lost to Webb: "As with the Weekly Standard and their George Allen-bashing cover this fall, when you help make the 'Macaca majority,' then you should look in the mirror before despairing over the man you helped usher in."
Shocker: CNS Debunks *Conservative* Talking Point Topic: CNSNews.com
Now, here's something you don't see every day: the ConWeb debunking an emerging-but-false conservative talking point.
A Dec. 1 CNSNews.com article by Randy Hall rather definitively shoots down the claim that newly elected Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, would be sworn into the House with his hand on a copy of the Koran, correctly pointing out that no member of Congress is officially sworn in with their hand on any book, including the Bible, and that the Constitution specifically prohibits a "religious test" for holding office.
This is all the more surprising because, as we've noted, Hall was CNS' point man for conservative attacks on John Murtha, has forwarded other conservative attacks, and has otherwise sought to promote conservative talking points and bash liberal ones.
WND Continues to Obfuscate on Libel Lawsuit Topic: WorldNetDaily
A Nov. 30 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh on the libel suit filed against WorldNetDaily and others by Tennessee businessman Clark Jones over a 2000 series of Al Gore-bashing articles focuses on the least relevant aspect of it -- the amount of money Jones is suing for, $165 million. After all, most civil lawsuits are settled for less (sometimes much less) than the original asking amount.
While Unruh busied himself with such irrelevancies -- he also throws in a recent history of libel claims -- he makes no effort to contact Jones or his lawyers for a response, though he quotes WND's Joseph Farah and WND's lawyer. Unruh also fails to address a series of conflicting claims WND has made about the articles over which it is being sued -- as we noted, it is simultaneously standing behind the articles but also looking for escape hatch by arguing that it merely reposted the articles and had nothing to do with their content.
Also on Nov. 30, WND conducted a poll asking, "Why is WND's record libel suit not getting national coverage as a 1st Amendment battle?" But this ignores the fact that WND itself has downplayed the lawsuit, at least until now. As we've previously noted, WND went 3 1/2 years -- from December 2002 to July 2006 -- without publishing a news article about it. This -- along with WND's one-sided coverage of it and its refusal to acknowlege our challenge to post all relevant legal documents filed in the lawsuit on its website as a show of objectivity and transparency -- suggests that there are things in those legal papers that WND would rather not see the light of day.
AIM's Double Standard on Killers As Victims Topic: Accuracy in Media
In a Nov. 30 Accuracy in Media column, Cliff Kincaid purports to be outraged that the public defender for Nicholas Gutierrez, a "deranged homosexual man" convicted of murdering "Chicago Catholic and mother of four" Mary Stachowicz in 2002, claimed in her defense that, in the words fo anti-gay activst Peter LaBarbera, whom Kincaid copiously cites in his article, Stachowicz "became enraged to the point of violence over [Gutierrez's] homosexual lifestyle." Kincaid quoted LaBarbera calling this "ugly anti-Christian bigotry -- the legal equivalent of spitting on Mary's grave." Kincaid added that Stachowicz "is not politically correct. So she will not be portrayed sympathetically. Indeed, her killer, an admitted and active homosexual, may get the media's sympathetic ear."
But Kincaid -- nor, to our knowledge, LaBarbera -- raised any similar objections when one of the men who killed Matthew Shepard tried a similar blame-the-victim defense. In fact, in a Dec. 8, 1998, column, Kincaid and Reed Irvine were eager to endorse it. The column noted that "Newsweek magazine reports that Shepard had apparently tried to pick up another man in another setting"; rather than condeming it, as Kincaid did with Guiterrez's defense, he and Irvine linked it to Shepard's purported desire to "go after sex in public or semi-public settings" and used it as an example of why gays should not be protected under hate-crimes laws:
This is disgusting behavior and no one really wants to talk about it. But an understanding of this subculture is necessary when considering passing hate crime laws to protect homosexuals.
A Nov. 2, 1998, column by Kincaid and Irvine similiarly noted that "Some reports indicated [Shepard] was attacked after cruising for sex," but didn't condemn it as a defense.
When one of Shepard's killers, Russell Henderson, went on ABC in 2004 to claim that Shepard was killed as part of a robbery and not because he was gay, Kincaid was all too accepting of Henderson's story and used a Dec. 22, 2004, column to suggest that Shepard deserved to die, calling him "a heavy drug user who was HIV-positive." In recounting Henderson's "gay panic" defense, Kincaid not only doesn't criticize Henderson for using it and, he blames political correctness for Henderson's resorting to it in the first place:
The gay rights movement wanted to depict Shepard as an innocent victim of a homophobic society. This played into their demands for legislation to curb so-called "hate crimes." One of the perpetrators used that to his advantage, arguing when he went on trial that he went into a panic when Shepard tried to proposition him at a bar. His girlfriend made the same claim in the media, including on "20/20." But now they say it was all a ruse, designed to get him a reduced sentence by suggesting that he wasn't in control of his faculties when the murder occurred.
As we've previously detailed, Henderson has a history of giving "multiple, conflicting accounts of what happened" the night Sheppard died. Apparently, as far as Kincaid is concerned, a convicted felon is more trustworthy than a gay person.
NewsBusters Ignores Evidence That Substantiates AP Story Topic: NewsBusters
A Nov. 30 NewsBusters post by Al Brown quasi-acknowledges the Associated Press' defense of a story of Sunnis burned alive in Iraq and its source, but it mostly ignores what the AP has to say, relying instead on claims by Iraq and CENTCOM officials that one AP source for that story, Jamil Hussein, doesn't exist.
Nowhere does Brown detail the AP's defense beyond stating that "So far, the Associated Press is standing by their story, claiming that their reporters visited Jamil Hussein at his police station." Brown also fails to note, as we did, that the AP has claimed other eyewitnesses to the incident.
Brown should try fully reporting all sides of this story and be a little less eager for a scalp to nail on his anti-liberal-media wall.
A Double Standard on Mount Rushmore Topic: NewsBusters
In a Nov. 29 NewsBusters post, Tim Graham is irked that Regis Philbin said of Dan Rather, "It’s like lookin' at Mount Rushmore!"
Funny, we don't recall Graham objecting to Chris Matthews suggesting that President Bush belonged on Mount Rushmore. Then again, that would mess with the MRC's script that Matthews is a diehard liberal (never mind that Matthews regularly bashed President Clinton, which the MRC heartily approved of).