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Thursday, January 18, 2018
Newsmax's Ruddy on Damage Control Again: 'Donald Trump Is Not A Racist'
Topic: Newsmax

Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy has been aggressively parlaying his friendship with President Trump into media exposure for both him and Newsmax -- but that closeness also means he's found himself having to defend Trump from his various scandals.

Ruddy is compelled to do this again in the wake of reports that Trump referred to certain countries as "shithole countries." Let the damage control begin:

Over many years, I have been in the company of Donald Trump in public moments and many private ones.

I have been with him, on his plane for hours; I was there with him in Scotland when he opened his world-class club; I've been with him for the Miss Universe pageant and too many other times to count.

I don't know what President Trump said at the White House meeting. He may have made some inappropriate comments. But I know one thing for sure: Donald Trump is not a racist.

Inside this great man with a brusque exterior, you will not find a racist bone.

Even in his most off-guarded moments, long before he was running for president, I have never heard him utter any racist remarks, anti-Semitic comments, or ethnic slurs of any type. Sure, he has occasionally used profanity through the years, but it was very rare.

Truthfully, Trump has prided himself on his good relations with minorities. He is someone with a proven track record of developing racial harmony.

But these facts don't matter because we are in fantasy land; everyone sees their own reality. Clearly, people around the world have been hurt — whether accidentally, deliberately, or otherwise.

A simple beer in the Rose Garden won't make this one go away.

But the president can take steps to make the people of the world know that he and America stands with them, to make this place called Earth a better place, and to let them know the real Donald Trump.

Unfortunately for Ruddy, the vicious, profane, apparently racist Trump appears to be the real one as far as much of America is concerned.


Posted by Terry K. at 10:20 PM EST
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Pro-Trump Newsmax Writers Defend Trump's Sanity
Topic: Newsmax

As questions about President Trump's mental fitness began to swell in the wake of Michael Wolff's book, two of his biggest buddies and boosters -- both tied to Newsmax -- knew it was time to come to his defense.

First, Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy went on CNN to vouch for Trump's sanity, while also humble-bragging about how much he hangs out with the president:

"I was with the president in early December, and I spent an hour and a half with him in the private residence, and the conversation was terrific," said Ruddy. "He was not repeating things."

Ruddy mentioned he also was joined by a mutual friend, a respected medical doctor.

"He had no belief and view that the president was mentally incompetent and unfit. This is just an absurdity and it's really trash, actually," Ruddy said.

Ruddy also noted that he first met Trump 20 years ago, and has been around him often this past year, adding that Trump is not "psychologically unfit or has 'lost it,'” as Wolff claims.

Ruddy added that he saw Trump "every other day" over a 10-day period during the Christmas holidays, and talked with him numerous times.

“He was remembering things, he was on point, he was following up on discussions," said Ruddy. "I brought to the golf club a well-respected New York Times reporter who had a half-hour sit-down interview with him, Michael Schmidt ... but I don't believe Michael walked out and said, 'This man is crazy, this man is unfit.'"

Then Ron Kessler -- who helped build the foundation for Trump's political ambitions as a Newsmax writer -- went on Newsmax TV (while once again failing to be identified as a former Newsmax employee)  to trash Wolff's book while promoting his own Trump-fluffing book:

My book is about unique access to Trump and his aides. In fact, I interviewed him last weekend the night before the Mar-a-Lago New Year's Eve party and he was perfectly normal, on top of everything. He said that this interview he's giving me is the only interview he's doing for a book or will do for a book. And I obviously don't want to go into a lot of detail about my book coming out April 3 -- "Inside the Trump White House: Changin the Rules of the Game" -- oreven the Michael Wolff book, which I will be going into with the inside story of how that book was done, but I do have a personal experience that I can share with you about the book.

Kessler later claims that his book is "the real story of Trump and his presidency, and it's something that you can bank on." Given the absurd amount of Trump-fluffing Kessler has done over the past two decades, we somehow doubt that.

(Photo: Ronald Kessler and his wife, Pamela, with Donald Trump, from Kessler's 1999 book "The Season," in which he actually wrote of Trump: "His typical facial expression is to set his mouth in a moue, somewhere between a pucker and a pout. It says, 'I'm a handsome guy. I'm going to WIN.'")


Posted by Terry K. at 9:09 AM EST
Monday, January 1, 2018
Newsmax's Hirsen Repeats Old Smears of Anita Hill
Topic: Newsmax

The Media Research Center isn't the only ConWeb outlet still seeking to smear Anita Hill 25 years after the fact for committing the offense of forwarding allegations of sexual harassment against a conservative icon.

Like the MRC, Newsmax columnist James Hirsen was outraged that Hill was chosen to head a panel examining sexual harassment in Hollywood, and he devoted his Dec. 18 column to rehashing those old smears:

The problem for Hollywood is that Hill failed to tell the truth. Her behavior was inconsistent with someone who had been a victim of sexual harassment. Hill followed Justice Thomas from one job to another, made numerous personal telephone calls to the man she claimed had sexually harassed her, and the calls continued even after she was no longer working for him. She denied having ever made the calls but changed her story after phone records were produced.

Hill initially asked that her name not be mentioned when the accusations were presented to Justice Thomas. The accusations referred to events that were supposed to have occurred when only she and Justice Thomas were in the same room, so if the allegations were true, Justice Thomas would certainly have known who had made them. The anonymity request only made sense if the charges were false.

Does Hirsen agree that all women to want to remain anonymous in forwarding sexual harassment allegations are lying? We don't recall being outraged when, as a Dec. 15 MRC NewsBusters post, a woman who accused NBC's Matt Lauer of sexual harassment was "terrified" that the network would leak her identity and cause her to be "hounded and harassed."

Of course, identifying the accuser would allow people like Hirsen to personally attack her, as he did with one woman who accused Roy Moore of perving on her as a teen. Then again, Hirsen would never try to smear one of Lauer's accusers, and he certainly never tried to attack any of the accusers of, say, Harvey Weinstein who chose to remain anonymous or demand that they go on record. There's also no evidence that Hirsen has held any woman making harassment allegations against a Hollywood figure to the same exacting standards of veracity he holds Hill.

It seems that, like the MRC, Hirsen just can't let go of his quarter-century-old anger.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:28 PM EST
Monday, December 25, 2017
Newsmax Columnist: Trump's No Hitler, Obama Is!
Topic: Newsmax

Right-wing radio host Chuck Morse has been preoccupied with portraying President Obama as a Hitler-like figure. While writing a column and serving as a source for WorldNetDaily, Morse regularly pushed this meme. Morse is over at Newsmax now, and he's still doing the same thing.

In his Dec. 11 Newsmax column, Morse does some mind-reading by taking a vague allusion from an Obama speech and turning it into a specific allegation that Obama likened President Trump to Hitler:

Echoing a meme that has become a worldwide article of faith for the authoritarian-oriented, Trump-hating left, former President Barack Obama has compared his successor, President Donald J. Trump, to Hitler.

Speaking at the Economic Club of Chicago, Obama noted that the U.S. has survived tough times before and will again, offering as an example of tough times the days of communist fighter Joseph McCarthy.

“The danger is grow[ing] complacent,” Obama said. “We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly.”

“That's what happened in Germany in the 1930s,” Obama opined. “Sixty million people died. So, you've got to pay attention. And vote.”

In a major case of projection, Obama deflected from the unprecedented economic success of President Trump’s first year in office, hardly tough times for working people, while he avoided the stark contrast between Trump’s tremendous first year and his lackluster and economically torpid previous eight years. Obama’s reference to Senator McCarthy, juxtaposed with his comparing Trump to Hitler, is ironic given the fact that the main work of Senator McCarthy was to investigate the real agents of Hitler, secret communists working within the FDR Administration who were pro-Nazi during the Hitler-Stalin Pact years, 1939-1941, the first 2 years of World War II.

Morse doesn't provide any support for that latter claim, let alone explain how one could be both communist and pro-Nazi, given that Hitler declared war on the communist Soviet Union. But then, he's back on his old smear that Obama -- and, really, any liberal -- is the real Hitler:

We should recall that it was Barack Obama who, in 2008, developed a cult of personality that was unprecedented in American history.

Reminiscent of the cult that developed around such socialist leaders as Hitler, Fidel Castro, V.I. Lenin, and Mao tse Tung, Obama, in a subtler context made palatable to an American audience, was worshipped by the liberal establishment, by the press, academia, and various cultural institutions. I recall, for example, a second grader that I knew informing me that her teacher had the students keep a diary of each day of Obama’s presidency starting on the first day. Women were reported to have fainted at his rallies.

Obama’s style of speaking, as illustrated by these recent remarks to the Economic Club of Chicago, is classic demagoguery, what French historian and former communist Alain Besancon described as “the language of ideology…the official language.” Obama speaks with indirection, innuendo, double-speak, and sophistry. His style is almost a form of code for the liberal establishment. His dishonest attempt to manipulate emotions without naming the target of his ire is a classic form of socialist agit-prop. Indeed, an English translation of a Hitler speech is filled with such innuendo and if the word “Jew” in one of those vile speeches were to be replaced with a word like “corporate interest” the speech would almost resemble the type that might be delivered by the likes of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

Has Morse never noticed the cult of personality around Trump? Apparently not, since he seems to be a full-fledged member. Writing like a full-fledged sycophant, Morse then unironically writes:

President Donald Trump, in contrast, speaks plainly, perhaps a bit too plainly at times, and honestly. Trump’s speeches contain no guile or hidden agendas. He says it like he sees it, warts and all. It may not always be pretty, like the suave Obama, and it may make us cringe from time to time, but Trump is honest and he is who he is. And that is, unlike Obama and his ilk, a man who supports and who seeks to advance genuine American ideals and principles. Trump, unlike the socialist demagogues of history like Hitler, speaks plainly because he has nothing to hide.

Trump has nothing to hide? Two words for Morse: tax returns.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:09 PM EST
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Newsmax Touts O'Reilly's Views on Sexual Harassment Without Mentioning He Was Fired For It
Topic: Newsmax

Newsmax's courting of Bill O'Reilly for its own little TV network is starting to turn into a full-fledged image rehab campaign, like it has done for other scandal-tarred conservatives. But in order to do so, Newsmax has to withhold certain information from readers.

Cathy Burke wrote of an O'Reilly appearance on Newsmax TV in a Dec. 1 article:

President Donald Trump will be the target of a "hellacious amount of accusations" by the "hate Trump media" if Congress passes a tax cut and the economy continues to grow, commentator and author Bill O'Reilly predicted Thursday.

In an interview with "Newsmax Now" host John Bachman on Newsmax TV, the best-selling author of "Killing England" said Trump "needs to prepare" for the attacks, especially if they "resurrect" allegations of sexual misconduct.

"The women thing is hot now," he said. "That's the big thing. They're going to resurrect that. They'll find more women. That's not hard to do in our society today. . . . So it's going to get very nasty, and I think President Trump himself needs to prepare for this."

Missing from Burke's article: the inconvenient fact that O'Reilly was fired from Fox News after he and it spent millions of dollars to settle allegations of sexual harassment against him. Indeed, at no point in the conversation between O'Reilly and Bachman does O'Reily's own history of sexual harassment get mentioned, beyond obliquely mentioning that Matt Lauer "was pretty tough on you when he interviewed you when 'Killing England' came out." Instead, Bachman proclaimed O'Reilly to be "the most successful cable-news anchor of all time" and plugged O'Reilly's latest book as "the perfect gift for Christmas." Not exactly a hard-hitting interview.

Burke did it again, and at length, in a Dec. 6 article:

O'Reilly said the growing sex harassment scandal in the nation has become, however, a "witch hunt."

"I think that you have to want one thing in all of these cases and that's justice, and each case is different," he said.

"We do have in this country now a witch hunt, no question about it," he said. "And the lawyers know it, so if somebody comes in and say 'I was abused' . . . lawyers know they can get a lot of headlines sympathetic to their client."

He added if someone is sexually abused and steps forward, "that takes an act of courage."

But, he said, "you can't say that everyone who lodges an accusation is a victim. That has to proven."

"The media is certainly not looking for the truth, they're looking for the headline, the sensationalism. The media doesn't care really what happened unless they don't like you, then they want to put you out of business.

"So the American people, they need to be cautious when evaluating these things and it comes down a lot along party lines . . . But I think, to be fair, if you want justice, you have to step back and evaluate each situation differently."

O'Reilly also weighed in on the sexual misconduct scandal enveloping Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, predicting if the former judge gets elected Dec. 12, he will "walk right into" an ethics investigation in the upper chamber.

"In the meantime, he does vote Republican, which is why the [Republican National Committee] and President [Donald] Trump did what they did," he added. "They want the 52 Republican senators to stay intact. . . . But I do believe at this point it hurts the Republican Party in general to ally itself with Roy Moore."

Again, no mention was made of the fact that O'Reilly was fired for sexual harassment.

A clip on the segment featured an gushy introduction by Newsmax host Bill Tucker calling O'Reilly "the most successful cable-news anchor of all time, and you can catch Bill here once a week here on Newsmax TV, but you can catch him every day at billoreilly.com." At no point in the conversation between O'Reilly and host John Bachman does O'Reily's own history of sexual harassment get mentioned -- not even obliquely.

Yep, a total image rehab operation.


Posted by Terry K. at 3:22 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, December 7, 2017 3:24 PM EST
Saturday, December 2, 2017
Newsmax's Gizzi Takes Roy Moore's Side, Bashes Opponent
Topic: Newsmax

Newsmax "political columnist and chief Washington correspondent" John Gizzi has made it clear whose side he's on in the Alabama Senate race.

After the Washington Post reported on allegations of Moore perving on teenage girls as a thirtysomething man, Gizzi pussyfooted around at first with a Nov. 10 column that highlighted how "almost to a person, Republican leaders in Alabama who spoke to Newsmax rallied behind their already-controversial nominee and denounced both his accusers and the Post." A Nov. 14 column noted concerns from other Republican senators about Moore but added that "keeping Moore out of the Senate would be difficult to imagine" because the procedure has been done so rarely.

Gizzi made his bias crystal clear, though, in a Nov. 20 column dedicated to attacking Moore's Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, for the purportedly "radical" positions of opposing Obamacare repeal and trusting in science:

Jones, 69, has showed no sign of distancing himself from his party’s national platform — an inarguably radical, Bernie Sanders-influenced document that calls for raising the minimum wage to $15, a tough pro-climate change stance, a surtax on millionaires, and abortion-on-demand.

Jones strongly opposes any effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Jones strongly disagrees with the administration’s position on climate change (“because I actually believe in science”) and has sharp differences on immigration with opponent Moore.

Gizzi then branded as "outrageous" the idea that the American judiciary should look more like America:

At times, Jones’ comments to the press as a private attorney border on the outrageous. In a feature by the Associated Press entitled “Experts Say Alabama Needs More Black Federal Judges," Birmingham attorney Jones endorsed the view that “the federal bench is identified with discrimination laws [and] It would seem the minority population has to be well-represented.”

Gizzi didn't explain why that view is so "outrageous."

Finally, Gizzi found it outrageous that Democrats in Alabama should have any sort of voice in government:

Perhaps Doug Jones’ most telling comment came earlier this year. Noting that he felt the election of 2016 was “very disturbing,” he acknowledged that Alabama voted “overwhelming” for Donald Trump. But, he quickly added, “there were about 37 percent of the people who did not, and they need a voice too.”

Based on his comments on many issues and political associations, it is clear Jones wants to be that voice — and with a very left-of-center tone.

Gizzi doesn't seem equally offended at the related idea that Moore wouldn't be a senator who would represent all Alabamans.


Posted by Terry K. at 10:27 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, December 3, 2017 7:03 PM EST
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Newsmax's Hirsen Tries to Smear Roy Moore Accuser
Topic: Newsmax

For some reason, Newsmax columnist James Hirsen feels the need to launch nasty attacks on the women who accused Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore of perving on them when they were teenagers.

In a Nov. 10 tweet, Hirsen went on the attack: "Purportedly Moore’s main accuser Leigh Corfman has had three divorces, filed for bankruptcy three times, and has been charged with multiple misdemeanors. Posts on Moore's FB page indicate that Corfman, has claimed several pastors at various churches made sexual advances at her."

Hirsen retweeted other attacks on the accusers and defenses of Moore.

Ironically (or perhaps not so much), Gibson is close to a Hollywood star with a history of questionable behavior toward women, Mel Gibson. As we've documented, Hirsen headed a group that owned a tract of land in Pennsylvania where Gibson's father founded a branch of an ultraconservative Catholic sect, and has promoted Gibson on websites including Newsmax without disclosing his personal ties to the star. And when tapes surfaced revealing Gibson saying hateful and abusive things to an ex-girlfriend, he first ignored the story, then ran to his defense by claiming the tapes were edited. Only then did Hirsen finally disclose at Newsmax that he is a "business associate and friend" of Gibson.

Is this really the way Newsmax wants one of its columnists to behave? Given that it's given Hirsen a pass on his unethical behavior so far, perhaps so.

UPDATE: Hirsen, who claims to be an attorney, offered up this Nov. 13 post on Moore's threat to sue the Washington Post for publishing thet story about his accusers: "False publication that harms reputation is actionable defamation."

But if the claims are false, shouldn't Moore be suing his accusers instead of a newspaper? Further, Moore would have to claim actual malice -- that the Post knew the claims were false and published the story anyway -- for Moore's lawsuit to have any chance of success. Thus far, he has offered no such evidence against either the accusers or the Post.

Maybe Hirsen shouldn't be bragging so much about being a lawyer.

And in his new Newsmax column, Hirsen continued his pro-Moore defense campaign, delcaring the allegations to be "fake news." He manages to avoid repeating his defamatory claims about Corfman -- which are arguably more actionable in court than anything the Post has published about Moore, so good on Hirsen for belatedly figuring that out -- but he repeated other irrelevant information about another accuser, as if being "a sign language interpreter for then-Vice President Joe Biden" has any bearing on the current controversy."

Hirsen proudly claims that "It is predictable and wholly rational for Judge Moore’s backers to doubt the veracity of the Post story," adding: "Alabamians have little faith in the mainstream media, particularly the Post. On the other hand, Judge Moore is known statewide as an individual who after successfully running for office served as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court."

And, now, suspected pedophile. Hirsen won't admit that, of course.


Posted by Terry K. at 10:17 PM EST
Updated: Monday, November 13, 2017 3:04 PM EST
Sunday, November 5, 2017
We Called It! Newsmax In The Market for O'Reilly
Topic: Newsmax

We were right.

Nast week, we noted that fluffy Newsmax coverage of disgraced ex-Fox News host Bill O'Reilly indicted that it was in the market  to obtain O'Reilly's services for its little-watched, little-carried TV channel. Now, with the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group has officially pulled out of the market for O'Reilly after it was revealed he had paid $32 million to settle one case of sexual harassment, Newsmax is officially in.

Politico reported that Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy has confirmed he's courting O'Reilly, adding that, according to Ruddy, "Newsmax has already established a relationship with O’Reilly, letting him use its podcast studios for several hours each week in New York since his dismissal from Fox News as an informal favor."

Politico notes that the sexual harassment allegations against O'Reilly are an issue, "though they do not appear to be enough to keep Newsmax from pursuing a deal." It also notes that Newsmax "posted an article about one of the former Fox host’s accusers being arrested in 2015 for making a false crime report."

Politico adds that an O'Reilly presence on Newsmax TV could be used as leverage to grow his TV channel and the company in general:

Newsmax is also exploring financing options to grow the network, and it’s potentially looking at going public, according to a person familiar with the network’s thinking. That type of expanded platform could prove enticing to O’Reilly—and adding a high-profile name like his could conceivably juice the company’s valuation.

Meanwhile, there's still evidence of the O'Reilly connection on Newsmax's website. The other day, as the above screenshot shows, a Newsmax story featuring O'Reilly opining on President Trump's tax plan was paired the front page with an ad by O'Reilly to get readers to subscribe to his own website.

If O'Reilly does end up at Newsmax, this is how it will happen.


Posted by Terry K. at 11:45 AM EDT
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Newsmax Makes A Play for Bill O'Reilly
Topic: Newsmax

Newsmax, it seems, would like to be where disgraced ex-Fox News host Bill O'Reilly takes his talents now that he's a free agent after all the sexual harassment stuff. It's giving him a platform to do his usual O'Reilly thing, as well as rail against the sexual harassment allegations against him.

A Sept. 17 article by David Patten highlighted how "A 2015 arrest by Detroit police of a key accuser of Bill O'Reilly for giving a false report of a crime has raised serious doubts as to her credibility." Patten toutedhow "Newsmax has obtained two documents that cast doubt on Burgess's credibility" and got comments from O'Reilly about it. Three days later, an article by Greg Richter noted that O'Reilly "praised Newsmax for its report this week on his accuser's past arrest on filing a false allegation of a crime."

When news broke of the $32 million O'Reilly paid Fox analyst Lis Wiehl to settle a harassment claim, Richter devoted an article to letting O'Reilly attack the report, which also reproduced the entire statement O'Reilly's lawyer's released.This was followed by a column by Joseph A. Klein attacking former Fox host Megyn Kelly's rebuttal of O'Reilly's denials, asserting that Kelly was showing "apparent willingness to exploit allegations against a former colleague she appeared to have used to advance her career while at Fox News in order to now boost her sagging ratings on a rival network."

Patten wrote in an Oct. 24 article that "O'Reilly told Newsmax on Monday that investigators working for him had uncovered an audio recording of "an anti-Trump attorney" offering an unidentified woman $200,000 to file sexual harassment charges against then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump." And Newsmax devoted an Oct. 28 article to highlighting that "Bill O'Reilly is seeking no less than $5 million against a former New Jersey lawmaker who detailed, on Facebook, an account of his former girlfriend's claims that the former Fox News star allegedly sexually harassed her."

O'Reilly has made apperances on Newsmax TV to make his usual political pronunciations (and, of course, promote his new book), and columns he has written elsewhere, as well as appearances in other media, have been rewritten into Newsmax "news" articles. Newsmax even promoted how O'Reilly's latest "Killing" book "has taken over the No. 1 spot on the New York times best-sellers list, dropping Hillary Clinton's "What Happened" to No. 2."

Newsmax has also published columns defending O'Reilly. In July, for example, Michael Reagan huffed that the "sin" that cost O'Reilly his Fox News job was "being a prominent conservative. The left claims it was because of sexual harassment. But that’s what is strange about the manufactured controversy." Reagan continued to take O'Reilly's side by attacking his victims: "Since they accepted the money, one would have to assume that regardless of what O’Reilly was alleged to have done in the past the women were now satisfied and any wrongs avenged." He went on to rant that "The lesson for prominent conservatives is an attack from the left never blows over."

The peak of O'Reilly promotion at Newsmax, though, is a meaningless poll asking readers if they think O'Reilly should be on TV. It also asks readers what cable or satellite system they use -- meaning that this is a way to gauge reader interest in whether Newsmax should hire O'Reilly as well as seeing how people receive the sparsely watched Newsmax TV, which isn't on many satellite or cable providers. Remember, Newsmax has been battling satellite TV providers over carriage of Newsmax TV.

But O'Reilly isn't the only alleged perpetrator employed by Fox News that Newsmax is defending. A Aug. 14 column by Ronn Torossian (last seen here telling Chevrolet not to put same-sex couples in its ads) lamenting that allegations against Fox host Eric Bolling "has public relations pitfalls for Bolling even if he’s completely innocent. The public is asking questions and making up their minds, in most cases without having any actual facts about the incident or the case."

All of this may be for naught, however -- O'Reilly is reportedly negotiating with right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group for his return to TV. By the way, Newsmax chief Christopher Ruddy opposes Sinclair's planned merger with Tribune Broadcasting.


Posted by Terry K. at 7:59 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, October 29, 2017 8:03 PM EDT
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Newsmax Columnist: Won't Somebody Think of the Poor Rich Widow Who Has to Sell Her Picassos!
Topic: Newsmax

Ira Stoll tries for a bit of pathos in his Oct. 2 Newsmax column:

The most illuminating recent article about the tax reform debate didn’t appear on the front page of any newspaper. It wasn’t in the business section, or on the editorial page.

It was an interview that appeared on an inside page of The New York Times arts section with Ellen Stern.

Stern isn’t an academic economist or a politician or a tax policy expert at some Washington, D.C. think tank. She’s a widow. Her husband, Jerome, died in March.

Beginning on Nov. 14 and continuing through March 2018 in nine separate events, Sotheby’s is scheduled to auction off the collection of art Jerome and Ellen Stern assembled over 30 years.

The Times reporter on the story, Robin Pogrebin, covers arts, not the Senate Finance Committee or the House Ways and Means Committee or the Treasury Department. She sensitively captured the emotions involved, "Losing her husband, Jerome, in March was devastating for Ellen Stern. And preparing to part with much of their extensive art collection this fall is its own kind of grief."

Ellen Stern described having to sell the art as "like you’re stripped naked."

So why would Stern part with the paintings and sculptures that she told the Times she loved almost like children?

The Times posed the question directly, "Why are you selling it?" Stern answered equally directly, "Because of taxes."

Of all the many cruelties of our current tax system, one of most cruel is that it takes grieving widows and forces them to part with possessions accumulated over a lifetime.

Well, no. A multimillionaire woman who's parting with artwork but still has a sizable estate is nowhere near the same thing as a typical widow. Stoll seems to admit he's not generating much sympathy even as he downplays how rich she is, but he gamely presses on:

You may say that in a country of poverty-stricken hurricane victims and high-school dropout opioid addicts, Ellen Stern having to sell her Picassos in order to pay the tax bill on her 10 bedroom, 10 bathroom Westhampton estate doesn’t exactly rank high on the list of outrages. It isn’t a problem that affects a lot of people. Up to $5 million a person in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars is exempt from federal taxes, though some states, including New York, levy their own estate taxes. The people it does affect are asset-rich.

But the more you think about it, the more you realize that essentially all taxes — not just the estate tax — are just some kind of variation of the IRS forcing Ellen Stern to sell her art.

[...]

How much wasteful or counterproductive spending in Washington could be cut if before each time some politician approved a spending measure, he or she had to consider whether funding it was really worth making some widow sell a beloved artwork, or forcing similar painful trade-offs on millions of middle-class American families? Call it the Ellen Stern test.

Nope, Ira, you're still losing us. That 16-acre estate in the Hamptons, where the Sterns kept their art in its own large, private gallery, is on the market for $23 million, and she apparently plans to keep her Upper West Side apartment, which we can safely assume is also valued in the millions. One single piece out of the art collection -- a sculpture not by Picasso -- is expected to sell for $6 million to $8 million, and the collection as a whole is valued at $20 million and is so big it will take 10 separate auctions to dispose of. The Sterns have so much money, they gave a six-figure sum to a New York art museum to have bathrooms named after them.

Stern is not desperate, however much she complains she's selling the art to pay taxes and however much Stoll tries to suggest otherwise -- she's an elderly woman who's downsizing an expansive estate after the death of her wealthy venture-capitalist husband (Stoll never mentions his occupation). Her plight is not that of the "ordinary, middle-income taxpayers" to which Stoll tries to liken her since, as he implicitly admits, Stern's estate is far beyond the $5 million minimum to trigger the estate tax.

Consider Stoll's column a failure of misdirected sympathy.


Posted by Terry K. at 10:02 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 10:34 AM EDT
Sunday, October 1, 2017
Newsmax Has A Serial Stalker As A Columnist
Topic: Newsmax

For much of this year, Newsmax has been publishing columns by conservative writer Rachel Marsden. Her bio does a fine job of polishing her credentials, including a claim that she "served as director of a key think tank during the lead-up to the Iraq war." Actually, it appears, she was simply director of development -- a title that typically has to do with fundraising and member recruitiment rather than involvement in policy -- for the now-defunct Free Congress Foundation.

Her bio also states that she is a "former Fox News co-host and contributor," but doesn't mention she was escorted out of the building in the process of becoming a former co-host.

So she's overstating her credentials. But there's one thing she's definitely keeping quiet about: being something of a seral stalker.

The Jester's Court blog has the full rundown (as does Salon); it involves falsely accusing a swim coach of rape and harassment as a college student (turns out she was stalking him), an actual criminal conviction on harassment charges, and a brief affair with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales that ended with her making public their sexually oriented chats. The anonymous Jester's Court writer also tells of a stalker-y attempt by Marsden to seduce him in an apparent attempt to expose his identity.

Having Marsden as a columnist -- even if she is syndicated by an otherwise reputable company -- does not help Newsmax's current campaign of respectability.


Posted by Terry K. at 11:36 AM EDT
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Newsmax's Hirsen Falsely Claims Graham-Cassidy Doesn't Affect Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions
Topic: Newsmax

Newsmax's James Hirsen rants against Jimmy Kimmel in his Sept. 25 column:

Kimmel's son had already had to battle congenital heart disease in his infant life. The Democrats apparently saw the opportunity to exploit Kimmel's family difficulties, using the hardship as a means to attack the Republican proposed legislation by feeding lies to the late-night host. Particularly underhanded was the reframing of the efforts by the GOP to repeal and replace Obamacare as a plan that would fail to protect people with pre-existing conditions such as the one Kimmel's son experienced.

[...]

Lost in the media coverage has been the truth that people with pre-existing conditions would not be denied coverage under the GOP’s proposed legislation. However, it appears as though Kimmel was fed purposely misleading information from Schumer and dutifully repeated the lines for his audience.

Kimmel was not lying. In fact, the proposed Graham-Cassidy bill would permit states to not cover pre-existing conditions, making coverage prohibitively expensive or even nonexistent.

Hirsen also complains that "the co-writer of Kimmel’s healthcare remarks was none other than U.S. Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.," and that the two had been "coordinating behind the scenes to put a wrench in the Republican undertaking of repealing the failing healthcare system known as Obamacare."

We remember when Hirsen vociferously defended Mel Gibson after his anti-Semitic rantings came to light and enthusiastically promoted his  film "The Passion of the Christ" at Newsmax without disclosing his personal and business connections to Gibson -- including that he ran a foundation on behalf of Gibson's father -- so any complaints about Kimmel's fact-finding arrangement ring hollow.


Posted by Terry K. at 3:08 PM EDT
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Newsmax Columnist Regurgitates Right-Wing Talking Points on Regnery-NYT Spat
Topic: Newsmax

Mark Tapson dutifully does the work right-wing publisher Regnery was hoping to see in devoting a Sept. 13 Newsmax column (also published at the right-leaning website Acculturated) to Regnery's hollow attack on the New YOrk Times bestseller list:

A Times spokesman insisted that the “political views of authors have no bearing on our rankings, and the notion that we would manipulate the lists to exclude books for political reasons is simply ludicrous.”

Ludicrous? The Times says its list is based on “surveys” of “a wide range of retailers who provide us with specific and confidential context of their sales each week. These standards are applied consistently, across the board in order to provide Times readers our best assessment of what books are the most broadly popular at that time.”

Confidential context? Best assessment? Broadly popular? This sounds suspiciously unscientific and non-transparent, and does not address the evidence of the sales figures themselves. The once highly-regarded “newspaper of record” is notoriously leftist and D’Souza is a lightning rod for Progressive animosity, so the idea that there might be some manipulation of the list is not only not ludicrous, it’s likely.

In response, Marji Ross, president of D’Souza’s conservative publisher Regnery, said in a letter to colleagues, “Increasingly, it appears that The Times has gathered book sale data in a manner which prioritizes liberal themed books over conservative books and authors.”

As we've pointed out, the underlying issue ignored by Tapson, as well as by most of the ConWeb, is bulk sales -- Regnery depends on bulk sales to conservative book clubs (it owns one or two of them) and political organizations to juice sales, and the Times apparently doesn't count them.

Tapson goes on to rant about how the right must wage a "culture insurgency" against the left. He doesn't realize that a good start to doing that would be not to reflexively regurgitate right-wing talking points.


Posted by Terry K. at 6:08 PM EDT
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Newsmax Helps Gorka Overcompensate
Topic: Newsmax

We've noted how Accuracy in Media likes to help former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka overcompensate by insisting on calling him "Dr. Sebastian Gorka," despite the fact that he's not a medical doctor (giving only medical doctors the "Dr." honorific is standard journalistic style) and his academic credentials (his doctorate is from a Hungarian school) have been question.

Now Newsmax is helping Gorka overcompensate as well.

During an appearance by Gorka on the Aug. 31 edition of Newsmax TV's "The Joe Pags Show," host Joe Paglliarulo repeatedly privileges Gorka with the "Dr." moniker. This is mostly repeated on the Sept. 4 edition of Newsmax TV's "America Talks Live," in which host Miranda Khan similarly gives Gorka the "Dr." moniker, though on-screen text more correctly identifies him as "Sebastian Gorka, PhD."

Newsmax also referred to "Dr." Gorka in articles on April 4 and Aug. 31 -- interestingly, both are about the right-wing Jewish group Zionist Organization of America running to Gorka's defense.

Newsmax also continues to privilege anti-abortion activist Alveda King with the "Dr." honorific, but this case is even more egregious because King's doctorate is honorary, not earned.


Posted by Terry K. at 10:32 AM EDT
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Newsmax Columnist Complains About Lack of Respect for President, Forgets Who His Employer Is
Topic: Newsmax

James Hirsen complains in his Aug. 21 Newsmax column: "One of the unfortunate byproducts of the irrational treatment of President Donald J. Trump by the politically entrenched establishment class, predisposed mainstream media, and Hollywood radical left is a precipitous decline in the respect customarily surrounding the presidency." Hirsen was referencing how some recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors were refusing to show up to accept the award if President Trump was to show up.

Hirsen, however, seems to have forgotten who publishes his column.

Newsmax has never shown much respect for President Obama. Then-reporter Ronald Kessler repeatedly attacked him during the 2008 presidential campaign, as did other Newsmax writers. After the election, Newsmax had trouble accepting the results, with one Newsmax columnist likening him to Hitler and another calling for a military coup to resolve the "Obama problem" -- among the many ways Newsmax disrespected Obama just in his first year in office, which also included embracing birtherism.

Indeed, to this day some Newsmax writers are still suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Seems like Hirsen should have started in his own house before attacking others over lack of respect for the president.


Posted by Terry K. at 10:23 PM EDT

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