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Calling the Kettle Rather Black, Part 2: Passing the Buck(wheat)

It's NewsMax's hypocrisy and half-truths vs. Dan Rather's 'racism,' with a little Sean Hannity conflict of interest on the side.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/27/2001

NewsMax is mounting a full frontal assault on CBS news anchor Dan Rather, attempting to tar him as a racist with the usual hypocrisy and half-truths NewsMax is known for.

The incident the boys at NewsMax have their collective knickers in a twist over occured July 19, the day after Rather reported on the Chandra Levy-Gary Condit story for the first time on the "CBS Evening News" (another thing that caused much hypocritical knicker-twisting at NewsMax). Rather appeared on the Don Imus radio show and said his bosses "got the willies, they got the buckwheats" and forced him to report on the story.

Related article on ConWebWatch:

Calling the Kettle Rather Black

NewsMax had nary a peep about Rather for three days afterwards -- the "buckwheats" remark doesn't even occur until the sixth paragraph of the July 19 story -- so apparently NewsMax couldn't even figure out at first the potential to turn the remark into a new front in its anti-Rather war. Suddenly, in a July 22 story, Carl Limbacher quotes a "prominent California civil rights leader" by the name of the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson who has decided that Rather was referring to Buckwheat, described as "the easily frightened black character in the 1930s' 'Little Rascals' comedies," and that Rather's use of the word "is demeaning to African-Americans."

NewsMax has been hammering on it ever since. And herein lies their hypocrisy and half-truths.

NewsMax has dug up a radio-talk-show host who lost his job over saying similar things, but can't seem to criticize one particular host over allegations of racial insensitivity: Don Imus.

A May 21, 2000, article under the generic "Carl Limbacher and staff" byline (but apparently written by Limbacher himself) laments the launching of a "politically correct jihad against the Washington establishment's favorite shock jock" by Philip Nobile of the news-and-commentary site Limbacher points out that "Nobile is nothing if not thorough, offering a comprehensive Imus archives documenting the talk jock's alleged on-air racial, ethnic and sexual slurs." He even devote space to Imus' defense against the accusations. While Limbacher suggests that "Imus' non-judgemental (sic), values-free style appeals to these moderate to left-leaning pols and journalists," he doesn't call for Imus' head on a platter, no boycott, no demand for Imus to be fired, let alone to apologize. It would appear that Limbacher agrees with, for instance, referring to the Japanese prime minister as "Kabuki" and "Won Hooky."

NewsMax also isn't saying much about its "prominent California civil rights leader," the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson. NewsMax describes him only as "head of the Los Angeles-based Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND)." The group's web site describes BOND as "a national, non-profit organization dedicated to "Rebuilding the Family By Rebuilding the Man," which it does by stressing "the importance of self-reliance, proper motivation, speaking up in honesty without judgement or hatred, and helping others through patience."

But judging by a spate of press releases, BOND also appears to be Rev. Peterson's forum to advance conservative-friendly viewpoints such as criticism of the NAACP and Jesse Jackson (one article demanded that Jackson "Stay Out Da China!") and support for "Dr." Laura Schlessinger. Peterson also spoke at a 1998 anti-Clinton rally sponsored by the conservative chat site Free Republic. He says he has been "influenced by the ideas of such thinkers as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Glenn Loury." In short, not the historic definition of "civil rights leader," but one that conservatives can buy into.

And conservatives hve been doing just that, judging by the heavy hitters behind Peterson. Conservative talkmeisters Sean Hannity and Dennis Prager sit on BOND's advisory board, as does the aforementioned Walter Williams, and the group's director of finances is Johnny Chung, former Clinton scandal figure turned conservative darling.

You'll read nothing about any of this on NewsMax, and especially not in NewsMax's July 24 story gushing over Peterson's appearance on Hannity's Fox News Channel shouting-heads program.

Which raises another question: Did Hannity mention his own conflict of interest in promoting a man whom he helps advise? According to the Lexis-Nexis transcript of the July 24 appearance, he did not. (Transcripts are also available for a fee through the Fox News web site.)

Even Jerry Falwell gets into the act, claiming in his July 28 WorldNetDaily column that remarks like Rather's are "insulting ... even dangerous." As opposed to, say, Falwell's recent claim that "the Moslem faith teaches hate."

Christopher Ruddy tries to justify NewsMax's jihad in a July 24 column: "So the lesson of this episode is simple and clear: What's good for the goose is good for the gander – unless the gander is a limousine liberal." This would make sense if NewsMax were concerned about allegedly offensive remarks spoken by anyone other than those Ruddy and Co. are predisposed to hate. The only other instance of NewsMax being offended by such remarks was when it tried to go after Hillary Rodham Clinton for an allegedly anti-Semitic remark that can't be verified by a credible source. NewsMax could care less if Dan Rather or Hillary Clinton are racists or bigots; they are simply targets against whom NewsMax has a set of grievances (both real and imagined), and accusing them of bigotry is simply a means to an end, which is to damage and discredit them.

NewsMax's refusal to go after people like Don Imus for doing essentially the same thing or telling the whole truth about Jesse Lee Peterson shows the intellectual dishonesty of a rabid partisan, not the scrupulous objectivity of a journalistic endeavor. Then again, that's what NewsMax is all about. It always has been.

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