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Does the fact that WorldNetDaily feels the need to whine about it so much indicate that perhaps it isn't?
By Terry Krepel
When the folks at WorldNetDaily suffer a perceived slight, they respond the only way they know how: with a lot of whining and sniping from its stable of writers.
This was recently illustrated with its reaction to an article by John B. Judis in April 23 edition of The New Republic on "the decline of principled conservative hostility to China," focusing on newly appointed Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, her ties to China and her work for the conservative Heritage Foundation. The problem: WorldNetDaily had published a series of articles on Chao's China connection a few months earlier, and dammit, they wanted some credit.
Their first reaction was an April 16 article, the headline of which -- "Judis or Judas?" -- sets the tone for how WorldNetDaily was going to handle the situation. Calling the piece "one of the brashest journalistic rip-offs in years," writer Paul Sperry spends the vast majority of his story bashing The New Republic, recapping WND's coverage and the credit others (specifically, UPI and the Wall Street Journal editorial page) have given WND on it, and railing against the article's description of those who had earlier publicized the Chao story as "conspiracy-minded right-wing websites." Not until pagagraph 23 of Sperry's 25-paragraph story does one see any response from Judis or The New Republic.
The hatchet job worked: The next day, Sperry reported that New Republic editor Eric Beinart blamed a "editing error" for removing WND's credit and would issue a correction, and that Judis sent a separate letter of apology to WND. (Sperry also takes care to label The New Republic as "left-wing" twice.)
But Sperry wasn't done yet. In his April 18 column (this one appearing on WND's commentary page, though there is no difference in tone from the previous two articles, which appeared in the news section), he vents further: "Beinart's 'regret' sounds like the first trimester of the Bush administration's pregnant apology to the People's Republic of China. And 'editing error' sounds like the standard Washington confession that 'mistakes were made.'"
The thing that stuck in Sperry's craw, though, was the insinuation that WorldNetDaily is a "right-wing" site. Yet his own pattern of reporting demonstrates exactly that. Last summer, Sperry generated loads of copy on the President Clinton e-mail "scandal" yet virtually ignored the trial of a former associate of ex-independent counsel Ken Starr for lying to a judge about a story leaked to the media happening at the same time -- in the very same courthouse.
Sperry claims that because WND broke the Chao story, it's not a "right-wing" news site -- "'Right-wing' newssites don't get off to such a poor start with an incoming Republican administration" -- but that exactly what a right-wing site would do. Right-wingers want China to become the new "evil empire" and to treat them accordingly, and this view is generally reflected in WorldNetDaily reportage. The majority of Republicans try to maintain a balance between maintaining a trade relationship with China and wariness of its government and human rights record.
Sperry tries to portray "right-wing" as being synonymous with "Republican," which he knows is not true. Right-wingers often criticize Republicans regularly for not being right-wing enough, as they did with Chao and continue to do with John McCain. Despite Sperry's assertions to the contrary, WorldNetDaily is demonstrated beyond a doubt that it is a right-wing site -- just not a Republican site. (They do, however, get some credit for one original non-right-wing story: trying and failing to find someone who was "disenfranchised" because the TV networks called Florida for Al Gore 11 minutes before the polls closed in the state's panhandle.)
Sperry then issues his coup de grace: Everyone else is jealous of WND. "The fat and fatuous Old Media is having to take the nimble, no-nonsense New Media seriously. And they don't like it."
WND CEO Joseph Farah concurs in his April 17 column: "What I am seeing in this case and many others like it is a kind of maniacal professional jealousy by the old-fashioned print media of New Media sources in general, but particularly WorldNetDaily."
He also tries to justify WND's existence: "We are a real newssite, with real reporters, breaking real news, utilizing the highest standards and practices of a profession we revere. We are not some gossip sheet. We are not some tabloid. We break news -- news it is getting harder and harder to pretend doesn't exist." Farah then demonstrates "the highest standards and practices of a profession we revere" by attacking a columnist for "U.S. Snooze and World Distort."
Jon Dougherty joins the pity-and-paranoia party as well with his April 19 column, annoyed because WND didn't win any Pulitzer Prizes. "... (P)ardon my yawns because as you noticed, no reporter working for this newspaper heard from Columbia University," he notes.
The only logical explanation: The Pulitzer judges are a bunch of damn liberals. "Could it be ideological? As in, none of us 'news serfs' are liberal enough for the elite 'caste' leaders who make Pulitzer decisions? Methinks so," Doughery asserts, suggesting that Pulitzers are based on "which liberal newspaper had the best liberal slant last year on a tired or well-worn subject."
And then he adds: "This isn't sour grapes, mind you." Dougherty says nothing about whether WND even bothered to enter the Pulitzer competition. As the saying goes, you can't win if you don't enter.
Dougherty then parrots the company line that WND is "accurate, unbiased, and most of all, important to you and to the welfare of our country."
Accurate? Perhaps. Important? Debatable. But unbiased? Please.
WorldNetDaily has been caught, among other things, running mildly reworked press releases from conservative groups, practically begging for an IRS audit of a group who opposed John Ashcroft for attorney general and ignoring facts about the death of a reporter in Arkansas to make it look like then-President Bill Clinton had something to do with it. Virtually all WND-produced commentary is conservative or libertarian; on the day before the November presidential election, the WND commentary page carried at least nine articles that were pro-Bush or anti-Gore or both. Heck, even supposedly "liberal" newspapers have at least a token conservative, i.e. Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe.
"Unbiased" is not the word that comes to mind when one thinks of WorldNetDaily. Its tantrum over the New Republic article doesn't exactly change that view.