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The 'B' Word

Just admit it, Mr. Farah: WorldNetDaily is biased.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/29/2002

It started, as a lot of the more annoying things on the ConWeb do, with NewsMax.

On Jan. 16, NewsMax declared itself "the leading conservative news source in America." In an unsurprisingly self-congratulatory article that offers a set of statistics to back up its claim, NewsMax CEO Christopher Ruddy is quoted as saying things like, "In three short years, NewsMax has come from nowhere to become the #1 read offline/online source for news for Americans seeking an alternative to the liberal press." The article also states that "NewsMax Media's reach has now surpassed many conservative outlets that were operating well before NewsMax launched in September 1998."

This article disturbed others who consider their web sites the leading conservative news source in America. Namely, Joseph Farah.

The editor and CEO of WorldNetDaily devoted his Jan. 21 column to why his site is "still the undisputed heavyweight champion when it comes to independent news on the Net."

He starts out by throwing out his own statistics to back up his claim. He declares that WND "is NOT ... a rah-rah Republican website running TV commercials proclaiming it's 'morning in America again' because a member of the GOP sits in the White House," and he gets in a couple good digs at NewsMax's blind Bush worship. (Farah never identifies NewsMax by name, though.) He insists WND has remained "fiercely independent."

The latter statements are as true as far as they go. WND indeed has not been lockstep Republican, and if "independent" can be described as not being owned by a giant media conglomerate, WND certainly qualifies. (As far as whose statistics are more valid, we're just not gonna get into that.)

Then, Farah makes an interesting statement: "I don't consider myself a conservative, and the creation of a politically slanted news source of any stripe has never been one of my aspirations."

If you believe that, I have some oceanfront property in Nebraska I'd like to sell you.

WorldNetDaily is, the vast majority of the time, a conservative site with a libertarian streak. It is indeed politically slanted, despite Farah's statements to the contrary.

Need proof? Start with WND's commentary page. Of the regularly scheduled columnists (those grouped by day of appearance in the left-hand bar), the vast majority of them are conservative, including such names as Pat Buchanan (excuse me, Patrick J. Buchanan, as he seems to be insisting on being called these days), Ann Coulter (whom WND picked up after her notorious comment that the U.S. should "invade" the countries of those who celebrated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, "kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity"), David Limbaugh, Alan Keyes, Walter Williams and Gary Aldrich, and only one, Ellen Ratner, can be considered anything close to an actual liberal.

Next, let's take a look at some of the conservative-friendly articles written in the past week by WND staffers. They include:

  • A Jan. 24 story alleging that "instructions on homosexual sodomy and a glorified account of lesbian pedophilia are among the instructional materials approved by the Los Angeles Unified School District for use in "diversity" and "safety" programs being presented to elementary through high school students." The only actual person quoted about it is a California state assemblyman who had sponsored a bill described in the story as "aimed at prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality in public education." (School district officials did not return calls for comment.)
  • Two stories related to an organization "that disputes, on various grounds, the legality of the federal income tax." WND puts its tax-related stories under the heading "The Power to Destroy."
  • A Jan. 22 article, another one-source story, that promotes the idea of arming airplane pilots and crew members with handguns. A list at the end of the story indicated that this is at least the seventh news story WND has written on the subject; as of this writing, WND has generated four news stories addressing issues surrounding the Enron collapse.
  • A Jan. 21 puff piece by Jon Dougherty promoting the new Alan Keyes show on MSNBC.
  • A Jan. 25 story, also by Dougherty, on a poll that found "Only slightly more than a quarter of all Democrats share Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's belief that a $1.35 trillion tax-cut plan pushed by President Bush last year was a mistake." WND, ironically, sells a book at its online store called "Mobocracy" which declares: "The Media is lying to you and they're using "public opinion" to keep you misinformed. ... ("Mobocracy" is) a place where opinion polls, wielded by a cynical, ideologically driven press, distort the news and change opinion."
  • A Jan. 24 story accusing National Public Radio of a "smear" against the conservative group Traditional Values Coalition for pointing out that the group had criticized senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy criticizing the senators for allegedly trying to remove the phrase 'so help me God' from the oath, then asking if the group had been contacted by the FBI regarding the investigation of anthrax spores mailed to the senators.

Plus, there are instances of WND bias previously cited by ConWebWatch, including the one-sided, uncritical coverage on the producer of the anti-Clinton video "The Clinton Chronicles" (WND later heavily promoted an anti-Harry Potter "documentary" made by the producer's company); ignoring facts about the death of a reporter in Arkansas to make it look like then-President Clinton had something to do with it; practically begging for an IRS audit of a group who opposed John Ashcroft for attorney general; and reworking press releases from conservative groups.

Even the Portland Oregonian, in a mostly positive story about WorldNetDaily Dec. 14 which WND thought enough of to link to the day it appeared, notes that the site and its online store "seem designed to appeal to libertarians with a conspiratorial bent."

Farah also says that WND aims to be "a good, old-fashioned watchdog on government," but this "watchdogging" has tended to fall heavily on Democrats in general and Clinton administration officials in particular. WND has, for instance, been virtually silent reportage-wise on efforts by Vice President Dick Cheney to keep the records of his energy policy task force secret. It's the type of story most government "watchdogs" would usually sink its teeth into -- well, it was when Hillary Clinton tried to do the same thing.

And though Farah claims he has "never been a political activist. I'm not registered to any political party," he certainly has solid conservative credentials, as editor of a Sacramento, Calif., newspaper owned for several years by Richard Mellon Scaife (Farah says Scaife didn't own the paper when he was editor, but we suspect Scaife's conservative editorial policies weren't any different under Farah's editorship), headed a group, the Western Journalism Center, that is best known for assisting (with Scaife foundation money) Christopher Ruddy in his work on the Vince Foster case when Ruddy was a reporter for the Scaife-owned newspaper in Pittsburgh, and collaborated with conservative talkmeister Rush Limbaugh -- who wrote a daily column for Farah that appeared on the front page of that Sacramento paper -- on one of his two books. (This would be the same Limbaugh whom WND never got around to identifying as "conservative" in one recent story.)

There are a couple mitigating factors that make WND not completely peggable as slavishly conservative; it has come out against some of the civil liberty-threatening aspects of recent anti-terrorism laws, it defended TV host Bill Maher's freedom of speech when a conservative lynch mob was forming because of a post-Sept. 11 remark (even as WND ran its own whacked-out, criticism-inducing commentary by Anthony LoBaido), and it did undercut a conservative argument that voters in the Florida panhandle were "disenfranchised" during the 2000 presidential election because the TV networks called Florida for Al Gore 11 minutes before the polls closed in that part of the state.

So, in Farah's eyes, his WND -- whose reporters write stories that cater to conservatives and with a commentary page that mostly features conservative writers -- is somehow not "ideologically driven." Has he fallen into the trap of Fox News Channel's Roger Ailes, who also seems to believe that there is no such thing as conservative media bias, only "balance"?

Bernard Goldberg, whose book "Bias" accuses the big media and particularly his former employer CBS News of having a liberal bias in between vitrolic potshots at Dan Rather (likening him to a Mafia don and calling Rather's subordinates his "bitches") has gotten heavy play on the ConWeb, including an uncritical story or two at WND, turned his argument around in an interview with the Washington Post. "Does anyone think a 'diverse' group of conservative journalists would give us the news straight?" Goldberg says. "I sure as hell don't. They'd be just like the left." (If you want a genuinely critical review of "Bias," go to the Daily Howler.)

The ConWeb proves Goldberg's theory correct. WorldNetDaily, NewsMax and CNS are all biased, though WND is to a somewhat lesser extent than the others. And if liberal media bias is a bad thing, as conservatives repeatedly claim, isn't conservative media bias a bad thing as well?

C'mon, Mr. Farah, just admit it. It's not like most of us haven't figured it out already.

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