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The 'C' Word

WorldNetDaily just can't bring itself to admit to what it is -- conservative.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/12/2002

Why does WorldNetDaily rely on substandard, biased journalism to point out how it deserves to have a permanent congressional press pass because there are already a lot of substandard, biased journalists who already have one? One would think it would be counterproductive.

In its long, ongoing battle to get that piece of paper, WND has run a series of attacks on the Senate Press Gallery, the organization in charge of handing out the passes. (Update: The Senate Press Gallery finally relented and gave WND its credentials -- but not before a member of the board criticized WND's tactics as "extortion journalism.") One of these was a Sept. 5 polemic by Paul Sperry in which it is revealed that 20 years ago, the Senate Press Gallery gave a pass to the Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit group which is, according to the story's first paragraph, "run by 'left-wing San Francisco hippies,' as one media critic put it." That "media critic" would be L. Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center, not exactly the most impartial observer.

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Sperry, though, does correctly describe Bozell as a "conservative" -- which is the only time that word is used as a descriptive term in the story. It's not used to describe WorldNetDaily (the only adjective Sperry uses for WND is "popular"), and despite the fact that Sperry calls the Center for Investigative Reporting "practically the mirror image of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Western Journalism Center." The Western Journalism Center, of course, is the nonprofit group from which WND sprung and which has come up as an issue in the press-pass imbroglio. Sperry quotes his boss, WND editor and WJC co-founder Joseph Farah, as saying the center "focuses on investigating government," though the center's claimed achievements are all generally beneficial to the conservative cause -- the lead one being plying Christopher Ruddy with "additional expense money, funding for Freedom of Information Act requests, legal support and publicity" in his quest to prove Vince Foster was murdered. (The WJC web site also makes the highly dubious claim that WorldNetDaily is "currently the most popular website in the world!")

Sperry notes in his story that "the Senate Press Gallery officials questioned whether WND received money from Scaife (it hasn't)," yet he neglects to report that the Western Journalism Center received $330,000 from Scaife foundations in the mid-1990s, just a couple years before WND was created under its aegis.

On the other hand, Sperry goes to town with variations on "leftist." Bozell's "left-wing San Francisco hippies" quote appears four times in various forms (twice in the story, in a subhead and in the headline), nicks for being "predictably left-leaning," and insists the Center for Investigative Reporting's "real agenda is clear: Advocating leftist issues."

Which launches Sperry on a leftist- and Clinton-bashing tirade. "Many of the hundreds of stories it has placed in the media are decidedly anti-tobacco, anti-nuke, anti-gun, anti-industry, anti-military, anti-family and overall anti-Republican," he writes, but he provides no specific examples. He quotes Bozell as saying "CIR 'steered clear' of investigating Clinton, despite an eight-year parade of scandals, not the least of which was his impeachment for perjury. Historians polled by C-SPAN ranked Clinton as the most corrupt president in history – more so than even Presidents Nixon and Harding." He extends the "predictably left-leaning" remark about by saying that it "developed a reputation as a "vicious Clinton attack dog," in the words of its former Washington bureau chief, readily investigating the former president's enemies while apologizing for his abuses." He expresses outrage that "The center has found time to, like, investigate Clinton enemies, however." Again, no specific examples are offered, let alone any evidence that anything CIR or Salon has reported is untrue.

This story, by the way, appears on the "news" side of WorldNetDaily. This is what WND considers a news story.

On the off-chance you were perhaps unclear about Sperry's personal opinion of CIR after reading that "news" story, he gets in a couple more potshots in a column that appeared the same day (which appeared in its proper place, the opinion section). He goes off on another tangent from the story, the fact that it closed its Washington bureau in the early 1990s as Bill Clinton became president, "investigating not a hair on Beelzebubba's head. Must have been worn out from all the hits it did on President Reagan regarding the Contras."

Note: Sperry's hurling all this invective at a group that hasn't had that oh-so-coveted press pass for a decade.

Sperry also avoids the "C" word to describe WND here as well, calling it "a fiercely independent, for-profit newssite – the world's largest and most popular." At least that's a slightly less dubious assertion than the the one made by the Western Journalism Center.

(Paul Sperry Story Self-Reference Watch Update: The following line appears in an Aug. 29 story: "(T)he panel denied WND's Washington bureau chief permanent credentials in a separate adjudication ...")

WND is being represented in the press-pass matter by the U.S. Justice Foundation, which WND's stories have usually described as merely "non-profit," as in this Sept. 3 story announcing WND's plans to sue the Senate Press Gallery. The USJF, however, is a legal organization whose issues and clients are mostly conservative; an example is a 15-page booklet the USJF helped compile, described in a story, that cites court decisions conservative and religious groups can use in lawsuits to challenge schools that seek to "normalize homosexuality."

WND has intimated in the past -- and Sperry finally comes right out and says it in a Sept. 10 column -- that political bias is playing a factor in the Senate Press Gallery's denial of the press pass. Stories occasionlly note that an evaluation of WND by one member of the committee are replete, WND complains, with "references to stories about 'conservatism,' 'Larry Klayman,' 'conspiracism,' 'the New Right,' 'conservative bent,' 'culture war,' 'Judicial Watch,' 'Bill Clinton,' 'Vince Foster,' 'Richard Mellon Scaife' and other references to what the media elite commonly associate with former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's alleged 'vast right-wing conspiracy.'" Sperry calls the evaluation the "smoking gun" that proves WND is being discriminated against.

"Fact is, the liberal media gatekeepers on Capitol Hill tried to tie WND to the alleged 'vast right-wing conspiracy' against their scandal-bloated hero, and they got caught. Engaging in content-based discrimination is unconstitutional. And now they're trying to spin," he writes. (Sperry also recycles some of his earlier liberal-media bashing dismissing CIR as "the feedstock of leftist propaganda for the Old Media" and as "the indefatigable Clinton apologist.")

But again, Sperry never takes that opportunity to explicitly address WND's political slant. It obviously can't deny what's in that evaluation since it's all true, but it won't acknowledge it, either. Sperry has declared the "liberal" CIR and Salon the exact opposite of WND. The opposite of "liberal" is "conservative," yet WND won't apply the word to itself. How can WND claim political discrimination when it won't state what politics are allegedly being discriminated against?

WND, like NewsMax, appears to be so blind to its own biases that it looks silly when it criticizes the alleged biases of others. Another example of this is a Sept. 4 story on a sex-and-blackmail scandal involving former Democratic campaign adviser and TV host Bob Beckel. This story was, mercifully, written not by Sperry but by Les Kinsolving, a Baltimore radio talk show host and "WorldNetDaily’s White House correspondent," a job which consists of asking White House press secretary Ari Fleisher questions submitted by WND readers (though the questions forum appears to be frozen now and Kinsolving was apparently on his own for one recent round with Fleischer).

Kinsolving ends the story ominously by stating that "There is growing concern that the failure of most big media to report this case concerning a nationally known media figure may be evidence of media protecting its own." Gee, like the way WND is avoiding the issue of errors and distortions in Ann Coulter's "Slander" as they sell autographed copies of it? And it appears that Sean Hannity's new book, "Let Freedom Ring," has its share of errors and distortions as well -- needless to say, it's also available autographed at the WND store.

Wouldn't a truly "fiercely independent" web site that heavily features politics, as WND does, want to get to the bottom of these accusations the way it did with one single statement made by Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe?

"Independent" is a word that can most accurately be applied toWND only in respect to its publicly stated ownership, but since Farah won't tell us who all of his investors are, it's impossible to tell how "independent" it really is. (Update: The Sept. 12 article announcing the granting of the press pass states, "WND's admittance to the Senate Press Gallery marks a first for an independently owned Internet newspaper" but Sperry noted in an earlier story that, whose ownership is at least as "independent" as WND's, has a pass.) But the way Sperry, Farah and other WND staffers have used the word implies a broader definition that even a cursory look at the site doesn't support. WND has an agenda to push that most people would describe as conservative. Can it be trusted to tell the truth about the news when it can't even tell the truth about itself?

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