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The True Taliban Touter

WorldNetDaily hammers away at Patty Murray, but stays uncritical of a Republican congressman who was a lot closer to Osama bin Laden's protectors than the senator ever was.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/30/2002
Updated 12/31/2002

WorldNetDaily is trying the drip-drip-drip approach in its crusade against Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, for her Osama bin Laden-related comments, distorting what she said by repeatedly insisting she "praised" bin Laden when in reality she was trying to draw a (somewhat erroneous) contrast over how the U.S. is viewed in the Middle East, as ConWebWatch first detailed.

The steady attack -- seven news stories in 10 days, plus a statement from Murray's office, two opinion pieces and another article plugging a WND writer's appearance on a radio talk show to talk about Murray -- is starting to look more desperate as more arcane expressions of outrage are sought to gain attention. The story du jour of Dec. 27, written like most of the others by Art Moore, details the results of unreliable online polls that, thanks to folks like those at Free Republic, skew heavily anti-Murray, and also quotes some guy's letter to the editor of one of the smaller daily papers in Washington state. Moore's story du jour of Dec. 26 whacks Murray for being "one of 13 U.S. senators to urge the Bush administration to send $30 million in taxpayer aid to his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan just five months before Sept. 11." The Dec. 28 story du jour trots out a father of a victim of the Sept. 11 attacks to condemn Murray. (Update: The story du jour of Dec. 31 details a conservative group charging $9.95 a pop to send a FedEx form letter to Murray's office.)

Fascinating statistic:

Number of original WorldNetDaily news stories about Trent Lott between Dec. 5 (when Lott made his remarks) and Dec. 17 (12 days): 1

Number of original WorldNetDaily news stories about Patty Murray between Dec. 18 (when Murray made her remarks) and Dec. 28 (10 days): 7

And Joseph Farah's Dec. 27 column on the issue states early on: "Now there are several ways to attack (Murray's) statement – so many, in fact, it's difficult to know where to begin." Using WND's "news" pages to spearhead a distorted crusade against her, of course, is just one of them.

WND's crusade might have a little more credibility if it weren't on the record as promoting the views of a congressman with much closer ties to the Taliban, Afghanistan's former rulers and harborers of bin Laden, than Murray has ever dreamed of.

The Orange County (Calif.) Weekly (not exactly an fringe publication -- it's owned by the same company that owns New York's Village Voice) reported last fall that California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher "maintained a cordial, behind-the-scenes relationship with Osama bin Laden’s associates in the Middle East—even while he mouthed his most severe anti-Taliban comments at public forums across the U.S." The article also accuses Rohrabacher of violating the federal Logan Act ban on unauthorized individual attempts to conduct American foreign policy by acting as a "self-appointed secretary of state" and constructing what foreign-affairs experts call a "dual tract" policy with the Taliban.

In a 1996 article in a Washington-based journal on Middle East affairs, the OC Weekly article states, Rohrabacher claimed that Taliban leaders are "not terrorists or revolutionaries"; media reports documenting the Taliban’s harsh, radical beliefs were "nonsense"; the Taliban would develop a "disciplined, moral society" that did not harbor terrorists; and that the Taliban posed no threat to the U.S.

In April 2001 -- just five months before the 9/11 attacks, to borrow a phrase -- Rohrabacher was engaged in his own freelance diplomacy, trying to convince the Taliban to let former Afghan King Zahir Shah return as the figurehead of a new coalition government in an apparent attempt to stabilize the country so an oil pipeline could be built.

You won't read about any of that at WorldNetDaily. Instead, you will read a Joseph Farah-penned story, dated Oct. 31, 2001, in which Rohrabacher claims that "President Clinton incubated the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for at least three years, despite the fact that it was harboring Osama bin Laden, was responsible for growing 60 percent of the world's heroin and denied basic human rights to the nation."

"When I tell people that President Clinton supported the Taliban, they go berserk," Rohrabacher is quoted in the story. "But that is the truth." No, the apparent truth is that Rohrabacher was a bigger Taliban supporter than Clinton or Murray have been made out to be. But as long as he did the anti-Clinton dance that conservatives love, Farah was apparently willing to overlook that.

(Speaking of overlooking stuff, conservatives like Brent "political impact over journalistic reputation" Bozell and WND columnist Pat Buchanan have tended to oppose journalistic crusades when the so-called "liberal media" was leading them, like that of the New York Times over the male-only policy at the Augusta National Golf Club. And if the media is so "liberal," why didn't the Rohrabacher story get any coverage outside of Orange County?)

With this kind of selective memory, WND's anti-Murray vendetta looks more than ever like the revenge for Trent Lott that it is. Here's an idea for WND's next story du jour: Explaining why it has undertaken this distorted crusade, why it has devoted much more attention to this than it has to Lott's remarks and where exactly the "praise" for bin Laden can be found in Murray's remarks.

* * *

Meanwhile, that whole Trent Lott unpleasantness continues to generate bizarre reactions on the ConWeb.

A Dec. 25 WorldNetDaily column by Ilana Mercer tries to make the case, couched in overly dramatic language, that the 1948 Dixiecrats were all about states' rights, not racism. "For his disobedience, albeit to a different Ministry, Trent Lott was also terminated," Mercer writes, stealing Orwell's "Ministry of Truth" motif to try and make the case that Lott was unfairly maligned. "Dixiecrats was the derogatory name the Media Ministry gave to what was really the States Rights Democratic Party. ... After all, older folks excepted, not many remember what Strom Thurmond voters were voting for."

Mercer forgets to tell us that one of the things some states wanted to have the "right" to do was to officially sanction racism and and poll taxes and the lynching of blacks with impunity, as this pro-Thurmond 1948 Mississippi Democrat sample ballot attests. She tries to argue that a United States with pure states' rights means that "If a state became tyrannical, competition from other states, and the individual's ability to exit the political arrangement and switch loyalties, would create something of a free market in government." But isn't the type of institutionalized racism as practiced most notoriously in the South for most of the 20th century wrong no matter what, making a national mandate against it morally imperative?

The most curious Mercer quote: "To express a yearning for barbaric lynchings and segregation is by any standard tacky and tasteless." She doesn't, however, say it's wrong.

NewsMax (which also sees nothing wrong with what Lott said) comes close on the bizarre scale with a Dec. 18 piece asserting that Democrats will use the Lott controversy to unleash "a partisan anti-white agenda." The components of this "anti-white agenda" include opposing the death penalty, fighting AIDS in Africa and affirmative action, which NewsMax calls "Democrat code words for anti-white discrimination."

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