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Update: Where the Bias Has No Name

The ConWeb likes Terri Schiavo so much it changed her name. Plus: NewsMax actually believes its opt-in polls mean something, more Rush spin, a bit of anti-gay spin, and WorldNetDaily's fantasy.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/22/2003

The ConWeb likes Terri Schiavo so much, it gave her a new name.

Schiavo is the severely disabled woman on life support at the center of a fight over her life between her husband (who believes she will never improve after 13 years following a sudden collapse) and her parents (who believe her husband has denied opportunities to become rehabilitated). The husband thus far has won every court fight to assert his rights as her guardian, most recently to shut off her feeding tube so that she will die.

The ConWeb has made no secret about whose side it's on, and it ain't the husband's. Terri's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, have been quite vocal about pushing their side of the case and have a Web site about it.

WorldNetDaily in particular has been a megaphone for the Schindlers, dutifully reporting every bad thing the husband, Michael Schiavo, is doing like keeping priests from her and intimating that abuse by Michael Schiavo led to her current condition. It even calls her Terri Schindler-Schiavo, which non-ConWeb news reports don't (such as this article at that reproduces a press release from the local Catholic diocese on the case), suggesting that Terri Schiavo is her legal name and that throwing her maiden name in is just another sop to the Schindlers.

WND, in the beginning, actually tried to be somewhat balanced by offering Michael Schiavo's side of the story, but that has pretty much stopped these days. The earliest story in WND's archive is from November 2002, which does give a fair amount of space to Michael Schiavo's lawyer; oddly, it also has corrections to two factual errors in an earlier story that no longer shows up in the archive. has also been fairly consistent in using the name Terri Schindler-Schiavo; typical of its coverage is an Oct. 17 story bashing those on Michael Schiavo's side of the story that begins with a warning that story "contains a detailed description of death by dehydration that may be unsettling to some readers."

(NewsMax must not have gotten the memo the rest of the ConWeb did because it joins the rest of the non-conservative media in simply calling her Terri Schiavo.)

WND's Joseph Farah offered his usual approach to the Schiavo case, declaring it a "government-mandated torture-execution." He also opines that because Michael Schiavo is currently living with another woman and has a child with her, he "hardly seems like the most objective caretaker in the world."

Given their demonstrated propensity to accept everything the Schindlers say without question despite the fact that there must be some reason that 19 separate judges in six different courts have ruled against them, it's clear that WND and hardly seem like the most objective reporters in the world.

* * *

Poor NewsMax. It thinks its opt-in polls actually mean something.

It's conducting yet another "urgent national online poll," this time on Rush Limbaugh. An e-mail to its mailing list recruiting folks to vote says: "NewsMax's online polls have been cited by major media, and oftentimes accurately gauge the thinking of conservative minded and independent voters. For example, NewsMax online voters overwhelming (sic) supported Arnold Schwarzenegger in his race for governor."

Well, yeah, it did, but so what? Not only are opt-in polls meaningless as a gauge of anything and can be easily manipulated -- as has been demonstrated time and time again -- but it's also all but certain that the majority of respondents in that particular opt-in poll were not from California and had no say in what happened there. NewsMax did actually admit as much in its story on the Schwarzenegger poll; "While NewsMax's poll is not scientific, it may show growing support among conservative Republicans and independents for Arnold Schwarzenegger." Then again, it may not. Remember, it's an opt-in poll.

Even moreso than with the Schwarzenegger poll, NewsMax has an agenda it wants borne out in poll form, however bogus it is. Among the questions it undoubtedly expects readers to answer the way they've been trained:

  • Do you support Rush Limbaugh?
  • Has the media treated Rush fairly?
  • Do you believe the media is out to get Rush and other conservatives?

And then there's the admonition at the end of the e-mail: "The liberal media says Rush has lost support. Send this e-mail to as many friends and family as you can and encourage them to vote. Show them how you really feel."

How accurate can this opt-in poll be, especially when you're all but telling people how to vote?

* * *

The ConWeb spinning of Rush Limbaugh's drug problems continues.

Not content to rely on bogus opt-in polls, NewsMax's Christopher Ruddy weighs in again with an Oct. 20 column in which he not only declares any attempt to address Limbaugh's hyporcisy as a law-and-order kind of guy on drug offenders as a "loaded question," he also attacks Wilma Cline, the housekeeper who says she obtained Limbaugh's pills on the black market, as "a cunning lady who saw an opportunity and exploited it."

"Before we criticize Rush, we should wait for all the facts and not be so quick to believe his housekeeper," Ruddy writes. Hmmm... we don't recall Ruddy being so skeptical about Gennifer Flowers, who did the same thing Cline did -- keep records of her work (in this case, allegedly having an affair with Bill Clinton) and selling her story to a tabloid.

The wackiest defense of Rush so far, though, belongs to Craige McMillan of WorldNetDaily, who really does seem to believe that liberals drove Rush to become a druggie:

    Rush may have started with pain-killers for his back. But he may very well have become addicted to them for the pain in his heart and soul. Can you imagine confronting the exquisitely-subsidized liberal establishment – day after day, year after year – on its home turf, without a support group? Can you imagine enduring the vile hatred of the left on every issue upon which you dare to speak out? Can you imagine the hate mail, the organized campaigns to silence your voice, the personal attacks?

Reed Irvine at Accuracy in Media, however, takes an unusual approach on Rush's plight, praising the tabloid others have previously bashed for "exposing his addiction and lifting the curtain that has concealed the illegal traffic in these dangerous drugs" because the exposure "may have saved Limbaugh’s life and the lives of many others." Irvine then takes a couple odd turns, first suggesting that G. Gordon Liddy appear on Limbaugh's show to talk about his own flirtation with painkiller addiction, then strangely suggests that "if he emerges from this ordeal as soft on drugs, those percentages could drop precipitously."

* * *

Both WorldNetDaily and rushed to spin away a UCLA study that details the discovery of 54 genes in mice they say indicate sexual identity is hard-wired into the brain before birth and the development of the sex organs. The extension of that thesis would be that homosexuality is genetic and not environmental (and therefore correctable).

WND recruited two spokes-types to refute the study. The first is Judith Reisman, president of something called the Institute for Media Education (whatever that is) and author of a book that aims to debunk the work of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, unsurprisingly available at the WorldNetDaily store. (She's also a member of the WorldNetDaily speakers bureau, but the story fails to mention that.) Reisman claims that "she smells a political agenda behind the UCLA study, as there was with three earlier ones promoted as scientific breakthroughs "proving" homosexuals are born, not made." ("Indeed," the unbylined story continues, one of the researchers "gave the UCLA research a pro-homosexual spin" in an interview.)

The second is Stephen Bennett, "a former promiscuous 'gay' who has written columns for WorldNetDaily." (Remember, "gay" is not a permitted term at WND to describe homosexuals.) His stand? "No one is born homosexual; it has everything to do with one's childhood, and complete change is possible."

CNS recruited Jeffrey Satinover, "a leading author on the origins of homosexuality," who warns that the study "should not be used to boost the concept that homosexuality and transgender sexuality are biologically determined." Unlike Reisman and Bennett, Satinover apparently considers the study to be "sound scientific research" but insists that the study "has absolutely not the slightest implication whatsoever with respect to the political question, and anybody who claims that it does is either completely ignorant or determined to distort good scientific research for political ends."

* * *

For WorldNetDaily's monthly please-send-us-money letter, it takes an approach that floats somewhere between daydream and delusion.

Joseph Farah is depicted in the Oct. 17 piece as mulling the purchase of the tiny news network that Al Gore also has his eyes on -- Gore's plans for the channel is described in the letter as "a Frankenstein being described as a synthesis of CNN and MTV" -- for no other apparent reason than spite over the fact that a former top Gore fund-raiser is suing WND for $165 million for defamation over a series of stories it did in 2000 claiming Gore has "Hillbilly Mafia" ties, writings WND immodestly claims cost Gore his home state in the 2000 presidential election.

"Al Gore's a radical environmentalist who says in his book he wants to outlaw the internal combustion engine that powers all of our cars," Farah is quoted as saying. "And while he was Clinton's right-hand man he found it extremely difficult to distinguish between truth and fibs – which he told a lot of. Now he wants to run a news operation?" Of course, Farah wants to kill adulterers and silence those he disagrees with and he runs a "news" operation, so we're not exactly sure how Gore's beliefs lower the bar.

Gore and his investors are seeking to buy the channel for $70 million, which WND doesn't have on hand -- heck, there's no evidence WND has ever turned a profit. The article's flight of fancy continues: "'If every one of our readers donated just $15, we would have enough money to buy – for cash – that network out from under Al Gore,' said Farah, pushing buttons on his calculator wildly."

Then, Farah concedes that WND won't raise that kind of dough, but has a dream that even bigger than Gore's as WND erroneously depicts it: "For while Gore claims just to have invented the Internet" -- which he didn't -- "WorldNetDaily has actually pioneered the Internet news business to change the news media culture in America" -- which is debatable. From there, it segues into the "voluntary subscription" spiel that is a once-a-month staple.

WND can't even get a basic, easy-to-prove fact correct -- Gore actually said he "took the initiative in creating the Internet," which despite conventional conservative wisdom is pretty much true -- and it wants people to pay for such slipshod writing? No wonder it's getting sued.

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