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In-Kind Contributions

NewsMax does its $35 million duty for the Republican ticket with endless Democrat-bashing.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/27/2004

Back in July, ConWebWatch noted the evidence-free accusation made in NewsMax's magazine that "the major media will 'spend' through in-kind coverage more than $2 billion to defeat President Bush and elect (John) Kerry" -- and also noted that NewsMax curiously declined to similarly calculate the value of in-kind anti-Kerry and pro-Bush coverage by media organizations like, say, NewsMax. ConWebWatch calculated that the estimated value of NewsMax's contributions to the Bush re-election campaign to be somewhere around $35 million.

So, what is the Bush campaign getting for this in-kind money? The usual, of course -- ranting columnists, slanted headlines and support of anything that can be used to smear Kerry, i.e. the Swift Boat Veterans.

Let's look at some of specific examples of NewsMax's editorial largesse.

NewsMax has long been a promoter of Sinclair Broadcast Group's conservative newscasts that it ships out to its 62 owned and operated TV stations across the country, as ConWebWatch noted back in February. So when Sinclair planned to broadcast the discredited anti-Kerry film "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," NewsMax cheered them on in the face of criticism that the broadcast would violate federal equal-time rules.

NewsMax gleefully noted a New York Times writer who stated that "Stolen Honor" should be shown "on all the networks, cable stations and on public television" -- but it made sure to edit out of its version of the Times' review the part where the film is called "histrionic, often specious and deeply sad" and filled with "distortions ... intended to hurt Mr. Kerry at the polls." NewsMax's own "review" of "Stolen Honor" by James Hirsen is, unsurprisingly, much more positive. "Its content is factual," Hirsen erroneously claims, adding: "Thanks go out to Sinclair for its willingness to tender the truth."

Even Christopher Ruddy gets into the act, claiming in an Oct. 21 column that the participants in the film "have no political ax to grind." Ruddy also states that when Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" was released, "[t]here was no objection from Republicans -- despite the fact that it was filled with hate, distortions and outright lies." Uh, yeah they did. NewsMax ran a story on a conservative group that tried to stop theaters from showing it and on another conservative group who tried to stop advertising for the movie. Doesn't Ruddy read his own web site? And doesn't he know the difference between a movie theater and a broadcast TV network?

But when Sinclair relented to public pressure (not to mention its plunging stock price) and instead decided to run a "news" program on the whole controversy (that turned out to be almost balanced), NewsMax got real quiet, running only wire stories and Sinclair press releases.

The Bush administration is also getting the benefit of NewsMax's histrionic howling about alleged Democrat vote fraud while staying silent about allegations of Republican vote fraud (as ConWebWatch has previously noted). The point of all of this, of course, is to invent a case that Kerry stole the election should he win.

The November issue of NewsMax Magazine -- just one of many in-kind contributions by NewsMax to the Republicans.

NewsMax's current howling is about provisional ballots, which are perfectly legal, though you wouldn't know it by how NewsMax rails against them. Its main piece of evidence is an article it ran Oct. 14 taken from something called America's 1st Freedom -- which, as it turns out, is a magazine published by the National Rifle Association. NewsMax doesn't tell its readers this, but the number of quotes in the article by the NRA's Wayne LaPierre is a giveaway.

The gist of the article, written by Marshall Lewin, is that provisional ballots increase the opportunity for election fraud; what Lewin heavily implies but comes just short of explicitly saying -- what with all the references to "Chicago’s Daley machine" and "anti-gun trial attorneys" and "John Kerry, John Edwards and their contingency-fee trial-attorney backers" -- is that Democrats will use provisional ballots to steal the election.

Thus, NewsMax has decided that any court ruling that places anything less than strict regulations on provisional ballots is equal to Democratic vote fraud. That has resulted in the following headlines:

Meanwhile, NewsMax has turned a blind eye to Republican vote fraud. Nowhere on NewsMax will readers learn about, for instance, the case in Nevada where a Republican-led voter registration drive dumped registrations by Democrats, or that six South Dakotans resigned their state Republican Party positions and face charges over improper absentee ballots (and that some of them have resurfaced in Ohio to help with Bush re-election operations there), or a canvasser in Oregon who told a reporter he was collecting cards only from people who registered Republican, or efforts by Republicans in Philadelphia to engineer last-minute moves of polling places.

But wait! The discredited Dick Morris inadvertently lets slip a little truth in an Oct. 25 article. While Morris spouts the conservatively correct blather about what Democrats "really want to do is to commit voter fraud," he adds: "Republicans say they want to stop fraud but what they really want to do is to depress voter turnout."

Elsewhere, it its promotion of the latest edition of its magazine, NewsMax proudly claims that "We even wonder if the Bush-Cheney campaign is using NewsMax Magazine as its campaign playbook." Which, of course, would be the whole point of the enterprise – NewsMax ain't doing this in-kind contribution for nothin’.

And since the latest issue has on its cover a picture of Kerry and John Edwards under the headline “The Ultra Liberals,” NewsMax would most certainly like that to continue to be the case. The fact that it appears to be yet another regurgitation of the smears NewsMax has been promulgating for months -- the lead claim that Kerry is “America’s most far-left senator (even further left than Teddy Kennedy) has long since been proven a lie -- is beside the point.

NewsMax's unabashed cheerleading for Florida Republican Senate candidate Mel Martinez also continues. An Oct. 25 story by Phil Brennan gushes all over Martinez in a story that reads like a campaign brochure. Therefore, you won't hear about things like the newspaper that yanked its earlier endorsement of Martinez before the Republican primary in September because of his sleazy campaign tactics.

And finally, it wouldn't be NewsMax if it couldn't slip some clumsy salesmanship into the midst of all of this, so we have an Oct. 24 story headlined "2000 Final Polls All Wrong -- Except Zogby" is in reality a barely disguised pitch for a Zogby poll package NewsMax is selling.

While most political campaigns might shy away from an organization so eager to slime their opponents, the Bush campaign doesn't seem to mind. It's worth a good $35 million, after all, and it doesn't have to be reported to the feds.

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