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Update: Judicial Bitterness

A conservative compares judicial recess appointments -- and, of course, leaves out key facts. Plus: offers more slanted abortion coverage, the MRC glosses over reporters' donations to conservatives, WorldNetDaily denies an "advocacy group" link, and more.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/9/2004

Accuracy in Media posted a strangely bitter commentary by Marion Edwyn Harrison, Esq., (yes, that's the byline), "President of, and Counsel for, the Free Congress Foundation."

In the Jan. 30 piece, Harrison, Esq., performs the usual conservative defense of President Bush's recess appointment of Charles Pickering to a federal judgeship, attacking the Democratic senators who opposed his nomination as a "coterie of assassins" practicing obstructionism and "beside itself with rage and feigned rage" over the recess appointment. He compares Pickering's recess appointment to that of Roger Gregory, whom President Clinton put on the federal bench via recess appointment.

After defending Pickering's record and painting him as "the victim for two years of vicious personal attack," Harrision, Esq., insinuates that the only reason Gregory got on the federal bench is because he was black and politically connected:

He chose as a mentor and law partner former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, Virginia's first Black (and generally considered quite able) Governor and managed himself to be born Black, thus lucking into the undoubted judicial qualification of becoming the first Black Judge on the Fourth Circuit (which covers the Carolinas, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia). What generally did Judge Gregory do right? He made it through law school, less than a distinguished record, is liked by those who know him, could evolve into an able Judge.

One should suspect some important facts are being left out when encountering such vitriol, and Harrison, Esq., does just that -- namely, that Gregory himself was the victim of even greater Senate obstructionism, never even being granted a hearing by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. In addition, the seat Gregory was appointed to had been vacant for more than a decade, and three other Clinton appointees to it were also refused Judiciary Committee hearings when then-Sen. Jesse Helms blocked them.

Harrison, Esq., also doesn't report that Gregory finally got a Senate vote six months after President Bush renominated him; he was approved 93-1.

Perhaps instead of whining about Pickering, Harrison, Esq., can offer a defense of Republican obstructionism to filling this particular post in denying any Clinton appointees a committee hearing, which Pickering at least got.

Don't count on it. Remember, Harrison, Esq.'s colleagues at the Free Congress Foundation didn't think there was enough obstruction of judicial nominees during the Clinton years, even though by its own admission, 102 Clinton judicial nominees were never confirmed.

In fact, they didn't think much of Gregory's recess appointment. In a January 2001 commentary, Thomas Jipping alleges that with the appointment, "Mr. Clinton has once again violated the Constitution, trashed the rule of law, and broken another promise." He insists that the judgeship Gregory was appointed to was "a position created in 1990 that, because the 4th Circuit's workload did not require it, has never been filled," not mentioning that Helms blocked every appointment Clinton made to it. That insistence that certain judicial positions were not needed (at least when a Democrat was trying to fill it) makes the conservative obsession with the number of vacant positions open early in the Bush presidency ring a bit hollow.

Harrison, Esq., wraps up his column by writing, "It must be reassuring to those people who seek an activist and leftist Federal Judiciary to know that the recess route is sound when the nominee is a likeable Gentleman of Color who could become an able Judge but that the recess route is an abomination when the nominee is a Caucasian who is an able Judge."

Don't you love Harrison, Esq.'s glass house? Simple logic dictates that if he opposed Gregory's recess appointment, he should have opposed Pickering's recess appointment.

It must be equally reassuring to Harrison, Esq., and his Free Congress colleagues who seek an activist, right-wing federal judiciary that when it comes to recess appointments, logical inconsistency is of small consequence when ideology is at stake.

* * *

Another January, another month of writing slanted stories on the abortion issue.

This year's entries include a Jan. 23 story on "the Democrat-controlled California State Assembly" passing a "pro-abortion resolution" (the term "pro-choice" is forbidden at CNS) that quotes only people opposed to it (WorldNetDaily played the same game, spinning the resolution as one that "celebrate(s) abortion" and offering the same slant that CNS does in quoting only those who opposed it) and a story the same day on a proposed law in South Dakota that would outlaw most abortions in the state that, unsurprisingly, quotes only supporters of the bill.

* * *

As much as the Media Research Center fumes about the alleged biases of certain media organizations, it's pretty biased itself. (We're pretty sure we've said that before.)

A Jan. 19 CyberAlert repeats a Washington Post story about reporters who donate to political candidates. Well, mostly repeats it -- the MRC's focus, unsurprisingly, is donations to Democrats.

CyberAlert writer Brent Baker did leave in one non-Democrat-releated part of the Post article: "Fox anchor Neil Cavuto, the network's managing editor for business, gave $1,000 to a fundraising dinner for President Bush in 2002...."

That ellipsis is there for a reason -- because Baker didn't want to detail any more of the donations made to Republican candidates by conservative-friendly media workers. Among those listed in the Post story but ignored by Baker: "A Fox producer for Oliver North, Griffin Jenkins, gave $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney reelection committee. Melanie Kirkpatrick, associate editor of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, donated $20,000 to the Republican National Committee and $1,000 to Bush's 2000 presidential campaign."

A related article you won't be seeing summarized by the MRC anytime soon is an Editor and Publisher piece detailing political contributions made by newspaper owners. Among those donations: $25,000 to the Republican National Committee, $2,000 to George Bush's re-election campaign and $4,000 to the U.S. Senate bid of Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Pat Toomey by Richard Mellon Scaife, Pittsburgh-area newspaper publisher and NewsMax benefactor. Other donations to the Bush-Cheney campaign came from Rupert Murdoch, Fox News Channel and New York Post owner (as well as his wife, Wendi, and his son Lachlan); William Dean Singleton, owner of the MediaNews Group, which owns the Denver Post and a group of daily newspapers in suburban San Francisco; and two members of the Copley family, which owns newspapers in California and elsewhere.

* * *

When the numbers fall out of your favor, count differently.

That seems to be the essence of WorldNetDaily's current way of using numbers from It now touts that the web-traffic-counting site ranks WND as the most popular political site on the Internet.

It used to promote its overall Alexa ranking, which at one point was No. 419. Why did WND stop? Because its ranking has slipped; at this writing, it's at No. 612.

The change in tactics, of course, gives CEO Joseph Farah to repeat yet again his blather about WND being "independent."

The Jan. 15 article misleads in claiming that "WND also is ranked No. 1 in Alexa's News and Media category, followed by NewsMax, National Review Online, FrontPage Magazine and the Weekly Standard." Isn't it strange that all of those "news" sites are conservative? That's because it's a ranking of conservative news sites, not an overall list. Alexa's "liberalism" category, unlike its "conservatism" category, doesn't have a media subcategory; it also lumps in libertarianism, which isn't quite the same as liberalism. (It's a sub-subcategory under "social liberalism.) The overall "news" category contains the usual suspects at the top -- CNN, Yahoo, the BBC, the Weather Channel and the New York Times.

WND also ranked as the top overall conservative site. Why wasn't that reported? Oh, yeah -- see above "independent" blather.

Remember, Alexa rankings only count visitors who have the Alexa toolbar installed on their computers -- which WND encourages readers to install, so the rankings are gamed a tad.

* * *

Waaaah! They're picking on us again!

That's the shorter version of Joseph Farah's Feb. 4 column, prompted by a revisiting by the Online Journalism Review of WorldNetDaily's battle to get a permanent Senate press pass. If you'll recall, WND essentially harassed the board in charge of issuing the passes with unflattering stories and lawsuit threats until it relented.

What got Farah's hackles up this time, he wrote, was that in the OJR article, "James Kuhnhenn, a reporter in Knight Ridder's Washington bureau, who voted twice to deny WorldNetDaily credentials, reasserted the committee's initial, erroneous and, frankly, defamatory contention that WorldNetDaily had some vague connection with some vague, unspecified 'advocacy group.'"

That would be the Western Journalism Center, from which WND sprung in the late 1990s.

"There is no longer any association between the two corporations – one for profit and the other non-profit. They are completely independent – different leadership, different board members, different modes of support," Farah retorts. "Further, Western Journalism Center, founded by me, has never been an advocacy group. The only thing it advocates is good journalism."

Farah, however, offers no evidence of any of this. He has never said who besides himself owns a piece of WND or is on its board of directors, so there's nothing to compare.

The Western Journalism Center, meanwhile, is equally quiet. Its Web site hasn't been updated in ages; Farah's mustached face still smiles from the home page. He and the co-founder are the only two people associated with the group whose names are on the site. It has accepted money from Richard Mellon Scaife-connected conservative foundations in the past, as well as from a foundation linked to the conservative Coors family. And the "professional investigative reporting" it claims involvement in -- Christopher Ruddy's investigation of the Vincent Foster death, an investigation of California Assembly speaker Willie Brown, "exposing" a Clinton-era executive order -- all seem to be about criticizing Democrats. It board of advisers has in the past included conservatives such as Sally Pipes, Marvin Olasky and Arianna Huffington (now that she's a liberal, she's presumably no longer on the board).

Naaah, no reason to suspect "advocacy" there.

The Western Journalism Center may not technically be an "advocacy organization," but it, like WND, has an agenda it refuses to publicly acknowledge.

Should all this have kept WND from getting that coveted press pass? Not necessarily. But Farah's being disingenuous when he repeatedly claims that both the WJC and WND care only about "good journalism" since, as any regular ConWebWatch reader knows, the opposite has been demonstrated so many times.

Perhaps if both WND and the WJC would fully disclose their board members and their funding (or, while we're at it, what the heck the WJC's been doing for the past three years), Farah wouldn't have to keep dealing with this. Right?

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