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Update: Insta-Slant

WorldNetDaily tells readers to expect spin with its debate story, and it doesn't disappoint. Plus: More ConWeb debate reaction, MRC's "Tell the Truth!" campaign complains that CBS told the truth, WND still can't get the Sandy Berger story correct, and more.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/5/2004

Rarely has a headline announced the intent of a story so clearly.

WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah did a quick turnaround in writing a story on the first presidential debate September 30 -- according to the time stamp on the story, a mere 15 minutes after the debate ended. The story's ever-so-appropriate headline: "Now it's time for spinning."

And spin Farah does. Not blatantly, of course; he's too good a writer for that. It's when you start counting quotes that Farah's slant shows through -- ten paragraphs directly quote George W. Bush, while only five paragraphs directly quote John Kerry. Farah also devotes a paragraph to recounting how the "hundreds of his former Vietnam comrades" in the form of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has hurt Kerry while not pointing out the Swift Boat Vets' numerous distortions and factual errors. (Not that Farah or WND have ever done that, of course.)

No, we're not going to mention that this is yet another violation of Farah's "truth and accuracy" creed. But we will note that at any other reputable news organization, a person such as Farah who has voiced so frequently and vehemently his hatred of Kerry -- "ambitious political whore," anyone? -- would never be allowed to write a "news" story about him.

* * *

The rest of the ConWeb had problems as well in dealing with the fact that Kerry came off better in the debate than Bush did.

So stunned was NewsMax that even Fox News Channel pundits noted that Kerry won that one post-debate piece began: "Fox New [sic] Channel's presidential debate panel had some disappointing news for Republicans tonight.", meanwhile, tried to make up for the truth by rolling out three (count 'em) opinion pieces on October 4 pooh-poohing the idea that Kerry won, or that it doesn't mean anything if he did.

Rich Galen commented that "Kerry may be able to perform for 60 or 90 minutes but the question facing America is whether he can perform for four years." Rich Tucker concurred: "Americans don't vote for "debater-in-chief." They vote for commander-in-chief."

And Paul Weyrich declared that anyone who liked Kerry was an idiot: "To believe that Bush won, you would need some knowledge about the issue of terrorism and the war in Iraq. If you knew very little about the issues of the day, Kerry sounded convincing." Bush lost, Weyrich wrote, because "Bush is a nice guy. He doesn't have it in him to go for the jugular."

Well, perhaps -- but Karl Rove wasn't allowed onstage.

* * *

Another sign of debate desperation on the part of the ConWeb: NewsMax went to logic-straining lengths to dismiss debate moderator Jim Lehrer as a hopelessly biased liberal.

Pre-debate, on Sept. 27, a NewsMax story attempted a bizarre guilt-by-association gambit by trying to link Lehrer with a mini-scandal involving the Public Broadcasting System's sharing of donor lists to Democratic fund-raisers, declaring it "a blatant conflict of interest" for Lehrer for the crime of being a PBS employee.

Post-debate, NewsMax immediately dismissed Lehrer as biased because "there were no queries to Sen. Kerry about his long Senate record of voting against defense appropriations, or his sponsorship of a bill to cut CIA funding by $6 billion a year after terrorists struck the World Trade Center in 1993, or Kerry's support of the nuclear freeze movement during the height of the Cold War.

"Kerry wasn't asked why he teamed up with Jane Fonda to protest the Vietnam War while his band of brothers were still on the battlefield, or why he met with enemy leaders in Paris, or why he accused fellow soldiers of being 'monsters' and 'war criminals," the article continued.

* * *

In case there was any doubt that the Media Research Center's $2.8 million "Tell the Truth!" in-kind contribution to the George W. Bush re-election campaign was anything but that, it has criticized CBS for, you guessed it, telling the truth.

We'll let the MRC take it from here, from its Sept. 28 "Worst of the Week" awards:

On Thursday's CBS Evening News, reporter Jim Axelrod argued that "while Senator Kerry has certainly supplied some raw material" for charges he's a flip-flopper, "the President is not without his own, shall we say, changes of mind -- everything from gay marriage to steel tariffs to the constantly shifting rationale for the war in Iraq." Two weeks earlier, on the September 7 Evening News, CBS's John Roberts actually absolved Kerry of being two-faced on the Iraq war: "Kerry has consistently said holding Saddam accountable was and remains the right thing to do. And he's been just as consistent in his opposition to the way President Bush went to war."

Um, that's all true, guys. What's the problem? Oh yeah -- the MRC doesn't care about the truth when it doesn't favor Republicans. After all, it was quite happy to note back in June that "the image of Kerry as a waffler has gained footing in public perception."

* * *

WorldNetDaily still can't get its facts straight about Sandy Berger, the former Clinton official accused of taking classified documents from an archive.

WND editor Joseph Farah asked back in August why there has been "nary a new development in the Berger investigation. As ConWebWatch pointed out, there was -- Berger was cleared of withholding material frm the 9/11 Commission -- but WND had never reported it.

An Oct. 4 WND story purporting to update the Berger case fails to mention that fact as well. The story gets another fact wrong by stating that "Berger and his lawyer admit he knowingly removed handwritten notes he made while reading classified anti-terror documents by sticking them in his jacket, pants and socks."

Wrong -- there's no substantiation of that beyond right-wing rumors promulgated by, among others, WorldNetDaily.

Then again, any news organization that relies on an admitted evidence-tamperer like David Bossie to pass judgment on Berger has bigger problems beyond getting simple facts right.

* * *

In reporting on the problems with the CBS Bush National Guard memos, let its own bias show through again.

In a Sept. 21 story, writer Robert B. Bluey made sure to identify media watchdog groups Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and Media Matters for America as "liberal." And for good measure, Bluey labeled as "liberal" as well. A Sept. 10 story by Marc Morano also labels FAIR as "liberal."

Meanwhile, stories by Melanie Hunter on Sept. 16, Sept 17 and Sept. 20 featuring the reactions of CNS parent the Media Research Center fail to describe the MRC as "conservative." (Bluey's Sept. 22 story does, however.)

* * *

So does know how to fact-check after all.

We wondered about that after it let false claims in an ad by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth sail by unchallenged. But a Sept. 27 story runs to the defense of President Bush.

The story, by Susan Jones, quotes Kerry as saying: "when the president landed on that aircraft carrier, 150 of our sons and daughters had given their lives. Since then, tragically, since he said 'mission accomplished,' tragically, over 900 more have died."

To that, Jones added: "President Bush did not use the phrase 'mission accomplished' in his May 1 remarks on the USS Abraham Lincoln, although that's what the banner behind him said." This was followed by 3 1/2 paragraphs of excerpts from Bush's speech.

Jones, however, doesn't tell the whole truth in her defense. Bush did tell U.S. troops a month later that "America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished." And Bush's White House did admit to having the "Mission Accomplished" banner made for the event.

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