Follow the Hypocrisy
Not content to merely hide its conservative financial connections as it berates Democrats for similar ties, NewsMax turns to distortion to defend conservative pundits for their Bush administration paydays.
By Terry Krepel
NewsMax's stance on the issue of the issue of pundits taking money to promote certain ideas continues to bury the needle on the hypocrisy meter.
Its equivocation of the actions of the likes of Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher with the alleged misdeeds of Democrats conflicts greatly with NewsMax editor and CEO Christopher Ruddy's 2003 donation to Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley and subsequent promotion of Foley and his later-discontinued campaign for Senate, as ConWebWatch has detailed. NewsMax has also never told its readers about its financial ties to conservatives, which include conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife as a shareholder (as ConWebWatch has also detailed). NewsMax also played partisan in the 2004 presidential campaign by buying TV time across the country to air the biased anti-John Kerry film "Stolen Honor" the weekend before the November election yet failed to disclose how much it spent or where the money to do that came from (since NewsMax has a history of losing money).
In addition to the whole hypocrisy thing, a Jan. 29 NewsMax article headlined "Hillary, Daschle Helped Bankroll Dem Radio Hosts" promotes things about Democrats that fall between a distortion and a lie.
The article claims that "Sens. Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle and Debbie Stabenow lined up $1.8 million in funding for Democracy Radio," which is underwriting the radio show of liberal host Ed Schultz.
NewsMax's source for this claim appears to be a Jan. 10 Washington Post article -- but that's not what the article says at all. From the article:
The show was developed with $1.8 million from Democracy Radio, a New York nonprofit run by Tom Athans, the husband of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), with a board composed of three Clinton administration veterans. Another Democratic senator, North Dakota's Byron Dorgan, recommended Schultz to Democracy Radio. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) hosted a fundraiser about a year ago at her home for Democracy Radio and Schultz, which was attended by about 20 Democratic senators, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and Tom Daschle. Such lawmakers "feel the acute pain of having talk radio be mostly conservative," Athans says.
Not a word about Clinton and Daschle "bankrolling" Schultz's show. Politicians attending a private fund-raiser is not the same thing as using tax money to pay pundits and columnists to promote government policies, as Williams (and Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus) were forced to admit being on the receiving end of, and we'll believe NewsMax's outrage is genuine when it can prove that Republican politicians do not attend fund-raising functions. But NewsMax runs with it anyway, taking umbrage with Democracy Radio's status as "a non-profit organization," which NewsMax puts into quotes as if it doubts the legality of such an endeavor.
In fact, conservatives have established a precedent for talk radio operated by nonprofit groups. Radio America -- the syndicator of radio shows by conservatives such as Michael Reagan, Blanquita Cullum, Bob Barr, Ben Ferguson and Joseph Farah (to be replaced next week by G. Gordon Liddy) -- is a division of the American Studies Center, with a self-described mission of "adherence to traditional American values, limited government and the free market."
The American Studies Center describes itself as a "non-profit, 501(c)(3) educational foundation" to which tax-deductible contributions can be made, but the organization appears to have little function beyond operating Radio America. Nevertheless, it is a task for which it has been funded well. The Radio America site notes that it "is funded by contributions from foundations and individuals and advertising revenue." Indeed, the American Studies Center has received more than $1.5 million between 1985 and 2002 from the usual suspects -- deep-pocketed conservative foundations such as Bradley, Olin, the Scaife-controlled Carthage Foundation and the Coors family-funded Castle Rock Foundation.
NewsMax also sounds a skeptical tone when it notes that "Schultz insists that all that cash hasn't influenced his radio show's content," yet we don't recall NewsMax wondering if Rush Limbaugh's overnight stay in the White House in 1992 under the first President Bush or his being made an and made him an honorary member of Congress after Republican victories in the 1994 election influenced the content of his radio show.
Williams is not the only tainted conservative pundit to be the beneficiary of NewsMax's rhetorical largesse. A Jan. 26 article prints conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher's response to an article by The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz detailing Gallagher's $21,500 with the federal government to promote a Bush administration marriage initiative while failing to note, as Editor and Publisher did, Kurtz's response saying that Gallagher "has seen fit to blame the messenger."
And a Jan. 24 article takes issue with Kurtz pointing out that Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity failed to disclose that he is on the advisory board for Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), the organization headed by ConWeb favorite Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, during Peterson's dozen or so appearances on "Hannity & Colmes" -- a conflict, by the way, ConWebWatch first revealed in 2002. What could possibly be offensive to NewsMax about pointing out such a clear conflict of interest? It claims Kurtz "he has a vested interested [sic] in attacking the folks at Fox" because he hosts a show, "Reliable Sources," that appears on rival CNN.
NewsMax concluded its Jan. 29 article by complaining that "Schultz's media friends aren't raising any ethical questions about whether his show's content has been bought and paid for." Yet NewsMax complains a bit too loudly about that. If this is such a major concern, NewsMax should set an example by disclosing to its reader exactly how its fortunes and coverage are tied to the fortunes of Republican politicians and rich conservatives so its readers can judge for themselves whether its content is "bought and paid for." Oh, and telling the complete truth in its articles would be an excellent second step.