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Richard Poe's Not-So-Secret War

Poe sums up his Hillary-bashing book in a series of WorldNetDaily articles in which he ignores evidence that conflicts with his conspiratorial thesis -- and fails to disclose his own conflict of interest.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/27/2005

In an apparent attempt to capitalize on Edward Klein's factually flawed book attacking Hillary Clinton, Richard Poe pounded out a 10-part WorldNetDaily series based on his 2004 WorldNetDaily-published (while still part of Thomas Nelson) book, "Hillary's Secret War," which purports to describe, according to Poe, "how Hillary Clinton and the left's 'shadow government' have labored to put her and her far-left agenda in the White House by controlling the still-uncensored flow of real news to Americans -- via the Internet."

Poe's WND series, however, is filled with uncorroborated statements and long-discredited assertions. Additionally, he bashes liberal billionaire George Soros and lionizes and whitewashes conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife -- while hiding the fact that Scaife plays a role in providing him a steady paycheck.

When he's not pounding out anti-Hillary screeds, Poe has a day job working for the David Horowitz-operated Center for the Study of Popular Culture as an investigative editor as well as managing editor of Horowitz's group blog Moonbat Central. The CPSC has received more than $1.2 million from Scaife-controlled foundations since 2000 and more than $5.6 million since 1989.

Yet even Poe's employer distanced itself from him; a disclaimer at the end of each article reads, "The views expressed in Poe's book, 'Hillary's Secret War,' are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture."

Part 1 of Poe's series -- initially billed as a "sneak preview" but changed sometime after ConWebBlog pointed out the absurdity of anything about a book released more than a year ago being labeled a "sneak preview" -- sets the tone of the series, a combination of conspiracy theorizing ("Hillary's secret police will no doubt play a role in smoothing the way for her planned return to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue") and overheated promotion of himself ("I like to think of 'Hillary's Secret War' as an 'All the President's Men' for the Internet generation") and those on his side ("[Vincent] Foster's unsolved death would take on a significance among the cyber-rebels not unlike that of the Alamo for Texas freedom fighters").

Part 3 provides an instructive contrast of his treatment of those politically minded billionaires. Scaife is described benignly as a "Pittsburgh philanthropist and newspaper publisher," while Soros -- who, like Scaife, has donated millions of dollars to organizations in order to advance a political philosophy -- gets an harsher ideological label, "Wall Street billionaire and leftwinger." Poe has been a longtime Soros-basher; last year, he penned an eager-to-smear account of Soros in NewsMax's magazine and co-authored a series for (also operated by Horowitz, for which Poe is a former editor) ominously describing Soros' "Shadow Party" and what he calls "the radical left's silent takeover of the Democratic Party." In an April piece on House majority leader Tom DeLay's ethics problems, Poe is so focused on portraying DeLay as a victim of "a murky and inscrutable entity controlled by leftwing billionaire George Soros" that he forgets to mention that among the groups critical of DeLay is Judicial Watch -- a longtime recipient of funding from Scaife.

(I will do here what Poe didn't and get my relevant disclosures out of the way. I'm an employee of Media Matters, which has accepted money from an organization that has accepted money from a Soros-directed group, and which Poe attacked in Part 6 as "a self-described media watchdog site closely tied to the Soros network." Media Matters does not fund ConWebWatch and has no control, editorial or otherwise, over its content.)

Only in Part 8 -- which details the story of Steve Kangas, operator of an anti-Scaife web site who was found shot to death in a Scaife office building -- does Poe offer some detail about Scaife's conservative activities. After dismissing Kangas as a "loser" and failed pornographer and calling him a self-proclaimed martyr for Hillary Clinton who intended to kill Scaife but turned the gun on himself (ignoring similarly conspiratorial claims reaching a different conclusion), Poe finally gets around to asking the question, "But why Scaife?" He doesn't truthfully answer it, writing only about Scaife's claim that Foster's death was the "Rosetta Stone" of the Clinton administration and not even mentioning the millions upon millions of dollars Scaife donated to the conservative movement in the 1990s with the express purpose of forcing an elected president out of office.

In addition to himself, Poe has also been loath to reveal Scaife's connection to the subjects he writes about. Part 6 describes Christopher Ruddy's work in trying to prove Vincent Foster was murdered, noting only that Scaife owned the paper Ruddy worked for and again not pointing out Scaife's generosity to anti-Clinton forces. Poe insisted that "Ruddy exercised remarkable restraint in his reporting on Foster's death" in his 1997 book on the subject -- failing, of course, to note that even Ann Coulter, whom Poe has defended in the past, dismissed Ruddy's book on the Foster case as a "conservative hoax book." Poe also fails to note that Scaife cut off funding to longtime beneficiary The American Spectator -- to which Scaife had given $2.4 million to dig up dirt on the Clintons in what was called the "Arkansas Project" -- after it ran a negative review of Ruddy's book.

In Part 9, Poe gives us the deification of WND's Joseph Farah, who was running his own conspiratorial operation in the 1990s called the Western Journalism Center, working with Ruddy to fund and promote his reporting. Of course, there's another Scaife non-disclosure -- Scaife gave $330,000 to the WJC in 1994-95. Why was Scaife paying an outside organization to fund and promote the work of a report who was already on the Scaife payroll and presumably had a blank check from the boss? Poe shows no interest in answering that question.

Poe also notes that Ruddy operates NewsMax while failing to note not only that NewsMax has printed several of his articles and that he's a contributing editor at NewsMax's magazine but that -- you guessed it -- Scaife is an investor and shareholder in NewsMax.

Poe also delves into one of the more soundly discredited tropes of the Clinton era by trying to breathe life into the "Clinton body count," folks who died supposedly as a result of their association with the Clintons. Despite the fact that he admits in Part 5 that "no one can prove that Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster met his death through foul play. It is quite possible that he committed suicide," Poe spends the rest of the series trying to prove that Foster was murdered -- exactly what he had declared couldn't be proved.

Also in Part 5, headlined "The real story behind the Clinton body count," Poe focuses on another alleged "body count" victim, Jerry Parks. His death was never solved, but Poe points the finger at the Clintons, citing claims made by Parks' son, Gary. In doing so, he ignores Snopes' debunking of the "body count," which noted that a disgruntled business associate was also a likely suspect and that local police dismissed Gary Parks' conspiracy theories as "unsubstantiated, nothing to grasp." (Poe spends part of Part 7 trying to debunk Snopes' debunking.)

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr also comes in for a Poe-bashing for not frog-marching the Clintons right out of the White House and not concluding that Vince Foster was murdered. More Scaife non-disclosure ensues; he mentions Starr's attempt to leave the independent counsel job to accept a deanship at Pepperdine University without noting that Scaife donated more than $1 million to the Pepperdine school Starr was to become dean of.

Given how often Scaife pops up as a conservative benefactor, why isn't Poe declaring him the head of a "shadow party"? Oops, we forgot -- Poe's on Scaife's payroll.

Poe also digs up another ancient alleged Clinton scandal, the drug-smuggling purportedly taking place through an airport in the Arkansas town of Mena while Clinton was governor. (In Part 2, Poe denigrates Arkansas as "a kind of Third-World country within the United States" and "a kind of banana republic, not unlike Noriega's Panama" with Clinton as "the local dictator.") He tries to link Clinton to it through statements by former state trooper L.D. Brown. As Gene Lyons' and Joe Conason's book, "The Hunting of the President" notes, Brown isn't exactly a reliable witness. Brown was one of the state troopers spinning tales about Clinton's sex life in the Troopergate case -- "For our purposes, it is enough to know that the Troopergate scandal threatened to reveal far more than gossip over Bill Clinton's sex life," Poe writes -- but Brown hated Clinton for not giving him a job in the state crime lab. The one time Brown testified under oath, in the Paula Jones lawsuit against Clinton about the president's alleged trysts, it turned out that "Brown had no names, places, or dates to offer -- only hearsay and rumors" ("Hunting," p. 346).

Poe is so eager to spin a Clinton conspiracy around Mena that he drags Gary Webb into it, implying that he was killed because he wrote about "the Mena operation." Webb was a reporter who, in the mid-1990s, wrote the "Dark Alliance" series linking the CIA to drug trafficking benefiting the Nicaraguan Contras. What Poe doesn't mention: 1) Webb's 2004 death was pretty clearly a suicide following years of decline after the newspaper Webb worked for retracted his "Dark Alliance" stories; and 2) WND's Farah wrote a May 1997 column denouncing "Dark Alliance" as "a poorly crafted hoax," "a well-crafted piece of propaganda," and "pure fantasy, conjecture, theory -- not news." We don't recall Poe rushing to defend Webb's series before now.

Finally, in Part 10, Poe peddles a canard about the 2000 presidential election in Florida. He claims that "Big Media robbed Bush of many times that number of votes simply by calling Florida for Gore while the polls were still open in the Florida Panhandle. ... By calling Florida for Gore while people were still voting in the Panhandle, Big Media cost Bush a net loss of about 10,000 Florida votes, according to post-election surveys." This is mostly false:

  • No network called Florida for Gore until 11 minutes before the polls in the Panhandle closed (49 minutes after the polls closed in the rest of the state), as ConWebWatch has noted.
  • The 10,000 figure comes from none other than John Lott, the conservative researcher who has peddled all sorts of dubious statistics over the years and made up an online alter ego, Mary Rosh, to promote and defend his work (as ConWebWatch has also noted).
  • WorldNetDaily itself went hunting for Panhandle residents who were discouraged from voting because the networks called Florida for Gore. WND's conclusion: "After a week-long dragnet, Republicans have been able to scare up just a handful of Bush supporters willing to testify that they canceled trips to the polls after the networks gave Florida to Gore 11 minutes before polls closed in the Panhandle's Central time zone." Only one person was actually willing to talk about it.

We can probably assume that such incomplete, distorted or outright false claims permeate Poe's book as much as they do his WND series.

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