The Negative Exponent of Truth
By distorting the facts, refusing to disclose conflicts of interest and just plain bad reporting, WorldNetDaily repeatedly falls far short of its mission statement.
By Terry Krepel
WorldNetDaily's mission statement claims that is "an exponent of truth and justice, an uncompromising disseminator of news." But bad reporting is the unfortunate norm at WND. Stories are twisted and distorted to advance Joseph Farah's religious conservative agenda.
That would seem to make WND a negative exponent of truth. Here are a few of the latest examples:
-- An April 29 article on an upcoming walk from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. "to promote peaceful, democratic change in Tehran" led by bigot Jerome Corsi fails to note two important conflicts of interest that readers should be aware of: Corsi's "Atomic Iran" was published by WND's book division, and WND editor Joseph Farah is on the board of the Corsi-founded Iran Freedom Foundation.
That last fact about Farah's presence on the foundation's board somehow failed to appear in a March 18 WND article announcing the foundation's creation.
WND used to question the refusal to disclose such corporate and personal self-dealing. In March 2004, WND noted the "ethical concerns" raised when a CBS "60 Minutes" interview with former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke failed to disclose that CBS and the publisher of Clarke's book, Simon & Schuster, are owned by the same conglomerate, Viacom. Why doesn't WND apply these ethics to itself?
Because, presumably, it would have to do it so often. As ConWebWatch has frequently noted, WND often refuses to disclose the financial and personal interests of its company and employees in the "news" articles WND writes.
The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics dictates that journalists "avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived" and "disclose unavoidable conflicts." WND shows little interest in doing this.
-- An April 30 article once again parroted the conservative line by repeating the highly distorted claim that Stephen Williams, a teacher in Cupertino, Calif., was barred from "providing supplemental handouts to students -- including the Declaration of Independence -- because the historical documents contain some references to God and religion." WND appears not to have gotten the message that the Alliance Defense Fund was forced to admit its original claim that the school "banned the Declaration of Independence" was incorrect, following complaints from a parents group at the school.
As WND did in a November article on the subject, the article quotes only the Alliance Defense Fund, the conservative legal group representing the teacher, and no attempt is made to contact school officials or even to steal the district's response from other news reports (since we all know WND is anything but averse to doing that).
And what WND doesn't report -- simply because it refused to go beyond what was written in an Alliance Defense Fund press release -- is important. The school district didn't bar Williams from handing out the Declaration of Independence as WND claims; as ConWebWatch has noted, Williams handed out excerpts (not entire documents) from several documents, including the Declaration of Independence, purportedly showing the Christian origins of the founders of the United States.
WND also doesn't report that parents have complained to the school district that Williams' teaching "crossed the line into evangelizing." In response, the school's principal began reviewing Williams' lesson plans and supplemental handouts in advance.
WND's slavery to the agenda of conservative legal groups -- which previously surfaced during those groups' overhyped "war" on Christmas -- appears again in another April 30 article on a "pro-life college student" suing Planned Parenthood because he was allegedly "tackled and injured while protesting outside a Washington, D.C., abortion clinic" merely rewrites a press release from the conservative legal group filing the lawsuit, the American Center for Law and Justice.
-- An April 22 article, written by Yoram East and credited to WND's "premium, online intelligence newsletter" G2 Bulletin, claimed that "Palestinian violence and terror attacks" were "up 300 percent in the last 10 days."
But the article is short on actual numbers. "Up 300 percent" compared to what? How does that mysterious number compare to the historic level of violence in the Middle East? What specific 10-day period is being referred to? Such vagueness raises suspicions, indicating that East is trying to hide something.
Another hint is an unsupported statement by East that "There are no signs the trend of increasing violent activities, growing by hundreds of percents almost weekly, will end soon." The term "violent activities" sounds a lot like a catchall term designed to shove all sorts of things under its umbrella and thus inflate those "hundreds of percents" numbers, not unlike President Bush's infamous claim of "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" in Iraq.
This is yet another example of dubious information coming from a source that charges $199 a year, which includes lies about Teresa Heinz Kerry and the prediction that Saddam Hussein would conduct a siege of Iraq to fight off a U.S. invasion, which the G2 Report called the "Baghdadograd" plan, allegedly inspired by the Soviet defense of Stalingrad in World War II.
With such a record of factually dubious statements, it wouldn't seem that G2 Bulletin's subscribers are getting their money's worth.
-- WND managed to squeeze three stories and a poll out of a skit on the show of Air America Radio host Randi Rhodes that, according to WND, "warned President Bush with gunfire." But WND has shown no similar concern when conservative radio hosts threaten violence against government officials.
In 1994, radio host G. Gordon Liddy advised listeners that when shooting agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to "Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests," advice he repeated a month later. In fact, "Head shots!" became Liddy's version of Rush Limbaugh's "megadittoes" for listener approval.
Nothing in WND's archive indicates disapproval of this statement; in fact, WND editor Joseph Farah appeared on Liddy's show in 2003 to plug his book "Taking America Back." Ironically, the reason Farah's own radio show got bumped down the conservative radio food chain was Liddy; syndicator Radio America bumped Farah in order to pick up Liddy, who himself was bumped by syndicator Westwood One to make room for Joe Scarborough's new show.
WND, meanwhile, does alert us to a hatchet job on the horizon. One of the Rhodes articles quotes Alan Skorski, who "is writing a book for WND Books about Rhodes' colleague at Air America, Al Franken." Skorski is a failed candidate for a New York congressional seat in 2002 -- he withdrew from the race after fellow Republican candidate and former NewsMax columnist Dan Frisa challenged signatures on the petitions to place Skorski on the ballot -- who is director of political strategies for conservative-leaning political marketing firm Interactive Political Media. He is described in one op-ed he wrote as "a political activist dedicated to bringing more Jews into the Republican party."
-- An April 28 article details how "Pastor and author Greg Laurie has drawn several thousand to a week's worth of crusades in Georgia." What is the news value of this article? Basically none; evangelists hold crusades all the time.
We have to wonder if Laurie is getting the same ad-disguised-as-news deal previously given to Jack Wheeler. After all, the article includes all kinds of puffery: "Referred by some as the next generation's Billy Graham, Laurie has a gift for bringing a biblical, relevant message to many Americans who have never set foot in a church." It was preceded by a similar one on April 9, a unbylined, fawning profile. WND has also published columns by Laurie.
But where's the ad aspect? The April 9 article features detailed descriptions of two books written by Laurie -- which conveniently are for sale at WND's store. And a note at the end of the April 28 article urges readers to "check out Laurie's books at ShopNetDaily."
On the same page as WND's mission statement, Farah claims that WND "is poised to spark a media revolution" because "the world has a right to know." On certain subjects, however, Farah and WND have clearly decided otherwise.