WorldNetDaily Gets Punk'd
WorldNetDaily's claim of a TV movie about the Schiavo case was based on an April fool's prank. Plus: A Zogby poll about the Schiavo case raises more questions than it answers.
By Terry Krepel
It looks like WorldNetDaily fell for an April fool's joke.
Remember the April 2 WND report that CBS was rushing into production a TV movie about the Terri Schiavo case? As ConWebWatch noted, there were some suspicious things about it, namely that WND provided no source for its report (not to mention that it deviated from WND's recent attempt at balance on the Schiavo case in the days after her death by implying that Michael Schiavo sold the movie rights).
It turns out there's a good reason WND didn't source the story: it wasn't true.
The biggest clue that the Defamer item is a goof, however, is in the other items packaged with the CBS claim, such as proposed "a shot-by-shot slapstick remake of 'Saving Private Ryan'" and that Robert Blake, recently acquitted in the killing of his wife, was named president of the woman-friendly Lifetime cable channel.
Add to that the fact that nobody else -- no newspaper, no entertainment trade publication -- has reported this, as well as the fact that WND is not terribly connected with the West Coast entertainment industry -- remember, WND editor Joseph Farah wants to bring back the blacklist to keep too-liberal actors unemployed -- and it looks a lot like WND got fooled big-time by assuming the worst about CBS and a desire to beat up on Michael Schiavo once more.
Such dubious -- well, nonexistent -- sourcing didn't stand in the way of WND columnist Doug Powers, who promptly cranked out an April 4 column saying what you'd expect someone like Powers to say. You know, things like: "The movie will need to be put together quick, dirty ... and without much time for research. Fortunately for CBS, they've got recent experience in doing just that."
It took two days for WND to catch on to the prank -- the story was deleted from the WND database on April 5. (Fortunately, ConWebWatch has saved the page in PDF form, and the Google cache is here.) Powers' column has disappeared, too; at this writing, the latest entry on his personal blog is a lame piece about purported shows on Al Gore's new TV network.
An April 6 story details WND's brief, vague mea culpa, saying only that "[t]he story originated on a website that attributed the story to Variety, the Hollywood daily" and not mentioning that Powers' column was also pulled.
"Quick, dirty ... and without much time for research"? Sounds like the kind of effort WND put into getting suckered by this story.
* * *
In an April 4 article, NewsMax touted the results of a Zogby poll that claimed "[b]y a significant plurality, Americans did not agree with the decision by state and federal courts last week that Terri Schiavo should be starved to death." (NewsMax used to not be excited about what a mere "plurality" of Americans thought; as John LeBoutillier wrote in November 2004: "For all the talk about how wonderfully popular Bill Clinton was, we need to remember that never once did a majority of the American voters vote for him" (italics his).)
Unfortunately, the question Zogby asked said nothing about Terri Schiavo, as NewsMax states in the very next sentence: "If a person becomes incapacitated and has not expressed their preference for medical treatment, should 'the law presume that the person wants to live, even if the person is receiving food and water through a tube?'" The question ignores the reality that nearly every doctor who examined Schiavo (except for the guy falsely claiming to be a Nobel Prize nominee) has declared that she was in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years.
Other questions in the Zogby poll are similar, designed to elicit a pro-Terri response, as NewsMax notes: "When told that Schiavo's estranged husband, Michael, 'has had a girlfriend for 10 years and has two children with her,' 56 percent of Americans said guardianship should have been turned over to Terri's parents." That's another question that ignores reality, this time the fact that Terri Schiavo's parents encouraged Michael Schiavo to date other women.
Such slanted questions mean only one thing: Someone paid Zogby to do this poll. But who? NewsMax cites as its source the anti-abortion site LifeNews, which claimed the Zogby poll had "fairer questions" than other polls that found a majority of Americans supported the decision to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube and opposed the intervention of Congess in the case. But the LifeNews article NewsMax lifted its story from lacks crucial details about the poll -- when it was taken, how big the polling sample was, and, of course, who paid for it. The story quotes a representative of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, but nothing on the group's site indicates that it paid for the poll.
Zogby's web site is even more vague. There is no publicly available information or press release about the poll -- which may be another clue to its bought-and-paid-for origins -- but it reprints the LifeNews article.
As ConWebWatch has noted, Zogby sells polling services, resorting to what The American Prospect described as "creative phrasing to give the impression of wide public support for the view that the given client is promoting."
(Update: On April 6, Zogby posted the results of a Schiavo-related poll conducted "on behalf of the Christian Defense Coalition" -- in other words, the group paid Zogby to do the poll. The Christian Defense Coalition is an "aggressive opponent of abortion" with an agenda in the Schiavo case: it held a vigil in the home neighborhood of Michael Schiavo and conducted lobbying and public events to get the Florida legislature to pass a bill to "save Terri Schiavo's life." But this is almost certainly not the same poll that LifeNews reported on, even though the questions are similarly slanted to produce similar results; LifeNews' story was published on April 1, and the poll Zogby posted was conducted March 30-April 2. So the original question remains unanswered: Who paid for the Zogby poll that LifeNews reported on?)
Until more information is forthcoming from Zogby or others about who commissioned this poll, its results are suspect, as is anyone who promotes them.