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Another WND Retraction

WorldNetDaily once again gets caught in the act of letting its biases trump the facts.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/12/2005

Newsweek has a better journalistic record than WorldNetDaily over the past couple months. While Newsweek has retracted one story, WND has retracted two.

The latest came in a June 11 article, which started out this way:

WorldNetDaily hereby retracts its Dec. 3, 2004, article titled "College concert for terror-supporting charity," about a California-based charity organization, Islamic Relief. WorldNetDaily regrets any adverse consequences caused by this publication to Islamic Relief and its worldwide founder, Dr. Hanny [sic: Hanni] Al Banna.

Curiously, nowhere in the article does it explain exactly why the article was being retracted; instead it includes a couple of paragraphs of "what Islamic Relief would like WND readers to know about the organization."

Even though the article is deleted from WND's archive, it's still available elsewhere, such as at the United Jerusalem Foundation -- ironically, as part of an exercise in which members can vote on whether an article contains "bias partiality" or "inaccuracies." It's still available on Google as a cached version, and it's also preserved right here at ConWebWatch.

The problems with the article -- written by WND Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein, whose pro-Israel, anti-Islam bias ConWebWatch has previously noted -- stand out; it's a smear of Islamic Relief, not only linking the group to terrorism but accusing the group of making a fraudulent appeal for money for orphans that don't exist.

Klein's bias is evident from the first paragraph, in which he calls Islamic Relief a group that "has reportedly been under investigation for accepting a contribution from a front group for Al-Qaida and is connected to several organizations that support terrorism." Klein's evidence is little more than guilt by association. Among them:

  • "In her book 'Invasion,' syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin reports the Islamic Relief accepted $50,000 from an alleged bin Laden front-group at its UK office."
  • "An Islamic Relief founder, Hanni Al Banna, is also a trustee and fundraiser for Muslim Aid, a charity created in London by singer Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, which according to Spanish police used funds to send mujahadeen fighters to Bosnia and has held events at which speakers have boasted of supporting al-Qaida terror activities."
  • "The Islamic Relief last month held a fundraiser at Britain´s Birmingham Central Mosque, which the FBI has said is a central location for jihad recruitment in the UK."

Interestingly, by playing the same guilt-by-association game, we can claim that WND is a supporter of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church because WND had a content-sharing agreement with Moon's now-defunct Insight magazine and WND editor Joseph Farah's column ran in an edition of Moon's Washington Times.

Klein also quoted Beila Rabinowitz of Militant Islam Monitor (which also has a copy of Klein's article) accusing Islamic Relief of resorting to "the old 'orphans' ploy":

They use the codeword 'orphan' to stave off any scrutiny or accusations of terrorist fund-raising, and to hide that they are raising money for families of suicide bombers and mujahedeen. It is a travesty of the war on terror that Nova Southeastern is allowing its theater to be used by Islamic Relief to raise money for fictitious "orphans."

Thus far, there has been no retraction from Rabinowitz's site.

Also featured in the article is Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum spouting another conservative talking point, bashing the college for allowing itself to be used "as a place to raise money for Islamist terrorism," adding: "It represents another ominous sign of the direction in which institutions of higher education are heading."

Nowhere in the article is it noted that Klein made any attempt to obtain a response to the charges from anyone at Islamic Relief.

This is the second article WND was forced to retract in the past two months; in April, WND printed a false story about a purported TV movie production of the Terri Schiavo case. Even though the story subjects are different, the reasoning behind them is the same: The need to adhere to its editorial biases trumped the facts.

In the Schiavo story, WND's bias against Terri's husband, Michael Schiavo -- WND repeatedly forwarded accusations of abuse against him by Terri's parents while rarely bothering to tell Michael's side of the story -- was so great that it expanded on the story's non-facts by insinuating that Michael sold the movie rights to the story.

WND's bias in Klein's story is being so pro-Israel and anti-Islam that it has pushed for the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, printing appeals from Pollard's wife and even promoting a letter to first lady Laura Bush from female members of Israel's Knesset complaining that Pollard has suffered "years of abuse and torture Pollard says he suffered in American imprisonment" and that "Jonathan and his wife were also prohibited from having conjugal visits throughout all the years of his incarceration, and they have thereby been prevented from establishing a family with children." Imagine WND or any other ConWeb component making such a plea for any other convicted criminal.

Meanwhile, Farah has been harsh on Newsweek for its retracted story about U.S. interrogators throwing a Quran in the toilet, purportedly leading to fatal riots. "With the Newsweek debacle, the Old Media have hit a new low – actually reporting in ways leading to death and destruction, leading to more anti-U.S. hatred based on faulty information," Farah wrote in a May 19 column; meanwhile, more evidence has surfaced that Quran abuse did occur at the hands of U.S. military personnel, and WND's own reporting indicates that the Newsweek article didn't spark those riots after all (then again, Klein did report that story).

And while Farah attacked Newsweek for "reporting in ways leading to death and destruction," WND's retraction tepidly apologizes for "any adverse consequences" to Islamic Relief and Al Banna, whose name WND couldn't even bothered to spell correctly. "Adverse" is certainly a bureaucratic way to describe the fallout of a charity being tarred as a scam and a front for terrorists.

Farah went on to complain about the "arrogant 'mainstream' media" attacking "the irresponsibility of the New Media." But WND's handling of its Islamic Relief retraction demonstrates its own brand of arrogance -- it occurred six months after the fact, was buried on a low-readership Saturday, and is vague about what exactly in the story was false.

Ironically, WND's behavior contradicts Farah's own citing of proper behavior, in an October 1997 article defending Matt Drudge for printing a false rumor about then-Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal: "It also bears repeating that Drudge retracted his story immediately when he learned that it was wrong. How many times have you seen the establishment press do that?" WND, of course, has also printed false rumors and reported other lies that it has never retracted.

Given this pattern of deception and faulty journalism, one question remains: What has WND done about this? Has it fired or disciplined Klein or the unnamed author of the Schaivo movie article? Has it implemented any editorial procedures to reduce the opportunity for such falsehoods appearing under WND's name in the future? We don't know; Farah has never publicly addressed this.

Farah voted for letting the marketplace decide the fate of news organizations who air or print faulty stories: "It's time to stop reading Newsweek. It's time to stop watching CBS." Perhaps Farah's readers should follow his advice and apply it to WorldNetDaily.

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