A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy
The ConWeb uses conspiracy-mongering, gay-bashing and other methods to try to divert attention away from the Mark Foley page scandal.
By Terry Krepel
Remember when the ConWeb was ridiculing the idea of, in the words of Hillary Clinton, a "vast right-wing conspiracy" that aimed to bring down President Clinton?
Actually, they're never really stopped ridiculing it. In the last week alone we've seen the following:
It's all quite ironic, because the ConWeb is now pushing a vast left-wing conspiracy -- that liberals, gay activists and journalists worked together to sabotage Rep. Mark Foley by publicizing his inappropriate, sexually oriented e-mail and instant message contacts with teenage congressional pages.
Never mind that they have no evidence that isn't circumstantial or hearsay. Never mind too that, in fact, according to The Hill, the source of the e-mails originally implicating Foley as having an unusual interest in the pages was a Republican.
But why let the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory? The ConWeb isn't.
Apparently spurred on by Limbaugh's defense of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert -- who faces questions about when it first knew of Foley's proclivities and what efforts, if any, the House leadership undertook to deal with him -- NewsMax published an Oct. 3 editorial opposing efforts to force Hastert to step down as speaker, again raising the conspiracy angle:
We also feel there could likely be an untold story behind the sudden revelation of the instant messages so close to Election Day a story involving Democratic attempts to torpedo the campaign of a Republican almost assured of victory in November. Already Democratic candidates are using the Foley case to buttress their campaigns for Senate and House seats all across the country. How convenient.
WorldNetDaily joined in the conspiratorial fun as well by throwing in the gay angle. An Oct. 3 article touted a claim that "[a] radical activist on a mission to 'out' conservative homosexual lawmakers and Capitol Hill staffers held on to information about Rep. Mark Foley's relationships with underage male pages, suggesting the story would break at the time of mid-term elections."
WND furthered it with an Oct. 5 article that described Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a Washington group that had been pushing for an investigation of Foley long before the scandal broke last week, as "a George Soros-sponsored organization," "Soros-backed" and "Soros-funded." But WND failed to offer all of the facts regarding CREW's connection with Soros.
According to a May 24 Cleveland Plain Dealer article, CREW did not receive any money from a Soros-funded group until January of this year, after CREW had been previously been falsely accused by scandal-ridden Rep. Bob Ney of being a Soros lackey. "For the longest time, we got no money from George Soros," Melanie Sloan. CREW executive director, told the paper. "We now get money from The Open Society Institute, and it is probably thanks to Bob Ney."
It's worth noting that WND editor Joseph Farah deplored similar attacks on funding sources when he was accused of being a lackey of Richard Mellon Scaife after the Clinton-bashing organization he founded, the Western Journalism Center, accepted $330,000 from Scaife organiazations in the mid-1990s (CREW, by contrast, has received only $100,000 from Soros). From a May 6, 1998, Farah column:
I shouldn't have to say this, but, in an effort to derail the inevitable attacks of the Clinton propaganda machine, I will swear that my organization has received no funding from Scaife or his foundations since early 1995, when they embarked on their so-called "Arkansas Project." Not that it should make any difference, mind you. I'd be happy to accept Scaife's money. There's nothing tainted about it.
Farah added in an Oct. 5 column: "Yes, I know the Democrats probably used the information they gathered on Foley, saved it for this rainy day and dropped it on ABC News as an October surprise. This does not surprise me. This is exactly what I expect the immoral Democrats to do."
Even NewsBusters promoted the meme. From an Oct. 2 post by Mark Finkelstein:
Day One: Suspicious-but-not-explict emails.
But declaring a vast left-wing conspiracy was just one strategy the ConWeb used to attempt to deflect attention away from lurid claims about Foley. Here are some of the others:
Gay-bashing. At WorldNetDaily (of course), an Oct. 3 column by Linda Harvey went on an anti-gay tirade:
Open or suspected homosexuals should never be elected. The problem with homosexuals is that they frequently don't have common sense and don't acknowledge appropriate boundaries. Weird sex, public displays of "affection" and nudity, and sex with youth are built into the "gay" sub-culture. Witness any pride parade, stroll around any predominantly "gay" neighborhood, or visit "GLBT" websites and you quickly see the problem.
Harvey, however, doesn't detail the signs of a "suspected homosexual" that we should all be fearing.
Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid pushed a somewhat less extreme version of this. An Oct. 3 column, while rejecting the conspiracy angle, blamed the Republican leadership for "protect[ing] open and closeted homosexuals in its ranks."
The Clinton Equivocation. The ConWeb was quick to compare the Foley scandal to similar sex scandals involving Democrats, best exemplified by the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell, who resorted to that old Clinton Equivocation warhorse in an Oct. 3 column:
Since when have the Democrats ever insisted a politician be held accountable for a sex scandal involving a staffer, let alone the politician’s party leaders? Take Senator Durbin. Did he vote on any impeachment counts against President Clinton for perjury or obstruction of justice over Clinton’s sexual relations with intern Monica Lewinsky?
Of course, in invoking previous scandals by the opposition party, Bozell is just as guilty of "making national political hay" out of the Foley scandal as he accuses Democrats of doing.
Attacking the messenger. In a variation on the vast left-wing conspiracy meme, an Oct. 4 NewsBusters post by Al Brown made an attempt to parse the Foley case by reporting a blogger's claim that one of the pages Foley chatted up was 18 years of age, not "under 18," meaning that, in Brown's eyes, ABC News' Brian Ross, who first reported the Foley e-mails, is a big fat liar:
That would make ABC's story of an "underage" page being stalked by a predator a story about two consenting adults exchanging instant messages. Did Brian Ross know this, or did he willfully lie in order to run with the story and "get" the Republicans five weeks before the elections?
But by focusing on just one victim, Brown ignores the fact that Foley chatted up multiple pages, offering no evidence that they too were not "under 18." In fact, the original e-mail exchange that ABC's Ross reported on -- Ross said that Foley's description of them as merely "overfriendly" resulted in a "general outrage" among former pages that brought the more explicit IMs coming to light -- involved a 16-year-old, something Brown doesn't contradict.
An Oct. 5 NewsBusters post by Terry Trippany bizarrely blamed this on ABC, which "mistakenly released the IM identity of the page who exchanged IM messages with former Rep. Mark Foley." The blog Sadly, No! looked askance at this claim:
Apparently, then, it’s ABC’s responsibility for allowing the page’s anonymous IM alias to appear on-screen early in their coverage, before redacting it. If a right-wing blogger on the Internet chooses to exhaustively research that alias, digging up photos and personal information, then trumpets the findings in a press release culminating in a post linked and publicized by a major flotilla of high-visibility right-wing chatterers, including Bozell’s foundation-funded Newsbusters it is apparently ABC’s responsibility, and no one else’s.
Distraction. This is the course CNSNews.com took on its front page Oct. 5, declaring:
While Washington insiders were distracted with a Capitol Hill sex scandal -- and while media outlets and politicians are doing all they can to keep the story alive -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at its second, consecutive record high on Wednesday; President Bush signed a bill that frees up funds for a U.S.-Mexico border fence; and a federal appeals court unanimously ruled that the Bush administration may continue its terrorist surveillance program while it appeals a judge's ruling that the program is unconstitutional.
CNS further took on the mantle of trying to cheer up conservatives by holding bright, shiny things before them by literally repeating Republican Party talking points. An Oct. 5 article by Susan Jones that is solely dedicated to regurgitating a Republican attack on Democratic Sen. Joe Biden. And surprisingly, Jones admits to doing so:
With Republicans bogged down by the Mark Foley sex scandal -- and Washington buzzing about a Democratic takeover of Congress -- the RNC is asking Americans to take a good look at Sen. Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat who could end up chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
This is what conservatives are down to in dealing with their own sex scandal -- talking points, distraction, gay-bashing, partisan sniping and conspiracy-mongering. In other words, exactly what they accused Democrats of doing during the Clinton years. So far, no explanation as to why this behavior, so loathsome back then, is embraced now.
One might even call such silence conspiratorial.