The Masters of WorldNetDaily
What are the links between WND and an evangelist and radio mogul who has been accused of being a cult leader?
By Terry Krepel
WorldNetDaily has been notoriously close-mouthed about its behind-the-scenes operations. Editor and CEO Joseph Farah clammed up when ConWebWatch asked him questions about where WND's start-up money came from.
But there's one connection WND has never spoken of: its links with an evangelist, meditation advocate and talk-radio mogul named Roy Masters.
Masters leads an organization called the Foundation of Human Understanding. FHU was officially recognized as a church by the Internal Revenue Service after a long fight in the 1980s; the IRS originally recognized the group as a religious organization (which must file annual IRS reports) but not a church (which doesn't), but the Tax Court overruled that decision after the FHU appealed it.
Masters and his FHU has been accused of cult-like tendencies over the years; his followers have been called "Roybots." Masters moved his operations to Grants Pass, Oregon, in 1982 -- followed by 2,000 of his supporters, who proceeded to attempt to take over the town; that prompted a boycott of Masters-related businesses by some local residents. A July 1992 episode of Geraldo Rivera's TV show featured a former FHU member who said of the group: "The role of women is to be very submissive, quiet, never questioning, not thinking, no decisions." The ex-wife of one of Roy Masters' sons denounced Masters on a 1999 TV show, citing a "long history of Masters' denigration of women."
A Nov. 29, 1990, Washington Post article quoted Steve Hassan, a Boston-based counselor and author of a book on cults, as calling Masters "a cult leader" who sways disciples through hypnosis and meditation. He says Masters has staged "phony exorcisms" in which "he would hypnotize people into believing there were demons inside of them, and they would drool and grumble and he would force the demons out."
Masters has vehemently denied the cult accusation, blaming the reputation in part on the local newspaper, which he claimed "was extremely liberal, having, for instance, extreme editorial contempt for pro-lifers." Masters blamed the FHU's "anti-woman reputation" on "feminists" who oppose the fact that he "teaches the story of Adam and Eve as true."
The Washington Post article also reported that in 1988, Masters and his sons filed a $2 billion lawsuit against Oregon's governor and attorney general, several other officials and the local paper, the Grants Pass Courier. The suit charged an unlawful conspiracy to deprive the plaintiffs of their rights. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called the suit a "rambling, unintelligible harangue," and Masters dropped it. Masters' TRN also sued to shut down three web sites critical of Savage, suits it later dropped.
In 1984, according to a Nexis search, Masters issued a press release declaring that there is no such thing as mental illness; rather, "[i]t's all a matter of demon possession." The release added: "He proved his point, he says, in front of television cameras for a Cable News Network (CNN) documentary. He passed a wooden cross over the audience, and, he says, all the fiends came popping out, screaming and growling like animals. Masters adds that the CNN reporter almost went into shock."
Masters founded (and until 2003, was president of) talk-show syndicator Talk Radio Network -- responsible for conservative radio hosts such as Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham and Tammy Bruce, as well as new acquisition Mancow; Masters has his own TRN-syndicated show as well. The FHU is officially TRN's owner, Masters' son, Mark, is now president.
The most direct connection between WorldNetDaily and Masters is David Kupelian, WND's vice president and managing editor. In the early 1990s, Kupelian was managing editor of a Masters-published magazine called New Dimensions. The magazine's tagline was "The Psychology Behind the News," but it appears to have been merely a conservative-oriented magazine taking on such issues as opposing abortion and gun control and supporting convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. (The fixation on Pollard in particular has been a crusade picked up by WND, with Jerusalem reporter Aaron Klein regularly agitating for his release.) From the 1990 Washington Post article:
The magazine frequently attacks what it calls the "pro-abortion media," including The Washington Post, for liberal bias. One story criticized The Post for failing to give front-page coverage to a rally here by 200,000 abortion opponents last spring.
A June 1990 Seattle Times article reported that a local deputy fire chief passed around New Dimensions articles on the subject of AIDS to his co-workers -- articles that mad the alarming (not to mention false) claims that AIDS can be caught by kissing someone infected with the disease, and that the virus can also be spread by a sneeze.
New Dimensions sounds a lot like WND's Whistleblower magazine; indeed, WND has described Kupelian as "the driving force behind" Whistleblower. With the Kupelian connection, it would not be inaccurate to say that WND's Whistleblower is, for all practical purposes, a continuation of New Dimensions. (By the way, Kupelian also joined Masters and his sons in that failed lawsuit against the Oregon officials.)
Masters sold New Dimensions in April 1992 to a group headed by Lee Bellinger, longtime publisher of the right-wing, national security-oriented newsletter American Sentinel. Joseph Farah served for a time as its editor-in-chief, a tenure that apparently started after the sale.
WND has had a symbiotic relationship with TRN's hosts over the years. WND published Savage's first two books. WND's Aaron Klein makes regular appearances on Rusty Humphries' TRN show. Former TRN executive vice president Bob Just is a WND columnist and editor-at-large for Whistleblower. Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson -- whose claims WND has unquestioningly publicized and whose book WND published (he's also a member of WND's speakers bureau) -- has credited Masters for setting him on his current path of conservative activism and at one point co-hosted a radio show with Masters. A January 2000 WND article notes that TRN "can also be accessed directly from WorldNetDaily" by way of a "'Talk Radio Network' banner on left side of page one."
Masters also was a part owner of the company that syndicated graveyard-shift radio conspiracy promoter Art Bell; Kupelian served as editor of Bell's newsletter for two years.
Additionally, WND's editorial operations are based in Selma, Oregon, about 20 miles down the road from Grants Pass, the headquarters of Masters' empire, and the e-mails it sends out list a Grants Pass post office box for WND (though its website currently claims a P.O. box in Medford, Oregon, about 30 miles on the other side of Grants Pass, as its mailing address).
Yet despite this intertwining of Masters' and WND's interests, Masters himself is mentioned only three times in WorldNetDaily articles: twice in lists of TRN hosts and once in a September 1998 column by S.L. Goldman, who considered Masters among "potential candidates for a Goldman hatchet job," then adding in parentheses, "sorry, I happen to be a fan of Mr. Masters."
So, what does all of this mean? Since WND has yet to publicly admit these ties, it's unclear, but the links between WND and Masters seem a little too numerous to be coincidental. Is it a business relationship? Are WND bigwigs Masters' followers? Perhaps it's time for WND to start talking about it.