In Bed -- And Out of Bed -- With Sources
WorldNetDaily's Jerome Corsi is too close to the Minutemen to tell the truth about their recent controversies. But that doesn't keep him from violating numerous ethical rules to bash his Minuteman co-author for endorsing Mike Huckabee.
By Terry Krepel
While perhaps every writer at WorldNetDaily is too sympathetic to the Minuteman anti-illegal immigration movement to write objectively and truthfully about them, at the top of that list of sympathizers and sycophants is Jerome Corsi.
After all, he co-wrote a book about the with Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist, serving up "a first-hand account from the frontlines" of patrolling the Mexican border and detailing "the threat posed by out-of-control illegal immigration." The Southern Poverty Law Center described the book as being filled with "sloppy and ideologically driven history" that "lurches between chunks of apparently random interview transcript, schoolgirl odes to Jim Gilchrist, and dime-store economic/cultural analysis so wild as to border on incoherence for most of its 300-plus pages." (Gilchrist, meanwhile, made several appearances on WND editor Joseph Farah's former radio show in 2005.)
Yet more than a year after his book with Gilchrist was published in mid-2006 (by World Ahead Publishing, which a few months later would become the new home of WND's book imprint), he was acting as a WND "reporter" on the immigration beat.
That's a problem because Corsi is clearly so close to the Minutemen that he can't be objective about them -- even when he's turning against his own co-author.
A Dec. 15 WorldNetDaily article by Jerome Corsi featured numerous figures in the Minutemen and other anti-immigration groups attacking Gilchrist's endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Nowhere does Corsi mention that he co-wrote a book with Gilchrist, nor is the book even promoted on the same page as the article, which WND otherwise does on a regular basis. (This comports with WND's longtime problem with failure to disclose conflicts of interest in its news articles.)
Further, while Corsi gave Gilchrist a chance to discuss the reasons behind his endorsement, they constitute only three paragraphs of Corsi's 23-paragraph article; the vast majority of the remainder are attacks on Gilchrist by others in the anti-immigration movement. That would seem to be a betrayal of sorts of Gilchrist by Corsi and a choosing of sides with Gilchrist's former Minuteman partner, Chris Simcox, whom Corsi prominently quotes attacking Gilchrist. (It wasn't until the next day that Corsi gave Gilchrist an extended opportunity to defend himself.)
Corsi only barely acknowledged the fact that there's a split between the Minutemen two factions -- Gilchrist's Minuteman Project and Simcox's Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. Corsi wrote only that the groups "split two years ago over funding" and that they are "completely separate organizations of citizen volunteers seeking to curb illegal immigration."
But there's a lot more to the story that Corsi didn't report, and WND never has -- perhaps because the book itself plays a role. As the Washington Post reported in March 2007:
Former leaders of the Minuteman Project accuse founder Jim Gilchrist, 58, of using $300,000 of the group's money to support his pet causes, including promoting a book he co-wrote and funding an unsuccessful run for Congress in a 2005 special election. Last month, saying they are the group's board of directors, they took over the Minuteman Project Web site and bank accounts, and fired Gilchrist as president.
Meanwhile, Simcox is embroiled in his own funding controversy. As CNN reported in November 2007, Simcox's group has been attempting to build a border fence, promising to its funders that it would be 14 feet high, wired with monitors and sensors, and topped with razor wire. The fence the group has built, however, is a mere five-strand barbed-wire cattle fence. Simcox is now saying that he never promised to build the high-tech security fence and insists the barbed-wire fence really does protect the country. (WND quoted Simcox in touting the fence project in an April 2006 article and has previously promoted his border-patrol efforts.) Simcox later fired Minuteman Civil Defense Corps members who demanded an accounting of the money raised for the fence.
The Corsi-Gilchrist saga doesn't end here. Three days after his original article, a Dec. 18 article by Corsi reported that Gilchrist "says he will have to reconsider his endorsement of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee after learning the Republican presidential candidate favors allowing illegal aliens to wait only days to receive documents allowing re-entry into the U.S." Then, the next day, Corsi reported that "Gilchrist yesterday went on a series of radio interviews, announcing to listeners he had decided to stick with his endorsement, even though Huckabee's immigration plan was less than perfect" -- accompanied by more detailed criticism of Gilchrist's endorsement from his anti-immigration buddies. Gilchrist maintained his endorsement even though, Corsi wrote, "Gilchrist was shown a Dec. 9 interview Huckabee gave to Chris Wallace of Fox News, two days before Gilchrist's endorsement, in which Huckabee admitted repatriated illegal aliens should only have to wait days, not years, under his Secure America Plan, before they received the legal documents that would permit them to re-enter the United States."
Who showed this interview to Gilchrist? Was it Corsi himself? He doesn't say. If so, he would be guilty of staging something for him so he could write about it -- another journalistic violation. And again, Corsi does not disclose in either of these articles disclose that he wrote a book with Gilchrist.
These articles -- in which Corsi appears to praise Gilchrist for reconsidering his endorsement of Huckabee, then attacks him when that doesn't happen -- appear to be an attempt to intimidate Gilchrist into withdrawing his endorsement. On no planet is this responsible journalism.
Gilchrist himself has confirmed Corsi's intimidation tactics. In a Dec. 19 article at the American Family Association-run website OneNewsNow (noted by Right Wing Watch), Gilchrist denied Corsi's account that he was backtracking from his endorsement of Huckabee: "I am holding firm. I am endorsing Governor Mike Huckabee for president. I'm not wavering or waffling." The article added:
And as for the WorldNetDaily report? "I have to say that Mr. Corsi really made me feel like he was interrogating me like a police investigator or a prosecuting attorney, rather than interviewing me," Gilchrist asserts. "He kept insisting that I was waffling -- and I did not say that; he kept saying that. And apparently he had an agenda."
So Corsi has violated yet another journalistic rule -- taking a public stance on an issue he's supposed to be writing about with some measure of fairness and balance, then publicly attacking a colleague for taking a different view.
In other words, it's gotten personal. Corsi is using his WorldNetDaily "reporting" to fight out his differences with Corsi -- all without disclosing his personal and professional ties to Gilchrist. That is unethical journalistic behavior as well.
But Corsi still wasn't done. He kept up the attacks in a Dec. 29 article, making sure to snipe that "Gilchrist was hard pressed to explain to incredulous radio hosts how 100,000 illegal immigrants were going to self-deport themselves per day to achieve the stated goal." Once again, there's no mention of the fact that Corsi and Gilchrist wrote a book together, no mention of the fact that Gilchrist has challenged Corsi's reporting, no mention of the fact that the split between the Simcox and Gilchrist Minuteman factions long predated Gilchrist's endorsement of Huckabee.
WorldNetDaily was purportedly created to "expose corruption, fraud, waste and abuse wherever and whenever it is found." But Corsi and WND have created a loophole. They clearly have no intention of finding any within the Minuteman organization; that way, they don't have to expose it. As ConWebWatch has previously noted, WND turns a blind eye to "corruption, fraud, waste and abuse" when conservatives and right-wingers are involved.
The problem for WND is that others have exposed it -- thus scooping WND on a beat to which it has devoted a significant amount of coverage in the past few years.
While they are protecting their friends, Corsi and WND have no qualms about using the website as a digital cudgel to attack people whose views have strayed even slightly from their orthodoxy, as their treatment of Gilchrist demonstrates. It's an intimidation tactic WND is not shy about using, as ConWebWatch has detailed.
Using a website to carry out personal agendas and obscure unflattering information demonstrates once again why WND cannot be taken seriously as a "news" organization.