Experts Agree: WorldNetDaily Sucks
Don't just take ConWebWatch's word for it -- read what WND's targets and even their fellow conservatives have to say about its brand of journalism.
By Terry Krepel
For the past eight years, ConWebWatch has been monitoring WorldNetDaily, documenting its numerous assaults on accuracy and journalistic ethics and exposing it for the shoddy news operation that it is.
But we're not the only ones.
Others have been observing WND as well -- among them people WND reporters have interviewed and even their fellow conservatives -- and they have similarly found WND's brand of journalism wanting.
Colorado SWAT team
Around the beginning of the year, for example, WND had a minor obsession with a Colorado incident in which, according to a Jan. 8 article by Bob Unruh, a 11-year-old boy "was taken by police against his parents wishes to a hospital after he was horsing around and bumped his head." Unruh quoted Garfield County, Colo., Sheriff Lou Vallario as saying that the decision to use SWAT team force to take the child -- after the father repeatedly refused to allow paramedics to examine the child and, as a result, a magistrate's order was issued for the boy to be seized -- was justified because the father was a "self-proclaimed constitutionalist" and had made threats and "comments" over the years.
Apparently, that's not quite what Vallario said. From a Jan. 12 article in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:
Authorities said they have received hundreds of phone calls and e-mails this week from people around the country who think Garfield County uses SWAT teams on people just because they are constitutionalists.
That description certainly seems to fit with what we know about Unruh's history of biased reporting for WND. Unruh responded to the paper:
WND reporter Bob Unruh responded in an e-mail: "When I interviewed the sheriff, I tried diligently to allow him to wander where he chose with his answers. I specifically was trying to find out the reasoning for dispatching a SWAT team under the circumstances the family already had described to me, or whether this family's version was incorrect. I understand the sheriff has been telling people my reporting is incorrect. However, he's declined to contact me about any concerns he has.
The only allusion WND has made to the fact that there's a controversy over what exactly Vallario said on WND is a Jan. 12 article by Unruh in which he noted that "Vallario also criticized WND reporting on the events to a local newspaper, without contacting WND with any concerns." But Unruh didn't mention Vallario's complaint about the "constitutionalist" remark being taken out of context or the threats and vulgar comments made to the sheriff's office as a result of Unruh's reporting. He also didn't note what the Post Independent quoted Vallario as saying in response to Unruh's defense: "But Vallario said it's not his job to make sure a reporter reports the news accurately." The article does not indicate that Unruh has since tried to contact Vallario.
Rather than try to address the issue with any sort of honesty and transparency (neither of which are notable WND virtues), Unruh decided to attack Vallario, apparently blaming Vallario for not telling him about Tom Shiflett's history of questionable behavior, which Vallerio cited as the rationale for using a SWAT team to seize the boy, as his comment to the Glenwood Springs paper indicates. Unruh notes in the Jan. 12 article that "in an e-mail response to a WND reader who questioned his actions," Vallario stated that "when we requested his cooperation [Shiflett] said, 'if you want my son, bring an army.'" Unruh then bashed the sheriff again:
However, what the sheriff left out of his response was what [caseworker Matthew] McGaugh reported happened just before the alleged threat. McGaugh confirmed he had delivered a not-so-veiled threat to Shiflett.
So stating what is presumably standard procedure in such a case is a "threat"? Unruh then allows Shiflett to explain away his own threat -- claiming it was because "social workers had upset him by threatening a court order" -- as well as a previous arrest of Shiflett for "chasing a man down the street with an ax." Yet Unruh failed to give Vallario a fair opportunity to tell his story or air his complaints about WND's coverage.
Street preacher's arrest
A March 1 article largely cribbed an Elmira, N.Y., Star-Gazette article on the convictions of Julian Raven, a street preacher in Elmira, and three other activists for disorderly conduct for disrupting a gay festival -- or, in WND's words, an "event celebrating homosexual behavior." The misleading starts with the headline: "Christians ordered to pay big bucks for praying!" The actual "big bucks" in question, in fact, are a $100 fine plus $95 in court costs for each offender. Raven's lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund probably have that in their petty cash drawer.
And, of course, merely "praying" was not the issue here. While WND repeatedly depicts the offense Raven's group committed as only "praying," nowhere does it describe the specific circumstances in which the group did so, even the newspaper article from which it cribbed -- did. The Star-Gazette reported: "The four protesters claimed their right to free speech was violated when they were arrested June 23 after laying prostrate on the lawn in front of a temporary stage in the park."
WND also claimed that "The newspaper reported [Elmira City Judge Thomas Ramich] called Raven reckless for even going to the park." That's false. The Star-Gazette reported: "Ramich said in his decision that Julian M. Raven, the leader of the protest group, was being reckless when he inserted the four into the midst of the event participants" (emphasis added). "The midst" being, of course, in front of the stage, which WND never mentions.
WND's misleading article drew the ire of a prosecutor in the case, who wrote a letter to WND (which cycle out and disappear after a week):
Re:"Christians organized to pay big bucks for praying!"
There's no evidence that WND made any effort to correct the record.
An April 10 article by Unruh attacked a Bible curriculum for public schools called the Bible Literacy Project, based largely on another attack on it by Scott Beason, an Alabama state senator (whose commentary attacking it was published by WND the same day). Unruh quoted Beason saying that one contributor to the curriculum, Charles Haynes, authored a "Communitarian manifesto on religious education" that "follows the teachings of occultist Georg Hegel." Unruh quoted another critic cited Haynes' "close association with the American Civil Liberties Union."
Unruh did quote Haynes noting that conservative activist Chuck Colson was an endorser of the book, the added: "then so was Ted Haggard, former chief of National Association of Evangelicals, who resigned in disgrace from his Colorado megachurch after being accused of homosexual activity." Unruh also noted Haynes' statement that "It's very important to try to come together," then added, "Critics of the book, however, believe such "coming together" actually may be surrender to the enemy in a number of culture battle fronts, pointing out Haynes previously worked with organizations such as the aggressively pro-homosexual organization Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and has pooh-poohed the idea that a national "hate crimes" plan in the United States in any way threatens Christians."
Buried deep in Unruh's article is an important little fact that explains the hullabaloo over this: Beason is on the advisory board for a competing Bible study program, the National Council on Bible Curriculum, which "simply uses the Bible as a text." (Beason's op-ed did not disclose this.) In other words, Unruh's entire article was little more than an attack ad; he helpfully notes that "Actor and WND columnist Chuck Norris has endorsed the National Council on Bible Curriculum."
The bias of Unruh's article and Beason's op-ed was so egregious that WND did what it typically does not: give space to the target -- Bible Literacy Project general editor Cullen Schippe -- to respond. Schippe pointed out that the article and op-ed were "deeply misinformed and contain falsehoods and misleading, out-of-context statements":
Several passages Beason criticizes were removed from the textbook over a year ago. He has obsessively combed our textbook for any turn of phrase that can be distorted to confuse people about our intentions and our work.
Neither Unruh's article nor Beason's op-ed offer a link to Schippe's response so that readers than judge the issue for themselves, however. Nor do those articles appear to have been corrected.
Day of Silence
A May 19 WND article by Chelsea Schilling unquestioningly repeated anti-gay group Mission America's claims about its attempts to, as the headline asserts, "squash" the annual Day of Silence event designed to show support for gay students victimized by violence and bullying at school. Schilling went on to detail "some incidents that took place during the silent protests and were reported by Mission America," making no apparent attempt to fact-check Mission America's claims.
Well, somebody did fact-check those a couple of those claims -- Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor popular in conservative circles whom WND approvingly quoted earlier that month in the midst of attacking gay activist Wayne Besen. Throckmorton didn't like what he found.
Schilling wrote, apparently cribbing straight from Mission America:
Kirksville, Mo.: A parent told Mission America that the Kirksville High School principal and superintendent laughed when she asked if her child could be excused from participating in the school's Day of Silence. According to the organization, she said, "They called me a narrow-minded bigot and refused to give excused absences."
Curious, I called the Kirksville High School Superintendent of schools, Pat Williams about the allegation of name-calling. When I read the account to him, he said, “That’s absolutely false. I did not use that language with any parent or in response to any inquiry.”
Schilling also wrote:
Also in Phoenix, at Desert Ridge High School, Arizona Republic reported that between 200 and 250 students stayed home. A parent who objected to the observance hosted a pool party for students who refused to participate. The father, Randy Bellino, told a Phoenix television station that someone sent a text message threatening to shoot his son, and police questioned a group of homosexual students who silently sat across the street from his home.
I talked to Detective Steve Berry at the Mesa Police Department who said the Mesa Police received a call from a student who heard a rumor that someone was planning a shooting on the Day of Silence. No targets were identified. The text message was not a threat but rather a report of the rumored planned shooting. Essentially, Det. Berry said the threat was a rumor that was passed through the grapevine, but there was no text threat directly made toward anyone. Thus, the KPHO.com report is misleading in that no student group was ever identified as responsible. The WND report is misleading in that the boy in question did not actually receive a text message with a threat, according to Det. Berry, who read the police report to me.
Throckmorton concludes: "And those were just the first two bulletpoints. I guess you can’t believe everything you read." Schilling has made no apparent attempt to correct the record.
Top 10 list on Obama
Sometimes the falsehood is so egregious that a fellow ConWeb outlet steps in for a rebuke. An Aug. 5 article by Schilling asserted:
Is CBS showing bias toward Barack Obama?
Schilling's conspiratorial musings were shot down in surprisingly direct fashion by the Media Research Center's Brent Baker in an Aug. 6 NewsBusters post:
Despite repeated e-mails NewsBusters received late last week apparently spurred by mis-informed postings elsewhere, I've hesitated, since I considered it so ridiculous, to address the allegation that CBS or David Letterman staffers caved to pressure and removed from the Late Show with David Letterman Web site a “Top Ten” list critical of Barack Obama, the “Top Ten Signs Barack Obama is Overconfident.” But then today World Net Daily put the issue back in play ...
Unsurprisingly, as with the Day of Silence article, Schilling never corrected this article or wrote an update with the correct information.