Our Newsmax Problem
John L. Perry's column advocating a military coup against President Obama is just the latest and most extreme example of Newsmax's anti-Obama rhetoric and activism.
By Terry Krepel
John L. Perry began his Sept. 29 Newsmax column this way:
There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.
But Perry certainly seemed to be advocating just that farther down in his column:
Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility?
As outrage grew over Perry's column, Newsmax quietly deleted it (though not before ConWebWatch made a copy). You won't find an explanation at Newsmax -- or, for that matter, any reference whatsoever to the controversy; rather, it released a statement to liberal websites that highlighted the column, such as Media Matters and Talking Points Memo:
In a blog posting to Newsmax John Perry wrote about a coup scenario involving the U.S. military. He clearly stated that he was not advocating such a scenario but simply describing one.
Of course, what Perry did 30-plus years ago is irrelevant to the events of today; Newsmax's highlighting seemed to be an attempt to somehow proves that Perry isn't really a right-wing nut. (True to form, longtime NewsBusters misleader Warner Todd Huston seized upon Perry's long-ago Democratic affiliations to insist that "Perry is not a conservative" -- apparently missing that Perry's column is called "Right Angles" and is carried at a right-wing website, where he has repeatedly praised the likes of Sarah Palin.)
Further, Newsmax's dismissal of Perry as nothing more than an "unpaid blogger" is a tad disingenuous since Perry has been writing for Newsmax since 1999 and Perry's Newsmax bio touts how he "contributes a regular column to NewsMax.com."
But Perry's column is only the most extreme example of increasingly strident anti-Obama rhetoric and reporting at Newsmax, which runs in contrast to attempts over the past few years to moderate its conservative agenda and temper the extremism that marked Newsmax's early anti-Clinton years (indeed, Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy is now doing sit-down interviews with Bill Clinton) and competitors such as WorldNetDaily.
Yet it has echoed WND by embracing the birther movement (though not to WND's fanatical extent). While Newsmax had published rants by Barry Farber and Pamela Geller (whose column contained numerous falsehoods and distortions) and repeated birther talking points in a July article, went full birther in early August with an article claiming that "Lou Dobbs is right" on the issue. Ruddy followed -- first in an Aug. 3 appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor" (apparently subbing for WND's Joseph Farah, whose demands O'Reilly decided not to accede to), then in an Aug. 5 column -- by rehashing those talking points.
While Ruddy asserted in his column that "I believe Obama was born somewhere in the state of Hawaii," he adds that "we have no idea of his birthplace," and concludes with a list of presidential birthplaces, with Obama's listed as "unknown." Ruddy then tried to reframe the issue: "The issue over Obama’s birth certificate is not about President Obama’s citizenship. It is about his honesty and his promise to be the most transparent president ever." Or it could be that the issue is Obama's critics refusing to accept the validity of official state documents in order to de-legitimize him. Ruddy didn't address that possibility.
Newsmax followed that up in September by touting how "conservative thinker and best-selling author David Horowitz likens President Barack Obama to the 'Manchurian Candidate' a tool of the far left fostering the implementation of its radical agenda." Newsmax didn't note that Horowitz was flip-flopping from his earlier criticism from just three months before of those making inflammatory claims about Obama, insisting that attacks on Obama be based on his policies, "not because he is a Manchurian candidate or a closet Islamist, as more than a few conservatives seem to think."
Newsmax writers have also invented quotes to put in the mouths of Obama and his aides. As ConWebWatch has detailed, James Humes wrote in a March column that "when President Obama walked into the Oval Office for the first time and saw" a bust of Winston Churchill, "he said, 'Get that goddam thing out of here.'" In fact, there's no record of Obama saying such a thing, directly or paraphrased. Humes' column was later amended -- again, without any notice to readers that a change was made -- to claim that "the story was never fully substantiated, despite frequent repetition on radio talk shows." Humes named no "radio talk shows" upon which Obama's "quote" was repeated.
Newsmax is also engaging in direct anti-Obama activism by hosting a donation page for the League of American Voters, a right-wing group tied to Newsmax columnist Dick Morris that's currently fighting against Obama's health care reform plan. Newsmax has not disclosed the details of this financial arrangement to its readers, which raises ethical questions about its reporting on the issue.
Newsmax's reporters and columnists have participated in various right-wing freakouts over the past several months, from hyping Obama's speech to students as indoctrination to suggesting that Chrysler dealers who didn't support Democrats were targeted for closure. Newsmax has pushed misleading reporting about Obama's policies, and its chief Washington reporter, Ronald Kessler, has tried to fabricate a schism between Obama and his Jewish supporters.
Newsmax has also published numerous Obama-bashing columns. Prior to Perry's coup endorsement, the most egregious of these was Rabbi Morton Pomerantz's attempt in June to link Obama to the killing of a guard at Washington's Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist, claiming that Obama is "creating a climate of hate" against Jews and that the Holocaust Museum shooter "felt that he could easily take retribution against the Jews for the atrocities Obama implies they are guilty of." Newsmax proudly promoted Pomerantz's column at the top of the front page.
Newsmax has published other hateful columns as well, only some of them by Perry:
If I had to sum up the current situation of the United States, I would not hesitate to call it horrendous for only one reason: the presidency and the arrogant fool now occupying that office.
-- Phil Brennan, Oct. 6
This is another vile chapter in the still-young Obama presidency. Obama said he would not prosecute the great Americans who kept the country safe during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Those heroic Americans kept this country so safe, in fact, that we felt free to elect a post-American, pro-jihad president.
-- Pamela Geller, Aug. 26
Even to allow Obama’s socialist programs a mere toe in the water could prove to be too late. These programs are like flypaper or unspeakable social disease. The elevator to the hell of a Marxist society goes in only one direction ever higher into costs taken from appropriations of individuals’ earned incomes.
-- John L. Perry, July 27
Obama will suck away medical resources in Medicare that now go mostly to Caucasian senior citizens and reallocate healthcare to younger, largely minority people including more than 10 million illegal aliens expected to pay taxes (and disproportionately vote Democratic) for decades to come.
-- Lowell Ponte, July 17
ObamaCare legislation would finance universal health care by eliminating the most fragile among us. Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union had elaborate plans for the disposal of unwanted fetuses, the handicapped, and the elderly.
-- James Walsh, July 2
Now that he’s president, Barack Obama has new clothes, even if they don’t always fit. What he still lacks is class. Tailors can’t fix that.
-- John L. Perry, June 29
Lord of the Flies became the title of a famous novel by Nobel laureate William Golding, the story of British schoolboys stranded on a desert island. The boys separate into tribal identities and, thus balkanized, wreak havoc on one another as civilized boys lose their morality and revert to savagery.
-- Lowell Ponte, June 19
Obama deliberately arranged to meet his wife, Michelle, in Paris later in his trip. The apparent reason: Muslim fundamentalists would expect a woman in the presence of the Saudi ruler to wear a veil.
-- Lowell Ponte, June 5
Thurber’s humor was delicious, none of it built around narcissistic self-aggrandizement. What he had to say, what he wrote, what he drew in his near-blindness with a lump of charcoal was of lasting enrichment and enchantment.
-- John L. Perry, May 18
Whose interest was President Obama serving when on March 30 he ordered Chrysler to either conclude a merger with Italian automaker Fiat within 30 days or lose federal bailout funds which would lead to its immediate demise?
-- Scott Wheeler, May 13
Like the Yorkshireman, Barack Obama burst upon the scene from obscure lineage his emanating in disparate continents, Africa and North America.
-- John L. Perry, April 13
In a few days President Barack Obama, a professed Christian, will officiate at a pagan ceremony outside the White House and initiate young children into its un-Christian symbols.
-- Lowell Ponte, April 9
Salon's Joe Conason points out how Newsmax -- controlled by right-wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife and Ruddy -- are repeating their experiences anti-Clinton activism with Obama. Indeed, as ConWebWatch has noted regarding WorldNetDaily, Ruddy's embrace of the birther conspiracy echoes his and Scaife's attempts to prove, despite all official evidence, that Clinton staff Vince Foster did not commit suicide. Conason goes on to claim that "the once-laughable Ruddy could become a formidable player in the 2010 midterm elections - and the fate of the Obama administration."
In order to do so, Ruddy has abandoned Newsmax's previous moderation and reverted to its rabidly anti-Clinton ways. In that context, it's clear Newsmax doesn't actually oppose an overthrow of Obama -- Ruddy and Co. simply know it's bad form to openly advocate one the way Perry did.