Evasive Answers to Simple Questions
Why is WorldNetDaily trying to pretend it never reported that Obama's birth certificate is authentic? Is WND bankrolling Orly Taitz's stunts and lawsuits? Are all the signatures on WND's anti-Obama petition real? Answers, when given at all, are false or misleading.
By Terry Krepel
Before WorldNetDaily decided its mission was to stake what little journalistic reputation it has left on a desperate campaign to bring down Barack Obama by becoming an echo chamber for fringe claims that he may not have been born in the United States, it debunked the idea, claiming not only that Philip Berg's lawsuit making that claim, in part, "relies on discredited claims" but that "[a] separate WND investigation into Obama's birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic."
WND -- and especially editor Joseph Farah -- has been pretending ever since that it never did this story, unable to admit the simple truth of its existence and grotesquely contorting itself into writing around it.
In his Dec. 20, 2008, column, Farah began truthfully by noting: "From Media Matters to Keith Olbermann to Democratic members of Congress, they are all eagerly attributing to WND a definitive finding that Barack Hussein Obama's website displays an actual copy of his birth certificate." But then the lies begin when he states: "There's just one problem. Nothing could be further from the truth."
Here's an example. It's a constituent letter from Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. He writes: "As you know, President-Elect Obama has indeed provided his actual paper Certification of Live Birth to several media organizations, as well as the Annenberg Foundation's non-partisan 'Factcheck.org' website and the conservative news website WorldNetDaily, which reported that a WND investigation into Obama's birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic.' In fact, all of these groups have recognized that the president elect's actual birth certificate document is real and genuine."
Farah is lying. Here's what WND reported on August 23, 2008 (emphasis added):
A separate WND investigation into Obama's birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic. The investigation also revealed methods used by some of the bloggers to determine the document was fake involved forgeries, in that a few bloggers added text and images to the certificate scan that weren't originally there.
At no point does the August article express any doubt about whether its "forgery experts" could "report conclusively that the electronic image was authentic or that it was a forgery" as Farah claims; it unambiguously and definitively states that "forgery experts found the document to be authentic."
As for the claim that "At no time did Obama ever make his actual birth certificate available to WND - or any other news organization," here's what the August article also stated (emphasis added):
However, FactChecker.org [sic] says it obtained Obama's actual birth certificate and that the document was indeed real. The site discredited some of the claims of Internet bloggers, such as that the certificate as viewed in a scanned copy released by Obama's campaign lacked a raised seal. FactChecker.org [sic] also established that many of the alleged flaws in the document noted by bloggers were caused by the scanning of the document.
Indeed, FactCheck.org stated that it has "seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate," adding, "We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship."
Tellingly, Farah did not supply a link to that August article in his column so his readers could judge for themselves.
Having lied about his website's own reporting, Farah then tries to spin it away:
But, here's the rub. Even if the image is authentic, which remains under serious question, it proves nothing. It is not a complete birth certificate. It doesn't answer the key questions as to whether Obama was indeed born in Hawaii, as he claims.
Farah overlooked the fact that the reason that report is being cited is because it contradicts WND's subsequent reporting on the birth certificate, and neither Farah nor WND has offered an honest explanation of the chasm between the two -- or why it has refused to acknowledge the existence of that August report in its subsequent reporting. The fact that "The overwhelming preponderance of reports by WND on this matter raise serious questions about the eligibility of Obama to serve as president" doesn't mean those reports are in any way true or credible.
A few weeks later -- after our critique of Farah's column appeared at ConWebBlog and Huffington Post -- MSNBC's Keith Olbermann picked up the story of Farah's evasiveness and used it to name Farah his "Worst Person in the World" on Jan. 5. Farah responded in a Jan. 13 column that still evaded a straight answer.
After an attempted smear of Olbermann ("I don't want to say Keith Olbermann doesn't have an audience, but last Tuesday he named me 'The Worst Person in the World,' and I just found out yesterday"), Farah asserted that "At that time of that report, the best information WND had suggested the image of Obama's birth certificate was genuine." Again, that article -- to which Farah again refused to link -- did not merely "suggest" that the birth certificate was genuine; it unambiguously stated that it was.
Farah then tried to change the subject: "However, the veracity of that image was never the major issue of contention. Rather, the major issue is where is the rest of the birth certificate - the part that explains where the baby was born, who the delivery doctor was, etc."
For being "never the major issue," WND has spent a notable amount of time trying to knock down "the veracity of that image." For instance, a Dec. 1 WND article by Bob Unruh was devoted to so-called "imaging guru" Ron Polarik's claims that the certificate is "criminally fraudulent." At no point did Unruh mention WND's own reporting that the certificate is authentic. And as recently as Jan. 8, WND promoted an "Obama commercial they don't want you to see," which asserts that the certificate is "an obvious forgery."
Further, Farah suddenly pretending that the birth certificate on Obama's website is not a "major issue" because he got caught in a lie about it ignores the crux of the issue.
If that certificate is indeed "authentic" -- that is, found to have been issued by the state of Hawaii, derived from the "full" certificate Farah is panting over, with all of the information needed to meet requirements of residency for purposes such as obtaining a passport, which presumably also meets the requirements for establishing that Obama is a "natural born citizen" -- then demanding release of the "full" birth certificate is moot. (Indeed, FactCheck.org points out that the certificate "has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport," and WND has never offered a direct rebuttal of FactCheck's claims.)
Further, if this is true, then all of Farah's blather about how "WND has done its part to find out the truth" and how "so many Americans are losing confidence in their government to conduct free and fair elections according to the simple rules laid out in the Constitution" is just that.
After all, Farah has attacked Obama as "evil" and "an enemy of the Constitution," who has repeatedly lied about Obama, and whose website is a fetid cesspool of Obama hatred. Does anyone think he's actually concerned about constitutional niceties and "the truth"?
Farah has an obvious agenda, and he's all in on it -- he wants to destroy Obama, and he doesn't care if he destroys his own website in the process.
Farah demonstrated this in a March 3 column, written after Olbermann again referenced WND's original debunking, thus guaranteeing that Farah would respond -- and obfuscate again. Farah wrote:
It is simply untrue that WND ever "authenticated" the document on Obama's campaign site. First of all, we would have to examine the original document, not a web posting, to do that. Second of all, assuming it is not a fraud, which is more than I would assume, it proves nothing about Obama's actual place of birth, for the reason stated above.
Farah doesn't explain why it is unreasonable -- let alone "untrue" -- to conclude that if a "WND investigation ... found the document to be authentic," then WND has "authenticated" the document.
The simple solution to this crisis -- and to avoid further ridicule from Olbermann -- is for Farah to do what real news organizations would do: acknowledge what WND wrote last August, formally retract the story, then explain to readers why he and his website no longer stand by that conclusion.
But for some reason, he won't do that. Why? Perhaps because he knows that the original report is true and that he's now playing a partisan game to undermine Obama's authority by peddling a lie.
Farah ironically concludes: "If you're sick of being lied to, I urge you to show the Keith Olbermanns and Jonathan Alters of the world what you think of them." But what good does it do to go after Olbermann and Alter if the person you're sick of getting lies from is Joseph Farah?
Farah is not the only WND employee who is unable to admit the truth about this. A March 10 article by Bob Unruh purporting to explain why there are "still questions about qualifications" claims that "bloggers who analyzed the image said it appeared to have been modified from the official state version, raising questions at to its authenticity" -- but doesn't tell readers that WND "found the document to be authentic."
Its own reporting is not the only birth certificate-related issue that WND has not been forthcoming about.
A March 14 WorldNetDaily article by Drew Zahn touted how attorney and birth certificate obsessive Orly Taitz, filer of several lawsuits on the issue, "confronted" Chief Justice John Roberts "with legal briefs and a WND petition bearing names of over 325,000 people asking the court to rule on whether or not the sitting president fulfills the Constitution's 'natural-born citizen' clause." Zahn added that a Secret Service agent accompanying Roberts "accepted two suitcases of documents and pledged to deliver them to Roberts," among them "[t]he WND petition, consisting of 3,300 pages of names over 325,000 in all of people demanding the Supreme Court hear the Obama eligibility case."
But the WND petition is highly secretive and apparently problematic. The signees are not publicly posted at WND or anywhere else, and there's no apparent verification mechanism to prevent people from signing it more than once or the use of fictitious names. Nor are signers apparently screened for being of legal voting age or proof of voter registration. It appears to be more of a marketing gimmick -- signees are required to provide their email address, which presumably gets them on WND's mailing list, and after signing are then directed to a page selling anti-Obama books.
Perhaps most importantly, there is no evidence provided to back up the number of signatures on the petition that WND claims -- we are expected to take WND's word for it.
Given that you and I cannot obtain such basic information about this petition, and WND has refused to make it accessible and verifiable to its readers, how did Orly Tatiz get a hold of it?
This smells of a WND-orchestrated stunt. Zahn didn't disclose how Taitz obtained the signatures on WND's petition, but given the logistics of printing out "3,300 pages of names," the only possible conclusion is that WND teamed up with Taitz -- and perhaps paid some expenses to cover Taitz's trip from California to Idaho, where Roberts spoke -- to create this story.
WND has yet to publicly address the issue.
(Update 4/1/2009: More evidence of the WND-Taitz relationship showed up in a March 23 post on Taitz's Defend Our Freedoms website:
Today, Dr. Orly Taitz, Esq; or as nicknamed by our volunteer Judith, our Lady Liberty!, was in Washington DC with WorldNetDaily’s Joseph Farah. Among their tasks in DC was visits to the Department of Justice and to the Supreme Court. It has been learned, proven, and now documented that many of the signed receipt documents send in since December have not been received. Dr. Taitz, or our Lady Liberty, will have a full detailed account for everyone soon.
The claim that Taitz was "with WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah" indicates that Farah had a hand in planning Taitz's trip and the meetings she attended, Farah has not discussed this visit with Taitz, or his apparent squiring of her around Washington.
A week before, Farah wrote a column effusively praising Taitz:
I have to tell you, this lady is rapidly becoming one of my heroes.
Apparently, such support includes violating journalistic ethics by maintaining a close relationship with a person they're supposed to be reporting about without disclosing that relationship to his readers.)
As with WND reporter Aaron Klein's Wikipedia-bashing stunt -- in which he has now admitted that he set in motion the events he wrote about -- the issue is one of disclosure. WND still hasn't told its readers that Klein's articles were altered after publication to remove references tracing Klein to his manipulation; WND hasn't disclosed its relationship with Taitz or its role in supplying Taitz with a copy of its petition.
For all we know -- given WND's eagerness to promote Taitz and her claims -- WND and Farah may even be funding the legal filings of Taitz or others in order to keep the story alive.
WND does have ties to at least one involved attorney besides Taitz. Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation has filed a birth certificate-related lawsuit on behalf of Alan Keyes. As ConWebWatch has detailed, the USJF represented WND for at least three years regarding the libel lawsuit filed against it by Tennessee businessman Clark Jones (and which WND settled out of court in February 2008, just a few weeks before the lawsuit was to go to trial, by admitting it published false information about Jones), as well as in WND's 2002 efforts to obtain a permanent Senate press pass. To our knowledge, WND has never disclosed its past relationship withUSJF in its articles on USJF's anti-Obama filings.
News organizations are supposed to report the news, not create it. And if they do, they're supposed to fully disclose their role in doing so. WND has done neither.
Farah and WorldNetDaily have already demonstrated that they care more about attacking Obama than telling the truth. Until they can tell the full and forthright truth about basic issues regarding their coverage of Obama's birth certificate and admit their motivations, they should be treated as the liars and deceivers they are.