WorldNetDaily's Totally Positive Tea Party
Despite numerous controversies regarding it, WND is not going to report anything negative about the tea party convention at which editor Joseph Farah just happens to be speaking.
By Terry Krepel
WorldNetDaily has long peddled the fiction that it cares only about "seeking the truth without fear or favor" and it has no "sacred cows." As any casual observer is all too aware, WND is laden with bias and has plenty of sacred cows -- Orly Taitz chief among them.
WND has been providing sacred-cow treatment to another sainted right-wing cause -- the upcoming National Tea Party Convention. That's in no small part because WND editor Joseph Farah is speaking at it, along with conservative darling Sarah Palin. In an apparent grasp for credibility among right-wingers, Farah is now promoting himself as an ideological kin to Palin -- a Jan. 5 WND article by Chelsea Schilling touted it as the "Palin-Farah ticket" even though they in all likelihood will not share a stage (their speaking appearances are on separate nights). It is doubtful, however, that even the staunchly conservative Palin would endorse Farah's advocacy for killing adulterers and creating ideological blacklists.
The rank boosterism of Schilling's article set the tone for WND's coverage of the convention; for instance, she noted that Judson Phillips, head of the Tea Party Nation group that is putting on the convention, was "named one of Tennessee's top 25 political players in 2009." No unpleasant or negative topics will be broached unless they can be spun away.
Below are some notable controversies regarding the Tea Party Convention and the tea party movement in general and how WND has covered them (or not).
Cost of convention, Palin's speaking fee
The cost of the convention is $549 all-inclusive or $349 for either Palin's speech alone or the entirety of the convention minus Palin's speech -- a steep price that prompted complaints about profiteering on Phillips' part. Further, according to MSNBC, Phillips filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and has had federal tax liens filed against him.
Also sparking controversy is what Palin is getting paid to speak -- reports say it could be as much as $100,000.
WND's treatment: Largely ignored. It's not until a Jan. 29 article by Schilling that it's mentioned, and then it's spun as a claim by unnamed "critics" that the Tea Party Nation "should have filed for nonprofit status." Schilling then gave Phillips all the room he needed to frame the convention's structure as reflecting a desire to "use the capitalist system to support our activities" and to avoid "begging for bucks."
Erickson: Convention "smells scammy"
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson wrote in a Jan. 11 post at his RedState blog:
I have much good to say about groups like Tea Party Patriots, but I think this national tea party convention smells scammy.
WND's treatment: None. WND has ignored this post, though it has previously repeated other claims by Erickson. For instance, an April 2008 WND article touted a video promoted by Erickson in which Lawrence Lessig, an adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, "show[ed] disdain for America's mainstream" by "gleefully introduc[ing] a YouTube piece that mocks Jesus Christ" by showing "an effeminate Jesus singing Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive.'" And an August 2008 WND article repeated Erickson's claim that as a state senator, Obama "backed infanticide" by opposing a "born alive" bill in Illinois.
Ban of most media
Convention officials announced that media would be barred from covering the convention except for a few "selected" members of the press who were obviously "selected" for their right-wing leanings -- among them WorldNetDaily.
WND's treatment: Whitewashing the ban. A Jan. 15 article by Schilling -- in between gushing that "The upcoming National Tea Party Convention is already a resounding success with tickets to the convention sold out and only a few tables remaining at the final banquet" and baselessly asserting that "There has been a frenzy to purchase tickets since it was first announced WND founder Joseph Farah will join former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as speaker at the first national tea-party convention" -- portrayed it this way:
Phillips told WND Tea Party Nation has received hundreds of requests from media outlets from all over the world that are seeking to cover the event.
According to Schilling and WND, they're not biased; they're "prominent."
WND's acquiescence to the convention's ban on non-sycophantic media runs counter to its activism when WND is blocked from covering events. In November, WND threw a fit when the United Nations refused to grant it credentials to cover the global climate-change convention in Copenhagen declaring its plan to sue the U.N. over the denial. WND doesn't mention that Farah's declaring "Death to the U.N.!" and calling it "a global criminal enterprise determined to shift power away from individuals and sovereign nation-states to a small band of unaccountable international elites" might have had something to do with that denial.
But right-wingers banning media coverage that might deviate from the relentlessly positive coverage they want? That's perfectly fine with WND -- after all, Farah is among those who will benefit from the sycophancy.
Withdrawal of sponsors
Two announced sponsors -- the American Liberty Alliance and the National Precinct Alliance -- withdrew their support for the convention in late January. The New York Times reported that the American Liberty Alliance executive director stated on the group's website, "When we look at the $500 price tag for the event and the fact that many of the original leaders in the group left over similar issues, it’s hard for us not to assume the worst.” The National Precinct Alliance announced that “amid growing controversy” around the convention, it would no longer participate.
WND's treatment: Did not report either withdrawal.
There have been numerous incidents of arguing between the various tea party groups. The biggest revelation in that department is that one group, Tea Party Express (which WND has previously promoted), had directed almost two-thirds of its spending back to the Republican consulting firm that created it.
WND's treatment: Did not cover. WND has promoted Tea Party Express events as well.
* * *
The next time Farah asserts that WND covers the news without fear or favor or that it has no sacred cows, feel free to ignore him -- or just laugh in his face at his audacity in telling such a blatant, self-serving lie.
UPDATE 2/8/2010: WND's coverage of the convention was done by Chelsea Schilling, who performed the service that was expected of her by writing uncritical, near-stenographic accounts of speeches by Farah, Roy Moore (a former WND columnist) and global warming denier Steve Milloy. A similarly fawning, stenographic account of Palin's speech carried no byline.
Schilling was silent, however, on one bit of actual news from the convention -- Tom Tancredo's insult of Obama voters as so stupid they "could not spell the word 'vote' or say it in English." WND offered a link to a Fox News blog post for that (which buried the statement), but even Fox News didn't mention Tancredo's subsequent call for a "civics literacy test" before being allowed to vote, which smacks of the now-outlawed literacy tests used in the Jim Crow South to keep blacks from voting. But then, Tancredo is a WND columnist, and the elitist belief that Obama voters are stupid and immature is accepted wisdom at WND.
Schilling also couldn't be bothered to write (or was prohibited from writing) about another controversy she witnessed. The Washington Independent's Dave Weigel detailed how Schilling asked Andrew Breitbart about his criticism of birtherism, and how Farah joined the argument to defend his birther activism.
Schilling did not write about the confrontation; instead, WND offered a link to a CBS News blog's partial summary of Weigel's post. Why didn't WND link directly to Weigel's account, even though it's the most complete version available? Perhaps because Farah hates Weigel and the Independent for reporting on the birther stuff -- i.e. Orly Taitz's shoddy lawyering -- that WND won't. Indeed, during his rant, Farah denounced the Independent as a "socialist newspaper" (even though it has no print version).
It may also be because the CBS summary leaves out the fact that Schilling was present for the entire incident, and Farah and WND are likely hoping that its readers won't click through to Weigel's account to read about the fullness of Farah's pettiness -- or wonder why Schilling isn't writing her own version of events.
One more note: Despite taking the anti-birther side in his argument with Farah, Breitbart has previously used his websites to promote birtherism.
Meanwhile, WND's readership reflects its skewed coverage -- as well as its long history of serving as Obama Hate Central. An opt-in poll asked, "Now that it has held its 1st national convention, what do you think of tea party movement?" The overwhelming response, with 58 percent as of this writing, is: "It's the best representation, now evident, of real America, in contrast to Team Obama's ruthless socialist takeover."