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Joseph Farah's Thin Skin, Part 2

WorldNetDaily's editor further demonstrates his utter inability to handle criticism without hurling petulant insults. Count the falsehoods among the invective!

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/4/2012

ConWebWatch has documented -- based on personal experience -- the three main ways in which WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah responds to criticism of him and WND:

  • He denigrates his critics by hurling insults.
  • He attempts to de-legitimize the criticism by belittling his critics' journalistic experience relative to his.
  • He ignores the main point of the criticism to attack minor issues.

Since that original article appeared in 2009, Farah has racked up many more examples of this same immature pattern of attack against his critics.

"It was, what we call in the news business, a fact"

Farah used a Nov. 20, 2009, column to lash out at liberal writer Max Blumenthal, who had written a Huffington Post blog item noting that Sarah Palin "cited an urban legend as a 'disturbing trend,' claiming the Treasury Department had moved the phrase 'In God We Trust' from presidential dollar coins. (The rumor most likely originated with a 2006 story on the far-right website WorldNetDaily.)" Farah promptly took umbrage:

Actually, it wasn't "a rumor." It was, what we call in the news business, a fact.

A year later, Congress, alerted to the plan by the original WND story, stopped the plan dead in its tracks, as WND also reported.

That doesn't constitute an "urban legend." That constitutes reporting that led to a policy change.

But Farah appears to be deliberately misinterpreting the claim. It's clear from the context of Blumenthal's blog post (and the Politico article he cites in support of the claim) that Palin portrayed the moving of "In God We Trust" on the presidential series of dollar coins from the face or tail of the coin to the edge as something that is happening right now, rather than something that was proposed and later rejected. That false portrayal is the "urban legend" Blumenthal is referencing. Blumenthal even pointed that out: "In fact, a suggested alteration in its position on the coin was shot down in 2007 after pressure from Democratic Senator Robert Byrd." Farah failed to mention Blumenthal's additional reporting, nor did he offer any evidence that WND's reporting played any significant role in the policy change.

But never mind that -- Farah's in a mood to trash anyone who doesn't praise WND, with all the maturity we've come to expect from him. He repeatedly calls the Huffington Post "the Huffington Puffington Post," smears it as a "pseudo-news organization," and takes a gratuitous swipe at "Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann at MSLSD." He further sneers that this is a "case of political activists posing as journalists calling real journalists political activists."

"I plead guilty" to Nazi references

The very next day, Farah went on another rampage against a critic, this time an Anti-Defamation League report, "Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies." After noting that the ADL states that "Some even compared the Obama administration’s intentions to Nazi eugenics programs," Farah proudly notes, "Well, to the aforementioned, I plead guilty."

After defending his pro-Jewish bona fides by stating that is "asked to speak to more Jewish audiences, including many chapters of the B'nai Brith, both in the U.S. and Canada, than Christian audiences" and that his "coverage and analysis of the Middle East has been hailed by Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as thousands of other prominent Jewish leaders in Israel and the U.S.," Farah wrote, "If that's the new definition of anti-Semitism in America, I guess I am one."

But the ADL never accused Farah or WND of anti-Semitism -- indeed, the word is nowhere to be found in the report's introduction or its section on the birthers, where WND figures prominently. The focus of the ADL report is on anti-government conspiracies, which WND is indisputably guilty of propagating.

Nevertheless, Farah took this opportunity to lie about himself and WND in responding to the report's definition of birtherism as claiming that President Obama was born in Kenya: "Of course, no one at WND to my knowledge has ever said Obama wasn't born in the U.S. or suggested he was born in Kenya."

Really? Publishing a purported "Kenyan birth certificate" without bothering to authenticate it beforehand is not suggesting he was born in Kenya? Uncritically repeating the discredited claims that Obama's grandmother claimed he was born in Kenya -- which Farah himself repeated -- is not suggesting he was born in Kenya? Longtime WND columnist Craige McMillan repeatedly calling Obama an "illegal alien" is not an assertion that Obama was not born in the U.S.?

This wasn't the first time Farah lied to defend himself, nor would it be the last. In his Feb. 15, 2011, column -- which kicked off with an childish opening reference to the Wall Street Journal as the "Wall Street Urinal" -- Farah had his undies in a bunch about Journal columnist James Taranto's claim that WND publishes "demonstrable falsehoods about Barack Obama's birthplace," specifically "claim[ing] falsely that Obama was born outside the U.S." Cue Farah in freak-out mode:

I immediately challenged Taranto to provide just one example of WND ever claiming Obama was born outside the country. I have not heard from him with such an example, nor do I expect to hear from him – for the simple reason it has never happened.

Be my guest – search for the accusation in WND's free public archives. You will not find any such accusation or characterization by WND or any of its staff writers, columnists or even letter writers. I invite the George Soros-sponsored Media Matters organization to assist Taranto in his futile search. They won't find any such assertion in the hundreds of stories WND has published seeking the truth about Obama's still mysterious origins.

By the way, it would not be a lie to say Obama was born in a foreign country. It would just be an unsubstantiated assertion. However, it is a lie to say WND has made such an assertion.

As ConWebWatch has detailed, WND -- including Farah himself -- has repeated invoked the claim that Obama's paternal grandmother purportedly said he was born in Kenya, a claim that has been discredited.

There's more: WND columnist Jim Fletcher has repeatedly described Obama as "the Man from Kenya." There's undoubtedly more to be found in WND's archives.

That pretty much destroys Farah's claim. Not that he'll ever admit it, of course.

No "invective, any rash charges or ad hominem attacks"?

Farah kicked off his Oct. 5, 2010, column by bashing "a blogger I have never met or heard of or talked to in my life" because said blogger had the temerity to claim that Farah owned Ann Coulter an apology over his canceling her appearance at his tea-party convention because she decided to speak before the gay-conservative group GOProud.

Farah went on to claim that he handled the whole thing "without any invective, any rash charges or ad hominem attacks." He seems to have forgotten about his column a week earlier, in which he declared that gays are worse than the KKK:

If a celebrity chooses to speak to the Ku Klux Klan, there is no question the Klan benefits from such an appearance – no matter how much the speaker might attempt to explain the differences he or she might have with the group's agenda. Justifying such an appearance by suggesting it's just another paid speaking gig would hardly mollify the criticism or negate the benefit the Klan received from the event.

Of course, no one in respectable public life would consider speaking to the Klan for those reasons.

However, I would suggest the ungodly, sin-glorifying homosexual agenda represents a far greater and far more imminent danger to the future of the United States than does the Klan's racist, ungodly and sin-glorifying agenda.

That's not to say we should never speak to or evangelize sinners – be they Klan members or homosexual activists. In fact, that's exactly what we should do. What we should never do is to embrace or celebrate or validate their activism in any way.

Yeah, no ad hominem invective or rash attacks there.

"No professional standards"

In his Feb. 4, 2011, column, Farah complained that "two big newspapers – one in the U.S. and one in the U.K. – chose to rewrite WND news stories, using content exclusively from WND, without ever once citing their source for the information." Farah names them both -- the New York Daily News and the UK's Daily Mail, dismissing them as "trashy tabloids" that "have their place" as "tomorrow's birdcage liners" which "have no professional standards" and "do very little real reporting"and are "mouthpieces for fat-cat corporate owners who have agendas." But Farah went further in attacking one of those papers:

One of the reports, in the Daily News, even had a byline attached to its story, suggesting a reporter had demonstrated some enterprise in gathering the facts. Well, to me, it was like a thief who left behind a calling card.

So, I dashed off a note to Daily News staff writer Michael Sheridan with a little challenge: "I'm getting pretty sick of your uncredited rewrites of WND content. Do I need to complain to your editor and go public with this example of shameless unprofessionalism? Or do you want to just knock it off because it's the right thing to do?"

I never heard from Sheridan – so here we are.

Of course, Farah's own website engages in this same "shameless unprofessionalism."

Nevertheless, Farah claimed: "Have you ever noticed the way WND credits other media all the time? If we get information from another news source, we typically cite that source – whether it's a major newspaper or wire service or a one-man blog."

Farah didn't mention if he made any similar attempt at reparations from the Daily Mail. Perhaps that's because WND uses the Daily Mail as a source. In the three months prior to Farah's column, WND published four articles citing the Daily Mail as a source.

That runs counter to Farah's claim that the Daily Mail doesn't have "anything worth stealing." Which, of course, is exactly what WND did from the Daily Mail, credited or not.

"Admittedly, we publish some misinformation"

The next person on the receiving end of Farah's petulant rage was Salon's Justin Elliott. His offense: asking if Donald Trump was correct to claim that President Obama has spent millions of dollars to fight lawsuits over his birth certificate. As we've noted, WND has proven only that the Obama campaign paid money to a law firm but not that all of the money -- or even any of it -- went toward fighting birther-related lawsuits.

In his April 12, 2011, column, Farah claimed that Elliott gave him "all of one hour and 26 minutes to respond" to the query before publishing his article -- an utterly hypocritical assertion given that WND frequently fails to even bother obtaining both sides to many of the "news" articles it runs, let alone give that side sufficient time to respond.

Farah then asserted that "Obama has used the cover of his taxpayer-supported office to devote far more than $2 million in financial resources to cover up whatever he's hiding on his birth certificate" -- but as before, he offers no evidence to back up this claim. Then, after noting that Elliott reported that "this figure is based on shoddy reporting by a discredited birther website and lacks any evidence to back it up," he asserts: "Never once in his article does Elliott explain how WND has been 'discredited' or why reporter Chelsea Schilling's series is 'shoddy.' So much for "backing up the lead," as we say in the news business."

In fact, Elliott did exactly that in his Salon article:

The implication of the WND stories -- though not explicitly stated -- is that because Perkins Coie worked on a birther suit, and because the Obama campaign paid Perkins Coie $1.7 million, therefore the campaign paid $1.7 million fighting birther suits. That's an obvious logical fallacy.

Indeed, just last month Roll Call published a look at the Obama campaign's post-election legal spending -- now totaling $2.8 million, most of it to Perkins Coie. DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan told the paper: "The campaign has incurred ordinary legal expenses related to the wind-down of its operations and other legal services which all campaigns incur and which are proportional to the unprecedented size of this campaign."

So, having ignored and misrepresented the issue, it was insult time. Farah smeared Elliott as a "sissified, left-wing blogger" who is "pretending to do journalism," published his bio from his previous employer, and compared it to that of Chelsea Schilling, who wrote the original WND articles, laughably embellished by Farah "because she's too modest to tell you herself." Farah writes that Schilling is "one of the most remarkable young women I have ever met" and "is like a daughter to me."

What Farah won't tell you: Schilling has a mile-long rap sheet of falsehoods and misinformation in her work for WND.

What Farah also won't tell you: how pissy he got when Elliott asked why WND made Jack Cashill's false claim about a picture of Obama's grandparents (in which Cashill claimed that Obama was Photoshopped into a picture of his grandparents when, in fact, the image Cashill presented as genuine was the Photoshopped one, as evidenced by the presence of a remnant of Obama's knee) simply disappear instead of publishing a formal correction. Farah called Elliott a "worm" during that exchange, yet also stated: "Admittedly, we publish some misinformation by columnists."

Farah asked readers to compare the two bios (despite the obvious bias in presenting them), adding: "Which one would you rather have dinner with? Which one would you most trust to babysit your kids? Which one would you most likely hire if you had the choice? Which one seems more trustworthy?"

Trustworthy? That pretty much rules out both Farah and Schilling, doesn't it?

Farah concluded by stating that "we stand by Schilling's three reports – every word of them." At no point did he or Schilling provide evidence that every cent of the money the Obama campaign paid to a law firm went toward birther claims -- then or now.

"Probably better off not writing"

In a Sept. 13 column even he admits he's "probably better off not writing," Farah took radio host Michael Medved to task for criticizing WND on his show ... four months earlier. (Farah apparently only caught it when the show was rebroadcast.) Farah fired off his usual potshots, noting that Medved once "toiled for the site as a weekly columnist – a position from which he was terminated for lack of interest by the public" and that "years after, Medved called both me and my wife, Elizabeth, to tell us, in his words, that I was the most ethical businessman he had ever worked with in his life."

Related articles on ConWebWatch:

Why I Criticize WorldNetDaily

Joseph Farah's Thin Skin

Conspicuously missing from Farah's column is any direct quote of anything Medved actually said -- it's all paraphrase except for a single word, Medved's use of "WorldNutDaily." That evasion gives Farah license to set up straw men of Medved that he can easily knock down.

Farah then writes, "Everybody in show business or promoting a book needs a gimmick – even if it means ad hominem attacks and name-calling." You know, just like Farah.

But Farah wasn't done bashing his critics. He demonstrated he can hold a grudge for a needlessly long period of time on his Sept. 14 column, in which he expressed glee in how the life of former critic has turned out more than a decade after said criticism was made.

In a 1999 column about right-wing attempts -- led by Farah -- to downplay the death of Matthew Shepard by bringing up Jesse Dirkhising, a 13-year-old boy who died as a result of sexual abuse at the hands of two homosexuals, Then-Washington Post columnist E.R. Shipp pointed out that the Post gave more coverage to Shepard's death because it "parked public expressions of outrage that themselves became news. That Jesse Dirkhising’s death has not done so is hardly the fault of The Washington Post," adding that "those who are inclined to believe the David Dukes, Joseph Farahs and Tim Grahams of the world – who have asserted that the story has been suppressed so that homosexuals won't be portrayed negatively – will not be satisfied."

Farah is still raging over that comparison:

To this day, I still don't know who Tim Graham is, but I do know who David Duke is. I didn't like the implication that association made then, and I don't like it any better today. Shipp, whose claim to fame is winning a Pulitzer Prize for commentary while with the New York Times, knows that association with David Duke is the coward's way of calling someone a bigot, a racist, a Ku Klux Klansman.

Is Farah really that unfamiliar with one of the leading figures in right-wing media criticism? Or does Farah have a petty grudge against Graham too?

Farah also dipped his toe into the Shepard revisionism pool, claiming he was killed "apparently by monsters who knew nothing about his sexual proclivities." That's the story one of the killers wants you believe now, in contradiction of all the evidence indicating otherwise, such as the gay-panic defense he mounted during his murder trial.

Farah vs. Maddow and Ackerman

In his Sept. 21 column, Farah targeted MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who aired a segment centered on WND's promotion of a self-proclaimed counterterrorism expert who is apparently little more than a Muslim-basher. Farah starts off your basic ad hominem attack, declaring that only watches MSNBC "when it focuses on me" because the alternative is to "suffer through the tedium and infuriation of actually watching a cable network at which the inmates are quite literally running the asylum." He went on to claim that MSNBC "has more in common with the old Soviet-era, official state press organs Izvestia or Pravda than what we once knew, a generation ago, as American-style, professional journalism. He then claimed that "Maddow has a big mouth but very little courage" because she didn't invite him on her show to respond in person. (This from the operator of a website that regularly publishes only one side of a story.)

As he did when he bashed Medved, Farah uses no direct quotes of what Maddow said, speaking only in generalities. Farah claimed that the author of the article on the counterterrorism expert Maddow featured, Wired's Spencer Ackerman, "defam[ed] a very serious and highly credentialed counter-terrorism expert by the name of William Gawthrop – turning him unfairly into a bigoted cartoon character for his efforts to protect America from future terrorist attacks. There's no scandal in Gawthrop's work or his opinions."

Farah is being disingenuous, since he never bothers to explain the source of the controversy over Gawthrop. As Ackerman wrote (in an article Farah failed to link to), Gawthrop was the author of several tracts used in FBI counterterrorism training baselessly claiming that, among other things, the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent” and that a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

Then, as you'd expect, Farah bashed Ackerman:

The focus, rather, should be on the stone-thrower – Ackerman. He should have been fired from Wired a long time ago – or, at the very least, disqualified from covering politics for the magazine. Why? He's most famous not for anything he has ever published, but for things he wrote that he never intended to be published – namely his candid and inflammatory scribblings on the notorious JournoList.

At no point does Farah prove anything Ackerman wrote to be wrong. It's just another rant by a man too thin-skinned to take criticism.

Farah went all ad hominem on Ackerman again over Gawthrop in his Oct. 4 column:

National Public Radio and the New York Times recently jumped all over the FBI for allowing its agents to be briefed by experts in Islamic terrorism who weren't properly vetted - meaning they weren't selected by Muslim Brotherhood front groups like CAIR. Both of the reports were derivative of and made reference to an article in prepared by Spencer Ackerman, famous not so much for what he has published but what he wrote that he never intended to be published. At the time, working for the George Soros-backed Washington Independent, he famously called upon his colleagues to deflect attention from Barack Obama's relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright by changing the subject. When anyone criticized Obama, they needed to be labeled as "racist," he explained. Even more telling was this Ackerman statement: "Find a right winger's (sic) and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mass and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a constant state of fear." Ackerman is not exactly a seeker of the truth - and that's exactly what the experts he attacked were trying to share with FBI agents.

As before, at no point does Farah disprove anything Ackerman wrote.

"If you want to make sure WND never again links to any articles in CFP..."

Farah used his Jan. 10 column to complain about a columnist at the American Muslim website who, among other things, asserted that Farah wanted "to criminalize being gay," to which Farah responded: "in all the millions of words I have written in my life, no evidence of such a belief has ever been found."

That, of course, is a baldfaced lie. Farah has regularly railed against the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned state sodomy laws -- Farah demanded that the "Sodomy Six" (the six justices who ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and against the state) be impeached. Just last June, Farah lamented that "sin" in the form of homosexual sex can no longer be criminalized as a result of Lawrence:

It’s not a right. It’s a sin. And, in a civilized, self-governing society, when the majority of people ban sinful behavior – from murder, to theft, to adultery, to child molestation – they have the right and the duty to legislate against it. Courts have no business overruling the will of the people on such matters by dreaming up “rights” that are to be found nowhere in the Constitution, the Bible or the history of mankind.

It’s just that simple.

And it’s about time somebody said it.

And it's about time somebody said that Farah is a baldfaced liar.

But he's not done smacking around the American Muslim columnist with his huffiness:

[Sheila] Musaji then massages some more facts to arrive at this conclusion: “Farah would also like to criminalize being Muslim.”

How did she deduce that?

From this statement in a discussion on the need to limit future Muslim immigration into the U.S.: “It seems obvious to me that anyone who subscribes to Saudi-style Shariah law, as described in the Islamic Quran and Hadith, would not be inclined to swear allegiance to the Constitution – at least not without crossing his fingers taqiyya-style.”

Then comes another lecture from Ms. Musaji: “This is how Islamophobes [that's me] muddy up the water and confuse issues in order to deceive their readers. Shariah and Saudi-style Shariah are not synonomous (sic). The Saudis have a particular interpretation of Shariah that is very conservative and repressive. Much of the Saudi interpretation of Shariah is rejected by most Muslims in the rest of the world. In fact, the Wahhabi interpretations are seen by a majority of Muslims as going against the Quran and Hadith.”

So I modify the term “Shariah” with the phrase “Saudi-style,” and explain that they are not necessarily the same thing. Isn’t that why people use adjectives – to be more precise?

Anyway, you get the point: According to Ms. Musaji, Farah is an unrepentant Islamophobe. Just to set the record straight, no one who criticizes Islamism the way I do is “afraid” of Islam. No one afraid of Islam, which would be the literal definition of “Islamophobe,” would dare criticize it publicly, as I do.

Actually, in that Nov. 29 column, Farah referred to "Saudi-style Shariah" exactly once. He went on to assert, without making any such distinction:

  • "We need to put the burden of proof on Muslims to demonstrate their desire to leave the world of Shariah behind them, to renounce its principles as well as to take a formal oath to uphold and affirm America's national covenant."
  • "Furthermore, we need strict national quotas on immigration by Muslims – even those willing to renounce Shariah and swear an oath to the U.S. Constitution."
  • "There are no doubt conscientious Muslims who deplore the institution of Shariah and would prefer to live in a constitutional republic like America instead of Saudi Arabia. But, again, as Americans we have no obligation to welcome anyone to these shores unless they meet our needs and specifications."

Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back, Joe.

If that wasn't enough, Farah found time in the same column to rail against a fellow ideologue in a semantics argument over Ron Paul. Judi McLeod of Canada Free Press accused Farah of expressing "support" for Paul -- entirely understandable, given that Farah penned a Jan. 5 column headlined "Ron Paul Is Right," in which he states, "There’s a reason Ron Paul is resonating with Republican voters – because he wants to downsize Washington, and everyone knows he’s serious about it."

Farah, though, decided to misread "support" as "endorse." Let the snit fit begin, complete with explicit threat:

I have written many columns about Ron Paul stands that I like and admire – such as his pledge to cut $1 trillion out of federal spending. But daily I am attacked by Ron Paul disciples who would like to see me tarred and feathered. And nowhere, nohow, noway have I ever endorsed Ron Paul nor suggested I support him for the presidency in any way.

For the life of me, I don’t even know how someone could ever get that impression. I mean I write just what I think. I’m not known for holding anything back or pulling punches. And I write every day!

I figured this one would be an easy correction. All I would do is ask my old friend Judi McLeod to do the right thing and set the record straight. Certainly I agree with her more often than I agree with Ron Paul. I’ll take a few minutes and pick some low-hanging fruit.

So I emailed Judi McLeod: “I really must insist on a retraction and apology for this. Please point to where you can find Joseph Farah endorsing Ron Paul. I am vilified daily by Paulites for not supporting him and for criticizing his positions.”

Her unexpected response: “Please point to where I wrote Joseph Farah is ‘endorsing’ Ron Paul.”

My counter: “You didn’t use the word ‘endorse.’ You used ‘support.’ I fail to see any meaningful difference between the two. So, if you want to play word games, show me where I have ever offered Ron Paul support as a presidential candidate. Because that is clearly what you wrote.”

Her response: “To my way of thinking there is a world of difference between ‘support’ and ‘endorse.’ If you wish you could write a column or letter stating your point of view and I would publish it word-for-word without editing and post as main cover.”

My retort: “You still haven’t answered the question: On what basis can you possibly come to the conclusion that I either endorse or support Ron Paul for president? Obviously that is what you stated clearly in your commentary. Since there is no basis for any such claim, you have decided to be cagey. I have no desire to write anything in Canada Free Press. If you want to make sure WND never again links to any articles in CFP because of questions about unreliability of statements and accusations by the editor, you can simply ignore my simple question. On the other hand, if credibility is something that matters to you, you will choose to do the right thing: Apologize and retract the erroneous accusation against me.”

To which she concluded the dialogue by saying, “Suit yourself, Joe.”

At no point does Farah acknowledge that he wrote a column headlined "Ron Paul Is Right." Instead, Farah clings to his thin skin and tries to Heather McLeod by essentially declaring that she can't sit at his table because anymore because she said something he misinterpreted.

How petty can one person be? The answer in Farah's case: Very.

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