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Beyond Belief in Boston

What does it say about WorldNetDaily that its chief sources on the Boston bombings are the discredited Reza Kahlili, Walid Shoebat, and Steve Emerson? And that WND is defending Erik Rush's anti-Muslim tweets?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 5/1/2013

WorldNetDaily's first reaction to the bombings at the Boston Marathon was promote the idea that Muslims were to blame. Its second reaction was to denounce anyone who suggested that right-wing activists were to blame.

To promulgate the former, WND enlisted two notoriously unreliable Islamophobes, aided by a WND columnist whose anti-Muslim sentiments WND worked to whitewash.

Erik Rush

WND columnist Erik Rush is best known for his hate-filled Obama-bashing rants -- he once likened Obama to a prison rapist -- but he took things to new heights in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, when it was unclear who was behind the violence. Rush declared in one tweet, "Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let's bring more Saudis in without screening them! C'mon!" When someone tweeted in response about him blaming Muslims despite the total lack of evidence at that point that anyone was being implicated in the bombings, Rush retorted: "Yes, they're evil. Let's kill them all."

After Right Wing Watch posted Rush's offending tweets, Rush pretended it was all a joke, saying, "Sarcasm, idiot." But he offered no explanation of how his call to kill Muslims was "sarcasm" -- to the contrary, he deleted the tweet, something one would probably not do if he could back up the claim. There is no detectable line between Erik Rush the paranoid conspiracy theorist and Erik Rush the brilliant satirist, because the latter does not exist. Rush is simply trying to avoid having to take responsibility for his words.

(Plus, Rush's later tweet referencing "muzzie apologist vermin" would seem to discredit any claim of sarcasm.)

WND rushed to Rush's defense in an April 16 article by Chelsea Schilling that treated his "sarcasm" defense as indisputable fact and let Rush skate by without offering any evidence to back it up. Rush further discredited his own defense by admitting he'd "probably" write the tweet again.

Rush is little more than a coward who's trying to turn a screw-up to his advantage. Fortunately for him, WND and Schilling are going to whitewash and defend him every step of the way.

Walid Shoebat

Walid Shoebat is a self-proclaimed Islamic terrorist-turned-evangelical Christian who has been credibly accused of fabricating his stated background, and questions have been raised about the finances of the foundation that bears his (pseudoymous) name. Yet WND considers him a credible source.

Aaron Klein declared in an April 17 WND article: "The Saudi national questioned by police in the investigation into the Boston Marathon attack shares the same last name as a major Saudi clan that includes scores of al-Qaida operatives."

No, really, that's all Klein has -- the guy, Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Harbi, shares a last name with "al-Qaida operatives." Not that the guy is an Al Qaeda operative, not that his family members are Al Qaeda operatives -- only that he shares a last name with them.

Klein apparently got his information from Shoebat, because he links to a Shoebat post containing the even more potentially libelous claim that Al-Harbi "has ties to several Al-Qaeda Terrorists."

It's not until the ninth paragraph that Klein gets around to admitting that "it is not clear whether the Alharbi questioned as part of the marathon probe is a member of the well-known Saudi clan."

But the fact that Klein chose to bury his disclaimer so far down in his story while playing up his guilt-by-name-association of someone who is not currently considered a suspect in the bombing suggests that this Saudi national, Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, arguably has a basis for a libel lawsuit against Klein and WND.

Klein has written a story with the full knowledge that he can't prove what he's claiming, and all the hedging and buried disclaimers in the world don't change the fact that he is strongly arguing that Alharbi is a terrorist solely on the basis of his sharing the last name of someone accused of terrorism. If this ultimately proves to be false -- which, given WND's track record in such matters, is entirely possible if not likely -- Al-Harbi should get his libel suit against Klein and WND (and Shoebat) ready, because Klein's article is the epitome of irresponsible, malicious journalism.

That's not the only WND article based on a dubiously sourced claim from Shoebat. An April 19 article by Bob Unruh uncritically repeats Shoebat's unsubstantiated claim that Michelle Obama visited Al-Harbi while visiting a Boston hospital and meeting with victims of the bombing. Unruh made no apparent effort to fact-check Shoebat's claim, apparently considering his word unimpeachable despite a record indicating otherwise.

A April 22 WND article by Drew Zahn uncritically promotes another claim from Shoebat, that "a bizarre video released out of Egypt demonstrates the 'demonic' spirit that has gripped the nation since its 2011 Islamic revolution." Zahn made no effort to verify the video or seek another interpretation.

Reza Kahlili

Kahlili (not his real name) is a self-proclaimed former CIA operative known for making fearmongering claims that are treated with skepticism by actual Middle East analysts. The Washington Post noted that some observers "compared Kahlili with Ahmed Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile who helped convince the George W. Bush administration that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." Indeed, he's best known for his discredited claim that Iran was planning nuclear suicide bombings with "a thousand suitcase bombs spread around Europe and the U.S."

On April 16, just a day after the bombings, Kahlili was eager to blame Iran, despite the fact he had absolutely no evidence beyond an anonymous "source within Iranian intelligence services":

Although it is not known yet who is responsible for Monday’s heinous bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three and injured more than 100 people, a source within Iranian intelligence services told WND the Islamic regime was behind them and to look for trails through Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The source said the bombs were planted near the end of the race so that the horrific images of the blasts would be captured by all the media there and be replayed over and over throughout the world.

Kahlili followed that up three days later with a claim that the Tsarnaev brothers "were assets of a bigger network out of South Asia and were set up to be burned so there would be no link back to their handlers – and Iran." Again, he credited "a source within the Iranian intelligence services" for this unverifiable -- and so far unverified -- claim.

Kahlili went to that alleged source again in an April 22 article claiming that "Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Forces, ordered reconnaissance and intelligence gathering on various events and public gatherings in the United States years ago, culminating in the bombings at the Boston Marathon one week ago." Of course, Kahlili offers no on-the-record substantiation.

Steve Emerson

Joe Kovacs wrote in an April 17 WND article:

An expert on terrorism says the Saudi national who was the original “person of interest” in connection with Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing is going to be deported from the U.S. next week.

The foreign student from Revere, Mass., is identified as 20-year-old Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi.

“I just learned from my own sources that he is now going to be deported on national security grounds next Tuesday, which is very unusual,” Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism told Sean Hannity of Fox News Wednesday night.

Just one problem: None of that appears to be true.

As CNN's Jake Tapper reported, the Saudi national questioned by authorities is not a suspect and is not being deported. A second Saudi national from the Boston area is in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for being in violation of his visa, but he has no connection to the bombing.

Emerson is an anti-Muslim activist with a history of making questionable claims, so WND should not be surprised that this claim was proven wrong as well.

* * *

It says a lot about WorldNetDaily -- none of it good -- that its chief sources on the Boston bombings and their alleged Islamic links are Reza Kahlili, Walid Shoebat, and Steve Emerson. The same goes for WND's uncritical defense Erik Rush's Islamophobia.

It's just another reminder of why nobody believes WND.

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