Misfiring Back: WND And Todd Akin's Book Botch
Has there ever been a more ill-conceived book-publicity strategy then WorldNetDaily's attempt to re-litigate Akin's controversial "legitimate rape" gaffe with such transparent dishonesty?
By Terry Krepel
And how is WND promoting the book? By re-litigating Akin's remarks and insisting they were accurate, even though the evidence it cites comes nowhere near to supporting the claim.
In a June 10 column, WND editor Joseph Farah insisted that "the anti-Akin hysteria was a completely manufactured smear":
It was the phrase “legitimate rape” that captured the attention of his opponents and the media. Why? I suppose some would like to pretend that all rape allegations are legitimate. Of course, that kind of thinking can lead to some great injustices, as we saw in the Duke lacrosse team witch hunt. Of even more significance, given the Akin controversy had to do with his explanation of why aborting an innocent unborn baby is not an appropriate response to rape, Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” in the famous Roe v. Wade case that resulted in the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down laws restricting abortion across the U.S., had claimed she was raped. Only later did she admit that was a completely contrived claim.
Curiously, Farah did not disclose in his column that he was publishing a book by Akin.
Farah defended Akin again in a June 16 column, insisting that “legitimate rape” is "a legal term of art in Missouri state law." He then asserted that Akin was correct that women can "shut that whole thing down":
Was he dead wrong about the impact of stress on infertility?
Farah did not link to any of that alleged research, even though there is purportedly a "library" of it available. Again, Farah failed to disclose he's publishing a book by Akin, though he included a link to it at the end of his column.
That supposed proof finally showed up in an unbylined June 25 WND article promoting Akin's book:
While two new fertility studies showing stress in males and females inhibits pregnancy have received worldwide attention, no one has linked them with the biggest U.S. political controversy of 2012 Rep. Todd Akin’s suggestion that pregnancy as a result of rape is relatively infrequent.
So Farah's "library of research" line is an unacknowledged direct quote of Akin. Some people might call that plagiarism.
Akin appears to be depending on the theory that all rape claims are illegitimate until proven otherwise. But as Slate's Amanda Marcotte points out, false rape reports are rare, and women falsely accusing men they consented to have sex with after the fact of rape is especially rare.
Further, the studies the anonymous WND writer cites in support of Akin's idea that stress decreases fertility focuses on long-term stress factors, not a single, sudden traumatic event like a rape. In fact-checking Akin's claim, PolitiFact reported:
The Chicago Tribune, citing a Mayo Clinic publication about infertility, reported in August that mental stress can temporarily alter an area of the brain that controls the hormones that regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle. The Tribune article reported that it is a chronic kind of situation that occurs over months or years, not the acute trauma of a rape.
In other words, the very evidence Akin and WND provide discredits their claim.
The Hillary distraction
With the 'stress" defense hitting a solid brick wall, it was time for a distraction, So WND's book promotion took a completely expected partisan turn in an unbylined June 26 article, in which WND and Akin try to make hay off the totally unrelated issue of Hillary Clinton's long-ago defense of a man accused of sexually assaulting a child:
Hillary Clinton apparently didn’t like a challenge from Todd Akin that she “de-legitimized” a 12-year-old rape victim’s claim in defense of a perpetrator she knew to be guilty as charged, as reported in the London Daily Mail Wednesday.
Akin seems to be unfamiliar with the American system of law in which defendants get a defense lawyer. It's absurd -- not to mention un-American -- for Akin to believe that a man does not deserve a legal defense because many people believe he's guilty. Clinton was assigned to the man's case and was obligated by law to provide the strongest defense she could.
Further, it's clear from the full context of her remarks that Clinton was laughing about the legal process, not getting a criminal off. Akin also provided no evidence that Clinton "slandered" the 12-year-old victim.
The WND article then descended into its usual boilerplate defense of Akin's "legitimate rape" remarks, suggesting that some rape claims are "an excuse to avoid an unwanted pregnancy" because "There have been women who have lied about being raped."
If Akin is automatically presuming that any rape claim is automatically false because some undetermined number of women have lied about it in the past, that's hardly a solid defense of his remarks.
The quote-free defense
Farah tried to find a new way to defend the indefensible in his July 10 WND column:
I’m not even willing to concede Akin made a gaffe at all in his famous interview in August 2012. Initially I believed so before I watched it. I was judging Akin on the basis of what others said he said. After watching it over and over again, I’m truly shocked that so much was made of it.
While Akin "never suggested that rape victims don’t ever get pregnant," as Farah wrote, he did specifically say that pregnancy through rape was "really rare," which, again, falsely suggests that a woman can actively control her fertility.
Funny how Farah can declare "It was clear to any objective, thinking person what he was saying" without citing any of the words Akin was saying.
For his July 12 column, Farah pretended he was a real reporter and touted what he claimed was his "18 months of careful study of what [Akin] actually said and the way it was deliberately and purposely mangled by people with a political ax to grind," deciding it was somehow President Obama's fault:
Well, I conducted what you might call a forensic study of Todd Akin August 2012 political crisis. I wanted to determine what was the actual “tipping point” in the firestorm of controversy that made it one of the most memorable media stories of the presidential election year.
WND blames Obama for pretty much everything else, so why wouldn't Farah blame Obama for Akin's gaffe?
Farah has made this bed by publishing Akin's book, and he is incredibly determined to lie in it. If it means lying about and distorting what Akin actually said, so be it.
Whitewashing an Akin interview
WND's Bob Unruh -- he of the one-side reporting -- decided he wanted in on the corporate cheerleading for Akin. His July 15 WND article on Akin's interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly is a thinly disguised PR piece:
Eighteen months ago, then-Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin made an admittedly awkward description of rape, was abandoned by his own party and eventually lost to Democrat Claire McCaskill.
And that's all Unruh has to say about Akin's discussion with Kelly about his previous remarks -- which conveniently leaves out all the parts where Kelly challenged Akin's narrative. More honest reporting of the Akin-Kelly interview took place at TPM:
Fox News host Megyn Kelly took failed Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin to task Monday night for his infamous claim that the female body could terminate a pregnancy in a case of "legitimate rape."
Unruh's article included the video of the Akin-Kelly interview, so he obviously had access to the full interview. He simply chose to not accurately report what was said. Such dishonesty is emblematic of how WND has promoted Akin's book.
A Farah tantrum
Because Farah has trouble getting through a week without engaging in a fit of self-aggrandizing whining, he devoted a July 20 column to complaining that Akin's book was being ignored by the media:
I thought ABC, CBS and NBC would be salivating to get their favorite punching bag on the air to be mauled, again, for old times’ sake. I thought they would jump at the opportunity to have this caricature they had created on live TV. After all, if he was the dope they suggested, it would be great television good ratings.
Farah praised Fox's Kelly for being "unafraid" to interview Akin but, like his employee Unruh, failed to mention how strongly Kelly challenged Akin.
Then came the self-aggrandizing part:
When I launched WND.com 17 years ago as the first independent online news source, I believed in my heart that this experiment would revolutionize the media. In many ways it has. I thought competition was the way to change the media culture. I still do. But, sadly, I find the Big Media are actually far worse today than they were 20 years ago. I didn’t even think that was possible. But it was and is.
Farah didn't discuss how WND has "revolutionized" the media in another way: Few other media outlets have so beclowned themselves with obsessive hatred of a president that it simply didn't care that what they published was factually accurate. Few media outlets have become so utterly discredited yet remained in business.
That same disregard for facts is presumably also behind WND's decision to promote Akin's book by pretending his wildly wrong comments were actually true. If WND wants to regain any semblance of credibility, perhaps it needs to rethink its marketing strategy.