The Creeping WND-ization of CNS
The Media Research Center's "news" division has gone from echoing WorldNetDaily's editorial decisions (and columnists) to beating WND to the punch on conspiracy theories.
By Terry Krepel
For instance, CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman wrote in a December 2016 article: "According to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), the State Department gave $349,276 in U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to a political group in Israel to build a campaign operation, which subsequently was used to try to influence Israelis to vote against conservative Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2015 election for prime minister."
If this story sounds familiar, that's because it is: WorldNetDaily covered it five months earlier. And like WND, Chapman de-emphasized the fact that the State Department's funding of the Israeli group One Voice had nothing to do with the group's anti-Netanyahu campaign and involved a separate project. Chapman unprofessionally puts in bold italic statements like "OneVoice used the campaign infrastructure and resources built, in part, with State Department grants funds to support V15" but not statements like "no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections."
Chapman also uncritically quoted Republican Sen. Rob Portman saying, "American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them." But Israel as a whole is the ally in question, not just Netanyahu. Is Portman saying that any Israeli politician who opposes Netanyahu is an enemy of the U.S. If so, Chapman apparently agrees with the sentiment.
The lag time was much shorter in another December 2016 article by CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman complaining that Rex Tillerson, then the nominee for secretary of state, "lobbied for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to change its rules on youth membership and allow homosexuals to join the organization." WND raised the same concern two days earlier.
In a February 2017 article, WND's Leo Hohmann wrote about how "A recently retired U.S. State Department veteran has published a whistleblower letter in the Chicago Tribune fingering the refugee resettlement program as fraught with 'fraud' and “abuses.'" Hohmann made no apparent effort to verify that the letter writer, Mary Doetsch, was who she said she was or that anything she wrote was true; instead, he crows that Doetsch's letter "affirms two-and-a-half years of reporting by WND, which has reported that the 'vetting' of refugees from broken countries such as Somalia, Syria and Sudan often consists largely of a personal interview with the refugee."
The next day, CNS' Andrew Eicher wrote about the same letter. Like Hohmann, Eicher also apparently failed to make an effort to verify Doetsch's identity or claims.
(Of course, the possibility exists that CNS stole its idea from Fox News, where Doetsch's letter was reported on the same day Eicher's article was published.)
Columns and conspiracy theories
CNS also began to run the occasional column from right-wing WND stalwarts like the Benham brothers and Jesse Lee Peterson. CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman has grown fond of Peterson's rantings; a January 2017 blog post by Chapman highlighted how Peterson claimed that President Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning because "he has some type of issue going on that causes him to identify with these types of people," and a September 2017 blog post cheered how Peterson called pro football players who kneeled during the National Anthem "evil."
Over the past year, though, WND's severe financial problems has decimated its reporting staff. Meanwhile, CNS is now beating WND to the punch on things that have historically in WND's wheelhouse.
Conspiracy theories, for example. Susan Jones came up with a doozy in a July 25 CNS article:
Let's take another look at that June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where Donald Trump Jr. met with a group of Russians who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton, but never delivered any.
What followed was an examination of those alleged connections, which is so lengthy and convoluted that one wonders if Jones has a wall of pictures and strings at the CNS offices dedicated to illustrating this.
It wasn't until Aug. 13 that WND's Art Moore got around to spinning its own version of the same conspiracy theory:
Newly released records and a pattern of efforts by Hillary Clinton operatives employed by Kremlin-linked figures to connect the Trump campaign to Russia indicate the infamous Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer and Trump campaign staff may have been a set up.
WND's staff is so skeletal at this point that it must outsource its conspiracy theories -- and lets other right-wing outlets get to those conspiracy theories first.
Indeed, that outsourcing means CNS is doing a better job at embracing conspiracy theories that WND does now. The arrest of Trump confidante Roger Stone spurred Trump to speculate on why CNN happened to be outside Stone's house when he was arrested. Jones then did her best to promote Trump's conspiracy theory:
In a mid-morning response to the indictment of his friend and former campaign adviser Roger Stone, President Trump tweeted: "Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there?"
Jones pushed the conspiracy theory again when acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was asked about it by Republican Rep. Doug Collins during congressional testimony, devoting much of a Feb. 8 article to it. Jones touted how Whitaker said he was "aware -- and deeply concerned -- about CNN being there to cover Stone's arrest" and helped Collins push the unproven claim that "CNN may have been tipped off."
Of the 11 paragraphs in her article devoted to the conspiracy theory, only one reported the truth, and even then only parenthetically, as if it was an unimportant aside instead of the thing that blows up the other 10 paragraphs:
(CNN insists it was not tipped off about Stone's arrest. CNN said it was just good reporting -- noticing "unusual activity" at the grand jury venue in Washington that prompted a CNN team to wait outside Stone's house on that particular Friday morning.)
Even WND wasn't this enthusiastic about it. Its first report, coinciding with Jones' first report, was simply copied-and-pasted from far-right blog Gateway Pundit. WND didn't touch it again until Feb. 13, when Stone issued a court filing claiming -- according, again, to Gateway Pundit, to whom WND has apparently outsourced this conspiracy theory -- "the metadata on a draft copy of the indictment obtained by a CNN reporter and sent to Roger’s attorney after his arrest showed a save date of two days prior to the January 25th unsealing of the court documents following the Stone’s arrest."
But Stone's filing never proves the indictment was sent out before Stone's arrest, wrote Buzzfeed News' Zoe Tillman, who added: "Per today's filing, Stone was arrested at 6:06am. An email from Mueller's office to reporters, with a link to the indictment, went out a few minutes later (my email has it time-stamped 6:17am). Stone's filing has a text from a reporter to Stone's lawyer with that link at 6:22am." The noted "save date" two days before Stone's arrest is irrelevant to whether reporters got a copy before the arrest.
Mueller himself has since confirmed that he did not tip off CNN to Stone's impending arrest. Neither WND nor CNS have seen fit to report this development so far.