The headline on a June 21 WorldNetDaily article -- "Hillary book: WND beat Gore in 2000" overstates the actual claim made in the article -- that Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta's book "Her Way" states that "Some law-enforcement officials and journalists believe that stories in 2000 by (Joseph) Farah's WorldNetDaily on then-presidential candidate Al Gore's political dealings in Tennessee, which were picked up by smaller papers in the state, played a role in Gore's loss."
So we wondered: What else does the book say about the ConWeb?
First, it's worth noting that Gerth and Van Natta didn't exactly vouch for the accuracy of those articles, over which one of the subjects of those stories is suing WND. The authors prefaced that statement with: "And whether or not what they published was true, it had undeniable impact."
These statements came in the context of Gerth and Van Natta tracing how right-wingers such as Farah and Christopher Ruddy leveraged the nacent Internet in the late 1990s for the purpose of attacking the Clintons. They described WND founder Joseph Farah as a "self-described 'Clinton-hater' " -- something else that WND mysteriously decided wasn't worth noting to its readers -- and erroneously described WND as being headquarted in northern Virginia. In fact, WND has long maintained its corporate headquarters in Oregon; only Farah lives in Virginia (Centreville, to be exact).
More interesting is Gerth and Van Natta's more extensive look at Christopher Ruddy and NewsMax. A couple things are incompletely reported: They portray conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife as someone who "was publishing Ruddy's articles" attacking Clinton in his Pittsburgh Tribune-Review without noting that Ruddy was a staff writer for the paper, and they wrote that Ruddy's "articles about [Vincent] Foster's death were promoted by Farah's Western Journalism Center" without also noting that Scaife gave the WJC $330,000 for the purpose of facilitating reporting and publicity of those articles.
Gerth and Van Natta wrote that Ruddy noted Matt Drudge website was linking to his articles and "took him out for a drink at a bar in Los Angeles. Ruddy figured that he and his friends who disliked the Clinton administration 'could have a bigger impact' with their own Web site."
Gerth and Van Natta continue:
Scaife was supportive of Ruddy but not yet excited about the potential of the new media venture. "He didn't gravitate to it immediately," Ruddy recalled, so instead the conservative journalist landed his first seed money ($25,000) from the family of William J. Casey, the former head of the CIA under President Reagan.
Ruddy called his venture NewsMax and knew time was of the essence. "I wanted to start NewsMax while the Clinton impeachemnt was under way." So the site, based in West Palm Beach, Florida, went live in September 1998. By then Scaife had decided to invest $2 million, about 13 percent of Ruddy's initial capital. The fact that Ruddy could raise $15 million for his startt-up in nine months demonstrates the ease with which journalists could attract enormous funding from wealthy conservatives.
Detecting a pattern here? For all the blather about WND and NewsMax being "new media" (and Farah's aversion to being called a conservative, though Gerth and Van Natta describe Farah as saying how the Internet "revealed the opportunities for conservatives to get their message out in a media environment dominated by liberal-leaning journalists"), one key reason for their formation was to attack the Clinton administration.
There's nothing new about attack journalism, folks, though Farah and Ruddy might want you think otherwise. And remember, neither WND or NewsMax were forthcoming about their sources of funding until we detailed them.
Finally, the WND article described Gerth and Van Natta's "Her Way" as a "best-selling book." Not exactly; according to the Los Angeles Times, "Her Way" sold just 7,000 copies in its first 10 days of release.
UPDATE: Joseph Farah regurgitates the article in his June 25 WND column -- claiming that the mention of the WND series in Gerth and Van Natta's book gives the claim that it cost Gore the election "more crediblilty" while omitting the fact that Gerth and Van Natta didn't vouch for its accuracy. Farah also erroneously calls "Her Way" a "bestselling book."