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Thursday, July 12, 2007
Will WND Retract Its Inaccurate Lesbian Gang Story?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A July 9 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh claimed that "Two news stories about hundreds of lesbian gangs attacking and raping young girls in schools and other public locations have prompted a backlash against the reporters by members of the homosexual community." But Unruh didn't report questions about the veracity of those claims, and has yet to report that some key claims have been retracted.

Unruh uncritically repeated the claim made by Rod Wheeler, "who has experience as a police detective," on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" of "a growing national concern over lesbians and some men 'recruiting kids as young as 10 years old in a lot of the schools in the communities all across the country.' Wheeler estimated the presence of 150 gangs, including lesbian gangs, in the Washington area alone."

In fact, that's not what Wheeler said; he made no distinction between gay and lesbian gangs when he said that "we've actually counted, just in the Washington D.C. area alone, that's Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, well over 150 of these crews." In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that a gang specialist counts only one lesbian gang in the Washington area, adding:

Confronted by the Intelligence Report, Wheeler was unable, in several phone and E-mail exchanges over a two-day period, to specify a single law enforcement agency or officer, police report, media account or any other source he relied upon for his D.C. area lesbian gangs claim. But he insisted that his report was accurate and that any law enforcement officer who disagrees is "out of touch." "For some reason or other, these organizations don't lay it on the line because they don't know what is going on on the streets," said Wheeler. "This is a serious crisis and the so-called experts are missing it." 

Wheeler has since completely retracted the claim on his personal website, as well as another assertion, not repeated by Unruh, that "some of these groups carry pink pistols" (h/t Orcinus):

During the O’Reilly Factor segment on June 21st, while engaged in a discussion on Lesbian gangs, I inadvertently stated that gang members carry pistols that are painted pink and call themselves the "Pink Pistol Packing Group." I was not referring to the gay rights group "Pink Pistols" who advocates for the lawful rights of gays to carry weapons for protection. Further, I mentioned that there are "over 150 of these gangs" in the greater Washington DC area. What I actually meant is that there are over 150 gangs in the Washington DC area, some of which are in fact lesbian gangs. Lastly, I mentioned in the segment that there is this "national epidemic" of lesbian gangs. A better choice of words would have been to say that there is a growing concern nationally, and especially in major urban areas, of increased gang activity, which includes some lesbian gang activity.

I apologize for any misunderstanding this may have caused.

O'Reilly himself did something of a retraction of Wheeler's story, admitting he got "a little carried away with that."

Unruh also cited a report on the subject by a Memphis TV station. While he quoted a representative of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation as issuing a statement charging the reporting was "without … one solid statistic or credible source," he also asserted, without evidence, that the group "tried to suppress the Memphis report before it aired." Indeed, supporting the defamation group's claims, the SPLC described the Memphis report this way, something Unruh didn't tell his readers:

"Featuring dramatic "reenactments" of high school bathroom rape scenes shot in grainy black-and-white footage, the lengthy segment's vaguely salacious claims about local high school girls being raped and "sodomized" with "sex toys bought on the Internet" was based almost entirely on the lurid musings of a single Shelby County gang officer." 

Titled "Violent Femmes," the sweeps-week segment was so thinly sourced and grotesquely sensationalized that it's difficult to believe that any professional journalist found it to be credible. And it wasn't. Under intense pressure from local gay and lesbian activists, the affiliate's station manager finally admitted that WPTY-TV's reporters had neither independently verified the gang officer's overheated claims nor obtained any documentary evidence such as arrest records or written police reports to substantiate their tale. As the station grudgingly conceded, "Our investigation did not turn up widespread violence in schools due to this."

Unruh also featured the anti-gay group Americans for Truth calling the alleged suppression of the inaccurate, unverified Memphis TV story "Orwellian." And, like Unruh, Americans for Truth is silent about the story's unproven claims, instead asserting that " 'gay' pressure groups that are turning America’s newsrooms into homosexuality-promotion centers.

Will Unruh do a follow-up piece pointing out that the claims he reported are either wildly overblown or completely false and admitting his error in reporting unverified claims? We'd be shocked if he did.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:32 AM EDT

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