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Monday, October 2, 2006
It's A Conspiracy!
Topic: NewsBusters

Mark Finkelstein goes conspiracy-mongering in an Oct. 2 NewsBusters post:

Day One: Suspicious-but-not-explict emails.
Day Two: Explicit instant messages, but no evidence Foley met with boys.
Day Four: Instant message indicating Foley was indeed seeking to meet and possibly had already met with a boy.

Foley deserves what he's gotten and what is likely to come. But it seems increasingly plausible that the timed release of information - of ever-escalating seriousness - is part of a calculated campaign to keep the story in the news and inflict maximum political damage on the GOP.

Really, now, Mark -- is all bad news about Republicans the result of a conspiracy? 

Posted by Terry K. at 9:28 PM EDT
NewsMax Throws Foley Under the Bus
Topic: Newsmax

It was just a few short years ago that NewsMax was touting Rep. Mark Foley -- who represented the Florida congressional district where NewsMax's headquarters are located -- as a candidate for a Senate seat, calling him "a solid Republican with strong conservative credentials" and "an American success story in his own right" and concluding, "Perhaps one day Florida's governor will be telling Senate contenders, 'You can be the next Mark Foley.' " (Of course, that was two days after NewsMax editor and CEO Christopher Ruddy donated $1,000 to Foley's campaign.)

Well, forget all that. After Foley's resignation following the revelation of, er, inappropriate communications with underage male congressional pages, NewsMax is ready to disassociate itself from Foley. An Oct. 2 article touts the reportedly likely successor to Foley's candidacy, Joe Negron:

Negron, a Cuban-American, is a no nonsense conservative Republican. Unlike Foley who took a pro-choice position on abortion, Negron is a social conservative as well.

Wait -- wasn't Foley "a solid Republican with strong conservative credentials"?

Another Oct. 2 NewsMax article appears at first to be defending Foley, but in fact, it's defending Republican leaders by parsing why Foley resigned:

An important point as the Mark Foley scandal widens: Ex-Rep. Foley did not resign over e-mails he sent to a House page that Republican leaders knew about months ago, as has been widely reported.

Rather, he decided to step aside in the wake of much more recent revelations about salacious instant messages he sent to one or more House pages.

Democrats have tried to make political hay of the scandal by charging that in not acting after learning of the e-mails in 2005, Republicans may have been guilty of a cover-up.

In fact, the e-mails that have surfaced so far, while inappropriate, were relatively benign compared to the much more sexually explicit instant messages that came to light just last week.

NewsMax similarly headlined an Associated Press article, "Rep. Hastert: Foley 'Deceived Me,Too.' "

Which sounds exactly like today's Republican talking points, as previously expressed by

Posted by Terry K. at 6:24 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, October 2, 2006 7:41 PM EDT
Sheppard: Fox News Isn't Conservative, Really!
Topic: NewsBusters

An Oct. 2 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard continues his recent push of the strange meme that Fox News isn't conservative. He complained that a New York Times "consistently suggested that FNC was a biased, propaganda arm of the Republican Party without recognizing that the overwhelming majority of Americans see the Times as a biased, propaganda arm of the Democrat [sic] Party."

If, by "the overwhelming majority of Americans," he means "my colleagues and employers at the Media Research Center," Sheppard would a little closer to the mark. Nor does Sheppard acknowledge the evidence that Fox News regularly forwards conservative misinformation and shows a conservative bias.

Sheppard also note what he calls "the Democratic National Committee talking points the Times normally reprints for its readers, or how much of this very article came from such a memo," but he offers no evidence that this is, in fact, occurring.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:05 PM EDT
CNS Pushes Republican Spin Points on Foley

An Oct. 2 article by Susan Jones uncritically forwards the spin from Republican Speaker of the House Denny Hastert that he knew of only one set of communications between Rep. Mark Foley and a teenage congressional page that were "not sexually explicit in nature" and not about another set that was. In fact, the first part of Jones' article is essentially a rewrite of a Hastert press release. Jones also frames any questioning of Hastert's claims as a political argument, stating that "Democrats are questioning the way Republicans handled -- or did not handle -- Foley's improper communications with a House page."

In fact, there are questions about how responsive Hastert was to investigating claims about Foley. A writer to Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo blog sums up with Jones doesn't:

There's a weak excuse emerging from Republicans for Foleygate - they might have known about the e-mails to Rep. Alexander's page, but they never knew about the explicit IMs. Too much of the media coverage right now is centering on that question, as if knowledge of the IMs is the only way to show the leadership was remiss.

But that's irrelevant, and here's why: Once ABC got hold of the e-mails, it took them one day to flush out the IMs. That's what an actual investigation looks like. The Republican leadership simply didn't want to know how bad the Foley situation was. That's just as morally negligent as if they had started digging and found the IMs.

While Jones, toward the end of her article, notes that "The Democratic National Committee noted that Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York -- the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, a group that works to elect Republicans to Congress -- knew 'months ago' that a teenage page had complained about Foley's '"inappropriate communications,' " she frames it as a political argument advanced by Democrats and fails to note that Reynolds allegedly warned Hastert about the Foley e-mails months ago.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:46 PM EDT
AIM: Purge Gays from GOP
Topic: Accuracy in Media

Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid concludes an Oct. 2 column bashing Republicans for allegedly protecting Rep. Mark Foley this way:

This is the time for conservative media outlets, including the blogs, to insist that the Republican Party and the conservative movement stop protecting homosexuals in its ranks. The pro-homosexual groups in the Republican Party which shielded Foley from legitimate questions about his closeted life should be exposed and discredited.

This reads to us that Kincaid is not only after those who protected Foley, he wants all gays kicked out of the Republican Party. As we've noted, Kincaid has issues with gays.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:06 PM EDT
A Noel Sheppard Misinformation Compendium
Topic: NewsBusters

NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard has been on quite a tear the past week, spreading all sorts of misleading claims.

As we noted, in a Clinton-bashing Sept. 25 post, Sheppard claimed that most Republicans discouraged "Wag the Dog" claims about Clinton's 1998 missile strikes on Somalia -- even though the host of Sheppard's blog entries, the Media Research Center, did nothing to discourage such talk.

In a Sept. 27 post, Sheppard launched another attack on the Clintons, calling Bill Clinton "Billary" throughout and doing things like saying that they are "a couple that has done a better job of conning Americans than any other since Bonnie and Clyde." As we've also noted, despite purporting to "expose" bias, MRC employees have no problem using biased terminology when they think it's advantageous to them.

Sheppard dishes out all sorts of misinformation in a Sept. 29 post. In attacking Hillary Clinton's statement that "I’m certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled `Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States,’ he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team," Sheppard wrote:

What makes this statement by Sen. Clinton so astounding are the following sentences from page 128 of the 9/11 Commission report:

On Friday, December 4, 1998, the CIA included an article in the Presidential Daily Brief describing intelligence, received from a friendly government, about a threatened hijacking in the United States. This article was declassified at our request.

The title of this PDB was “Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks.” Somehow this little piece of history slipped the Senator’s mind. Makes one wonder what Sen. Clinton feels “taken it more seriously” means.

Sheppard failed to note what the 9/11 Commission report stated about Clinton's response to that PDB:

The same day, [counterterrorism chief Richard] Clarke convened a meeting of his CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] to discuss both the hijacking concern and the antiaircraft missile threat. To address the hijacking warning, the group agreed that New York airports should go to maximum security starting that weekend. They agreed to boost security at other East coast airports. The CIA agreed to distribute versions of the report to the FBI and FAA to pass to the New York Police Department and the airlines. The FAA issued a security directive on December 8, with specific requirements for more intensive air carrier screening of passengers and more oversight of the screening process, at all three New York area airports. 

Sheppard returned once again to the ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11," which he has unsuccessfully addressed in the past. he claimed that "the inaccuracies presented regarding events immediately before 9/11 were conceivably much more fallacious than anything surrounding what occurred in the ’90s." This time, though, we actually have an example of purportedly false depictions of the Bush administration: "Path painted a picture of an extraordinary amount of information coming into the FBI and the CIA in the days just prior to 9/11 that made it seem as if a fool could have connected all the dots" when, according to counterterrorism expert Michael Scheuer, " 'chatter' was indeed higher than normal, but that large volumes of information are always coming into such agencies." Sheppard then asks: "This raises an important question: given the factual misrepresentations of events in 2001 by this docudrama, why didn’t the Bush administration lodge complaints to ABC?" (Italics his.)

So, who exactly in the Bush administration was depicted doing these things that were less flattering than in reality? Sheppard doesn't say. Meanwhile, specific Clinton officials were depicted as doing things that didn't happen in reality. As we've noted, that little scene Sheppard cited is outweighed by Bush administration officials acting more heroically than the historical record shows.

Finally, in a Sept. 30 post, Sheppard claimed that a dustup between conservative William Kristol and Fox News host Shepard Smith "perfectly demonstrated just how wrong folks like Paul Begala and James Carville are when they suggest that Fox News is just a propaganda arm of the Republican Party." So does this mean that the MRC will stop calling CNN liberal because of the presence of Lou Dobbs? Didn't think so.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:39 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 12:05 AM EDT
Sunday, October 1, 2006
Fat Jokes: A Double Standard
Topic: NewsBusters

So Mark Finkelstein thinks Keith Olbermann telling fat jokes about Roger Ailes is "mean-spirited" and "middle-school-worthy." He might want to impart that lesson on the folks who hang out at NewsBusters.

In this thread, commenters call Rosie O'Donnell "The Pig" and "Rosie O'Fatso." This one reprises "The Pig," another poster writes, "I wonder where Rosie stands in the trans-fat issue… hell; maybe Rosie is that, trans-fat", and yet another poster states, "Oh my god, I have the image of a fat, naked, furry Rosie plopping her fat ass into a  bathtub!! MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!" A poster in this one asks her, "Is there so much saturated fat running through your brain, that you can't possibly remember?" and another calls her "El Fatso," and a third states, "How does Rosie stay out of the water that long? Won’t her blow-hole dry out?" And a poster in this thread calls her a "giant, bloating, beached whale" while another notes: "Chuck Norris fact: Chuck Norris made Fat Bastard go on a diet, only to discover (after the first 50 lbs. or so) that he was really Rosie O'Donnell in a kilt."

If the NewsBusters denziens can't stop making fat jokes, why should anyone there demand that Keith Olbermann stop? 

Posted by Terry K. at 9:44 PM EDT
Advertising-Disguised-As-News Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A Sept. 28 WorldNetDaily article touts its newest advertiser, Zion Oil & Gas -- yet somehow neglects to mention this fact, even as the ad flashes by next to the article. WND regularly violates this core tenet of journalistic ethics.

As we've noted, WND has previously touted Zion Oil, which is drilling for oil and gas in Israel using the Bible as a guide. WND also continues, as it did then, to neglect to note the company's connections to the cousin of WND columnist Hal Lindsey.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:32 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, October 1, 2006 10:36 AM EDT
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Topic: WorldNetDaily
Bartholomew serves up the background of Ted Flynn, who wrote the New World Order conspiracy book that WorldNetDaily is currently promoting.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:20 AM EDT
WND Likens Homeschool Critics to Nazis
Topic: WorldNetDaily

The headline and lead paragraph of a Sept. 29 WorldNetDaily article makes a point of noting that a German ban on homeschooling is a "Nazi-era ban."

Does somebody want readers to think that anyone who criticizes homeschooling is acting like a Nazi? It sure seems that way.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:18 AM EDT
CNS Ratchets Up Murtha-Bashing

It looks like's targeted candidate for attack is Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha. It started with a partisan attack on Murtha's war record that quoted disgruntled political opponents, the incapacitated and the dead, followed by playing up the Swift Boat-esque claims of his opponents for re-election -- which just happen to nicely coincide with CNS' earlier attack.

A pair of CNS articles continue the trend. A Sept. 29 article by Randy Hall -- co-author of the earlier attack pieces -- strangely goes after a Murtha supporter who has criticized the attack on Murtha's record, particularly his Purple Hearts, by saying that "it matters not whether it's a broken toenail or a slug to the brain" that earns a soldier a Purple Heart. Hall actually serves up a little honesty here, admitting that the attack on Murtha in his previous article was done by "several political opponents," though we suspect Hall refuses to count himself among them, even though he essentially is.

This was joined by a Sept. 29 commentary by CNS editor in chief David Thibault, who is much more explicit about his partisan agenda than Hall, calling him "Mad-Dog Murtha." It's clear from his commentary that Thibault is using CNS to bach Murtha for the simple act of daring to criticize President Bush and the Iraq war, calling him "crass" and "selfish" for doing so and insisting that "politics is behind every word Murtha utters."

Thibault writes: "If Murtha and his ilk lose another national election on Nov. 7, will they finally get a clue and stop politicizing the war in Iraq?" The question makes the assumption that Republicans are not similarly politicizing the war -- neither side of which Thibault offers any evidence to support. In fact, one can say that by attacking Murtha for speaking out, Thibault himself is politicizing the war.

Thibault and CNS have another month to shovel out this sort of bias, so fasten your seat belts.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:12 AM EDT
Friday, September 29, 2006
Ruddy's Favorite Politician Resigns
Topic: Newsmax

Florida Rep. Mark Foley has resigned his seat amid allegations of inappropriate e-mails he wrote to a teenage male page.

Foley, a Republican, is a politician whom NewsMax has championed. As we documented, NewsMax editor and CEO Christopher Ruddy donated $1,000 to Foley's campaign in 2003 -- then, two days later, NewsMax published an article laudatory of Foley and his chances in a campaign to seek a U.S. Senate seat.

Initial coverage of Foley's resignation by NewsMax has thus far stuck to wire articles -- the first one of which, as near as we can tell, is the first time NewsMax has mentioned the page e-mail controversy.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:16 PM EDT
Speaking of Suckling ...
Topic: NewsBusters

Greg Sheffield takes a swipe at my employer in a Sept. 29 NewsBusters post:

Liberal billionaire George Soros is quitting politics, probably putting down that toy to play with some others, like most billionaires with short attention spans. As financier for much of the Left wing's activities, it'll be interesting to see how various liberal groups will deal without a Soros to suckle on, including our friends at Media Matters.

In fact, Media Matters has not received funding directly from a Soros-controlled organization, though it has received funding from a group that has.

But what would Sheffield and the MRC do should the dark day come that it no longer has a, say, Richard Mellon Scaife to suckle on? Do tell, Greg.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:58 PM EDT
Riehl's Double Standard
Topic: NewsBusters

Smear-mongering blogger Dan Riehl blunders in on the George Allen n-word controversy with a Sept. 29 NewsBusters post that's a classic misdirection tactic: accusing Allen's opponent, James Webb, of doing the exact same thing. The post is a compliation of claims made by other right-wing bloggers, among them quotes from Webb's works of fiction -- which of course prove nothing about Webb the man, even though Riehl tried to portray it as "basically admitting the N word has flowed from his lips."

Riehl also does what his NewsBusters and MRC colleagues have bashed the "liberal media" for doing in regard to the accusations against Allen: exluded Webb's denial that he has ever "used it as a racial epithet aimed at anyone" or contradictory claims by Webb acquaintances.

Shouldn't NewsBusters practice what it preaches?

Posted by Terry K. at 2:48 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, September 29, 2006 5:13 PM EDT
WND on O'Reilly: Alarmist, Misleading Claims
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily seems curiously unenthusiastic about promoting after the fact the appearance by news editor Joe Kovacs on the Sept. 27 edition of Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" to discuss the (female) teacher-student sexpidemic! -- there's no summary, transcript of video clip. (Maybe they're still a little touchy about the falling-out between O'Reilly and WND, where O'Reilly's syndicated column got its start.) We don't have the bandwidth to host video, but we have the transcript (corrected against the video), and it shows the thinness of the accusations WND has hurled.

Kovacs began by making alarmist claims:

KOVACS: Bill, we found out this problem is everywhere. It is rampant. It is in big school districts in big cities. It is in little towns all across America. There are teachers who are just preying on their students and having sex with them. They're having sex with them on school campuses. They're having sex with them in their homes. They're having sex with them in the parking lot of Busch Gardens. It's going on everywhere. It's just unbelievable.

When O'Reilly asked Kovacs to "put it in perspective"-- something WND has never done -- Kovacs hedges, offering no data to back up his claims but instead insisting that in the "hundreds of newspapers" they monitor they "saw case after case of women having sex with their students." In other words, it's still solely anecdotal.

Finally, though, we get an inkling of what's behind WND's obsession with female teachers. Kovacs cited research by Kansas State University's Bob Shoop showing that adult females convicted of having sex with male students receive significantly less severe jail sentences (or merely probation) than adult males convicted of having sex with female students.

But Shoop also notes that there is a "proliferation of reporting" about such incidents, which doesn't necessarily correlate into an actual increase in incidents; "There were almost no reports of those events during the time that children actually were abused." The Shoop press release also notes that "no national studies exist to discuss how prevalent a problem it truly is."  In other words, WND has no factual basis upon which to declare that female teacher-student sex is "rampant" because they have no baseline (and, as we've pointed out, they are also mixing incidents from 15 years ago with current ones).

Further, a Nov. 29, 2005, USA Today article cited Shoops as a source in claiming that "In the past 18 months, at least 25 cases nationwide involved female teachers molesting students." That's the first solid number we've seen -- WND has never offered one -- which doesn't exactly sound like an epidemic. 

Both O'Reilly and Kovacs then appear to decide that the reason these women are getting less jail tme than their male counterparts was that the "glamour-model type" of teacher are somehow flummoxing the judges into doing so. And then O'Reilly gets even more bizarre:

O'REILLY: So look, we have here, I believe, is a decline of standards in the teaching profession. That's what I think is behind this. I think they're getting people in -- because they don't pay teachers a lot in a lot of areas around the country. They're getting people in who are unstable. You have to be unstable to be an attractive woman. OK, you have to be. You'd have to be an emotional mess, to be an attractive woman and then try to stalk a 13-year-old. I mean, there's just no rationalization. So I think it is a drop in standards. Do you have any other reason to explain it? 

Yep -- O'Reilly lived up to our billing as the perfect venue for Kovacs' misleading, alarmist claims.

UPDATE: Reworded final graf to make a little more sense.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:14 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, September 29, 2006 4:29 PM EDT

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