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Wednesday, November 29, 2006
AP Story 'Bogus'? Not So Much
Topic: NewsBusters

A Nov. 27 NewsBusters post by Greg Sheffield, headlined "It's Official: Media Body Burning Story Is Bogus," asserted that an incident forwarded by the Associated Press stating that six Sunnis in Iraq were "captured by Shiites, doused with kerosine [sic] and burned alive -- "never happened. Furthermore, the Iraqi 'spokesman' relied on to give all information regarding this event is as fictional as the story itself."

Whoa there, Tex. Not so fast.

As blogger Bob Geiger points out, AP has since cited witnesses to the immolations and claims to have confirmed the identity of "spokesman" Jamil Hussein, pointing out that he "has been a regular source of police information for two years and had been visited by the AP reporter in his office at the police station on several occasions."

NewsBusters has yet to acknowledge AP's defense of its article, though it ran a Nov. 27 post by Al Brown similarly questioning the existence of Jamil Hussein.

UPDATE: David Neiwert offers his take on this, with a focus on lead promoter Michelle Malkin. 

Posted by Terry K. at 5:02 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, November 30, 2006 1:00 AM EST
Misleading NewsMax Headline Watch
Topic: Newsmax

The headline of a Nov. 29 NewsMax article states, "Jim Webb Threatens to 'Slug' President Bush." But the article makes no such claim.

Rather, it accurately recounts a report from The Hill newspaper that Webb, the newly elected Democratic senator from Virginia, "was so infuriated by a remark from President George W. Bush that the former Marine officer was tempted to punch the commander-in-chief." Webb issued no threat.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:49 PM EST
Breaking: Aaron Klein Names A Military Critic of Olmert
Topic: WorldNetDaily

This time, amid his latest anonymously sourced attack on Israel's Ehud Olmert, WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein throws in an actual name of a critic. But, being an Aaron Klein article, it's misleading.

The headline on Klein's Nov. 28 WND article reads, "Israeli military not consulted before cease-fire," but that's contradicted by the very first paragraph, which states that Olmert "did not fully consult with the Israeli army before agreeing to a cease-fire with Palestinian militants two days ago." (Italics ours.)

Klein attributes this claim to Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz -- which may be a first for Klein in actually naming a military official who has been critical of Olmert. But Klein also mixes in more anonymous claims as well; his heavy reliance on them -- something we can't imagine WND editor Joseph Farah tolerating if similarly anonymous "military officials" were being similarly critical of President Bush's prosecution of the Iraq war -- and his longtime hatred of Olmert raises the likelihood that Klein is using these "anonymous" officials in a partisan bid to keep up his anti-Olmert jihad.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:38 AM EST
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Finkelstein Still Doesn't Say Why Iraq Isn't In Civil War
Topic: NewsBusters

A Nov. 28 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein claims that NBC "apparently seeks ... to shape US policy" by calling the situation in Iraq a "civil war," asserting that "[t]he NBC game-plan becomes clear. ... make sure the conflict is 'branded' a civil war" with the only option being to "extract ourselves." He concludes:

In sum, it appears that NBC News' trumpeted decision to label the situation in Iraq a 'civil war' was no mere exercise in semantics. It reflects NBC's calculated attempt to influence public opinion and US policy on the most serious national security issue of the day. Such is the role that the MSM has arrogated to itself."

But again, as he did the previous day, Finkelstein offers no evidence that the situation in Iraq is not a "civil war." As someone who "recently returned from Iraq," as his tagline states, he would presumably be able to offer a little insight into the situation. Yet, he does not.

Fellow NewsBuster Clay Waters similarly tsk-tsks at the New York Times for also adopting the "civil war" terminology, but he also doesn't explain why the Times is wrong.

If you're going to attack NBC for using the term "civil war," shouldn't the first thing you do in support of your attack is explain why they're wrong? Finkelstein and Waters seem to think that it's axiomatic that it's not a civil war because the Bush administration says it's not.

At least MRC chief Brent Bozell, appearing on "Hannity & Colmes," did offer a reason why it wasn't a civil war, even though his argument essentially boils down to that it isn't because he says it isn't. We suspect that Bozell would be calling it a civil war if a Democrat was president.

Posted by Terry K. at 6:10 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 6:40 PM EST
Meanwhile ...
Topic: Media Research Center
Media Matters' Eric Boehlert does a fine job of decimating Brent Bozell's false and misleading claims of liberal bias in media coverage of the 2006 elections.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:00 PM EST
Getting It Wrong: Joseph Farah and Illegals
Topic: WorldNetDaily

It seems like only yesterday that WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah was claiming that the reporting "everything" WND has covered "was fair, honest, truthful, balanced and accurate." (Oh, wait, it was yesterday.) Farah manages to prove himself wrong yet again.

A Nov. 28 WND article, written by Farah himself, claims that more Americans "were murdered this year by illegal aliens than the combined death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since those military campaigns began." He then immediately states in so many words whether that's even true:

Though no federal statistics are kept on murders or any other crimes committed by illegal aliens, a number of groups have produced estimates based on data collected from prisons, news reports and independent research.

Twelve Americans are murdered every day by illegal aliens, according to statistics released by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. That's 21,900 since Sept. 11, 2001.

First, it's not Peter King but, rather, Rep. Steve King of Iowa who is making that claim, as the press release to which the article links demonstrates -- which, by the way, doesn't even reference the death-toll claim. (WND has since corrected this; a screen shot of the original, erroneous reference to Peter King is here.)

Second, Farah apparently made no effort to investigate or verify King's figures, apparently content to repeat an inflammatory claim because it sounds good. In fact, King's numbers are highly supect. As Colorado Media Matters details, King has cited as support for his claim a GAO study purportedly claiming that 28 percent of prison inmates are "criminal aliens." King claims to have "extrapolated" his death toll from that number.

In fact, King's claim that 28 percent of prison inmates are "criminal aliens" is itself questionable. Statistics from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and has found no support for his assertion; according to the BJS, 6.4 percent of all state and federal inmates at midyear 2005 were "noncitizens."

Further, Farah's comparison of the alleged deaths due to illegal immigrants -- numbers he essentially admits are not on solid statistical ground -- with the number of deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is misleading. The soldiers' deaths are taken from a much smaller population -- roughly 200,000 U.S. personnel on duty there, vs. roughly 300 million Americans -- so the soldiers' death rate is much higher than even Farah's alarmist numbers on illegals.

It may be "accurate" that King made claims using these numbers, but it doesn't mean the numbers themselves are accurate. Farah's reliance on unverified numbers forwarded by those with an anti-immigration agenda makes his entire article suspect (not to mention unbalanced, another violation of Farah's alleged quality standards).

With such factual inaccuracies and misleading claims (not to mention the plagiarism), it escapes us that Farah can credibly claim to head a "news" organization.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:31 AM EST
WND Simultaneously Embraces, Runs Away From Articles in Lawsuit
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A Nov. 27 WorldNetDaily article details the latest happenings in the libel lawsuit filed by Tennessee businessman Clark Jones over an 18-part series of Al Gore-bashing articles WND ran before the 2000 election. Of particular note is this quote by WND editor Joseph Farah:

Good journalism often makes people uncomfortable. But uncomfortable does not equate with inaccurate, libelous, actionable, unfair or malicious. WorldNetDaily has made every effort to ensure that its reporting in this series –- and in everything it has covered – was fair, honest, truthful, balanced and accurate.

That, of course, is a lie -- a casual perusal of the ConWebWatch archive will uncover multiple examples of WND coverage being unfair, dishonest, untruthful, unbalanced and inaccurate. Indeed, this very article doesn't even live up to Farah's lofty claim.

It is unfair and unbalanced because no effort was made to contact Jones his attorneys, even though Farah, his lawyer, and one of the two reporters who wrote the articles, Charles C. Thompson II and Tony Hays, are prominently quoted. Further unfairness is shown by lovingly detailing the resumes of the two reporters; no such fawning descriptions are offered of Jones, whom WND has regularly referred to derogatorily as a "Gore crony."

The article also cites a case of dubious relevance to WND's role in the lawsuit:

In a related development, the California Supreme Court has ruled that websites that publish inflammatory information written by others cannot be sued for libel. The court concluded that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides broad immunity from defamation lawsuits for people who publish information on the Internet that was gathered from another source.

The ruling leaves open for damages only the original source of the statement, the ruling concluded.

On the surface, this reads like WND's attempt to throw the reporters under the bus if Jones' libel suit is successful -- the article also claims that "WND only became aware of the writers after the articles already were completed." But it may also not be relevant. The case to which this is referring involves a woman who posted an attack on two doctors written by someone to two Internet newsgroup sites. But there are two major differences between this case and the WND-Jones case:

  • WorldNetDaily is not a newsgroup where anyone can post; it is an edited site in which only content screened by its operators gets printed. These articles were approved for printing on WND by people paid to do so.
  • WND didn't just passively repost the content of others; it reprinted all 18 articles written about the case, then took credit for running them. As a June 2001 article states: "WorldNetDaily’s uncompromising series on Gore and his cronies, such as Clark Jones, arguably played a major factor in Gore’s loss, according to some Tennessee political observers."

It's disingenuous for WND to simultaneously embrace and run away from these articles. If Farah is as proud of them as he claims he is, why is he looking to invoke immunity from reprinting them?

P.S. Our challenge to WND still stands. If WND really wants to be fair, honest, truthful, balanced and accurate, it would post all legal documents filed in this case to its website and disclose the donors to its legal defense fund.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:39 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 12:45 AM EST
Monday, November 27, 2006
This Is A Depiction Of A Martyr?
Topic: NewsBusters

A Nov. 27 NewsBusters post by Warner Todd Huston claimed that an Associated Press article on Malachi Ritscher -- who doused himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire as an apparent protest of the Iraq war -- was "sympathetic" to Ritscher, 'lioniz[es]" him and "tries its darndest to turn this man into an anti-war hero," claiming it is "filled with quotes from his admiring friends and laments about his 'cause.' " Huston writes that "The AP also goes to pains to make readers believe that 'Malachi' Ritscher might not have been mentally disturbed in an obvious attempt to legitimize his final action," then goes on to wax indignant about Ritscher's "rather unbalanced mental state," not to mention his "utter lack of knowledge about the political system our Founding Fathers created."

But nowhere does Huston actually quote from the AP article. That may be because the article, in fact, does not "lionize" Ritscher. It points out the circumstances surrounding his death:

It took five days for the Cook County medical examiner to identify the charred-beyond-recognition corpse. Meanwhile, Ritscher's suicide went largely unnoticed. It wasn't until a reporter for an alternative weekly, the Chicago Reader, pieced the facts together that word began to spread.

The article also quotes the man as calling Ritscher "a very lonely and tragic man," and notes that "Mental health experts say virtually no suicides occur without some kind of a diagnosable mental illness."

Perhaps what irks Huston so about this article is that it didn't didn't come to the conclusion he wanted it to -- that Ritscher is a loon whose death was meaningless and, therefore, must be ignored. In fact, the article reaches no conclusion; it raises the martyr angle but provides enough details of his mental history to let readers reach their own conclusions.

Perhaps the idea that someone -- especially a news service like AP -- won't follow his conservative beliefs and dismiss other beliefs out of hand and will come to their own conclusions is what irks Huston the most. Not exactly the stuff of quality media criticism.

Posted by Terry K. at 7:49 PM EST
Updated: Monday, November 27, 2006 9:23 PM EST
Civil War in Iraq? Finkelstein Doesn't Say Why It's Not
Topic: NewsBusters

A Nov. 27 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein chastises NBC for calling the sectarian violence in Iraq a "civil war":

The MSM has experienced embarrassing episodes of premature declaration before, notably in Florida 2000. Is the case stronger here? Is this quibbling over terminology, or is there something larger at stake?

Note also [Matt] Lauer's statement that NBC News consulted with "a lot of people," and that McCaffrey chose to "weigh in on the side of calling this a civil war." That seems to suggest that there was another "side" among people NBC consulted who took the opposing view. But Today never told us who they were or what they had to say.

Finkelstein certainly seems to disapprove of NBC using the "civil war" terminology, as his flip reference to the 2000 election indicates. But he fails to offer any argument for why it shouldn't be used. If one is going to attack the logic of others -- and, specifically, attack them for not substantiating their claim -- shouldn't one offer a logical, substantiated claim in response?

A tag at the end of the item notes that "Finkelstein recently returned from Iraq." But the articles he wrote for about his trip were puff pieces mostly concerned with attacking the idea of immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq -- something no major U.S. politican has pushed. He did, however, quote Iraqi deputy prime minister Barham Salih as saying that "extremist forces were trying to push Iraq into all-out civil war, and he predicted that in the next few weeks, the Iraqi government would have to make some very serious choices."

So Finkelstein appears to know that using "civil war" to describe the situation in Iraq is not an outlandish assertion, since he used it himself. So why not defend his argument instead of resorting to flip claims about "premature declaration"?

Posted by Terry K. at 9:33 AM EST
Is Clinton-Bashing Making A Comeback?
Topic: NewsBusters

With Republicans at least partially out of power, conservatives seem to be returning to that old standby, mindless Clinton-bashing. A Nov. 26 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein shows the thinking on this subject that we can look forward to. After a Des Moines Register reporter showed some "delightful Midwestern understatement" by noting that Hillary Clinton "is believed to be weighing a campaign for the Democratic nomination," Finkelstein added: "Indeed. And in tonight's Nature documentary, a ravenous crocodile was believed to be weighing a run at the wildebeest crossing the river."

Comparing Hillary to a crocodile: Charming, Mark.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:08 AM EST
Sunday, November 26, 2006
WND Still Suddenly In Love With CREW
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Remember when WorldNetDaily dismissed Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as tainted by funding from George Soros when CREW publicized allegations of inappropriate email conversations between Republican Rep. Mark Foley and congressional pages -- only to conveniently forget the Soros connection when CREW when after Democratic Rep. John Murtha? WND did it again.

A Nov. 25 article notes that CREW "is trying to make sure Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings does not rise to the chairmanship of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence without the public knowing the full record surrounding his 1989 impeachment as a federal judge." As with its previous Nov. 13 article on Murtha, nowhere does WND mention that CREW has received money from Soros. 

But the next time CREW goes after a Republican, look for WND's selective memory to kick in again. 

Posted by Terry K. at 2:02 AM EST
Saturday, November 25, 2006
MRC's Double Standard on Shady Pasts
Topic: Media Research Center

In a Nov. 21 column attacking the media's treatment of Rep. John Murtha, "someone thoroughly tainted with that odor of corruption," Brent Bozell writes:

In January, the Cybercast News Service reported a story that made Murtha’s ethical problems clear. In a 1980 video of the FBI’s Abscam sting investigation, Murtha told the FBI agents posing as Arabs that he wouldn’t take money up front, but might “change his mind” later “after we’ve done some business.” In the end, he was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator. He wasn’t convicted of a crime, or even charged, but the tape makes clear that Murtha was amenable to making corrupt deals if the right circumstances emerged.

So what did the media do? They largely ignored these charges as they touted Murtha’s plausibility as a voice against the war. On the networks, Murtha was interviewed as a great sage, and Abscam went unmentioned.

First, Bozell fails to disclose that CNS is a division of his Media Research Center. Second, as we've detailed, the CNS article was a partisan attack designed to undercut his credibility as a critic of the Iraq war; CNS editor David Thibault essentially admitted as such. And third, Bozell and the MRC takes a much different attitude when the less-than-stellar pasts of conservatives are discussed.

In a Nov. 15 MRC CyberAlert, Brent Baker recounted how in 1994, NBC's Tom Brokaw "hammered Gingrich in a snide and negative ten-minute Dateline NBC hit piece":

Brokaw pushed every negative button. Gingrich had a "long streak" of "casually reckless" remarks. He admitted "he smoked pot" and "got a marriage deferment" to avoid service in Vietnam. He went to first wife Jackie's hospital room "the day after her cancer surgery" to discuss divorce terms. He made a "very ominous" charge that FDA chief David Kessler threatened to ruin businesses. And his "well-heeled admirers," called "Newt Incorporated," showed he was already ethically compromised, since voters would think donors "were trying to buy his heart if not his vote, at the least."

Bozell and his employees clearly don't like it when the shady pasts of their ideological soulmates are detailed. What gives them the right to demand that their ideological enemies be treated the same way?

Posted by Terry K. at 12:12 PM EST
Friday, November 24, 2006
NewsMax Columnist Plays on Emotions to Oppose Minimum Wage Hike
Topic: Newsmax

A Nov. 21 NewsMax column by Robert J. Cihak -- one of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons-linked "Medicine Men" with Michael Arnold Glueck -- embarks on a novel attack on a raise in the minimum wage: It keeps his developmentally disabled daughter from getting a job. However, Cihak offers no actual evidence of this.

While Cihak does cite Thomas Sowell in support of his claim, he is more prone to making baseless assertions such as, " Yes, minimum wage laws do protect — they protect people such as my daughter from working — and they protect unions and other workers from competition by the lesser skilled." In fact, studies have shown that previous minimum wage increases have not resulted in any significant loss of jobs.

Cihak concludes:

All Ruth [Cihak's daughter] can give me is her trust and love. What more can I ask of her?

But of you, dear reader, I ask you to remember the harm done her and others by minimum wage laws.

We thought conservatives weren't supposed to appeal to emotions the way they regularly accuse Democrats of doing.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:11 PM EST
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
New Article: Implications Have Consequences
Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein implies that Fox News paid a $2 million ransom for two kidnapped journalists -- then denies that he implied it. Read more.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:29 AM EST
Tim Graham's Macaca Moment -- Er, Month
Topic: NewsBusters

Every time someone brings up George Allen and the "macaca" thing, the MRC's Tim Graham can reliably be counted upon to drop a NewsBusters post complaining about it. Well, the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson mentioned "macaca" in a column today discussing Michael Richards' racist rant, and like clockwork, Graham weighs in with a Nov. 22 NewsBusters post rushing once more to Allen's defense:

It doesn't matter how many black friends George Allen has, how many black people endorsed him for re-election, how many blacks have denied they ever saw a racist bone in George Allen's body. There is, in the minds of The Washington Post crowd, a seething "Segregation Forever" George Wallace in there inside his head, and it doesn't matter if there's evidence to the contrary. They're going to just keep fiendishly pushing the "Macaca" button as if it proves Allen is forever tainted with a scarlet "R" for racist.

But Graham misses the point -- that the same could probably have been said of Richards before his rant was captured on video. Graham also ignores that there is, in fact, a racist connotation to the word "macaca," and that Allen does have a weird fascination with all things Confederate (despite having been raised in southern California), which is associated with racism and slavery.

Finally, in full pot-kettle-black mode, Graham then states that "the most ridiculous liberal Post columnist today is actually Ruth Marcus -- another former Post reporter -- who composed an entire hypersensitive column excoriating President Bush for removing the '-ic' from 'Democratic' Party on the campaign trail."

No more ridiculous than pretending that Allen's "macaca" remark was totally innocent, and not only because Graham's fellow NewsBusters posters regularly use the term "Democrat Party," as Noel Sheppard did two days ago. And no more hypersensitive than, say, the blog banning a commenter for using the word "theocracy" to describe the aim of some conservative Repubicans.

And certainly no more ridiculous or hypersensitive than indignantly complaining every time someone mentions "macaca." 

Posted by Terry K. at 10:16 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, November 22, 2006 10:46 AM EST

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