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Saturday, December 2, 2006
NewsBusters Again Ignores AP's Defense of Story
Topic: NewsBusters

While NewsBusters' Greg Sheffield doesn't share fellow NewsBuster Tim Graham's "macaca" obsession, he does share his penchant for ignoring inconvenient facts.

In a Dec. 2 post claiming that the Associated Press "used a government source that doesen't exist," Sheffield excerpted a UK Guardian article stating that the Iraq government "wants to make sure the AP and other media outlets cannot get away with similar fraudulent activity" by forming a "press monitoring unit." But Sheffield's excerpt of the Guardian article in his post stops when it gets to AP's defense:

AP rejected the accusation and said it does not pay for information. In a statement, AP's executive editor Kathleen Carroll said the reporter concerned had been in regular contact with the Captain for more than two years, often meeting in his police station in west Baghdad. Other witnesses to the attack had also been interviewed.

"The Iraqi spokesman said today that reporting on the such atrocities 'shows that the security situation is worse than it really is.' He is speaking from a capital city where people are gunned down in their cars, dragged from their homes or blown apart in public places every single day," said Ms Carroll.

"Good reporting relies on more than government-approved sources. We stand behind our reporting."

NewsBusters bloggers have a history of downplaying or ignoring AP's claims and reporting in standing by its story of six Sunnis burned alive and its source, Jamil Hussein.

Further, in placing his faith in military authorities, Sheffield ignores the U.S. military's history of distortion of news from Iraq, as David Neiwert details:

The cold reality, backed up by case after case, is that the information being released by the American military in Iraq for the duration of this misbegotten war has been not merely PR on steroids, but a psy ops operation targeting the Iraqi population only tangentially. Its chief target all along has been the American public.

The first people to come into conflict with such operatations have always been journalists, particularly those trying honestly to do their jobs. This has always been the case, and will always be so.

Posted by Terry K. at 8:02 PM EST
Graham Praises Will's Column, Fails to Note It's Misleading
Topic: NewsBusters

A Dec. 1 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham praised George Will for writing a "brutal column" about Virginia Sen.-elect Jim Webb and "scouring him for being rude to President Bush at a reception" (though was critical of him for waiting until after the election to do so and bashing Will for "scouring Sen. George Allen ... seven days before the election"). But Graham failed to note the misleading nature of Will's column on Webb.

As Media Matters and Greg Sargent point out, in describing an exchange between Webb and President Bush, Will omitted a phrase uttered by Bush that would help to explain to readers why Webb was somewhat testy with the president. Will wrote:

Wednesday's Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq." When the president again asked "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy."

Sargent noted:

Will cut out the line from the President where he said: "That's not what I asked you." In Will's recounting, that instead became a sign of Bush's parental solicitousness: "The president again asked 'How's your boy?' "

Will's change completely alters the tenor of the conversation from one in which Bush was rude first to Webb, which is what the Post's original account suggested, to one in which Webb was inexplicably rude to the President, which is how Will wanted to represent what happened.

Graham also continues his obsession with the George Allen "macaca" incident, bashing not only Will but the Weekly Standard for being critical of Allen before the election, in which he lost to Webb: "As with the Weekly Standard and their George Allen-bashing cover this fall, when you help make the 'Macaca majority,' then you should look in the mirror before despairing over the man you helped usher in."

Posted by Terry K. at 10:31 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, December 2, 2006 10:36 AM EST
Friday, December 1, 2006
Shocker: CNS Debunks *Conservative* Talking Point

Now, here's something you don't see every day: the ConWeb debunking an emerging-but-false conservative talking point.

A Dec. 1 article by Randy Hall rather definitively shoots down the claim that newly elected Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, would be sworn into the House with his hand on a copy of the Koran, correctly pointing out that no member of Congress is officially sworn in with their hand on any book, including the Bible, and that the Constitution specifically prohibits a "religious test" for holding office.

This is all the more surprising because, as we've noted, Hall was CNS' point man for conservative attacks on John Murtha, has forwarded other conservative attacks, and has otherwise sought to promote conservative talking points and bash liberal ones.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:20 PM EST
WND Continues to Obfuscate on Libel Lawsuit
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A Nov. 30 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh on the libel suit filed against WorldNetDaily and others by Tennessee businessman Clark Jones over a 2000 series of Al Gore-bashing articles focuses on the least relevant aspect of it -- the amount of money Jones is suing for, $165 million. After all, most civil lawsuits are settled for less (sometimes much less) than the original asking amount.

While Unruh busied himself with such irrelevancies -- he also throws in a recent history of libel claims -- he makes no effort to contact Jones or his lawyers for a response, though he quotes WND's Joseph Farah and WND's lawyer. Unruh also fails to address a series of conflicting claims WND has made about the articles over which it is being sued -- as we noted, it is simultaneously standing behind the articles but also looking for escape hatch by arguing that it merely reposted the articles and had nothing to do with their content.

Also on Nov. 30, WND conducted a poll asking, "Why is WND's record libel suit not getting national coverage as a 1st Amendment battle?" But this ignores the fact that WND itself has downplayed the lawsuit, at least until now. As we've previously noted, WND went 3 1/2 years -- from December 2002 to July 2006 -- without publishing a news article about it. This -- along with WND's one-sided coverage of it and its refusal to acknowlege our challenge to post all relevant legal documents filed in the lawsuit on its website as a show of objectivity and transparency -- suggests that there are things in those legal papers that WND would rather not see the light of day.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:19 AM EST
Thursday, November 30, 2006
AIM's Double Standard on Killers As Victims
Topic: Accuracy in Media

In a Nov. 30 Accuracy in Media column, Cliff Kincaid purports to be outraged that the public defender for Nicholas Gutierrez, a "deranged homosexual man" convicted of murdering "Chicago Catholic and mother of four" Mary Stachowicz in 2002, claimed in her defense that, in the words fo anti-gay activst Peter LaBarbera, whom Kincaid copiously cites in his article, Stachowicz "became enraged to the point of violence over [Gutierrez's] homosexual lifestyle." Kincaid quoted LaBarbera calling this "ugly anti-Christian bigotry -- the legal equivalent of spitting on Mary's grave." Kincaid added that Stachowicz "is not politically correct. So she will not be portrayed sympathetically. Indeed, her killer, an admitted and active homosexual, may get the media's sympathetic ear."

But Kincaid -- nor, to our knowledge, LaBarbera -- raised any similar objections when one of the men who killed Matthew Shepard tried a similar blame-the-victim defense. In fact, in a Dec. 8, 1998, column, Kincaid and Reed Irvine were eager to endorse it. The column noted that "Newsweek magazine reports that Shepard had apparently tried to pick up another man in another setting"; rather than condeming it, as Kincaid did with Guiterrez's defense, he and Irvine linked it to Shepard's purported desire to "go after sex in public or semi-public settings" and used it as an example of why gays should not be protected under hate-crimes laws:

This is disgusting behavior and no one really wants to talk about it. But an understanding of this subculture is necessary when considering passing hate crime laws to protect homosexuals.

A Nov. 2, 1998, column by Kincaid and Irvine similiarly noted that "Some reports indicated [Shepard] was attacked after cruising for sex," but didn't condemn it as a defense.

When one of Shepard's killers, Russell Henderson, went on ABC in 2004 to claim that Shepard was killed as part of a robbery and not because he was gay, Kincaid was all too accepting of Henderson's story and used a Dec. 22, 2004, column to suggest that Shepard deserved to die, calling him "a heavy drug user who was HIV-positive." In recounting Henderson's "gay panic" defense, Kincaid not only doesn't criticize Henderson for using it and, he blames political correctness for Henderson's resorting to it in the first place:

The gay rights movement wanted to depict Shepard as an innocent victim of a homophobic society.  This played into their demands for legislation to curb so-called "hate crimes."  One of the perpetrators used that to his advantage, arguing when he went on trial that he went into a panic when Shepard tried to proposition him at a bar. His girlfriend made the same claim in the media, including on "20/20." But now they say it was all a ruse, designed to get him a reduced sentence by suggesting that he wasn't in control of his faculties when the murder occurred.

As we've previously detailed, Henderson has a history of giving "multiple, conflicting accounts of what happened" the night Sheppard died. Apparently, as far as Kincaid is concerned, a convicted felon is more trustworthy than a gay person.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:57 PM EST
NewsBusters Ignores Evidence That Substantiates AP Story
Topic: NewsBusters

A Nov. 30 NewsBusters post by Al Brown quasi-acknowledges the Associated Press' defense of a story of Sunnis burned alive in Iraq and its source, but it mostly ignores what the AP has to say, relying instead on claims by Iraq and CENTCOM officials that one AP source for that story, Jamil Hussein, doesn't exist.

Nowhere does Brown detail the AP's defense beyond stating that "So far, the Associated Press is standing by their story, claiming that their reporters visited Jamil Hussein at his police station." Brown also fails to note, as we did, that the AP has claimed other eyewitnesses to the incident.

Brown should try fully reporting all sides of this story and be a little less eager for a scalp to nail on his anti-liberal-media wall.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:40 PM EST
A Double Standard on Mount Rushmore
Topic: NewsBusters

In a Nov. 29 NewsBusters post, Tim Graham is irked that Regis Philbin said of Dan Rather, "It’s like lookin' at Mount Rushmore!"

Funny, we don't recall Graham objecting to Chris Matthews suggesting that President Bush belonged on Mount Rushmore. Then again, that would mess with the MRC's script that Matthews is a diehard liberal (never mind that Matthews regularly bashed President Clinton, which the MRC heartily approved of).

Posted by Terry K. at 9:21 AM EST
Will NewsMax Correct the Record on Pelosi's Vineyard?
Topic: Newsmax

NewsMax heavily promoted Peter Schweizer's book "Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy," even offering special deals on it through its online store. Among the lead claims in that book -- teased in NewsMax's promotional materials as well as several other NewsMax articles, most recently a Nov. 1 article by Jim Meyers -- is that House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi supports unions, but the vineyard she owns employs non-union help.

Turns out there's a lot more to that story that Schweizer and NewsMax hasn't told anyone.

Think Progress reports that a San Francisco TV station looked into Schweizer's claim and found some interesting things:

  • Pelosi treats her workers better than unionized vineyard workers, offering them higher-than-union wages.
  • Pelosi is prohibited by law from helping her workers unionize. A United Farm Workers Union representative explains: “It is patently illegal for any grower to even discuss a union contract, which is the only way you can supply union workers, without the workers first having voted in a state conducted secret ballot election.”

Even more interesting (and hilarious), Schweizer defends his lazy reporting: “It’s not my responsibility to go and find out how every single particular circumstance is handled on the Pelosi vineyard.”

Any chance NewsMax will tell its readers the whole Pelosi story? Don't count on it.

But NewsMax isn't the only ConWeb sector that needs to clarify the record (and probably won't): three WorldNetDaily articles promoting Schweizer's book and two columns by Joseph Farah repeated the highly misleading claim.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:43 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, November 30, 2006 12:54 AM EST
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

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