A May 22 CNSNews.com article by Randy Hall asserting that the season finale of NBC hospital drama "ER" contained "story elements critical of the war in Iraq, including the suggestion that government officials misuse terror threat levels and that U.S. forces torture prisoners during interrogation." Not only is the article incredibly one-sided -- Hall quotes three people critical of the show and Hollywood in general and only one person (a worker for an "anti-war group" and "a regular 'ER' viewer" who is quoted defending the show mostly on the basis of entertainment value, not the factual basis of the plot) in support, adding that messages to NBC "were not returned by press time" -- he makes no mention of evidence that, in fact, the Bush administration misused terror threat levels and Iraqi prisoners were tortured.
Hall's lead witness was Move America Forward chief strategist Sal Russo:
"Dismissing terrorist threat levels as election-year posturing does a disservice to the dedicated public servants who are trying to keep America safe against the threat of international Islamic terrorism," said Russo.
"Using the al Qaeda tactic of grossly exaggerating claims against American troops is insulting to our military and every American," he said.
But Hall never mentions that both claims do have a basis in fact -- ripped from the headlines, one might say. In 2005, former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge revealed that the Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level:
"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' "
As far as torture goes, doesn't Abu Ghraib ring a bell? Might not that have rated a mention by Hall, if only to explain why Russo thinks the claim is "grossly exaggerated"?
MRC Talking Point Overtaken By Events Topic: NewsBusters
Good news: Reality is catching up to the Media Research Center's silliest complaint.
We've frequentlynoted the MRC's obsession with news reports that gas prices were at "record highs," complaining that they weren't when adjusted for inflation while not similarly adjusting, say, Clinton-era tax increases and record Dow highs. But now, the current price of gas has reached the inflation-adjusted high.
So what does Brent Baker do in a May 21 NewsBusters post? Complain that news reports are still inaccurate, because the current price "does not beat [the inflation-adjusted high] but only 'matches' it." Baker then attacked ABC's Charles Gibson because he "continued to deliver distorted reporting in which he refused to adjust for inflation" by calling the current price "another record high."
Baker wouldn't be nearly as touchy about this if a Democrat was president.
Waters Defends 'Innocent' Duke Players Topic: Media Research Center
In a May 21 Times Watch post (and NewsBusters item), Clay Waters claimed that a New York Times article on the Duke lacrosse team that, though cleared of rape charges, had hired strippers and racked up 15 arrests over three years "may have been guilty of … being college students."
How many college students hire strippers for parties? And an arrest for beating up a guy while hurling anti-gay epithets, as one Duke lacrosse player was charged with, is hardly typical college-student behavior either.
Also, isn't that a lot of arrests for a rather small cross-section of a population? Assuming that the Duke lacrosse team has had, say, 100 full-fledged members over that three-year period, and assuming that each of those 15 arrests involved a different member of the team, that's 15 percent of the lacrosse team having been arrested. Can Waters name any overall college population -- like, say, the entire Duke student body -- in which 15 percent have been arrested? We doubt it. Then again, Waters went on to claim that there exists "credible allegations of discrimination by local cops against Duke students," so we're guessing not.
Waters may want to reconsider his defense over how "innocent" Duke lacrosse players are being "slimed."
Finkelstein Pulls A Hammie Trying to Link Media Matters to Soros Topic: NewsBusters
Conservatives are becoming increasingly desperate to tie Media Matters, my employer, to George Soros, despite the lack of any evidence that Soros has ever donated to the organization. Mark Finkelstein gives it the ol' college try in a May 21 NewsBusters post, stating that Media Matters "has received funding from the George Soros-backed Moveon.org and Soros comrade-in-leftist-arms Peter Lewis." While technically true, Finkelstein is straining so hard for guilt by association here, you can almost hear the grunts as you read that sentence.
Finkelstein went on to bash NBC for its report on Rush Limbaugh's "Barack the Magic Negro" parody for quoting a Media Matters spokesman while "hiding MM's partisan identity," adding, "For 'Today' to have failed to disclose that MM is an organization with a left-wing axe to grind is an outrageous example of bad, biased journalism."
We should assume, then, that Finkelstein's next NewsBusters post will be about Fox News' "bad, biased journalism" for failing to disclose the MRC's "partisan identity" as "an organization with a right-wing axe to grind" whenever an MRC representative appears on the channel.
Who Bought Into the False Leprosy Claim? Topic: The ConWeb
We've previously written about "medical lawyer" Madeleine Cosman's anti-immigrant screed in the form of an article in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons where the incorrect assertion that "Suddenly, in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy" originated. Turns out there were only between 100 and 200 new cases of leprosy in "the past three years"; the 7,000 figure is the cumulative number of cases over the past 30 years.
Now that the claim of a massive increase in leprosy cases in the U.S. caused by illegal immigrants has been thoroughly debunked, we wondered: How much of the leprosy Kool-Aid did the ConWeb drink?
CNSNews.com came up empty. NewsBusters quoted an article citing a Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting report critical of Lou Dobbs' "consistently alarmist" tone on illegal immmigration, noting that leprosy is one way Dobbs has claimed that "the invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans."
NewsMax, meanwhile, took a big, long swig. At the front of the line was columnist George Putnam. A March 10, 2006, column praised Cosman as "a medical/legal genius," writing that " We can thank the late Dr. Madeleine Cosman for alerting us to what the illegal aliens bring to us as they cross our borders." Putnam then went on to doctor Cosman's statement to make it sound even more dire: "She cites leprosy: Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases. Illegal aliens brought leprosy from India, Brazil, the Caribbean and Mexico." Putnam deleted the part where Cosman somewhat qualifed her claim by adding "and other immigrants" after "illegal aliens."
And Putnam wasn't done. In an Aug. 26, 2005, column, he again claimed that "in three years, 7,000 new cases of leprosy have crossed over from Mexico, India and Brazil," and in a Nov. 10, 2006, column, he asserted that "Had Bush and Congress done their jobs," America "wouldn't have ... 7,000 cases of leprosy."
"Medicine Men" Michael Arnold Glueck and Robert J. Cihak -- as we've noted, associated with the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, publisher of the journal that printed Cosman's article -- cited Cosman's work in a Dec. 27, 2005, NewsMax column, though not the specific claim about leprosy. In a Feb. 8, 2005, column, Diane Alden wrote that "in excess of 7,000 new cases of leprosy have been diagnosed in the USA in the past three years."
WorldNetDaily, meanwhile, promoted upon its 2005 publication the article by Cosman that contained that claim, repeating the false statement that "Suddenly, in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy." WND then reduced it to a one-paragraph summary, "As WorldNetDaily reported last month, even leprosy is suddenly on the radar of health officials," and linked to that article from it in otherWNDarticles. A May 22, 2005, article, with the alarmist headline "Are illegals making U.S. a leper colony?" unquestioningly repeated a claim by Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), who said "in the past three years, more than 7,000 cases have been presented."
WND and NewsMax were definitely all in on the leprosy claim. Will they report the real truth about it now?
Farah Finds A Friendly Audience Topic: WorldNetDaily
While Joseph Farah has done publicity for his new book in venues that allow for the possiblity that he might be asked challenging questions (i.e. the radio shows of Thom Hartmann and Jim Bohannon), the print outlets he has chosen thus far appear to be ones where no such threat will occur. Case in point: articles at FrontPageMag and LifeSiteNews.
Farah is particularly self-aggrandizing and obsequious in his May 18 FrontPageMag interview, and interviewer Jamie Glazov swallows it all, tossing only slow softball questions Farah's way. Farah, for his part, sucks up to FrontPageMag operator, concluding by saying, "It was my great pleasure and keep up the great, groundbreaking work at Frontpagemag.com." Surprisingly, though, Farah praises New York Times reporter John Burns for doing "some of the very best reporting" on the Iraq war.
The May 18 LifeSiteNews article by John-Henry Westen, meanwhile, is structured like a regular news article and carries a lot more detail than FrontPageMag, but the only person quoted is Farah, and Westen shows no interest in venturing beyond the WND-authorized view of its history:
Westen wrote that Farah gave the Sacramento Union "a new, decidedly conservative, stance" as its editor, but he didn't note that the paper's circulation plummeted nearly 30 percent during his 15-month tenure. He wrote that Farah "raised $4.5 million" to spin off WND from the Western Journalism Center but didn't note that one of the people he raised that money from is now a fugitive from justice. He quoted Farah on how WND "set up shop in Southern Oregon" without noting WND's links to Oregon-based accused cultmaster Roy Masters.
Westen also quoted Farah saying that as editor of the Sacramento Union, he faced a protest of "17,000 screaming homosexuals demanding my head on a platter." Did Westen fact-check that with anyone? Because that sounds a tad embellished to us.
But then, it seems that if anything, FrontPageMag and LifeSiteNews are even less interested in telling a full, truthful account of things than Farah and WorldNetDaily.
WND Still Hearts the Washington Times After All Topic: WorldNetDaily
A May 17 WorldNetDaily article about the Washington Times' 25th anniversary gala was awful quick to get posted -- the same evening as the gala -- prompting us to wonder if a WND representative was at theh event. There was ostensibly a news peg to that, thoguh: a "false fire alarm" that forced evacuation of the building where it was being held.
The article is slobberingly laudatory toward the Times, noting that "was set up to celebrate the courage of its staff, and the news organization's commitment to faith, family and freedom" and adding that "Newspaper founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon lit candles on an oversized cake in honor of the occasion." The article also stated: "It is the major alternative to the mainstream Washington Post, and under the leadership of Wedley [sic: Wesley] Pruden, editor-in-chief, and Managing Editor Francis Coombs, pursues the news of the day with high journalistic standards."
That's quite a different tune from WND. Last we heard, Joseph Farah was rushing to disassociate himself from Moon for declaring himself a messiah and spearheading a movement for churches to throw away their crosses as "a symbol of division, shame, suffering and bloodshed." But then, Farah never has renounced WND's previous business relationships with the Times and its Moonie owners, which included a content-sharing agreement with now-defunct (but revived as a website) magazine Insight and Farah's column appearing in the weekly national edition of the Times.
The article also states that the Times' "online version, The Washington Times.com, is the fourth largest subscription newspaper on the Internet." But the Times' website is a free website, and no special online subscription is required to access most features. There is a registration-required "Insider" section that offers "expanded and improved content" and fewer ads, but that's free too.
All of this makes you wonder about those "high journalistic standards" at both the Times and WND.
The Folly of Relying On NewsMax For Research Topic: NewsBusters
In a May 17 NewsBusters post aimed at countering Geraldo Rivera's claim that illegal immigrants are "hard-working people, law-abiding, family people, socially-conservative people in many ways," Mark Finkelstein cited a "recent NewsMax article, which in turn relies on confirmation by a former senior special agent with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service," claiming among other things that "Ninety-five percent of warrants for murder in Los Angeles, Calif. are for illegal aliens." Finkelstein added: "So how about it, Geraldo? Do you refute those figures[?]"
Well, if Geraldo won't, we will.
The "recent NewsMax article" is, in fact, a March 15 column by George Putnam making the highly dubious claim that "illegal aliens are killing more Americans than the Iraq war." NewsMax brands Putnam as , but he's also a hard-core conservative who starred in an anti-pornography propaganda film in the 1960s (produced by future S&L scandal generator Charles Keating) that features Putnam giving "a dramatic reading from the novel Sex Jungle, one of a multitude of erotic paperbacks written under the name 'Don Elliott' by science fiction luminary Robert Silverberg."
As far as the "Ninety-five percent of warrants for murder in Los Angeles, Calif. are for illegal aliens" goes, well, not so much. As Snopes points out, that figure is for outstanding murder warrants; it does not mean, as Putnam and Finkelstein are implying, that 95 percent of murders in Los Angeles are committed by illegals. That number is likely is unusually high because, well, they're illegal and they can fairly easily escape back across the Mexican border.
And the "former senior special agent with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service" who purportedly verified those figures is, in fact, Michael Cutler, who now works for the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies. So the guy clearly has an agenda and in interest in pushing such dire numbers, something both Putnam and Finkelstein might have mentioned.
Yep, we suspected right -- Mark Finkelstein's ellipses in a May 16 NewsBusters post on Chris Matthews eliminates a lot of context, according to our check of the transcript of the edition at hand of "Hardball."
Here's Finkelstein's quote of Matthews focusing on John McCain:
MSNBC HOST CHRIS MATTHEWS: Last night in Columbia, South Carolina, the two GOP frontrunners showed profiles in courage: McCain opposing torture, Giuliani defending abortion rights. . . Here's Senator McCain on the issue of torture last night; I was very taken with these words . . . You know, I don't offer strong opinions all the time on this show [of course not], I usually bow to the guests. But I am so taken with that . . . I know he scored, Chuck [NBC political director Todd] no points last night but he scored one with me . . . Anybody's who's ever been in uniform is against torture, and it's the pencil necks, if you will, the armchair generals who always like wars a lot except when they or their family members might be in those wars.
The ellipsis between the first and second statements is, in fact, about a 10-minute gap. The first statement was made during the show's introduction, while the second statement was made at the start of the second segment.
Finkelstein lops off the relevent part of the third statement, thus eliminating the context of exactly why Matthews was "so taken" with McCain's opposition to torture. Here's Matthews' full statement:
MATTHEWS: You know, I have to tell you, I don't offer strong opinions all the time on this show -- I usually bow to the guests -- but I am so taken with that, Chuck, so taken with that, Jonathan, because of all the men on that stage, he's the one who has served in combat. He shows the sign of torture in his arms. You can see where his arms were pinned back in the way he can‘t use them now. He apparently can't even comb his hair, this guy. He can't raise his hand. We were told, "Don't ask the candidates to raise their hands," in their debate out in California. And there he is saying torture must not be American. And all the other guys played to that crowd down there -- there was hooting and hollering for blood down there -- saying they were for "enhanced interrogation," all enjoying it. And this guy -- I know he scored no points, Chuck, last night, but he scored one with me. He stood alone.
Finkelstein portrayed McCain's (and Matthews') anti-torture position as "liberal." We're not seeing it.
UPDATE: We forgot to note that Finkelstein ended his post by complaining that Matthews "opened the show by referring to AG Alberto Gonzales as a Bush 'henchman.'" You mean skulking around a hospital trying to get a seriously ill attorney general to sign off on an unconstitutional eavesdropping program is not henchman-like behavior?
Corsi Leaves WND to Pursue Prez Bid Topic: WorldNetDaily
A May 17 WorldNetDaily article states that Jerome Corsi "resigned as a WND staff reporter Monday" and "has joined the Constitution Party and is willing to explore a serious pursuit" of that party's presidential nomination.
Corsi has most recently been obsessed with opposition to a transportation corridor in Texas because it would facilitate further trade between the U.S. and Mexico and, thus, purportedly help bring about something else Corsi opposes, a European Union-esque "North American Community" between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
We, of course, know Corsi as the guy who skewed stories on Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a fleeing illegal immigrant and issued repeated smears against a Democratic candidate for Ohio governor (Corsi had co-written a book with the Republican candidate). Oh, and he also withheld exculpatory information about a critic of President Bush until after the 2004 election and told terrorists how to blow up New York City with a nuclear bomb.
We like to give credit where credit is due, and a May 17 NewsMax article by Dave Eberhart is an interesting and mostly balanced read about the "Night to Honor Israel" events across the country being sponsored by controversial evangelical minister John Hagee and whether Hagee's aggressively pro-Israeli stance actually benefits Israel.
Compare this to WorldNetDaily's coverage, which has been limited to promoting Joseph Farah's appearance as keynote speaket at one "Night to Honor Israel" event this Sunday. Nowhere does WND mention Hagee's involvement in the event; Farah has previously described Hagee as "my friend" and has been a WND columnist.
Though Farah's "many journalism awards" are touted in the article, there's nothing award-winning happening here. Farah and WND are, simply, too close to Hagee to offer any sort of complete, honest coverage of this event -- or of Hagee.
NewsMax doesn't get off scot-free either; Eberhart specifically mentions Sunday's "Night to Honor Israel" event but not Farah's keynote appearance at it, and he uncritically repeats promotional boilerplate about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), where Hagee recently gave a speech, without mentioning any of the controversies surrounding AIPAC's aggressive support of Israel, such as an espionage scandal.
Though WND is trying to carve a niche in covering Christian and Israel issues (however distorted and biased), NewsMax stomped WND in covering an issue that WND is actually involved with.
Attack on Matthews Lacks Support, Context Topic: NewsBusters
A May 16 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein is bothered that "the only two moments" that Chris Matthews "singled out for praise" during Tuesday's GOP candiate debate "were when candidates adopted liberal positions: McCain opposing torture and Rudy sticking up for abortion."
First, Finkelstein doesn't explain why an anti-torture stance is liberal, or if there is any flaw in Matthews' claim that "Anybody's who's ever been in uniform is against torture, and it's the pencil necks, if you will, the armchair generals who always like wars a lot except when they or their family members might be in those wars."
Second, Finkelstein fails to note that Matthews has a history of endorsing Giuliani's less liberal stances, even expressing a preference for Giuliani's brand of fascism.
We also know that Finkelstein likes to selectively quote Matthews. We'll be checking Finkelstein's excerpts against the full transcript to see if he left out any appropriate context.
A May 16 CNSNews.com article by Monisha Bansal labels supporters of a proposal to expand "payroll tax refunds to the poor as a means of helping them afford higher education" as "liberal groups," while an opponent of the proposal is described as "a group that advocates limited government."
In other words, a conservative group. Why didn't Bansal just call it that? Perhaps because, by applying a political term to one side of the issue and not the other, it continues CNS' longstanding practice of not labeling conservatives as "conservatives" while labeling liberals as such.