Did Kessler Make False Claim About Obama? Topic: Newsmax
In a March 16 Newsmax column, Ronald Kessler -- citing Newsmax correspondent Jim Davis as a source in a article he wrote last August -- claimed that, contrary to Barack Obama's suggestion that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright "had not used such derogatory language in any of the church services Obama attended over the past two decades," Obama "was present in the South Side Chicago church on July 22 last year," when, according to Kessler, Wright referred to the "United States of White America" and that the "illegal war" in Iraq was "based on Bush’s lies" and is being "fought for oil money."
But there was a problem: As The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder pointed out when New York Times columnist William Kristol repeated the claim, Obama spent the day campaigning in Miami.
This resulted in a strangely passive-aggressive "clarification" being appended to Kessler's article:
Clarification: The Obama campaign has told members of the press that Senator Obama was not in church on the day cited, July 22, because he had a speech he gave in Miami at 1:30 PM. Our writer, Jim Davis, says he attended several services at Senator Obama's church during the month of July, including July 22. The church holds services three times every Sunday at 7:30 and 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central time. While both the early morning and evening service allowed Sen. Obama to attend the service and still give a speech in Miami, Mr. Davis stands by his story that during one of the services he attended during the month of July, Senator Obama was present and sat through the sermon given by Rev. Wright as described in the story. Mr. Davis said Secret Service were also present in the church during Senator Obama's attendance. Mr. Davis' story was first published on Newsmax on August 9, 2007. Shortly before publication, Mr. Davis contacted the press office of Sen. Obama several times for comment about the Senator's attendance and Rev. Wright's comments during his sermon. The Senator's office declined to comment.
While the "clarification" makes a point of detailing the church's service times that would have purportedly "allowed Sen. Obama to attend the service and still give a speech in Miami," nowhere does Davis or Newsmax state exactly which service Obama is purported to have attended that day, nor is it made clear whether Wright gives a sermon (or the same sermon) at all three services. Newsmax then blamed Obama's office for not returning calls to Davis before publication of his 2007 article.
Kessler clearly has an anti-Obama bias:
In a March 14 Wall Street Journal op-ed -- a retooled version of his March 6 Newsmax column -- Kessler selectively quoted a New York Times article to leave out Obama's previous criticism of Wright's remarks.
In a March 5 Newsmax column, Kessler claimed that Obama "dissemble[d]" in his denunciation of Louis Farrakhan, while remaining silent about anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee's endorsement of John McCain.
A Jan. 7 article by Kessler attacked Obama's "racist church" because it claims to be "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian" with a “non-negotiable commitment to Africa” and a "Black Value System." But Kessler ignored that Wright has stated that the church's philosophy does not "assume superiority nor does it assume separatism." Kessler claimed by way of comparison: "Imagine if Mitt Romney’s church proclaimed on its website that it is 'unashamedly white.' The media would pounce, and Romney’s presidential candidacy would be over." He doesn't mention that the Mormon church has arguably been for a good part of its history "unabashedly white," with a history of anti-black racism. (Kessler was a disturbingly sycophantic booster of Romney's campaign.)
Kessler falsely suggested that the only statements Obama has made on the issue of Farrakhan was one in which Obama said the decision by a magazine published by the church he attends to honor Farrakhan was "is not a decision with which I agree" and that it "showed a lack of sensitivity to the Jewish community." But Obama has also said that he has been a "consistent denunciator of Louis Farrakhan, nobody challenges that."
In a Dec. 31, 2007, column , Kessler claimed that "Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last August voted against revising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow NSA to continue to monitor calls by foreign terrorists without a warrant even if all parties are situated overseas." As we detailed the last time Kessler did this, Clinton, Obama, and other Democrats who opposed the bill did not do so because they opposed revising FISA in the manner Kessler wanted; rather, the main point of contention was court oversight of the warrantless wiretapping program. Democrats wanted meaningful court oversight; Republicans didn't. Kessler didn't mention the court oversight controversy.
Meanwhile, Kristol has issued a correction for his citing of Kessler:
In this column, I cite a report that Sen. Obama had attended services at Trinity Church on July 22, 2007. The Obama camapaign has provided information showing that Sen. Obama did not attend Trinity that day. I regret the error.
Will Newsmax get around to noting this?
UPDATE: Davis, aka Free Republic poster Philo1962, now says his notes for his story have long since been thrown away and he can't verify what he wrote. Davis adds: "If they didn't see any need to immediately correct a story about Barack Obama attending a sermon filled with hatred and racial animus, then in my opinion, they don't deserve to win a presidential campaign." So it looks like Davis has a anti-Obama bias too.
UPDATE 2: Newsmax has previously embraced Obama smears by Andy Martin.
UPDATE 3: TPM's Greg Sargent notes that Kessler has been trying to scrub references to the controversy off his Wikipedia page.
WND Silent On McCain-Hagee Controversy Topic: WorldNetDaily
We've previouslynoted that the ConWeb has mostly stayed away from addressing evangelist John Hagee's endorsement of John McCain and Hagee's history of making anti-Catholic (among other various anti-) statements. One place where the silence has been total is WorldNetDaily: Not only has there been no original "news" article about it, no columnist has so much as breathed a word about it.
Which is strange because WND editor Joseph Farah deplored the idea of evangelicals endorsing McCain a year ago.
In a Feb. 12, 2007, column, Farah expressed dismay that "several major American Christian leaders seem ready to accept the possibility of a John McCain presidency," including "my friend John Hagee." Indeed, Hagee is enough of a friend to have written a column for WND for a time in 2002, and WND's online store sells at least one Hagee-penned book.
Farah went on to bash McCain as "morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest and emotionally unequipped for the Oval Office," as well as "emotionally and psychologically unstable" in the tradition of Hillary Clinton, Captain Queeg and "Charles Logan, the fictional president in season five of '24.'" He then praised Focus on the Family's James Dobson because he "all but ruled out supporting McCain under any circumstances."
So there is a history here. Why is WND being silent now?
The short answer appears to be that as much as Farah despises McCain, he also doesn't want to offend his friend Hagee, so WND will not put Hagee on the spot and either call him out for his controversial statements or run to his defense (after all, WND has a bit of anti-Catholic bias itself).
That would seem to be a contradiction of WND's mission statement to be "credible, fearless, independent." There's nothing credible, fearless, or independent about being afraid to offend a friend of the owner.
WND also sells a book by Rod Parsley, so don't expect WND to delve too deeply into that little McCain-related controversy either.
By contrast, it should not be a surprise that WNDisallover controverisal statements made by Barack Obama's pastor.
Sheppard's Disturbing Double Standard Topic: NewsBusters
In a March 15 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard claimed Al Franken showed "gall" and was being "disingenuous" when he denied what CNN's Kiran Chetry said he said "concerning Scooter Libby and Karl Rove being executed for their involvement in the Valerie Plame Wilson affair," which Sheppard called a "disturbing joke."
We have to wonder: Did Sheppard find it similarly "disturbing" when Ann Coulter "joked" that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens should die by rat poisoning? Or when Coulter "joked" that Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the New York Times building? Because we sure don't recall him (or anyone else at the MRC, for that matter) being particularly disturbed by such "jokes."
Huston Makes False Claims About McCain and Hagee (And, Of Course, Equivocates) Topic: NewsBusters
Warner Todd Huston joins in the Obama Equivocation with a March 15 NewsBusters post: "Obama had many decades of intimacy with Rev. Wright proving that Wright's hate speech could not possibly have bothered Barack very much at all, much less have come as any surprise. While John McCain had only just met John Hagee proving that his history of anti-Catholic statements is not something that McCain could have had long and intimate contact with."
"McCain had only just met John Hagee"? Wrong. McCain has known Hagee since at least July 2007, when he attended an conference run by Hagee's group, Christians United for Israel. McCain also specifically sought out Hagee's endorsement. Shouldn't he have done a better job of vetting Hagee before accepting that endorsement?
Huston also claims that it was "late last week" that Hagee's anti-Catholic attacks "began to surface." That's false too: As fellow NewsBuster Tim Graham has noted (heck, Huston even linked to Graham's post), Hagee's statements surfaced a good two weeks before Huston (not to mention the rest of the MRC) finally got around to noticing it.
Newsmax Treats 6-Year-Old Incident As New, Then Misleads Further Topic: Newsmax
A March 14 Newsmax article claims: "Ted Kennedy has called Nantucket Sound near his Massachusetts estate “a national treasure” — but that didn’t stop the senator from having oil dumped from his yacht into its waters." Just a couple things wrong here:
1) The Cape Cod Today blog entry from which Newsmax cribbed its item states the the alleged incident occured in 2002 -- information missing from Newsmax's article.
2) Newsmax offers no evidence (nor does Cape Cod Today, despite claiming that it was "him dumping diesel fuel from the bilge of his yacht") that Kennedy ordered, participated in, or even knew about the diesel fuel (mixed with bilge) that was allegedly dumped from the boat into the sound. Indeed, both articles state that the "crew member left aboard" the yacht was doing the alleged dumping, not Kennedy.
The Cape Cod Times blog entry goes on to state:
Why run 6-year old photos? The answer is simple - we received them two days ago sent anonymously to our Investigative Reporter (and Blogger) Peter Robbins.
Cape Cod Today, in a WorldNetDaily-esque ethical breach, offers no evidence that it made any effort to verify the anonymous claim. Apparently it's just as eager to throw out unverified smears as Newsmax is.
MRC Finally Mentions Hagee -- Then Equivocates Topic: NewsBusters
We've detailed how the Media Research Center has generally ignored the controversy surrounding the endorsement of John McCain by anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee. Tim Graham finally mentions Hagee in a March 15 NewsBusters post -- then tries to equivocate it away:
If you have liberal friends who try to rebut you and say that the same networks that had largely ignored Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright also ignored John McCain being embraced by harshly anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee, you can first say that there’s a huge difference between someone’s selected pastor of two decades and a new endorser.
Graham then notes network coverage and concludes: "McCain satisfied the Catholic League that he had rejected Hagee's whore-of-Babylon wheezing." What Graham doesn't address is why the MRC is essentially ignored the controversy until now, even though it's normally quick to pounce on any perceived anti-Catholic bias in the media, or why the Catholic League's satisfaction with McCain's rejection of Hagee's statements (though not his endorsement) was worth noting but not the Catholic League's original criticism two weeks earlier.
We've theorized that Graham, Brent Bozell and Co., by giving McCain a pass, are putting aside their religious faith in service of partisan politics -- they don't want to be seen as attacking the presumtive Republican candidate for president, even though they would in all likelihood have jumped on the McCain story if he hadn't yet clinched the nomination.
Meanwhile, the MRC folks have jumped all over the controversy over Wright's words -- and, in contrast to Graham's meek acquiescence to the Catholic League's acceptance of McCain's quasi-rejection, seem to think that no condemnation Obama makes, no matter how strong, is not enough.
A March 15 post by John Stephenson concedes that Obama made a "STRONG condemnation," then insists that there are "holes in Obama’s repudiation," and finally huffing, "I’m not convinced." Stephenson doesn't explain what, if anything, Obama can do to satisfy him.
An earlier post by Stephenson likened Wright to the notorious gay-haters at the Westboro Baptist Church -- if we're going to play the equivocation game, it should be noted that Stephenson offers no evidence that any member of Wright's church, Obama included, travels around the country hurling slurs at funerals -- but he makes no mention of Hagee and McCain spiritual adviser Rod Parsley, whose combinedhistory of statements certainly approach the Westboro-esque.
What Aaron Klein Didn't Dispute Topic: WorldNetDaily
A March 13 article by Ari Berman in The Nation cites WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein as a prime source of smears against Barack Obama. In a March 14 WND column, Klein fired back.
Berman singled out a Feb. 24 WND article in which Klein played guilt-by-association by trying to tie Obama to a former '60s radical with whom Obama had once served on a nonprofit group's board and to a pro-Palestinian activist, Rashid Khalidi, to whom that board awarded a grant.
Klein tried the technicality approach: "I never reported Khalidi was an Obama adviser. I also never stated anywhere as fact that Khalidi was employed by the PLO. ... I fairly note Rashid Khalidi has denied working for the PLO." But it's clear that Klein wanted to leave in the impression that Khalidi worked for the PLO in his Feb. 24 article: Klein's statement that Khalidi "reportedly has worked on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization" appeared in the second paragraph, but his statement that "Rashid Khalidi at times has denied working directly for the PLO" doesn't appear until paragraph 20.
Klein also clearly wanted to leave the impression that Obama has some sort of close relationship with both Khalidi and former Weather Underground radical William Ayers, even though Klein proves nothing beyond serving on a board with Ayers that awarded a grant to Khalidi's group. Yet Klein insisted that this somehow ads up to Obama having "relationships with extremely questionable, terrorist-supporting, anti-American elements."
Even as he plays the victim by claiming Berman "attempt[ed] to smear my factual reporting," Klein unloads a truckload of smears himself. He calls The Nation "a small-circulation extreme leftist magazine popular with philosophy majors and owners of vegan restaurants in Manhattan's East Village" that "has reportedly lost money in all but three or four years of its operation and is said to be sustained in large part by donations." (We suspect that WND's recent libel lawsuit settlement will not be positively impacting its financial situation.) He called Berman's article a "drunken tirade" and a "lying rant" and Berman himself "hysterical" and an "Obama-hack" who is "a symptom of a malignant messianic infatuation with Obama evidenced by the drive-by media for whom Obama can do no wrong." Sounds like Klein has some issues with Obama, which means we can see more smears from him like his Feb. 24 article.
Klein further claimed, among numerous other unsupported accuations, that Berman "falsely depicts my public relations representative, Maria Sliwa, as a 'Christian publicist,' when she is no such thing." In fact, according to an article in the Christian magazine Charisma:
Sliwa dusted off a Bible a Christian friend had given her as a wedding present and for the first time dug into the Scriptures with an open mind. She discussed spiritual concerns with her friend, who invited her to a Pentecostal church on Long Island, where she surrendered her life to Christ. "I got radically saved," she says.
Several weeks later she was baptized in the Holy Spirit at Christian Pentecostal Church. "It gave me a new boldness I never had," she says. "I knew then my whole life would be devoted to the Lord."
So Sliwa is a Christian and a publicist, which, in fact, does make her a "Christian publicist."
Never challenged by Klein, however, is the section in which Berman links to a ConWebWatch article as support:
Klein made a name for himself by getting terrorists to say nice things about Democrats and allying himself with extremist elements of the Israeli right, whom he frequently quotes as sources in his articles--when he bothers to quote anyone at all. Klein originally called Hillary Clinton the "jihadist choice for president," but when Clinton stumbled, he turned his fire to Obama, attempting to expose his so-called "terrorist connections."
While Berman seems to have overstated things a bit, so does Klein. And let the record show that Klein has never challenged, let alone contradicted, anything we have written about him.
Not All Anti-Catholicism Offends Bozell Topic: Media Research Center
Brent Bozell has dedicated his March 13 column to bashing comedian Lewis Black for making what he called anti-Catholic statements. "Now, on the cusp of the Easter celebration, it’s Catholic-hunting season again," Bozell fumed.
But while Bozell and the rest of his MRC crew regularly attacks perceived anti-Catholicism (as we've noted), no MRC employee, Bozell included, has seen fit to denounce John McCain for accepting the endorsement of anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee.
Why won't Bozell do what would be logical for him, as an activist Catholic, to do? Perhaps because he and the MRC must avoid doing anything to jeopardize Repubican chances in November, no matter how much it pains them to defend a Repubican presidential candidate it considers insufficiently conservative. Had Hagee's endorsement occured before McCain clinched the nomination, the MRC would be beating it into the ground in order to boost more conservative candidates.
In other words, Bozell is sacrificing his religious faith for partisan politics. That doesn't exactly make him a good Catholic, does it?
A March 13 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh on the Phillip Long homeschooling case in California remains silent about Long's control-freak history. Unruh and WND thus continue to effectively condone child abuse.
And, of course, Unruh indulges in another of his obsessions, likening anyone who isn't sufficiently supportive of homeschooling to Nazis.
In a March 12 NewsBusters post, Matthew Sheffield wrote regarding media analysis pieces about why Eliot Spitzer did what he did: "[A]n article like this would never be written trying to 'add context' to a Republican plagued by a sex scandal. Mark Foley or Bernard Kerik would have killed to get such press."
But Foley and Kerik got great press from the ConWeb, at least until the depths of their offenses proved too much for even them to continue to whitewash.
As we detailed, Newsmax and WorldNetDaily initially portrayed Foley as the victim of "radical activists," the "Clinton War Room" and groups funded by George Soros, and CNSNews.com did its best to try and distract people away from it. Even NewsBusters' own Mark Finkelstein forwarded the idea that the revelation of Foley's dalliances with teenage male congressional pages was "part of a calculated campaign to keep the story in the news and inflict maximum political damage on the GOP."
As for Kerik, Newsmax was his biggest booster upon his nomination as homeland security secretary, decrying revelations about his past as "unverified" and "journalistic hatchet jobs." And Kerik's extramarital affairs were arguably the least of Kerik's problems (though the fact the apartment where Kerik carried on said affairs was supposed to be for the use of 9/11 cleanup workers was decidedly egregious); being linked to the mob, for instance, was a tad more important.
If Sheffield feels that a journalistic void exists for "context" articles that explain away conservative scandals, why doesn't he fill it? His "news" compadres at CNS would presumably be happy to publish them.
Note to ConWeb: Obama HAS Rejected Pastor's Remarks Topic: NewsBusters
The headline of a March 13 NewsBusters post by John Stephenson, regarding newly reported controversial remarks regarding 9/11 by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Barack Obama's church in Chicago, asks: "Will Media Hold Obama To Repudiate His Pastor's Hateful Remarks?" Stephenson asks again in the post: "When will Obama repudiate the message of hate from his own minister, who is a part of his campaign?" he then answers his own question: "Don't expect Obama to repudiate these remarks." Stephenson then proudly states that "FOX has been reporting this like the damning story it is," adding, "Will this story get the legs it should have, or will the media try to sweep it under the rug?"
Sorry to interrupt Stephenson's witchhunt, but Obama has, in fact, specifically disavowed Wright's 9/11 comments that Stephenson is in such high dudgeon about. In fact, he did so nearly a year ago.
A March 14 WorldNetDaily column by Hal Lindsey similarly gins up some outrage over Wright's remarks, then selectively quotes the April 2007 New York Times article in which Obama disavowed the statements:
Note especially Wright's assessment of the attacks on New York, Washington and the skies over Pennsylvania: "We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."
Is this one of those comments Obama's "old uncle" says that he doesn't "always" agree with – or one of those he doesn't find "particularly controversial"?
Not really, says Obama. "It sounds like he was trying to be provocative," he told a New York Times reporter.
What the Times actually wrote (with the relevant part Lindsey didn't include in bold):
On the Sunday after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Mr. Wright said the attacks were a consequence of violent American policies. Four years later he wrote that the attacks had proved that “people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West went on its merry way of ignoring Black concerns.”
Such statements involve “a certain deeply embedded anti-Americanism,” said Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative group that studies religious issues and public policy. “A lot of people are going to say to Mr. Obama, are these your views?”
Mr. Obama says they are not.
“The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification,” he said in a recent interview. He was not at Trinity the day Mr. Wright delivered his remarks shortly after the attacks, Mr. Obama said, but “it sounds like he was trying to be provocative.”
Will Stephenson or Lindsey ever acknowledge this? Don't count on it.
Meanwhile, back at NewsBusters, Mark Finkelstein weighs in: "Raise your hand if you think [CNN's Anderson] Cooper wouldn't be so quick to move on if the Republican presidential nominee had such a close relationship with a pastor of comparably extreme views."
Wait -- wasn't John McCain recently endorsed by an evangelist who has called the Catholic Church "The Great Whore" and a "false cult system"? Those aren't "extreme views"?
Apparently not, as far as Finkelstein is concerned -- as we've noted, he and his fellow MRC employees have not been particularly moved to denounce Hagee, even though they have a history of criticizing statements they consider anti-Catholic.
UPDATE: Also worth noting is that McCain has as a "spiritual adviser" one Rev. Rod Parsley, who has called upon Christians to wage a "war" against the "false religion" of Islam with the aim of destroying it, and even claimed that America founded to destroy Islam. We're noting it because nobody at the MRC seems to have an interest in doing so.
Chastain Misleads on Obama House Purchase Topic: WorldNetDaily
A March 13 WorldNetDaily column by Jane Chastain claimed that Barack Obama "received a suspiciously good deal on the home he bought – around $300,000 less than the asking price – on the very same day that Tony Rezko's wife bought the vacant lot next door for the full asking price. Shortly thereafter, Obama bought part of that vacant lot from the Rezkos to expand his yard. Hmmm!"
Infact, the couple who sold the house to Obama said Obama's $1.65 million bid "was the best offer" and "they didn't cut their asking price because a campaign donor bought their adjacent land, according to e-mails between Obama's presidential campaign and the seller."
CNS Attack on Planned Parenthood Continues Topic: CNSNews.com
A March 13 CNSNews.com article by Penny Starr continues her war on a Planned Parenthood-operated website offering sex-related information to teens. Starr features a a director of porn movies praising the website -- and, of course, someone criticizing the "endorsement."
Missing from Starr's article -- and from all of Starr'sarticles regarding the Planned Parenthood website to date -- is any comment from Planned Parenthood. Starr doesn't even bother to note whether she contacted PP for a response. Sham balance lives!
It's an interesting bit of timing that on the same day we lay out our argument that WorldNetDaily is effectively condoning child abuse by refusing to report on the abusive history of the family at the center of the California homeschooling ruling, WND editor Joseph Farah pens a column arguing that the rise in S&M fetishes has a correlation to the decline in corporal punishment for children.
Let's see, tens of millions of children are spanked in the U.S. and maybe a few thousand people in San Francisco like whips and chains. I'm willing to bet it's the latter who were not spanked. And that's why they want it.
In fact, I can prove that spanking doesn't lead to S&M.
Is spanking on the decline in our society? Yes.
Is S&M on the increase? Yes.
It used to be that practically everyone spanked their kids. That's the way it was 40 years ago. It was normal and healthy. "Spare the rod, spoil the child," was the conventional wisdom of the day, and there were precious few S&M bars around in those days. In fact, no one even knew what S&M was.
But with the popularity of Benjamin Spock's child-rearing tips came a decline in spanking. Within a decade, came the rise of sexual deviancy in all forms.
Farah concludes by declaring, "God says parents should spank their children and be firm disciplinarians."
It sounds like Farah would be proud of Phillip Long's brand of discipline and that WND ought to be proud to report it in detail. So why won't it?
In a shocking turn of events, a March 12 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard -- who has a long history of not disclosing the conservative, energy industry-funded nature of groups who oppose action on global warming -- made a small concession to the idea of full disclosure by describing the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is buying attack ads on Al Gore, as "conservative."
Bravo, Mr. Sheppard! Maybe next time you can deign to tell your readers that CEI has accepted funding from energy companies like ExxonMobil. We know full disclosure is a painful thing for someone not used to offering it, but you'll feel much better once you do.
Further, while Sheppard attacks "the dangers inherent in policies advocated by Nobel Laureate Al Gore," nowhere does Sheppard baselessly accuse Gore of being a global warming activist just for the money. Does this mean that Sheppard has accepted the latter half of our put-up-or-shut-up challenge to him to offer actual evidence for his claim about Gore?