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Saturday, May 24, 2008
Meanwhile ...
Topic: NewsBusters

Wonkette notes that conservative bloggers such as Michelle Malkin are insisting that what TV cook Rachael Ray is wearing around her neck in a Dunkin' Donuts commercial is a Palestinian kaffiyeh scarf.

Believe it or not, this has happened before: As we noted, NewsBusters' Mark Finkelstein has accused accused "Today" host Matt Lauer of expressing support for the Palestinians by wearing a black-and-white-checked scarf, and has also accused a random civilian on TV of the same.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:13 AM EDT
WND vs. Real Journalists, Part 2
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Nowhere is the distinction between WorldNetDaily and real news organizations clearer when both cover the same story.

A May 22 WND article by Jerome Corsi claimed that Barack Obama purportedly has "extensive ties with extreme anti-American elements, including agents of the Moscow-controlled Communist Party USA, in Hawaii and Chicago," citing a report by "two experienced internal security investigators." One of those is Cliff Kincaid, whom Corsi calls an "investigative journalist."

We'll pause while you laugh.

Kincaid, of course, is the Accuracy in Media writer who is in the midst of a full-froth anti-Obama frenzy, making false claims and ascribing opinions made by fictional characters to Obama himself. While Corsi does note Kincaid's ties to AIM and his own little anti-United Nations group, America's Survival Inc., nowhere does he point out Kincaid's obvious partisan agenda.

(The cover of Kincaid's report rather laughably insists, presumably in a window-dressing effort to hide political advocacy behind its nonprofit tax status, that "nothing in this report shall be construed as an attempt to influence any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office or any political party." Why else would Kincaid be doing this report if he wasn't trying to influence a political campaign?)

The other "experienced internal security investigator" on the case is Herbert Romerstein, whom Corsi describes as "a former investigator with the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities." A 1999 New York Times profile, meanwhile, depicts Romerstein as something more than that: an obessed anti-communist, so much so that he informed on his high school teachers and classmates who were Communists and worked for a notorious blacklisting publication. Romerstein has been accused by the son of muckraking journalist I.F. Stone of hurling tainted and distorted evidence in portraying Stone as a Soviet spy.

Corsi treats Kincaid and Romerstein's claims as serious, uncontested fact, refusing to apply skepticism where it is necessary, nor does Corsi apply an ideologicial label either even though there is clear ideological motivation. Corsi also fails to make any apparent effort to gather any response from anyone to their charges.

For a more realistic treatment of the Washington event at which Kincaid and Romerstein released their report, we must turn to The Washington Post, where Dana Milbank wrote in a May 23 article:

These and many other implausible accusations were offered by a group of conservatives yesterday -- including a living relic from the House Committee on Un-American Activities -- in a Capitol Hill basement. The charges ranged from the absurd to the merely questionable, but anybody who watched the Swift Boat campaign of 2004 make John Kerry look like a war criminal knows that's not the point.

The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy took a blow with Hillary Clinton's collapse. But it is regrouping, and finding plenty of sinister things to say about Obama -- even if he didn't trade cattle futures.

The group, assembled by something called America's Survival Inc., gathered in the basement of Ebenezer Coffee House at Second and F streets NE. They shared the stage with a big drum set, and posters documenting items they would seek to tie to Obama: an SDS newsletter from 1969 (when he was 7), and a police killing from 1970 (when he was 8).

"We believe that any public figure with links to foreign and hostile interests should be asked to explain those associations," the organizer, Cliff Kincaid, told about two dozen conservatives and a few reporters. "In the case of Obama, a relatively new figure on the national scene, we submit the facts suggest that he would have serious difficulty getting a security clearance in the United States government. An FBI background check was once used to examine one's character, loyalty to the United States, and associations."


But the star of the show was the ancient Herbert Romerstein, who once plied his trade for the Un-American Activities committee. "We decided to start going back and seeing what things influenced him even before he was born," Romerstein announced without a trace of irony, before tying Obama to the Communist Party of the 1930s in Hawaii and Soviet spies on the island. "This is the atmosphere that young Barack Obama grew up in."

The smoking gun? Obama's "mentor" during his teens, according to Kincaid, was "a key member of a Soviet-controlled network that was sponsored by Moscow and active in Hawaii."

These accusations fall somewhere between guilt by association and guilt by invention, but the accusers were just getting started.


"It's clear that the communists and the socialists are backing him," Kincaid confirmed.

The questions continued: "The Obama-Muslim connection . . . the background of Michelle Obama . . . How he gave $23,000 to this church . . . Was it connected with Tony Rezko . . . the results from Gary, Indiana, which were so late in being released."

It was beginning to sound like a UFO convention. But the panelists took it seriously, firing questions back at the audience. "Was Barack Obama working for Bill Ayers?" Kincaid wondered aloud. Romerstein demanded: "How come for 20 years he sat in the pews and listened to a raving anti-American racist? How did he bring his two young children to this church to hear Wright rave on?"

A responsible journalist would have taken the history of political smears and the history of the accusers into account as an indicator of how serious to take said accusers' claims. Milbank did; Corsi didn't. To this, of course, we can also take into account the reporters' reputations as well. Milbank is a somewhat snarky writer; Corsi turns his personal grudges into "news" articles.

And that's the difference (well, one, anyway) between a real news organization and WND.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:04 AM EDT
Friday, May 23, 2008
A Challenge for Aaron Klein
Topic: WorldNetDaily

As we've noted, WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein has denied that he has an anti-Obama agenda, despite the crushing weight of evidence to the contrary (indeed, Klein's anti-Obama-article-to-anti-McCain-article ratio has just increased to 27-to-1).

If Klein really wants to demonstrate that he will attack John McCain with the fervor (and questionable sourcing) he has unleashed upon Obama, here's an assignment for him, provided he's not too afraid to take it: Interview right-wing Israelis (his kind of people) -- or any Israelis, for that matter -- to get their reaction to now-denounced McCain supporter Rev. John Hagee's claim that Adolf Hitler was a "hunter" sent by God and tasked with expediting God's will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel. Ask them what McCain's pursuit of an endorsement by someone who makes such a claim portends for U.S.-Israeli relations if McCain is elected president. Heck, Klein even might want to get his terrorist buddies to opine on Hagee's statement.

Waddaya say, Aaron -- will you do it, or are too biased (or afraid) to bother? Or is your boss too close to Hagee to ever publish criticism of him?

Posted by Terry K. at 2:57 PM EDT
Finkelstein Confuses McCain Talking Points With Facts
Topic: NewsBusters

In a May 22 NewsBusters post, Mark Finkelstein continued the MRC's hypersensitivity to any reference, real or imagined, to John McCain's age by asserting that "Barack Obama has delighted in playing the age card—see 'lost his bearings,' 'wander around,' and multiple mentions of McCain's 'half-century of service.'"

Finkelstein has no factual evidence to support this. If Finkelstein had put in a half-century of service to something, wouldn't he want to be honored for it? The claim that Obama's "losing his bearings" comment was a reference to McCain's age comes from ... McCain's campaign. And the notion that "wander around" is also a McCain age reference comes from ... Finkelstein's own fevered brain.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:49 PM EDT
WND Still Whitewashing Calif. Homeschooling Case
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A May 20 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh continues to disingenously report on the court case involving a California family ordered to stop homeschooling its children.

Strangely, Unruh is now refusing to name the family at the center of the case, even though he has done so in previous articles. He writes: "Since the case originated with a juvenile court proceeding, some of the arguments and briefs have remained confidential, because of the standard for handling juvenile proceedings. Other briefs have been released publicly." 

But Unruh doesn't report why the case originated in a "juvenile court" in the first place: As we reported, one of those documents "released publicly" details that the father was accused of abusing their children, and the state dependency court ruled there was evidence that was in fact happening. Further, the court detailed the poor education the parents were providing to their children.

This is information Unruh has either whitewashed or failed to report at all to his readers. Indeed, Unruh goes on to write: "The original opinion arose from a dependency case brought in juvenile court. In the process, attorneys assigned by the court to the family's two younger children sought a court order for them to be enrolled in a public or qualifying private school" -- without noting that the court has detailed the "lousy," "meager," and "bad" quality of the education the parents were providing to their children. 

The same misleading, incompletely reported claims also appear in an unbylined May 22 WND article

Unruh and WND are still manipulating this story, hiding important facts from its readers in order to portray an accused child abuser as a martyr for the cause of homeschooling.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:17 AM EDT
CNS Plays Gotcha With Hispanic Lawmakers

A May 22 article by Peggy Starr plays gotcha with a trio of Democratic Hispanic lawmakers "who spoke Wednesday about alleged anti-immigrant coverage by conservative media outlets," describing them as "not aware of a recent State Department travel alert warning Americans about military-like 'combat' along the southern U.S. border in Mexico, where Americans are being kidnapped and murdered."

Starr does not explain the relevance of border violence to the issue of coverage of immigration in the media. Further, buried in the article are statements from all three members of Congress questioned -- Reps. Robert Menendez, Luis Guiterrez and Hilda Solis -- that make it clear that, contrary to what the lead of her article suggests, they are all aware of the problem of border violence.

It appears that Starr's article is nothing more than a "gotcha" exercise -- as we've detailed, CNS is doing more such articles targeting Democratic lawmakers in order to catch them off guard in the hope of gathering an incriminating quote to use against them.

Meanwhile, Starr does little regarding the actual report on "alleged anti-immigrant coverage by conservative media outlets" that prompted this little gotcha exercise beyond a paragraph at the end summarizing it. (Disclosure: the report was issued by an affiliate of Media Matters, our employer.)

Posted by Terry K. at 1:18 AM EDT
MRC: Linking Parsley to McCain Is 'Left-Wing Attack'
Topic: NewsBusters

A May 22 NewsBusters post by Scott Whitlock declared in its headline that an ABC News story on controversial attacks on Islam by Rev. Ron Parsley -- who has endorsed John McCain and who McCain calls a spiritual adviser -- is a "left-wing attack." The article continued:

"Good Morning America" on Thursday picked up an attack on John McCain that has grown popular in left-wing media outlets and turned it into a Brian Ross investigation of the senator's "pastor problem."

While Whitlock conceded that McCain "sought the reverend's support in February 2008," he insisted that "McCain is not a member of Parsley's World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio." Whitlock then invoked the MRC's standard equivocation defense on issues regarding Parsley and that other controversial McCain endorser, John Hagee: "McCain's associations with Parsley are rather slight, despite the misleading 'McCain's pastor' headline. However, [Barack] Obama went to [Jeremiah] Wright's church for 20 years." Whitlock went on to attack ABC reporter Brian Ross (boldface his):

Ross also slammed McCain for being "apparently unconcerned about what Parsley stands for." In contrast, during the March segment, although Ross featured Wright's more extreme statements, he wasn't as harsh on the Democratic candidate. Instead, he rather weakly observed, "With a powerful voice and his strong words, Reverend Wright can be a mesmerizing presence."

So, if linking Parsley to McCain is a "left-wing attack," doesn't that make attempts to tie Wright to Obama a "right-wing attack"?

P.S. As of this writing, no NewsBusters writer has seen fit to mention the current state of (lack of) relations between McCain and Rev. John Hagee. Apparently, they consider that a "left-wing attack" too. 

Posted by Terry K. at 12:14 AM EDT
Thursday, May 22, 2008
WND Anti-Gay Agenda Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily continued its anti-gay agenda with a pair of articles:

-- A May 19 article by Chelsea Schilling declared: "Nationwide outrage against public school participation in the 'gay'-friendly 2008 Day of Silence resulted in hundreds of students boycotting the observance and some administrators canceling pro-homosexual activities." Schilling offered no objective evidence, other than the personal opinion of anti-gay activist Linda Harvey, that the "Day of Silence" is "pro-homosexual."

-- Apparently taking its cue from Warner Todd Huston's anti-gay rant, a May 21 article reported on a South Carolina high school principal's plan to resign "following a demand to launch a student club to promote homosexuality." Again, no objective evidence is offered beyond personal opinions that the Gay-Straight Alliance Club "promote[s] homosexuality."

WND has reported extensively on the nationwide campaign by homosexual clubs to inject homosexuality into public schools.

Such clubs typically are cited as the sponsors of the annual "Day of Silence" promotional event for homosexuality.

Once again, no evidence is offered that any of this "promotes homosexuality." WND is merely invoking the Depiction-Equals-Approval Fallacy.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:14 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2008 2:15 PM EDT
Knight Backtracks A Bit on Decemberists, Then Launches New Attack

Robert Knight has retooled his use of the Decemberists to attack Barack Obama.

Knight rewrote his earlier NewsBusters post -- in which he, demonstrating his lack of knowledge about the band, essentially claimed that a 70,000-plus crowd in Portland came to see the Decemberists (a band with a relatively small following, even in Portland) and not Obama -- for a May 22 column. Knight backed off that uninformed insinuation, conceding that "it is safe to assume that most people came out for the Obama rally."

But this time, he leads off with the claim, lifted from Wikipedia, that the band "often opens its own shows with the National Anthem of the now-defunct Soviet Union."

Knight never answers the obvious question: "So what?" Nor does he explain why this should be considered more offensive than, say, John McCain endorser John Hagee proclaiming that Hitler was a "hunter" who was tasked with expediting God's will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:52 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2008 1:55 PM EDT
Ponte: Offending Gingrich = Offending Israel
Topic: Newsmax

From a May 20 Newsmax column by Lowell Ponte:

Former Democratic President Bill Clinton also traveled to Israel for a historic celebration. But, being always a petty, point-scoring opportunist, Clinton exited the main door of Air Force One to greet Israeli leaders in front of news cameras while requiring Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to exit by a rear door.

The liberal mainstream media depicted Gingrich as reacting petulantly to Clinton’s action. But the real victim of Clinton’s childish political act was not Gingrich but Israel.

The safety of the Jewish state depends on America’s unwavering bipartisan support.

By forcing America’s highest ranking Republican to the back of the bus, Bill Clinton signaled that he put an egotistical adolescent gesture of American politics above a life-or-death symbolic reaffirmation of unified American support for Israel.

This Clinton insult to ally Israel was shameful.

1) The "historic celebration" in question was the funeral of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Why does Ponte think this was a "celebration"?

2) Gingrich was depicted as "reacting petulantly" because he did, in fact, act petulant. Gingrich cited the incident as a reason he and the then-Republican-controlled Congress sent Clinton a continuing resolution they knew he would not sign, thus forcing a partial government shutdown. Further, as Clinton officials pointed out at the time, Gingrich was allowed to take his wife on the trip, while other officials' wives were bumped because there was no room on the plane, hardly the sign of an "insult."

3) Since when is Gingrich -- or, more to the point, Gingrich's ego -- synonymous with the state of Israel? 

Posted by Terry K. at 9:23 AM EDT
Why Won't WND Report Hagee's Outrageous Statements?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

We've noted that for all of WorldNetDaily's bluster about having, in Aaron Klein's words, "one agenda: fierce independent reporting that exposes the truth," there's a marked refusal on WND's part to cover John McCain as aggressively as Barack Obama. Nowhere is this disparity more starkly illustrated than in the area of pastors linked to candidates.

While WND has published article after article referencing Jeremiah Wright's relationship with Obama and the various controversial statements he has made -- a search of WND's archive for Wright's name generates 151 hits as of this writing -- WND has not published a single news article about controversial statements made by John Hagee, a conservative pastor whose endorsement McCain sought. Indeed, there have been a mere two references to date to the controversy in any form at WND: a May 9 syndicated column by token liberal Bill Press noting that Hagee has been "given a free ride by the media" (and WND too, he might have added), and a May 6 column by Dennis Prager defending Hagee.

Why is that? Perhaps because WND is not so fiercely independent as it claims to be.

As we've noted, WND editor Joseph Farah appears to be a little too close to the situation, having previously called Hagee "my friend" in a 2007 column and published a column by Hagee for a time in 2002. WND's online store also sells two Hagee-penned books.

Wouldn't a "fiercely independent" news website be unafraid of reporting things regardless of its personal and business relationships? It seems that WND is not that website.

Will WND continue to remain silent on Hagee, even with his latest outrageous claim -- that Hitler was doing God's will to force Jews to move to Israel? Certainly that trumps much of what WND has reported about Wright. Certainly even Orthodox Jew Aaron Klein would be offended by that.

Or Farah may actually agree with Hagee -- Hagee and Farah are buddies, after all. Silence equals assent, they say.

Will WND dare to touch this statement in any fashion? We shall see, but we won't be holding our breath.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:06 AM EDT
Huston Likens Homosexuality to Bestiality, KKK, Nazis, Black Panthers, Anti-Americanism
Topic: NewsBusters

In a May 21 NewsBusters post, defending a South Carolina high school principal for resigning rather than presiding over a school that has a Gay/Straight Alliance Club, Warner Todd Huston baselessly attacked the club, alleging without evidence that it encourages sexual activity.

After citing the principal's objection that the club "implies that students joining the club will have chosen to or will choose to engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, opposite sex, or members of both sexes" (again, no evidence is cited that this is the case), Huston adds:

This is exactly right on. Why are we promoting "clubs" in a high school based on sexual activity? Do we have a porno club at Irmo high school? Why not? How about a polygamy club? Maybe a bestiality club?


Like I said, if the kids wanted to form a "club" that supports pornography, would that be OK? After all, porn is legal. How about a "club" that promotes dancing strippers? A beer drinking club? How about a club that specifies support of terrorists? One that promotes Jew hatred, supports the KKK, the Nazis, gangs, the Black Panthers or Louis Farrakhan? Wouldn't the school have a vested interest in stopping these sorts of clubs based on hatred, anti-Americanism, and anti-social behavior? Is the school so bereft of moral convictions that they'd bend over for every socially backward and dangerous "club" to be formed just because the kids wanted it?

So not only is homosexuality is the same as bestality and polygamy (we're shocked he didn't throw incest in there), it's the same being a member of the KKK or the Black Panthers, and anti-American to boot.

See, folks, this is why we devoted an entire article to Huston's whacked-out ravings. Looks like he's generating enough material for a second one.

P.S. Huston also gets the name of the paper he's ranting against wrong, calling it "a small paper in South Carolina called The Statesman." In fact, it's The State in Columbia, South Carolina's capital. According to its website, it has an average daily circulation of 107,153 and an average Sunday circulation of 139,521.

Well, he did get the fact that it's located in South Carolina correct...

Posted by Terry K. at 12:23 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2008 12:28 AM EDT
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Aaron Klein Anti-Obama Agenda Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Aaron Klein's anti-Obama to anti-McCain article ratio has increased from 24-to-1 to 25-to-1 with a May 20 guilt-by-association article attacking Obama's church.

Meanwhile, an unbylined WND article references Klein's questionable interview of a Hamas supporter endorsing Obama without mentioning the pertinent fact that Obama opposes negotiation with Hamas.

UPDATE: Make that 26-to-1

Posted by Terry K. at 3:39 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 10:02 PM EDT
Has Anyone At NewsBusters Actually Listened to the Decemberists?
Topic: NewsBusters

A May 20 NewsBusters post by Robert Knight fowards one of the more absurd ideas of the election season: that the 70,000-plus attending a speech by Barack Obama in Portand didn't go to see him but, instead, the Portland-based band the Decemberists, which played before Obama's speech.

Knight declared the Decemberists "actual rock stars," pointing out that the band "has drawn rave reviews from Rolling Stone magazine." (This may be the first instance of an MRC employee referencing Rolling Stone in a non-derogatory manner.) Knight added that "Indie rock Web sites were abuzz with news of the impending concert"; somehow, we can't imagine Knight trolling said websites for the latest news about the Decemberists. Knight concluded by sniffing:

There's nothing wrong with a candidate using celebrity power to draw a crowd, but the media have a responsibility to report their presence. By ignoring the free concert, the Times and other outlets made it appear that 75,000 people were drawn only by Sen. Obama's considerable charisma.

This makes sense only if you, like Knight, know nothing about indie rock in general or the Decemberists in particular.

According to Billboard, the Decemberists' most recent album, "The Crane Wife," sold 151,000 copies in its first two months of release -- healthy numbers for a indie band but not exactly a sign of mass appeal. Billboard goes on to note that the band was "gearing up for a spring trek that will hit 1,500- to 3,000-capacity venues across the United States." A previous tour, Billboard wrote, drew 32,000 people over 18 shows.

That's a sign that the band would in all likelihood not be able to fill a 70,000-seat venue by itself anywhere -- even in Portland. They may be popular in Portland, but not that popular. Knight is just desperately trying to denigrate Obama's popularity.

As a measure of pop-culture cluelessness, Knight ranks slightly below Accuracy in Media's attempt to portray Rufus Wainwright as a "mainstream" artist in order to claim that the music industry was shoving gay musicians down the public's throat.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:53 PM EDT
Folger's Sources
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In her May 20 WorldNetDaly column portraying same-sex marriage as a harbinger for the end of the world (seriously!), Janet Folger cited, as a source to back up the claim, "Jeffrey Satinover, who holds an M.D. from Princeton and doctorates from Yale, MIT and Harvard."

As we detailed when Folger previously cited him, Satinover is an anti-gay psychiatrist who calls homosexuality "psychologically unhealthy," "an inferior way of life,"and a "sociopathy" akin to "grow[ing] up in a Cosa Nostra family,"  adding that "homosexuality--like narcissism--is best viewed as a spiritual and moral illness." Not the person to go to for an unbiased view on the issue, yet Folger loves to cite him anyway.

Folger has been busy of late being inflammatory; as Right Wing Watch noted, in her May 13 WND column, Folger likened supporting Barack Obama to supporting Nazis.

We think that's a step up from authoritatively citing neo-Nazi racists, but we're not sure.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:11 AM EDT

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