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Friday, September 1, 2006
We Write Letters
Topic: NewsBusters

To: Matthew Sheffield, NewsBusters executive editor

Dear Mr. Sheffield:

In an Aug. 25 NewsBusters post, Dan Riehl asserted that asserted that S.R. Sidarth, the worker for the James Webb campaign whom Sen. George Allen called a "macaca," was "making fun of an Hispanic William & Mary student's death." In fact, not only did the person alleged to be Sidarth not "make fun" of the dead student, Riehl offered no evidence that the student was, in fact, Hispanic. By repeatedly bringing up the dead student's alleged ethnicity, Riehl implied that Sidarth was acting in a racist manner -- something else for which Riehl offered no evidence.

Later on Aug. 25, Riehl issued another NewsBusters post in which he implied that Sidarth may be lying when he told Riehl that he never posted to the discussion board Riehl accuses him of posting on. 

Meanwhile, on his own blog, Riehl was making more serious accusations against Sidarth regarding discussion board posts -- which he was forced to retract because he had no proof that Sidarth, in fact, made those posts.

Given that Riehl made some of these false accusations and implications against Sidarth at NewsBusters, will you be asking Riehl to correct and/or retract his posts and issue an formal, public apology to Sidarth at NewsBusters?

Sincerely,

Terry Krepel
Editor, ConWebWatch

Posted by Terry K. at 12:39 AM EDT
Thursday, August 31, 2006
NewsBusters Cites Olbermann-Haters as Source
Topic: NewsBusters

An Aug. 30 NewsBusters post (and Aug. 31 CyberAlert item) by Brent Baker takes Keith Olbermann to task for his "vitriolic personal attack on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld." after noting that Olbermann chastised Rumsfeld because in a speech he "compared critics of the current war in Iraq to those who tried to appease Adolf Hitler and the Nazis before World War II," Baker noted: "In fact, Rumsfeld simply worried about how not all realize how “we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism” from the Islamic world."

That link (which does not appear in the CyberAlert version) goes to a site called Olbermann Watch. In the post Baker links to -- by "Johnny Dollar" (aka Mark Koldys, the pro-Fox News blogger who has previously posted at NewsBusters, a little insider dealing that Baker perhaps should have disclosed) -- Olbermann is described as "infamous," "deplorable," "Krazy Keith," "a consummate opportunist," and "Herr Olbermann." Koldys also called Olbermann's viewers "credulous cretins." Doesn't exactly sound like the place to go for a objective, balanced view of anything regarding Olbermann.


Posted by Terry K. at 3:20 PM EDT
Copy-and-Paste Journalism
Topic: Newsmax

An Aug. 31 NewsMax article read rather strange to our eyes. While its central claim is that the Defense Department "has called on the Associated Press to correct a report that it says mischaracterized a speech by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld," it didn't read like an AP article, which NewsMax is a subscriber to. Though at first glance it seems like an AP-generated article, there are numerous references to "Secretary Rumsfeld" throughout the piece, which is not AP style. Did AP resume its practice of editing AP articles to conform with NewsMax house style (which it has done in the past, for instance, changing "Democratic" to "Democrat")?

As it turns out, the article comes from a Voice of America report -- but NewsMax credits VOA nowhere in the article, which carries a "NewsMax.com Wires" byline. As far as we know, VOA does not syndicate its material through AP or any other wire service. NewsMax apparently just copied and pasted the VOA article into its own website.

 According to VOA's terms of use, "Credit for any use of VOA material should be given to voanews.com, Voice of America, or VOA." It's bad journalistic form to not credit the sources of your information.


Posted by Terry K. at 2:43 PM EDT
WND Keeps Up Misleading, Alarmist Tone on Calif. Law
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily continues to push a misleading, alarmist tone over a new California law adding "sexual orientation" to the non-discrimination provisions that groups receiving state money must abide by. An Aug. 31 WND article begins by claiming that California is promoting a "state-mandated pro-homosexual environment." WND again misleadingly describes the bill, claiming that it is "requiring even Christian colleges where students receive state grants to condone homosexuality, transsexuality and bisexuality" (italics theirs).

The bulk of the article consists of alarmist quotes by Charles B. Lowers, "executive director of the pro-family Considering Homeschool organization":

-- "School-based 'clinics' are expanding … to ensure that your daughters get birth control and abortions without you knowing. Now that the homosexuals are dictating curriculum, 80-90 percent of Christians should be homeschooling, not the other way around."

-- "Public school is no place for innocent little kids. If they don't get molested by the John Karrs who are in the system, their minds and hearts will be molested by the curriculum," he said.

-- "Instead of the traditional three R's in California's public schools, children are learning Rebelliousness, Relativism, and an R-rated lifestyle."

-- In California, the public schools are controlled "by a group of elitist, leftist, homosexual socialists."

Needless to say, no contrary view was included.


Posted by Terry K. at 11:48 AM EDT
NewsMax Nonsense
Topic: Newsmax

-- It must be official NewsMax policy to regularly run an article attacking John McCain. This time around, Bush-fluffer and frequent McCain attacker Ronald Kessler does the deed with an article claiming that McCain "had trouble controlling his anger long before he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam," adding that "the media have run few details of McCain's bouts with malignant melanoma, a deadly form of cancer that can spread quickly throughout the body."

-- NewsMax apparently never gets tired of bringing up Robert Byrd's long-past association with the KKK. It does so again in its Aug. 27 "Insider Report." The article also repeats a misleading claim, first advanced last September, that in his autobiography, "Byrd failed to renounce the Klan – and even defended it, claiming it was largely a men's social organization." In fact, in his autobiography, Byrd has called his Klan involvement "an extraordinarily foolish mistake," adding: "I displayed very bad judgment, due to immaturity and a lack of seasoned reasoning."


Posted by Terry K. at 12:45 AM EDT
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Speaking of Authoritative Figures ...
Topic: NewsBusters

An Aug. 29 NewsBusters post (and Aug. 30 CyberAlert item) attacked NBC's Brian Williams over his interview of President Bush for citing a comment made by "left-wing professor Michael Eric Dyson," who had earlier claimed that, as Baker put it, "Barbara Bush's suggestion -- that many victims were better off in their new cities -- 'reinforced the reputation of the Bushes as clueless patricians.' " Baker added: "Williams confronted President George W. Bush Tuesday with the insult, as if Dyson is some sort of authoritative figure."

No word yet on what Baker thinks of who Fox News considers an authoritative figure to defend the Bush administration: Don King


Posted by Terry K. at 10:47 PM EDT
NewsMax Tweaks WND Right Back
Topic: Newsmax

A few days back, WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah took NewsMax to task for endorsing Charlie Crist as the Republican nominee in the Florida governor's race over Farah's preferred candidate, Tom Gallagher. NewsMax appears to be responding by pumping up its pro-Crist coverage and its attacks on Gallagher.

An Aug. 29 article portrayed the race as "getting red hot and a bit nasty," then blamed the nastiness on Gallagher: "Gallagher first breached Reagan’s 11th Commandment ("Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of a Fellow Republican") when he released a campaign ad charging that Crist is pro-choice, favors a liberal spending plan, and supports gay civil unions." NewsMax added that "Florida’s Gov. Jeb Bush, who has been unwaveringly neutral, felt the need to enter the fray by coming out publicly to state that Gallagher’s claims were false, saying Crist is a solid conservative."

An Aug. 30 article, meanwhile, promoted polls showing that Crist has "jumped into a big lead" over Gallagher.

Your move, Mr. Farah. We suggest checking into whether Christopher Ruddy has donated to Crist's campaign. After all, Ruddy does have a history of giving favorable news coverage to those he has given cash to.


Posted by Terry K. at 6:36 PM EDT
Rich Noyes Is An Airhead!
Topic: Media Research Center

It's never a good sign when your purportedly exhaustively researched "special report" counts an easily disproved distortion as one of its signature claims.

A new Media Research Center "special report" by Rich Noyes purports to document how new CBS Evening News host Katie Couric "pushed a liberal political agenda during her 15 years as co-host of NBC’s Today." One of its signature claims, as promoted in an Aug. 29 press release announcing the report: "Deploring Ronald Reagan with insults such as 'The Gipper was an airhead!' " In the introduction to the report, Noyes expands this somewhat:

In 1999, Couric decided to begin the Today show by insulting Ronald Reagan: "Good morning. The Gipper was an airhead!" Two days later, the author of the Reagan biography she was supposedly summarizing told Couric she’d gotten it exactly backwards: "Oh, good God, no!" author Edmund Morris upbraided Couric. "He was a very bright man."

In the section of the report substantiating the claim, Noyes includes the original "airhead" quote, a snippet of an interview Couric did with Morris two days later in which Morris denied saying that, and a transcript from a 2002 Couric interview with Ann Coulter, headlined "Couric Re-Writes History," in which Couric takes offense to Coulter's description of the incident in her book "Slander."

What Noyes fails to note is the context in which Couric made the comment. As The Daily Howler's Bob Somerby reported:

Why did Couric say what she did? Because everyone thought it was true. Indeed, despite the picture painted in Slander, many conservatives were slamming Morris for what he had said about Ron.

Noyes' reporting of Morris's denial further obfuscates the fact that, as Somerby reported, many conservatives thought that about the book as well. From an Oct. 13, 1999 (a couple weeks after Couric's statement), Heritage Foundation online chat with Dinesh D'Souza, author of the hagiography "Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader":

Morris' book has been subject to an incredible public whipping. He has virtually no defenders. Even Morris's own reasons for using multiple fictitious characters and for calling Reagan an ignoramus and an apparent airhead sound hollow and ill-considered. When the dust has settled, Reagan will be seen as a great president.

Couric was hardly alone in interpreting that Morris' book called Reagan an "airhead." Yet Noyes and the MRC would rather leave the false impression that a hopelessly biased Couric came up with that on her own.


Posted by Terry K. at 3:26 PM EDT
Kinsolving Joins Riehl in Blaming the Victim
Topic: WorldNetDaily

While Dan Riehl seems to have backed off his attacks on S.R. Sidarth, Les Kinsolving hasn't. In his Aug. 29 WorldNetDaily column, Kinsolving whacks Sidarth for daring to suspect that George Allen's apology to him for calling him a "macaca" wasn't sincere:

Think about that.

This college student, first said the senator "did the right thing."

But when asked by the Post if he thought Sen. Allen was sincere in this apology, Sidarth declined comment.

Why on earth did he decline comment when asked if Allen was sincere – when he had just said that Allen "did the right thing"?

[...]

That is a question that should be asked of student Sidarth by the University of Virginia's famed honor committee:

"How could you tell the major media that Senator Allen 'did the right thing' and then immediately decline to comment, when asked if the 'right thing' was 'sincere'"?

Kinsolving also repeated a defense of Allen by the conservative Manhattan Institute's John McWhorter, who claimed that "Allen just made up something silly on the spot" and likely didn't know that "in French the term is sometimes used as an insult for North Africans." Kinsolving (and McWhorter) failed to note that Allen's mother grew up in Tunisia, a former French colony in North Africa, which would seem to increase the likelihood that Allen was more aware of the word than Kinsolving and McWhorter let on.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:09 PM EDT
CNS Joins WND In Not Challenging Claims On Calif. Law
Topic: CNSNews.com

WorldNetDaily wasn't the only ConWeb component to weigh in yesterday on gay issues in California. An Aug. 29 CNSNews.com article by Susan Jones covered much the same ground as WND, but did so in a slightly more balanced fashion.

Like WND, Jones presented most of the claims by the Campaign for Children and Families -- a "conservative advocacy group" that opposes the bills proposed and signed in California -- unchallenged or as fact. Unlike WND, Jones did include an opposing view in the form of four paragraphs (of the 18-paragraph article) quoting the "homosexual advocacy group" Equality California, but Jones does not use any of that material to directly challenge CCF's hyperbolic claims. Further, much of the CCF criticism Jones cites was directed at California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Jones made no apparent effort to contact Schwarzenegger's office for a response.

Jones also falls for the depiction-equals-approval fallacy. In describing the bills that seeks to bar schools from "reflecting adversely" on homosexuality, Jones adds: "It indirectly requires a positive portrayal of those sexual lifestyles, conservatives complain." But Jones does not explain how this claim is in any way factual -- or why her readers should accept CCF's claims at face value, as she does.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:35 PM EDT
Farah Gets High On His Own Supply (Again)
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah once again demonstrates the dangers of relying on WorldNetDaily as a reliable source of news. In his Aug. 30 column, Farah apparently relies solely on a biased, flawed WND article about proposed and signed gay-related laws in California to make sweepingly bizarre claims.

Farah repeats the article's overstated claim that a new law signed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that adds "sexual orientation" to the non-discrimination provisions any group accepting state money must abide by "effectively tosses out all sexual moral conduct codes at colleges, private and Christian schools, daycare centers and other so-called facilities across the state." Farah then manages to go even further than AgapePress' claim that the law "gives homosexuals new and far-reaching powers":

While much of the world was watching the forced conversions of two kidnapped Fox News journalists in the Gaza Strip, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took a huge step toward forcing millions of Californians to convert.

It's not Islam that Schwarzenegger and the state are forcibly pushing through all schools that accept any public form of financial aid for students. It's paganism. It's the worship of Baal. It's a primitive form of religion that is making a comeback. It's a faith that says sacrifice your sons and daughters on this altar – or else.

[...]

The law requires all businesses and groups receiving any form of state funding – even if it's a grant for one student – to condone homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality and God knows what else.

[...]

I don't want to overstate this, but this is the end of religious freedom in the biggest state in the union.

[...]

By going to virtually any educational institution in California today you are swearing allegiance to the idea that homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality and a growing list of other sexual sins and pathologies are just as good, just as normal, just as acceptable, just as healthy as heterosexuality.

Even worse, you are converting to this religious view. You are rejecting your old religious code – if you had one. You are accepting what might be called "the mark of the Terminator."

The basis for Farah's rant is a variation on the description-equals-approval fallacy. He assumes that because you are not allowed to condemn something, you must in fact accept it. This is logically false; as Farah himself points out, people who feel that they must discriminate against gays -- and really, for all of Farah's fulminations, he is essentially arguing that gays must be discriminated against -- they can simply choose not to accept state funding.

As we noted, the WND article on which Farah based his alarming assertions accepts as fact the distorted worst-case scenarios of a California advocacy group that opposes the proposed and signed laws.

Farah might do well to use Tony Montana as a cautionary example about getting high on one's own supply -- or, in Farah's case, relying on his own website as a fair and accurate news provider.


Posted by Terry K. at 11:33 AM EDT
Riehl's Mea Culpa
Topic: NewsBusters

What's this? Dan Riehl telling his fellow conservative bloggers not to jump to conclusions about a media-bashing story he himself put into play? Yup:

As the originator of the Red Cross Ambulance story, I would urge the elements of the blogosphere still running with the story to at least slow down, if not back up. They are increasingly looking like the very drive by media against which we so often rant, running the risk of being exploited by propagandists on another side of an issue. And no matter how much many of us may support that side, propagandists on both sides do exist. For the record, I'm guilty, too.

[...]

How is it that someone sitting thousands of miles away can claim to know precisely what that something was or wasn't? Sorry, one can't. 

Riehl even chastises Little Green Footballs and Power Line for claiming roles in the story they don't deserve. And he throws in a bit of a mea culpa:

As I said, I'm not innocent. Today on my second anniversary, I have to cop to being as caught up as everyone else. While I moderated my posts, apparently some juvenile posting board member was impersonating S R Sidarth and, frankly, I got duped. Last night I went to jump into the Reuter's vehicle story against my better instincts and made a gaffe.

[...]

I've learned some hard lessons in two years of blogging, obviously I haven't learned them all. But the past week or two has been one for the books, let me tell ya. Hopefully it'll only make me a better blogger in the end. Either that, or I'll eventually just quit.

Once I start seeing and believing what I want to believe, as opposed to the truth - I'll have become the beast I set out to battle when I took up the keyboard in the first place. 

It reads like a guy who has learned a thing or two about jumping to conclusions. This is one thing that j-school ideally teaches (and, for the most part, does).

Conservatives like Riehl love to portray journalists as hopelessly biased and driven by the all-consuming desire to promote liberal causes and attack conservative ones. The reality is that the vast majority of workaday journalists are just trying to tell the facts as best they can. Most don't have the luxury, like bloggers, to pick and choose what they get to report on; nobody aspires to cover, say, the local city government, but a good journalist will have done that at some point. It's boring, but as a governmental building block it's important to learn how to explain its actions in a way that readers can understand. And once a journalist has figured out how to do that, it serves as an invaluable stepping stone for other journalistic endeavors.

Watergate inspired numerous aspiring journalists to enter j-school; the Dan Rather/Bush National Guard story appears to have inspired numerous conservatives to try their hand at trying at discrediting the media. As Riehl has discovered -- and most journalists already know -- agenda-driven writing is not only not what journalism is about, it's an insignificant tool in the quiver (and even then, if you prefer that, stick to being a pontificating blogger). Research skills and a good BS detector are much more important.

Hopefully, the lesson Riehl has learned here sticks -- and that other bloggers will learn from it as well.

P.S.: So, Dan, any chance that you can share you mea culpa with the folks at NewsBusters, where you made some of these faulty allegations?

UPDATE: On second read, we're not sure if Riehl is talking about the UVA discussion boards or the comments on his own blog. We're assuming he's talking about the UVA boards. If we're wrong, we'll edit accordingly.

UPDATE 2: We've added a section about Riehl's Sidarth-vulgar-words attack to the ConWebWatch article that also covers the false racism charge.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:33 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 30, 2006 1:17 AM EDT
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
WND Distorts California Law
Topic: WorldNetDaily

An Aug. 29 WorldNetDaily article uses alarmist language and the depiction-equals-approval fallacy to distort a new law in California that adds "sexual orientation" to the non-discrimination provisions any group accepting state money must abide by.

That's not how WND described it, though. Here's the article's alarming lead:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has tossed out all sexual moral conduct codes at colleges, private and Christian schools, daycare centers and other facilities throughout his state, if the institutions have any students who get state assistance.

The governor yesterday signed a bill that would require all businesses and groups receiving state funding -- even if it's a state grant for a student -- to condone homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.

The article goes on to assert that the law means groups must not just "condone" it, it must "endorse such behavior." Another passage asserts that the law "specifically requires 'any program or activity that receives any financial assistance from the state' to support the alternative sexual lifestyle choices."

Such claims assume that because a group isn't allowed to discriminate against gays, it is therefore endorsing or promoting homosexual behavior -- which is a logical fallacy. The article -- using language apparently taken from the Campaign for Children and Families, a California group fighting these proposals, without explicitly stating so -- further promotes the fallacy by asserting that "several other 'sexual indoctrination bills' are heading to the governor":

One would prohibit textbooks or school-sponsored activities from "reflecting adversely" on a certain list of sexual choices.

Another would allow the California superintendent of public instruction to arbitrarily withhold state funds from any district that does not adequately promote the State Department of Education's "model policy" promoting transsexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality in its school policies.

Still another would spend state money promoting transsexual, bisexual and homosexual lifestyles.

Of course, there is no "promoting" involved. The "model policy" bill (AB 606), in fact, amends current law on school non-discrimination programs to permit withholding of state funding to schools who don't show demonstrated progress on the issue. The above description comes from a CCF "analysis."

The "state money promoting transsexual, bisexual and homosexual lifestyles" bill (AB 1056) -- again, language that WND copied from a CCF "analysis" -- is, in fact, for "tolerance education." Tolerance does not equal "promotion."

WND actually diverged from the CCF description of the textbook bill (SB 1437), substituting "a certain list of sexual choices" for the actual list that CCF uses. WND's wording reflects the conservative bias that any non-heterosexual behavior is a "choice."

Needless to say, the WND article quotes only opponents of these bills.

(Hat tip to Sadly, No!, which did a fine job of picking apart not only Kevin McCullough's misleading Aug. 25 WND column on the subject but an AgapePress article that not only signed on to the depiction-equals-endorsement fallacy but even more alarmingly claimed that the newly signed bill "gives homosexuals new and far-reaching powers.")


Posted by Terry K. at 5:08 PM EDT
NewsMax Weighs In on JonBenet Case
Topic: Newsmax

Ronald Kessler's role at NewsMax appears to be about bringing a certain level of gravitas to frivolous topics (like his constant fluffing of the Bush administration).

In an Aug. 29 article, Kessler ventures into tabloid territory to forward a claim that Patsy Ramsey played some role in the death of her daughter JonBenet Ramsey. Patsy Ramsey, of course, is conveniently dead and, thus, unable to rebut Kessler's claims.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:57 PM EDT
Riehl: Never Mind!
Topic: NewsBusters

Dan Riehl is in the process of walking back his smears of S.R. Sidarth, the target of George Allen's "macaca" comment.

After accusing Sidarth of posting a series of vulgar comments -- the point being, of course, to discredit any claim by Sidarth to be offended by what Allen said -- Riehl is now stating: "Whether the S R Sidarth posting on the board in question is the same as the one currently in the news cannot be verified."

Between this and Riehl's false claims of Sidarth's purported racism, this whole episode has been one big oopsie for an eager-to-smear blogger.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:53 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 1:15 PM EDT

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