Sheppard Walks Back Inaccurate Post on 9/11 Miniseries Topic: NewsBusters
Remember Noel Sheppard's eager-to-smear NewsBusters post attacking critics of ABC's 9/11 miniseries? Well, never mind.
A Sept. 7 NewsBusters post by Sheppard walks back some of those claims. After hearing from Michael Scheuer (who, if you'll recall, is "no friend of the Bush administration!"), Sheppard seems to be conceding that a scene in the miniseries in which the CIA and Northern Alliance purportedly have Osama bin Laden surrounded only to have the operation called off by the Clinton White House is not as accurate as he previously suggested.
Then, after channeling Scheuer for some more Richard Clarke-bashing, Sheppard tries to change the subject:
Finally, on a personal note, it appears necessary to clear up some misunderstandings about the focus I have given to this issue the past couple of days. The truth is that I have not yet seen “The Path to 9/11,” and, frankly, have no opinion on it. How can one have an opinion on something one hasn’t seen?
In reality, that has been my point from the start.
Well, it appears this has happened with “The Path to 9/11,” and all those guilty of rendering an opinion without having seen it should be ashamed of themselves. This is especially true of those in the blogosphere that have fanned the fires of discontent concerning this program before it even aired.
In the end, “The Path to 9/11” is just a made-for-television docudrama…nothing more, nothing less.
We suspect that Sheppard didn't feel the same way about the Reagan miniseries that was similarly assailed before its airing (by conservatives).
Sheppard, however, makes no attempt to correct his other inaccurate claims, such as falsely stating the circumstances surrounding the Sandy Berger case or his straw-man claim about Think Progress' post on the miniseries.
A Sept. 6 NewsBusters post by Lyford Beverage claims that it is "non-news" that President Bush acknowledged that the CIA operates secret prisons:
To the extent that the CIA prisons were "secret," they remain secret today. The fact that the President had never officially announced that prisoners were being held by CIA operatives in undisclosed locations is not remotely the same as stating that anyone was unaware of the fact that prisoners were being held in undisclosed locations by CIA operatives.
Beverage might want to chat with Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid about the news value of Bush's admission; he's been demanding proof of these prisons for months now. He also might want to check with his fellow NewsBusters, who thought it was a badthing when the Washington Post reported it.
'Liberal and Dishonest' Topic: Media Research Center
From the Media Research Center front page earlier today:
The CyberAlert item that this is promoting offers no evidence to support the claim that Joseph Welch is "liberal and dishonest" -- in fact, it doesn't even make that claim at all, let alone that he "mocked" McCarthy when saying it. From the item:
Olbermann concluded by his own historical comparison, asking Bush: "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" an echo of remarks made by Joseph Welch to 1950s Senator Joseph McCarthy.
The guy who writes the copy for the MRC front page is apparently unconstrained by even fewer factual bounds on his rhetoric than the MRC's researchers.
President Bush on Wednesday for the first time acknowledged the use of secret CIA prisons outside U.S. borders to hold top suspects captured in the war on terrorism.
We presume that Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid is currently drafting his apology to the Washington Post's Dana Priest, who had written stories about the secret prisons that Kincaid repeatedly called "false" and unsubstantiated.
Another Flawed Defense of 9/11 Miniseries Topic: Newsmax
A Sept. 5 NewsMax column by James Hirsen puts forth a flawed defense of the upcoming ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11." Hirsen claimed that the show is "thoroughly sourced and exposes information that former members of the Clinton administration had previously tried to suppress." Hirsen does not address the claims that scenes in the miniseries are factually inaccurate.
"Path" highlights the pivotal moment when the CIA and Northern Alliance had bin Laden surrounded and sought the necessary approval from the Clinton administration to go in and arrest the al-Qaida leader. The administration's refusal to authorize bin Laden's capture was apparently for political reasons.
In fact, that scene, as depicted in the miniseries, never happened. According to former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke:
1. Contrary to the movie, no US military or CIA personnel were on the ground in Afghanistan and saw bin Laden.
2. Contrary to the movie, the head of the Northern Alliance, Masood, was no where near the alleged bin Laden camp and did not see UBL.
3. Contrary to the movie, the CIA Director actually said that he could not recommend a strike on the camp because the information was single sourced and we would have no way to know if bin Laden was in the target area by the time a cruise missile hit it.
Even Thomas Kean, the 9/11 Commission co-chairman who served as a "senior consultant" for the miniseries, says the scene is mere speculation and not fact:
Kean himself questioned the accuracy of the miniseries. Asked about a key scene in which the Clinton administration is accused of blocking a surefire chance to kill Osama bin Laden, Kean said, “I don’t think the facts are clear” about those events, and that while ABC had “chose to portray it this way,” “my memory of it is that it could have happened any number of ways.”
Hirsen also states:
Clinton colleagues Richard Ben-Veniste and John Podesta reportedly expressed their extreme displeasure about the way the docudrama portrays the Clinton administration. Their frustration likely stems from the extensive efforts that were taken to keep the information from being made public.
Jamie Gorelick, former deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration and creator of the notorious wall that was erected between the FBI and CIA, served as a 9/11 Commission panel member. Because of potential conflicts of interest, the propriety of Gorelick's membership on the panel was questionable.
Hirsen offers no specific evidence to back up his claim that Ben-Veniste and Podesta -- or anyone else -- tried to "suppress" information from becoming public.
Further, Hirsen's claim that Gorelick was the "creator of the notorious wall that was erected between the FBI and CIA" is false, as we've repeatedlynoted.
As criticism of the upcoming ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11" mounts over its alleged inaccuracies regarding the Clinton administration, the ConWeb is rushing to defend the program -- and attack the critics.
A Sept. 6 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard, for example, is all about attacking the critics, dismissing them as "Michael Moore devotees." First, Sheppard cites Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, "the outspoken proprietor of Daily Kos," calling the series a "piece of fiction." Sheppard retorts: "That’s some truly objective review-work there, isn’t it? Wouldn’t every movie and television critic have an easy job if all he or she had to do was reference the opinions of others rather than actually see the film or program in question? Imagine the time you’d save!" Sheppard did not note that non-conservatives, and even people depicted in the show, can't get preview copies of it so they can judge for themselves. Has Sheppard seen it? If so, perhaps he can explain how he got a copy; if not, why is he defending a show he hasn't seen?
Sheppard also accused Moulitsas of committing a "cardinal sin of journalism," forgetting the fact that Moulitsas has never proclaimed himself to be a journalist.
Sheppard then reported that "Kos then listed reasons why the miniseries was presenting falsehoods. Nowhere did Markos inform the reader that this analysis was apparently made by former counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke ." Yet, rather than refuting Clarke's specific criticisms (which he doesn't repeat for the benefit of his readers), Sheppard assailed Clarke's credibility, repeating one critic (Michael Scheuer, who Sheppard insists is "no friend of the Bush administration!") calling him "a risk-averse poseur."
Sheppard also assailed a claim by Think Progress' Judd Legum that a scene in the miniseries depicting Osama bin Laden as being cornered and the Clinton administration refusing to give final approval to capture him, "never happened" and was "completely made up" by screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh. Sheppard then created a straw man, falsely claiming that Legum was denying that there was no plan: "Does it sound like Nowrasteh 'completely made up' this plan?"
Additionally, Sheppard tried to rewrite history by falsely stating the circumstances surrounding the Sandy Berger case, claiming that Berger "was so intent on covering up the missteps of the Clinton administration that he actually stole documents from the National Archive just prior to testifying before the Commission." In fact, as we've repeatedly noted, Berger took no original documents.
It appears that Sheppard is committing a "cardinal sin of journalism" by not getting his facts straight before writing his post. (Hey, if he thinks Kos is a journalist, he must think he is one too. Scary.)
Why Is Dan Riehl Still Blogging for NewsBusters? Topic: NewsBusters
Given that he thoroughly discredited himself by making false accusations about S.R. Sidarth, one would think that NewsBusters would have barred Dan Riehl from posting there. Yet here he is, with another new post.
And no, we haven't heard back from NewsBusters regarding our letter wondering if Riehl will be apologizing to Sidarth for his NewsBusters postings.
New Article: WorldNetDaily's Deadly Journalistic Legacy Topic: WorldNetDaily
WND was so committed to promoting a program purporting to link Darwin to Hitler that it buried the real news: The show's producers apparently deceived a scientist about his appearance in it. Read more.
Meanwhile... Topic: NewsBusters
Colorado Media Matters (full disclosure: a division of my employer) points out the context missing from Mark Finkelstein's Aug. 30 NewsBusters post accusing NBC's Ann Curry of pushing the "absolute worst" scenario when she suggested that problems with the Alaska pipeline might increase oil prices by $10 a barrel.
We've noticed an upswing of late in the ConWeb presenting clearly biased sources as authoritative, as we're seeing with WND's embrace of a conservative group's propaganda to fight gay-related bills in California. Here are a couple more examples:
-- A Sept. 4 NewsMax article claiming that Republican Sen. Rick Santorum "crush[ed]" Democratic challenger Bob Casey in a joint appearance on "Meet the Press" cited only a single source to support the claim: a pro-Santorum blogger.
-- A Sept. 4 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard about liberal criticism of an upcoming ABC miniseries based on the 9/11 Commission report notes that critics have complained that "the writer/producer of this series, Cyrus Nowrasteh, is an admitted conservative that is supposedly a friend of Rush Limbaugh’s." In trying to claim that Nowrasteh is, rather, not "at all biased in his viewpoints," Sheppard cites ... an softball interview with him by Jamie Glazov at FrontPageMag.com.
Glazov is FrontPageMag's champion creampuff-tosser; he turned in a particularly softball-laden performance with fellow David Horowitz employee Richard Poe in order to promote Poe and Horowitz's new, highly flawed book, "The Shadow Party."
WorldNetDaily continues on its merry way of misrepresenting a series of bills in gay-related bills in California.
A Sept. 5 WND article states without qualification that "a series of bills approved by the Legislature ... would turn the California public school system into 'sexual indoctrination centers.'" Again, the only source of information for the article is the conservative Campaign for Children and Families, which opposes the law.
The article again repeats the highly misleading claim that a law signed last month "will require private schools including Christian colleges and others to promote homosexuality if any of their students receive state grants." In fact, the law merely adds "sexual orientation" to a non-discrimination clause for groups receiving state money. It similarly repeated the claim that two proposed bills would "promote transsexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality to children as young as kindergarten without their parents' permission."
The article states that another bill would "would spend $250,000 to turn 10 schools into 'sexual indoctrination centers,' officials said." The article doesn't delineate who the "officials" are who said it, leaving the false impression that it was state officials. In fact, nobody but opponents such as the CCF are making such overheated claims.
The article also links to the CCF site, claiming that "Full information on the bills" can be found there. Full information to make distorted and false claims, perhaps. Just because WND found everything it needed to falsely attack the bills at the CCF site doesn't mean CCF has the "full information" on them.
Meanwhile, the article doesn't offer any links to the actual text of the bills in question. The bills themselves, not CCF's biased interpretation of them, have the "full information." (We link to those bills here.)
Tim Graham vs. Media Matters Topic: Media Research Center
A Sept. 3 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham starts off by bashing a post by Brendan Nyhan at the American Prospect's Horse's Mouth blog about liberal media watchdogs, but he ultimately ends up taking a dishonest shot at Media Matters (full disclosure: my employer).
Graham makes the following claim:
MRC is not in the business of objecting to a liberal getting to speak on a newscast. We do not think that when a liberal gets to open their mouth on air, liberal bias has been committed. Often, we are pointing out that the liberal attitude isn't coming from a liberal think tank spokesman or a Democratic politician -- it's coming from an "objective" journalist like Katie Couric.
MRC is asking the news media to balance liberal viewpoints with conservative viewpoints. We don't generally say liberals should be removed from the air. This line is especially odd from Fritz or Nyhan, considering anyone who pays attention to Media Matters knows it's an aggressive promoter of taking conservatives off the air.
This was followed later by:
Once again, anyone who visits Media Matters will see that its focus isn't always on "misinformation." It's often, alert Ben Fritz, mere offense at conservative speech. Take these examples from their short list of recent items:
Robertson: "Osama bin Laden may be one of the true disciples of the teaching of the Quran ... because he's following through literally word-for-word what it says"
Hannity: "[M]aking sure Nancy Pelosi doesn't become the [House] speaker" is "worth ... dying for"
Coulter on Sen. Chafee: "They Shot the Wrong Lincoln"
Even this one: On Fox, boxing promoter Don King defended Bush on Katrina, claimed African-Americans supported Kerry in 2004 "because they didn't know any better"
In short, what Graham is claiming is that the MRC never criticizes liberals for saying liberal things, whereas Media Matters regularly criticizes conservatives for saying conservative things. Graham is, in a word, wrong.
A quick tour through NewsBusters shows how wrong he is. There, one will find numerous instances of writers taking mere offense at liberal speech -- or merely for not being conservative. In the past few days alone, targets have included Bill Maher (here and here), Keith Olbermann (a favorite target: "It is quite safe to say that most conservatives recommend the first change be the immediate cancellation of 'Countdown,' and the termination of its host"), Jane Smiley, Neal Gabler (another favorite target) and Al Gore.
Further, NewsBusters was the place where Dan Riehl posted his false accusations against S.R. Sidarth -- for which Riehl has yet to apologize there.
(Yes, we know what Graham is going to say: NewsBusters is just a blog, it's not official MRC research, most of its writers aren't MRC employees. But it's done under the MRC name and operated by MRC employees, which indicates at least tacit MRC approval of what's written there. It might want to keep that in mind, especially given the potentially libelous implications of Riehl's posts on Sidarth.)
Further, Graham seems to miss the point of the Media Matters items he cites as taking "mere offense at conservative speech." Take, for instance, this item on Graham's list, "Coulter on Sen. Chafee: 'They Shot the Wrong Lincoln.' " Is Graham saying that threatening the life of a political opponent -- a fellow Republican to Graham and Coulter, mind you -- is acceptable "conservative speech"? Because we sure don't see him being all that offended by it (or any of Coulter's other death threats, as far as we know). It seems to me that this is the kind of speech that anyone, liberal or conservative, should be offended by. Graham apparently thinks differently.
Graham also offers up this description of Media Matters vs. Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR): "MMFA is the liberal Democrat establishment, while FAIR is ultra-left." Does this mean that the MRC is the conservative Republican establishment, while Accuracy in Media is "ultra-right"? (Though AIM, unlike the MRC, has denounced Coulter's extreme rhetoric.)
Essentially, Graham is accusing Media Matters of doing the same thing his own employer does. Hardly a winning argument.
WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah dedicated his Sept. 4 column to defending Florida congresswoman Katherine Harris -- which makes him one of the very few people on the planet to do so. He overlooks a lot of stuff in the process. No mention of, say, Harris' links to scandal-tainted defense contractor Mitchell Wade -- heck, if WND didn't report it, it didn't happen, as far as Farah is concerned. And it didn't, beyond mentioning her in passing in an article last December; the only other appearance by Harris in a WND news article is a June article by Jerome Corsi that is focused on scaremongering about a so-called North American super-state.
No, Farah focused very narrowly on what he called an "L.A. Times hit piece" on Harris. Even though Farah repeated the article's recounting that she "lost a dozen key campaign staffers in the home stretch, advertised endorsements she didn't get and failed to pick up a single recommendation from Florida's leading newspapers," he didn't address that at all; rather, he even more narrowly defended only her statements that the separation of church and state "a lie we have been told" and "so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers," as well her statement that only Christians should serve in Congress because otherwise it will "legislate sin." Harris was "simply representing mainstream evangelical thought," Farah wrote.
Farah also recalled his encounters with her as they worked on her (ghostwritten) book, the first book published under the WND Books imprint (which, despite being what Farah called a "valuable collectors item," the WND store is currently unloading for a low, low $6.95): "I was surprised by the person I met back then – because she wasn't anything like the media depictions of her. She was diminutive. She was attractive. She was extremely bright and warm – not the cold, harsh character I saw on the news throughout the 2000 election dispute."
Farah concluded: "So don't be fooled, Floridians. Do the right thing tomorrow. Vote for Harris." But isn't Farah fooling Floridians as well by failing to address the many other controversies surrounding her?
WND Misrepresents Quote on Social Darwinism Topic: WorldNetDaily
An alert ConWebWatch reader noted that amid all of the work WorldNetDaily undertook to promote a new video by D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries linking Darwinism to Adolf Hitler (and downplay the controversy of Coral Ridge's unauthorized misuse of comments by Human Genome Project director Francis Collins, it misrepresented the views of a scientist on the issue.
Even Niles Eldredge, curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, said there's a link.
"Social Darwinism," he wrote, "has given us the eugenics movement and some of its darker outgrowths, such as the genocidal practices of the Nazis in World War II – where eugenics was invoked as a scientific rationale to go along with whatever other 'reasons' Hitler and his fellow Nazis had for the Holocaust."
By throwing this quote in, WND conflates social Darwinism and evolutionary theory. But even Coral Ridge didn't misrepresent Eldredge the way WND did. An essay by Tom DeRosa on the Coral Ridge website containing Eldredge's quote notes -- as WND doesn't -- that Eldredge regards social Darwinism "as an illegitimate offspring of Darwin’s theory."
DeRosa ultimately joins WND in conflating social Darwinism and evolution. While he does note that "contemporary apologists of Darwin" make a distiction between the two, he dismisses it: "Today when evolutionists are questioned as to how Darwinian evolution gave birth to Hitler’s Nazism, they immediately want to beg the question, answering that racism has nothing to do with science. They are correct! Racism has nothing to do with science, but it has everything to do with evolution—a fact that is unavoidable."
The distinction is important, since the aim of Kennedy and Coral Ridge is to discredit evolutionary theory as a whole -- not just social Darwinism, a application Darwin did not promote -- by linking it to Hitler.
Bozell Quits as PTC President Topic: Media Research Center
Media Research Center president Brent Bozell has quit his other job, president of the Parents Television Council.
While the wire services are focusing on what the PTC has accomplished in pushing for a federal crackdown on allegedly indecent content on TV, they are ignoring Bozell's one notorious failure: his false accusations against World Wrestling Entertainment over the Lionel Tate case, in which a 12-year-old boy killed a 6-year-old girl. Bozell claimed that WWE was liable because the boy was allegedly imitating wrestling moves when he killed the girl.