Another Shocker: WND Allows Atheist to Rebut Articles Topic: WorldNetDaily
What has gotten into the ConWeb? It's coming down with a severe case of fair journalism. First, CNS debunks a false conservative talking point; now, WorldNetDaily allows one of the targets of its "news" coverage to comment -- and lets it stand without additional comment.
Not just any target, mind you; we're talking Michael Newdow, the atheist best known for trying to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance -- and who also briefly sued WND for libel in 2003 (Newdow later dropped the lawsuit).
So, it's surprising to see on WND's commentary page a Dec. 2 column by Newdow in which he criticizes WND'sreporting of his legal actions to remove "In God We Trust" as a national motto as "quite misleading." From his column:
WND's assertion that "Newdow has admitted that ... [he] ... wants to ... install his own belief system that does not acknowledge God" is similarly misleading. By focusing on the elimination of "acknowledgments" of God's existence, it is implied that it is atheism ("his own belief system") that I seek to have government endorse. But the fact is that if the government adhered to my atheistic views and claimed that God is a myth, I would demand the elimination of that assertion as well. The "belief system" I'm striving to uphold is the one based on equality, not on any religious opinion – including my own. The real question is not why I am fighting for that "belief system" (i.e., equality), but why others are fighting against it.
That I'm for "[b]anning references to God or Christianity in the public sphere" is yet another bogus contention. Let me be clear on this: I want God and Christianity in the public sphere.
But the right of individuals and groups to voice their own religious opinions is very different from the "right" to have the government join them in their endeavors. In fact, that posited "right" is no right at all; it is precisely what the Establishment Clause prohibits. In other words, when it comes to religious issues, that "public sphere" belongs only to the public, not the government.
Granted, WND buried Newdow's column on a low-readership weekend, but the fact that it not only ran it as a archived column rather than a letter to the editor that will disappear within a week, but also ran it unchallenged, says something (though we're not sure what) about a possible change in WND's standards. Are they tacitly admitting their articles were wrong or misleading? That's not something WND normally does; as we've noted, when WND's Aaron Klein suggested that Fox News paid a ransom for two kidnapped reporters, it went on the defensive, took refuge in word-parsing and denied that Klein suggested such a thing (though he did). If it means that WND is taking its journalistic endeavors a little more seriously -- and accurately -- that's a good thing.
NewsBusters Again Ignores AP's Defense of Story Topic: NewsBusters
While NewsBusters' Greg Sheffield doesn't share fellow NewsBuster Tim Graham's "macaca" obsession, he does share his penchant for ignoring inconvenient facts.
In a Dec. 2 post claiming that the Associated Press "used a government source that doesen't exist," Sheffield excerpted a UK Guardian article stating that the Iraq government "wants to make sure the AP and other media outlets cannot get away with similar fraudulent activity" by forming a "press monitoring unit." But Sheffield's excerpt of the Guardian article in his post stops when it gets to AP's defense:
AP rejected the accusation and said it does not pay for information. In a statement, AP's executive editor Kathleen Carroll said the reporter concerned had been in regular contact with the Captain for more than two years, often meeting in his police station in west Baghdad. Other witnesses to the attack had also been interviewed.
"The Iraqi spokesman said today that reporting on the such atrocities 'shows that the security situation is worse than it really is.' He is speaking from a capital city where people are gunned down in their cars, dragged from their homes or blown apart in public places every single day," said Ms Carroll.
"Good reporting relies on more than government-approved sources. We stand behind our reporting."
NewsBusters bloggers have a history of downplaying or ignoring AP's claims and reporting in standing by its story of six Sunnis burned alive and its source, Jamil Hussein.
Further, in placing his faith in military authorities, Sheffield ignores the U.S. military's history of distortion of news from Iraq, as David Neiwert details:
The cold reality, backed up by case after case, is that the information being released by the American military in Iraq for the duration of this misbegotten war has been not merely PR on steroids, but a psy ops operation targeting the Iraqi population only tangentially. Its chief target all along has been the American public.
The first people to come into conflict with such operatations have always been journalists, particularly those trying honestly to do their jobs. This has always been the case, and will always be so.
Graham Praises Will's Column, Fails to Note It's Misleading Topic: NewsBusters
A Dec. 1 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham praised George Will for writing a "brutal column" about Virginia Sen.-elect Jim Webb and "scouring him for being rude to President Bush at a reception" (though was critical of him for waiting until after the election to do so and bashing Will for "scouring Sen. George Allen ... seven days before the election"). But Graham failed to note the misleading nature of Will's column on Webb.
As Media Matters and Greg Sargent point out, in describing an exchange between Webb and President Bush, Will omitted a phrase uttered by Bush that would help to explain to readers why Webb was somewhat testy with the president. Will wrote:
Wednesday's Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq." When the president again asked "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy."
Will cut out the line from the President where he said: "That's not what I asked you." In Will's recounting, that instead became a sign of Bush's parental solicitousness: "The president again asked 'How's your boy?' "
Will's change completely alters the tenor of the conversation from one in which Bush was rude first to Webb, which is what the Post's original account suggested, to one in which Webb was inexplicably rude to the President, which is how Will wanted to represent what happened.
Graham also continues his obsession with the George Allen "macaca" incident, bashing not only Will but the Weekly Standard for being critical of Allen before the election, in which he lost to Webb: "As with the Weekly Standard and their George Allen-bashing cover this fall, when you help make the 'Macaca majority,' then you should look in the mirror before despairing over the man you helped usher in."
Shocker: CNS Debunks *Conservative* Talking Point Topic: CNSNews.com
Now, here's something you don't see every day: the ConWeb debunking an emerging-but-false conservative talking point.
A Dec. 1 CNSNews.com article by Randy Hall rather definitively shoots down the claim that newly elected Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, would be sworn into the House with his hand on a copy of the Koran, correctly pointing out that no member of Congress is officially sworn in with their hand on any book, including the Bible, and that the Constitution specifically prohibits a "religious test" for holding office.
This is all the more surprising because, as we've noted, Hall was CNS' point man for conservative attacks on John Murtha, has forwarded other conservative attacks, and has otherwise sought to promote conservative talking points and bash liberal ones.
WND Continues to Obfuscate on Libel Lawsuit Topic: WorldNetDaily
A Nov. 30 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh on the libel suit filed against WorldNetDaily and others by Tennessee businessman Clark Jones over a 2000 series of Al Gore-bashing articles focuses on the least relevant aspect of it -- the amount of money Jones is suing for, $165 million. After all, most civil lawsuits are settled for less (sometimes much less) than the original asking amount.
While Unruh busied himself with such irrelevancies -- he also throws in a recent history of libel claims -- he makes no effort to contact Jones or his lawyers for a response, though he quotes WND's Joseph Farah and WND's lawyer. Unruh also fails to address a series of conflicting claims WND has made about the articles over which it is being sued -- as we noted, it is simultaneously standing behind the articles but also looking for escape hatch by arguing that it merely reposted the articles and had nothing to do with their content.
Also on Nov. 30, WND conducted a poll asking, "Why is WND's record libel suit not getting national coverage as a 1st Amendment battle?" But this ignores the fact that WND itself has downplayed the lawsuit, at least until now. As we've previously noted, WND went 3 1/2 years -- from December 2002 to July 2006 -- without publishing a news article about it. This -- along with WND's one-sided coverage of it and its refusal to acknowlege our challenge to post all relevant legal documents filed in the lawsuit on its website as a show of objectivity and transparency -- suggests that there are things in those legal papers that WND would rather not see the light of day.
AIM's Double Standard on Killers As Victims Topic: Accuracy in Media
In a Nov. 30 Accuracy in Media column, Cliff Kincaid purports to be outraged that the public defender for Nicholas Gutierrez, a "deranged homosexual man" convicted of murdering "Chicago Catholic and mother of four" Mary Stachowicz in 2002, claimed in her defense that, in the words fo anti-gay activst Peter LaBarbera, whom Kincaid copiously cites in his article, Stachowicz "became enraged to the point of violence over [Gutierrez's] homosexual lifestyle." Kincaid quoted LaBarbera calling this "ugly anti-Christian bigotry -- the legal equivalent of spitting on Mary's grave." Kincaid added that Stachowicz "is not politically correct. So she will not be portrayed sympathetically. Indeed, her killer, an admitted and active homosexual, may get the media's sympathetic ear."
But Kincaid -- nor, to our knowledge, LaBarbera -- raised any similar objections when one of the men who killed Matthew Shepard tried a similar blame-the-victim defense. In fact, in a Dec. 8, 1998, column, Kincaid and Reed Irvine were eager to endorse it. The column noted that "Newsweek magazine reports that Shepard had apparently tried to pick up another man in another setting"; rather than condeming it, as Kincaid did with Guiterrez's defense, he and Irvine linked it to Shepard's purported desire to "go after sex in public or semi-public settings" and used it as an example of why gays should not be protected under hate-crimes laws:
This is disgusting behavior and no one really wants to talk about it. But an understanding of this subculture is necessary when considering passing hate crime laws to protect homosexuals.
A Nov. 2, 1998, column by Kincaid and Irvine similiarly noted that "Some reports indicated [Shepard] was attacked after cruising for sex," but didn't condemn it as a defense.
When one of Shepard's killers, Russell Henderson, went on ABC in 2004 to claim that Shepard was killed as part of a robbery and not because he was gay, Kincaid was all too accepting of Henderson's story and used a Dec. 22, 2004, column to suggest that Shepard deserved to die, calling him "a heavy drug user who was HIV-positive." In recounting Henderson's "gay panic" defense, Kincaid not only doesn't criticize Henderson for using it and, he blames political correctness for Henderson's resorting to it in the first place:
The gay rights movement wanted to depict Shepard as an innocent victim of a homophobic society. This played into their demands for legislation to curb so-called "hate crimes." One of the perpetrators used that to his advantage, arguing when he went on trial that he went into a panic when Shepard tried to proposition him at a bar. His girlfriend made the same claim in the media, including on "20/20." But now they say it was all a ruse, designed to get him a reduced sentence by suggesting that he wasn't in control of his faculties when the murder occurred.
As we've previously detailed, Henderson has a history of giving "multiple, conflicting accounts of what happened" the night Sheppard died. Apparently, as far as Kincaid is concerned, a convicted felon is more trustworthy than a gay person.
NewsBusters Ignores Evidence That Substantiates AP Story Topic: NewsBusters
A Nov. 30 NewsBusters post by Al Brown quasi-acknowledges the Associated Press' defense of a story of Sunnis burned alive in Iraq and its source, but it mostly ignores what the AP has to say, relying instead on claims by Iraq and CENTCOM officials that one AP source for that story, Jamil Hussein, doesn't exist.
Nowhere does Brown detail the AP's defense beyond stating that "So far, the Associated Press is standing by their story, claiming that their reporters visited Jamil Hussein at his police station." Brown also fails to note, as we did, that the AP has claimed other eyewitnesses to the incident.
Brown should try fully reporting all sides of this story and be a little less eager for a scalp to nail on his anti-liberal-media wall.
A Double Standard on Mount Rushmore Topic: NewsBusters
In a Nov. 29 NewsBusters post, Tim Graham is irked that Regis Philbin said of Dan Rather, "It’s like lookin' at Mount Rushmore!"
Funny, we don't recall Graham objecting to Chris Matthews suggesting that President Bush belonged on Mount Rushmore. Then again, that would mess with the MRC's script that Matthews is a diehard liberal (never mind that Matthews regularly bashed President Clinton, which the MRC heartily approved of).
Will NewsMax Correct the Record on Pelosi's Vineyard? Topic: Newsmax
NewsMax heavily promoted Peter Schweizer's book "Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy," even offering special deals on it through its online store. Among the lead claims in that book -- teased in NewsMax's promotional materials as well as severalother NewsMax articles, most recently a Nov. 1 article by Jim Meyers -- is that House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi supports unions, but the vineyard she owns employs non-union help.
Turns out there's a lot more to that story that Schweizer and NewsMax hasn't told anyone.
Think Progress reports that a San Francisco TV station looked into Schweizer's claim and found some interesting things:
Pelosi treats her workers better than unionized vineyard workers, offering them higher-than-union wages.
Pelosi is prohibited by law from helping her workers unionize. A United Farm Workers Union representative explains: “It is patently illegal for any grower to even discuss a union contract, which is the only way you can supply union workers, without the workers first having voted in a state conducted secret ballot election.”
Even more interesting (and hilarious), Schweizer defends his lazy reporting: “It’s not my responsibility to go and find out how every single particular circumstance is handled on the Pelosi vineyard.”
Any chance NewsMax will tell its readers the whole Pelosi story? Don't count on it.
But NewsMax isn't the only ConWeb sector that needs to clarify the record (and probably won't): threeWorldNetDailyarticles promoting Schweizer's book and twocolumns by Joseph Farah repeated the highly misleading claim.
A Nov. 27 NewsBusters post by Greg Sheffield, headlined "It's Official: Media Body Burning Story Is Bogus," asserted that an incident forwarded by the Associated Press stating that six Sunnis in Iraq were "captured by Shiites, doused with kerosine [sic] and burned alive -- "never happened. Furthermore, the Iraqi 'spokesman' relied on to give all information regarding this event is as fictional as the story itself."
Whoa there, Tex. Not so fast.
As blogger Bob Geiger points out, AP has since cited witnesses to the immolations and claims to have confirmed the identity of "spokesman" Jamil Hussein, pointing out that he "has been a regular source of police information for two years and had been visited by the AP reporter in his office at the police station on several occasions."
NewsBusters has yet to acknowledge AP's defense of its article, though it ran a Nov. 27 post by Al Brown similarly questioning the existence of Jamil Hussein.
UPDATE: David Neiwert offers his take on this, with a focus on lead promoter Michelle Malkin.
The headline of a Nov. 29 NewsMax article states, "Jim Webb Threatens to 'Slug' President Bush." But the article makes no such claim.
Rather, it accurately recounts a report from The Hill newspaper that Webb, the newly elected Democratic senator from Virginia, "was so infuriated by a remark from President George W. Bush that the former Marine officer was tempted to punch the commander-in-chief." Webb issued no threat.
Breaking: Aaron Klein Names A Military Critic of Olmert Topic: WorldNetDaily
This time, amid his latest anonymously sourced attack on Israel's Ehud Olmert, WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein throws in an actual name of a critic. But, being an Aaron Klein article, it's misleading.
The headline on Klein's Nov. 28 WND article reads, "Israeli military not consulted before cease-fire," but that's contradicted by the very first paragraph, which states that Olmert "did not fully consult with the Israeli army before agreeing to a cease-fire with Palestinian militants two days ago." (Italics ours.)
Klein attributes this claim to Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz -- which may be a first for Klein in actually naming a military official who has been critical of Olmert. But Klein also mixes in more anonymous claims as well; his heavy reliance on them -- something we can't imagine WND editor Joseph Farah tolerating if similarly anonymous "military officials" were being similarly critical of President Bush's prosecution of the Iraq war -- and his longtimehatred of Olmert raises the likelihood that Klein is using these "anonymous" officials in a partisan bid to keep up his anti-Olmert jihad.
Finkelstein Still Doesn't Say Why Iraq Isn't In Civil War Topic: NewsBusters
A Nov. 28 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein claims that NBC "apparently seeks ... to shape US policy" by calling the situation in Iraq a "civil war," asserting that "[t]he NBC game-plan becomes clear. ... make sure the conflict is 'branded' a civil war" with the only option being to "extract ourselves." He concludes:
In sum, it appears that NBC News' trumpeted decision to label the situation in Iraq a 'civil war' was no mere exercise in semantics. It reflects NBC's calculated attempt to influence public opinion and US policy on the most serious national security issue of the day. Such is the role that the MSM has arrogated to itself."
But again, as he did the previous day, Finkelstein offers no evidence that the situation in Iraq is not a "civil war." As someone who "recently returned from Iraq," as his tagline states, he would presumably be able to offer a little insight into the situation. Yet, he does not.
Fellow NewsBuster Clay Waters similarly tsk-tsks at the New York Times for also adopting the "civil war" terminology, but he also doesn't explain why the Times is wrong.
If you're going to attack NBC for using the term "civil war," shouldn't the first thing you do in support of your attack is explain why they're wrong? Finkelstein and Waters seem to think that it's axiomatic that it's not a civil war because the Bush administration says it's not.
At least MRC chief Brent Bozell, appearing on "Hannity & Colmes," did offer a reason why it wasn't a civil war, even though his argument essentially boils down to that it isn't because he says it isn't. We suspect that Bozell would be calling it a civil war if a Democrat was president.
Meanwhile ... Topic: Media Research Center
Media Matters' Eric Boehlert does a fine job of decimating Brent Bozell's false and misleading claims of liberal bias in media coverage of the 2006 elections.
Getting It Wrong: Joseph Farah and Illegals Topic: WorldNetDaily
It seems like only yesterday that WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah was claiming that the reporting "everything" WND has covered "was fair, honest, truthful, balanced and accurate." (Oh, wait, it was yesterday.) Farah manages to prove himself wrong yet again.
A Nov. 28 WND article, written by Farah himself, claims that more Americans "were murdered this year by illegal aliens than the combined death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since those military campaigns began." He then immediately states in so many words whether that's even true:
Though no federal statistics are kept on murders or any other crimes committed by illegal aliens, a number of groups have produced estimates based on data collected from prisons, news reports and independent research.
Twelve Americans are murdered every day by illegal aliens, according to statistics released by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. That's 21,900 since Sept. 11, 2001.
First, it's not Peter King but, rather, Rep. Steve King of Iowa who is making that claim, as the press release to which the article links demonstrates -- which, by the way, doesn't even reference the death-toll claim. (WND has since corrected this; a screen shot of the original, erroneous reference to Peter King is here.)
Second, Farah apparently made no effort to investigate or verify King's figures, apparently content to repeat an inflammatory claim because it sounds good. In fact, King's numbers are highly supect. As Colorado Media Matters details, King has cited as support for his claim a GAO study purportedly claiming that 28 percent of prison inmates are "criminal aliens." King claims to have "extrapolated" his death toll from that number.
In fact, King's claim that 28 percent of prison inmates are "criminal aliens" is itself questionable. Statistics from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and has found no support for his assertion; according to the BJS, 6.4 percent of all state and federal inmates at midyear 2005 were "noncitizens."
Further, Farah's comparison of the alleged deaths due to illegal immigrants -- numbers he essentially admits are not on solid statistical ground -- with the number of deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is misleading. The soldiers' deaths are taken from a much smaller population -- roughly 200,000 U.S. personnel on duty there, vs. roughly 300 million Americans -- so the soldiers' death rate is much higher than even Farah's alarmist numbers on illegals.
It may be "accurate" that King made claims using these numbers, but it doesn't mean the numbers themselves are accurate. Farah's reliance on unverified numbers forwarded by those with an anti-immigration agenda makes his entire article suspect (not to mention unbalanced, another violation of Farah's alleged quality standards).
With such factual inaccuracies and misleading claims (not to mention the plagiarism), it escapes us that Farah can credibly claim to head a "news" organization.