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Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Put A Spike In It
Topic: WorldNetDaily

It's that time of year again, and you know what that means (and not just the Slanties, which will arrive next week): Time for another WorldNetDaily "Operation Spike" list of the most "underreported stories" of the past year. But as happened last year, WND's list ignores certain facts that hint at why they deserved to be underreported.

Topping the list, as it did last year, was "developments moving U.S. and continent closer to a North American Union." In second place was the case of the Border Patrol agents convicted of "shooting an admitted drug smuggler as he fled across the border after smuggling into the U.S. a load of 750 pounds of marijuana in a van," a description that curiously omits the fact that the agents tried to cover up the shooting and that the person they shot was unarmed.

For the third-place entry, "Research refuting man-made global warming," WND cited "a lawsuit by a father, Stewart Dimmock, who claimed the film ['An Inconvenient Truth'] contained 'serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush.' The British court pointed to 11 inaccuracies in the production." But as we noted (and WND has yet to note), Dimmock's lawsuit was backed by oil and mining interests, even denier Noel Sheppard has pointed out that the British court ruling found only nine inaccuracies, and also found that many of the claims made by the film were fully backed up by the weight of science.

In sixth place was Peter Paul's dubious accusations of "felonious fundraising" against Hillary Clinton that fail to mention (as WND frequently fails to do) that Paul is a convicted felon who's vainly trying to keep his butt out of prison after pleading guilty to his role in a $25 million stock fraud scheme.

And so on. WND should try not underreporting these stories itself -- you know, by telling its readers the entire truth -- before it accuses others of underreporting.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:23 AM EST
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
CNS' Sham Balance: Six 'Pro-Life Experts,' Zero Responses
Topic: has had a relapse in the sham-balance department, printing attacks without giving the targets of those attacks a real opportunity to respond.

A Jan. 8 article by Penny Starr quoted four "pro-life experts" asserting that Barack Obama's "pro-abortion stance make him a danger to the black community." At the end is the tag, "Calls to Sen. Obama's campaign and to the Rainbow Push Coalition for comment on this story were not returned by press time." It's not clear from the article why Starr felt that the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition could speak for Obama, other than Starr's search for a token liberal black group. (Starr also gets the name of a New Jersey city wrong; it's Montclair, not "Mt. Clair.")

Similarly, a Jan. 8 article by Pete Winn cited "two conservative pro-life leaders, both based in Michigan" to criticize Republican Mitt Romney's "near-universal health insurance plan" in Massachusetts created while he was governor, insisting that it covers, in the word of one "pro-life leader," "elective abortions -- that is, abortion on demand." While Winn quotes a "Massachusetts pro-life leader" saying that the state was ordered to pay for some abortions and that "normally many of these people would have their abortions provided for on the public welfare system by Medicaid," Winn allows another Michigan "pro-life leader" to contradict her. Winn does not explain why two people in Michigan are more knowledgable about laws in Massachusetts than the Massachusetts person he quotes.

At the end of the article is the tag, "Calls to the Romney campaign were not returned by press time."

As we've detailed, CNS has a tendency to "balance" lengthy attacks only by noting an attempt to contact the other side and never bothering to actually get that other side. Further, per CNS style, the term "pro-life" is used instead of "anti-abortion," and Obama is described as "pro-abortion" and not "pro-choice."

Posted by Terry K. at 7:12 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2008 1:00 AM EST
Kinsolving's Big Issue: Why Won't Hillary Take My Questions?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In a Jan. 8 WorldNetDaily column, Les Kinsolving has declared this to be "the big question" that presidential candidates "cower" from: "There have been repeated news reports that the senator from New York has often refused to take reporters questions. Do you believe this is appropriate for any candidate for our nation's highest office?"

Yes, Kinsolving has his elbow firmly on the pulse of the electorate. Nothing about Iraq or the economy; the real issue is whether Hillary takes questions from the press. Of course, given Kinsolving's anti-liberal, pro-conservative -- and just plain goofy -- reputation (not to mention his general pissiness when called on said goofiness), there's no good reason for her, or anyone else, to take him seriously.

But Kinsolving wasn't done:

The fact that she is so newsworthy as to be able to get away with this while a candidate begs the question as to what on earth could happen if she got elected president?

Can you imagine President Hillary either reducing presidential press conferences to one or two – or none – per annum?

And how long would it take the second Clinton administration to transfer the White House pressroom out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Kinsolving curiously fails to mention that President Bush held just 17 press conferences during his first term -- roughly just four a year. Does Kinsolving find this an acceptable number? We don't recall him complaining about it previously, let alone expressing his fear that Bush would "transfer the White House pressroom out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" as a next step.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:58 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 3:02 PM EST
Finkelstein Smears Edwards As 'Silky'
Topic: NewsBusters

At NewsBusters, casual slurs of Democrats and liberals are normally limited to the commenters. So why is contributing editor Mark Finkelstein tossing them about?

Finkelstein headlined a Jan. 6 post "Silky Won't Pony Up on Populist Flip-Flop" -- "silky" being a common conservative slur of Edwards. This was followed up with a Jan. 8 post headlined "Mika: Silky's Turn to Cry?" (The hed was changed shortly thereafter to read "Mika: Edwards's Turn to Cry?" but the post's URL carries the original.) Finkelstein also throws in a reference to "the Breckster."

We expect that kind of stuff coming from your usual garden-variety conservative bloggers, but NewsBusters is a de facto mouthpiece of the multimillion-dollar Media Research Center -- indeed, we know of no disclaimer separating the opinions of MRC writers (other than NewsBusters commenters) from that of the MRC itself. Shouldn't it have somewhat higher standards?

Posted by Terry K. at 2:07 PM EST
Noel's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Topic: NewsBusters

Noel Sheppard must've been in a bad mood Monday, because he let loose with a couple of cranky NewsBusters posts.

One let fly a bile-filled fit of Clinton Derangement Syndrome by asserting that Hillary Clinton's display of emotion was calculated and that her standing in the polls meant that "it's time for the smartest woman in the world to choke up on camera, and tug at the heartstrings of folks that are easy prey for such passion plays." He has no evidence for this, of course. 

The other revisits a previous attack, in which he bashed the Dallas Morning News for naming the illegal immigrant as its 2007 Texan of the Year. Sheppard adds nothing new to his attacks, declaring that the paper served up "deplorable excuses" defending its decision, namely that "editors equated the President with illegal immigrants."

Sounds like Sheppard needs to try a little decaf.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:23 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 12:25 AM EST
Monday, January 7, 2008
Meanwhile ...
Topic: Newsmax
Media Matters notes that Lowell Ponte repeated in his Jan. 4 Newsmax column the debunked claim that Barack Obama attended a madrassa as a child.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:44 PM EST
CNS Runs More Attacks on Huckabee Without Response

A Jan. 5 article by Penny Starr follows in the footsteps of fellow CNS staffer Susan Jones by repeating attacks by conservatives on Mike Huckabee, including some of the attacks Jones had documented the day before. Like Jones, Starr included no response from Huckabee to the attacks in her article (Jones had shunted Huckabee's response to a separate article).

So what, exactly, was the point of Starr's article? It's just an expansion of what Jones did a day earlier, though even less fair to Huckabee since there's no indication in Starr's article that Huckabee has responded to some of this criticism (Jones mishandled it by putting the response in a separate article, but at least it was there).

Posted by Terry K. at 4:36 PM EST
Speaking of Limp Noodles ...
Topic: Media Research Center

Goodness. We seem to have hit a nerve.

A Jan. 6 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham goes after our criticism of his and Brent Bozell's anti-Hillary book, calling me a "hired gun" of Hillary Clinton since I work for Media Matters, "which was started at the urging of Hillary Clinton." Graham also calls me an "Arkansas toadie" of the Clintons. Ooh, snap! There's just a couple things wrong with these little digs, however:

1) ConWebWatch is editorially and financially separate from Media Matters. They don't tell me what to write, nor do they pay me to write it. Further, ConWebWatch existed long before the founding of Media Matters. 

2) I did not move to Arkansas until 1998, nearly six years after the Clinton administration began, and worked for the next two years for a newspaper with an anti-Clinton editorial page. That's hardly anyone's definition of a good "Arkansas toadie." 

The main part of Graham's criticism of my article involves my pointing out that he and Bozell failed to note, in accusing Hillary Clinton of lying about her role in the White House Travel Office firings, that independent counsel Robert Ray found that Clinton had made statements proven to be false, there was "insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt" that Clinton's statements were "knowingly false." Graham writes:

Krepel is playing the same old Not a Crook card to exonerate his heroine. We said Ray found her testimony to be factually false. He notes that Ray declined to prosecute, citing "insufficient evidence." The Clintons and their Arkansas toadies like Krepel athletically raise the bar, implying that the Clintons didn’t lie unless they were indicted for it. But our goal in the book was not to establish that she should have been indicted. It was the simple fact that she lied when she claimed to be uninvolved in the Travel Office firings.

Well, one definition of a lie is making a statement that is knowingly false -- exactly what Ray said there was a lack of evidence to "prove beyond a reasonable doubt." if Ray can't prove Clinton was a liar, why is Graham insisting she is?

And if we're "rais[ing] the bar" by "implying that the Clintons didn’t lie unless they were indicted for it" -- a concept the MRC is not unfamiliar with; in October 2005, MRC writer Brent Baker declared that Rove's non-indictment in the Valerie Plame leak case was a "vindication" for him -- Bozell has too. One thing Graham doesn't address in his criticism is the fact that Ray's report determined "The Travel Office employees served at the pleasure of President Bill Clinton, and they were subject to discharge without cause." That's exactly the same argument Bozell used to defend the firings of several U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration. Why is that argument permissible for Bush but not for Clinton?

Graham also notes that "our goal in the book was not to establish that she should have been indicted," adding later, "Our book isn’t claiming Hillary should be behind bars." But he then bashes Ray for "declined to prosecute the Clintons on anything," sugesting that Ray used the "political calcucation" that "that the Clintons and their media friends would punish him severely for any indictment," which would affect his 2002 Senate campaign in New Jersey. Graham ignores the obvious: that Ray declined to prosecute the Clintons because there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

Sounds to us like Graham clearly thinks a certain somebody should have been indicted.

Graham accused us of using "limp noodle[s]" to attack his book. But we would argue that Graham served up a whole batch of overcooked pasta by bashing us for engaging in the same behavior he and his co-workers engage in.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:49 AM EST
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Claim That Ford Boycott Is Working Lacks Hard Evidence
Topic: NewsBusters

A Jan. 5 NewsBusters post by Tom Blumer once again insists that the recent decline in Ford sales can only be attributed to a boycott of its products pushed by the American Family Association for, in Blumer's words, "it's [sic] slavish devotion to politically correct causes" (read: it markets cars to homosexuals). It's a meme he's pushed before.

But also as he's done before, Blumer offers no hard evidence of a correlation between the boycott and Ford sales, only an estimate that "the AFA boycott is impacting the buying decisions of 15-20 million adults making up at least 10% of the potential market" -- and that estimate is based on other estimates for which he lacks hard evidence as well. Blumer offers little analysis of overall auto sales to support his claim; all he has is the circumstantial evidence that Ford's sales have dropped more than other automakers and no indication he has examined other factors that impact auto sales.

Further, Blumer offers no explanation why he or the AFA find marketing cars (or anything else) to gays to be so offensive.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:08 AM EST
WND Again Tiptoes Into Letting Others Criticize It
Topic: WorldNetDaily

For the second time in the past few months, WorldNetDaily has printed a letter in which its reporting skills are questioned. While the earlier criticism was unusual in that it was substantive (though appeared only in its letters section and was deleted after a week), the new criticism appears as the Jan. 4 "letter of the week," though it falls into its usual approach of painting its most extreme critics as representative of all its critics. (Evidence: WND has all but refused to publicly acknowlege anything we've documented.)

The subject was the new issue of WND's Whistleblower magazine, with the subject of "Witchcraft in America." The author of the criticism, "Dr. Ivy," unfortunately undercuts her credibility by beginning her letter by recounting her pagan and Wiccan credentials. Front-loading that allows her to be dismissed as a nut (and a pagan one, too!) in the minds of WND's target audience. Indeed, a letter posted Jan. 5 (letters cycle out after a week) stated that the list of credentials "had me literally rolling on the floor with laughter."

Once that's out of the way, though, Dr. Ivy accurately portrays WND's modus operandi, proclaiming the Whistleblower witchcraft issue as the product of "little minds who did no insightful research on the subject, nor spoke with any of the leading, and often times more public, high priestesses or high priests, much less spoke with any of the reputable leaders of the several schools of Wicca in just the United States alone." Dr. Ivy continues:

I could go on and on with this diatribe, but I already "suspect" that you've made up your mind for the sole purpose of "sensationalism" and making money by propagating outright falsehoods, and have already "turned" your attention away from this letter before even reaching this point.

IF, and that's a very big "if," on the other hand, you recognize that your presentation regarding Wicca is lacking in validity and is heavily weighted with falsehoods and absolute inaccuracies against this "belief," than, if you should wish, you may contact me or any nationally recognized leader of Wicca. I'm certain that every reasonable effort would be made to "correct" the absolutely horrid inaccuracies presented in the article that you published.

However, at the risk of offending you and your supposed "staff," I doubt that you have the wherewithal and integrity to attempt any such contact, much less making an admittance to having presented an inaccurate "picture" of Wicca and making apologies for such offense.

It's true that WND cares little about accuracy and fairness when there's an agenda to push, as we've copiously documented. It's all too likely that, given WND's track record, this issue of Whistleblower is dedicated only to bashing witchcraft and paganism, cherry-picks quotes in order to make it look bad, and offers no one in the movement a fair opportunity to respond.

It's more than likely that Dr. Ivy's letter is the end of contrary views WND will publish on the subject -- and all but certain that WND will never publicly address the shortcomings in its reporting.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:39 AM EST
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Why Won't Farah Address WND's Hiring of Matt Sanchez?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In his Jan. 5 WorldNetDaily column, Joseph Farah attacks Mitt Romney for supporting "special government-created rights based on sexual behavior or proclivities." Farah argues that "Christian employer[s]" must be allowed to fire employees who engage in such behavior: "Somehow, Romney defines laws like this as expansions of freedom. I define them as strict new state control over your property rights and heinous violations of your morality."

Which raises the question: Why is Matt Sanchez still employed by WorldNetDaily?

After all, as we've detailed, Sanchez is an admitted gay porn actor and suspected male escort -- the kind of "sexual behavior or proclivities" of which Farah is presumably intolerant. Yet Sanchez is currently employed as WND's Iraq correspondent. Why is that? Why did Farah, as a "Christian employer," lower his moral standards to hire Sanchez? Did Sanchez's pro-war views trump misgivings about his personal morality?

Surely a moral man, as Farah claims to be, would give his readers an honest answer to that question -- yet he has not in the four and a half months that Sanchez has worked for WND. Why?

Your readers await an honest answer, Mr. Farah.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:41 AM EST
Newsmax Writers Spin Iowa Results
Topic: Newsmax

Newsmax writers took stabs at post-mortems on the Iowa caucuses -- mostly by trying out future attacks and more hysterical Hillary-bashing.

A Jan. 4 column by John LeBoutillier claimed that "A full 70 percent of her party is against" Hillary Clinton. Similarly, a Jan. 4 column by Lowell Ponte asserted that "71 percent — nearly three in four — of those participating in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses voted against her, an astonishing repudiation." Neither made a similar comparison about Republicans, i.e., that three in four Republicans voted against Mitt Romney.

Speaking of Romney, chief Newsmax Romney-fluffer Ronald Kessler weighed in with a sour-grapes column suggesting that Mike Huckabee's win over Romney was a "fluke" and that Romney "ran into a perfect storm arrayed against his candidacy." Kessler renewed his attacks on Huckabee, claiming that "Clearly, Iowa voters gave little thought to whether Huckabee could win the White House," adding that Romney isn't a flip-flopper: "Romney has made a clear change on only one issue."

Newsmax editor Christopher Ruddy, meanwhile, proclaimed Barack Obama "president-elect" (adding, "He will go on to win the nomination and the presidency on this issue, if Republicans don't wake up and smell the coffee") while also testing out attack lines we can expect Newsmax will put to use should Obama progress further in the race. He claimed that Obama "no doubt, placed calls" to "George Soros for all the behind-the-scenes help" and concluded: "We conservatives may also discover after the South Carolina primary that Mr. Obama is the likely Democratic nominee and that the "dreaded” Hillary has been replaced by the most left-wing Democratic nominee in memory." Look for more attacks like this if Obama's success continues.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:33 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, January 5, 2008 12:36 AM EST
Friday, January 4, 2008
AIM, Farah Heart Waterboarding
Topic: Accuracy in Media

It must have been talking points handout week in the ConWeb, because two ConWeb outlets feel the need to proclaim that waterboarding is not torture.

A Jan. 2 WorldNetDaily column by Joseph Farah kicked it off, insisting that Americans are stupid:

Many Americans are simply confused about the real definition of torture. Since so little sacrifice is required of most Americans today and because so few have ever experienced combat, they equate momentary discomfort or fear with torture. They are not the same.

My definition of torture is simple: It involves physical or mental abuse that leaves lasting scars. Cutting off fingers, toes, limbs – that would be torture. Forcing prisoners to play Russian roulette – that would be torture. Sticking hot pokers in the eyes of prisoners – that would be torture.

But a few seconds of dripping water on a prisoner's face? That's not torture to me.

A Jan. 3 AIM Report spouts a remarkably similar line:

The word "torture," as groups like CCR bandy about the term, doesn't mean what most people think it means. It has become a politically loaded term that left-wingers associate with anything that makes an accused terrorist feel uncomfortable. One of the most objectionable procedures is said to be pouring water over the face of a suspected terrorist. It is a matter of opinion whether this practice, known as waterboarding, is torture or not. Calling it torture doesn't make it so. 

Waterboarding doesn't leave any lasting physical or psychological damage, which is usually the mark of torture. And its use cannot necessarily be considered a violation of the Constitution, U.S. laws or U.N. treaties. It has reportedly been successful in forcing confessions of terrorist plots. 

As we've previously noted, there is evidence that waterboarding can, in fact, result in "lasting physical or psychological damage," in Kincaid's words. As we've also noted, the results gained from waterboarding have been questioned.

The AIM Report also stated that, quoting author Jack Goldsmith, the Clinton Justice Department "signed off on the CIA's original rendition program of snatching people from one country and taking them to another for questioning, trial, and punishment." That ignores the full story; as the New York Times reported (via Media Matters), renditions were carried out under much more restrictive rules before 9/11 than after it under the Bush administration. For instance, under the original rules, the transfers of individual prisoners required review and approval by interagency groups led by the White House, and were usually authorized to bring prisoners to the United States or to other countries to face criminal charges. Meanwhile, under Bush, the CIA has been authorized to transfer prisoners to other countries solely for the purpose of detention and interrogation.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:55 PM EST
CNS Splits Huckabee Criticism, Response Into Two Articles

Two Jan. 4 articles by Susan Jones could -- and perhaps should -- have been combined into one since they weigh in on the same subject.

The first article puts an attack on Mike Huckabee by conservative actvist Richard Viguerie in its headline: "Huckabee Described As 'Christian Socialist'." Jones adds criticism by Rush Limbaugh that Huckabee isn't conservative.

But rather than giving Huckabee space in that article to respond, it's shunted off to a separate article, in which he responds to "Rush Limbaugh's comments that Huckabee is not a true Ronald Reagan conservative." The articles do not link to each other or otherwise acknowledge that there are both details of the criticism and a detailed response from Huckabee.

It's an odd way of handling the story and not helpful to readers. CNS otherwise had been doing an generally better job of offering fairer and more balanced journalism since we called it out on its bias a couple months ago. 

Posted by Terry K. at 4:19 PM EST
Kincaid Embraces Faulty Hannity Attack on Hillary
Topic: Accuracy in Media

In the "Cliff's Notes" section of the Jan. 3 "AIM Report," Cliff Kincaid "salute[d]" Fox News' Sean Hannity "for having the courage to tackle this controversy" of "Hillary’s work in a communist law firm" last month on his show "Hannity's America." But as Media Matters points out, Hannity incompletely used the reporting of the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein on the issue, omitting excupatory evidence and balance that Gerstein included.

After noting Gerstein's claim that "To the former first lady’s enemies and political opponents, her summer at the Treuhaft firm is yet another indication that radical ideology lurks beneath the patina of moderation she has adopted in public life," Kincaid then demonstrated himself to be an enemy of Hillary by begging Republican presidential candidates to throw the issue at Hillary: "Will Republicans now tackle it? And will the Fox News Channel, as it drifts to the left, return to the issue?"

And we thought Accuracy in Media was all about, you know, accuracy in media. And we thought AIM was a nonprofit organization that isn't allowed to take positions on political candidates.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:15 PM EST

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