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Monday, January 14, 2008
Sheriff Says WND Quoted Him Out of Context
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily has been obsessed in recent days with a Colorado incident in which, according to a Jan. 8 article by Bob Unruh, a 11-year-old boy "was taken by police against his parents wishes to a hospital after he was horsing around and bumped his head." Unruh quoted Garfield County, Colo., Sheriff Lou Vallario as saying that the decision to use SWAT team force -- after the father repeatedly refused to allow paramedics to examine the child and, as a result, a magistrate's order was issud for the boy to be seized -- was justified because the father was a "self-proclaimed constitutionalist" and had made threats and "comments" over the years.

Apparently, that's not quite what Vallario said. From a Jan. 12 article in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Authorities said they have received hundreds of phone calls and e-mails this week from people around the country who think Garfield County uses SWAT teams on people just because they are constitutionalists.

Some messages included angry cursing and comparisons between Garfield County and Nazi Germany.

Callers mistakenly believed the Garfield County All Hazards Response Team - similar to a SWAT team - was used for "no reason other than that (Sheriff Lou Vallario) personally had it in for constitutionalists," said community relations deputy Tanny McGinnis. She estimated the Sheriff's Office received up to 400 calls and e-mails on the matter this week. Most were in response to a story that appeared on a website Monday about the use of the armed team to remove a child from the home of Tom Shiflett near New Castle, to get the child medical attention.

"A lot of people have shared with us that they were misled by the original World Net Daily article," McGinnis said. "(Sheriff Lou Vallario) made a statement about constitutionalists that was completely taken out of context."

She said many people apologized in e-mails after hearing Vallario's side of the story, and that a WND reporter cut off Vallario and wouldn't listen to answers he didn't want to hear.

"It wasn't an interview," McGinnis said. "It was an argument. This guy would not listen if he didn't like the answers."

Unruh responded to the paper:

WND reporter Bob Unruh responded in an e-mail: "When I interviewed the sheriff, I tried diligently to allow him to wander where he chose with his answers. I specifically was trying to find out the reasoning for dispatching a SWAT team under the circumstances the family already had described to me, or whether this family's version was incorrect. I understand the sheriff has been telling people my reporting is incorrect. However, he's declined to contact me about any concerns he has.

"His reference to Mr. [Tom] Shiflett [father of the injured boy] as a 'constitutionalist' came when I asked him specifically about why a SWAT team was used to take a child to a doctor's exam. I asked him what that meant, or if anything was wrong with that; the sheriff then said he'd had 'personal encounters' with Mr. Shiflett, and he'd made threats. I asked if Mr. Shiflett had been cited, or ticketed, or otherwise penalized for those 'threats,' and the sheriff refused to cite a single incident or situation. ... I would be more than happy to talk to the sheriff, especially to hear an explanation why he responded with the 'constitutionalist' description of Mr. Shiflett when I asked about the use of a SWAT team."

The only allusion to the fact that there's a controversy over what exactly Vallario said on WND is a Jan. 12 article by Unruh in which he noted that "Vallario also criticized WND reporting on the events to a local newspaper, without contacting WND with any concerns." But Unruh didn't mention Vallario's complaint about the "constitutionalist" remark being taken out of context or the threats and vulgar comments made to the sheriff's office as a result of Unruh's reporting; he didn't note what the Post Independent quoted Vallario as saying in response to Unruh's defense: "But Vallario said it's not his job to make sure a reporter reports the news accurately." The article does not indicate that Unruh has since tried to contact Vallario.

It's no surprise that WND would stand accused of twisting words -- indeed, Unruh joins Les Kinsolving as being credibly accused of such in recent months. Vallario's description of Unruh's interview with him as "an argument" and that Unruh "would not listen if he didn't like the answers" certainly lends itself to the type of belligerant, slanted journalism Unruh has engaged in at WND. We suspect that Unruh didn't learn such an argumentive style of "interviewing" at the Associated Press, where he worked for nearly 30 years.

WND should address Vallario's concerns on its own website, but unfortunately, it has a history of a lack of transparency regarding its operations.

Unruh also appears to blame Vallario for not telling him about Tom Shiflett's history of questionable behavior that Vallerio cited for using a SWAT team to seize the boy, as his comment to the Glenwood Springs paper indicates. Unruh notes in the Jan. 12 article that "in an e-mail response to a WND reader who questioned his actions," Vallario stated that "when we requested his cooperation [Shiflett] said, 'if you want my son, bring an army.'" Unruh then bashed the sheriff again:

However, what the sheriff left out of his response was what [caseworker Matthew] McGaugh reported happened just before the alleged threat. McGaugh confirmed he had delivered a not-so-veiled threat to Shiflett. 

"This worker explained that the Department had an obligation to investigate the report, that it appeared the child needed medical attention, and that if he didn't consent, the Department would have to obtain a court order to get a medical evaluation for the child," McGaugh stated in a sworn affidavit.

So stating what is presumably standard procedure in such a case is a "threat"? Unruh then allows Shiflett to explain away his own threat -- claiming it was because "social workers had upset him by threatening a court order" -- as well as a previous arrest of Shiflett for "chasing a man down the street with an ax." Yet Unruh won't give Vallario a fair opportunity to tell his story or air his complaints about WND's coverage.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:30 AM EST
Updated: Monday, January 14, 2008 1:45 AM EST
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Graham: 'Fox & Friends' Too Easy on Hillary
Topic: NewsBusters

We're pretty sure we've posited before that the Media Research Center believes that anyone named Clinton must not be given any positive coverage whatsoever. This theory is confirmed yet again in a Jan. 12 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham, who complains that "Fox & Friends" is being too nice to Hillary Clinton: "But please, Mr. Ailes, can't we ask Hillary a tougher question about her views or her record or her scandals?"

Graham repeatedly bashes Hillary's performance during a recent "Fox & Friends" appearance, claiming that "Hillary babbles on" and at one point begging, "Won’t anyone interrupt?"

We suspect that Graham's demand for hard-hitting coverage from "Fox & Friends" doesn't extend to any interviewee who's not liberal. After all, the MRC's Brent Bozell appeared on "Fox & Friends" the other day and was tossed a series of softballs (and, as we noted, was not even identified as conservative). We suspect Graham doesn't want that little arrangement to change. Otherwise, Fox News would have to have on someone from -- gasp! -- Media Matters opposite them. We can't imagine Bozell (or Fox News, for that matter) allowing that -- which is to say, a real debate -- to happen.


Posted by Terry K. at 11:07 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, January 13, 2008 11:11 AM EST
WND Still Not Backing Up Mafi Story
Topic: WorldNetDaily

We're previously detailed how WorldNetDaily has reported on the case of Denise Mafi -- a Utah homeschooling mom who claims she was threatened with loss of custody of her children because she did not provide required paperwork to state officials notifying them of her homeschooling plans -- without offering any independent corroboration of her story. That is, the article (and all previous ones) quotes only homeschooling activists regarding the nature of the charges.

That trend continues in a Jan. 12 WND article, which again repeats the claim that Mafi's "recollection of events has been confirmed by attorneys" without identifying who those "attorneys" are. It also repeats a previous claim that "Court officials told WND the comments didn't happen as Mafi reported, but have been unable to provide a transcript to confirm either version," but it's buried at the end of the article, and WND doesn't bother to tell what court officials have to say. If Mafi's story can be told without having a court transcript, why can't the court's side?

This is basic journalism, folks. Does WND care more about advancing an agenda than telling the full story? (Wait -- we already know the answer to that.)


Posted by Terry K. at 10:43 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, January 13, 2008 10:47 AM EST
Saturday, January 12, 2008
MRC Hates Huckabee, Loves Thompson
Topic: Media Research Center

We know that the MRC doesn't like Mike Huckabee, judging by CNS' unbalanced attacks on him. But, judging by whom its writers defend on NewsBusters, we're starting to get a picture of who it does like: Fred Thompson. A sampling of recent posts: 

  • A Jan. 11 post by Scott Whitlock was upset that "ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos derided GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson as a 'hit man'" for his attacks on Huckabee during a recent debate.
  • A Jan. 11 post by Mark Finkelstein was similarly annoyed that Joe Scarborough called Thompson a "hatchet man" for John McCain in the debate, adding that Huckabee "went scatalogical in responding to Thompson."
  • A Jan. 11 post by Clay Waters bashed the New York Times for "hitting the theme of a 'faltering' Fred Thompson, lashing out in a desperate bid to salvage his campaign" and portraying Huckabee as "turning the other cheek."
  • A Jan. 10 post by Whitlock praising an ABC report on the shady past of a supporter of Barack Obama, specifically cited a similar report on Thompson to claim that ABC's "investigations of Republicans often include a sneering, sarcastic tone that was lacking in his segment on Obama." (Whitlock does include one of the few defenses of Huckabee to be found on NewsBusters, complaining that an ABC report on "Mike Huckabee and the his record on crime ... leveled charges of hypocrisy."

This, on top of Warner Todd Huston's Thompson sycophancy, suggests that the MRC has chosen sides in the Republican primary. Are 501(c)3 groups allowed to do that?

UPDATE: A Jan. 12 post by Tom Blumer regurgitates Rush Limbaugh's complaint that the "drive-by media" is tyrying to declare Thompson's candidacy over and that Huckabee as the Republican nominee is "exactly what the Drive-Bys want." Does this mean the MRC is doing the bidding of Limbaugh?


Posted by Terry K. at 10:23 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, January 12, 2008 2:13 PM EST
Friday, January 11, 2008
WND Falsely Describes California Law
Topic: WorldNetDaily

(Updated)

A Jan. 11 WorldNetDaily article referred to "a new state law that would mandate a positive – and no other – portrayal of bisexuals, homosexuals, transgenders and others choosing alternative sexual lifestyles in public schools."

This is false. SB 777 adds sexual orientation to the state's anti-discrimination laws as they apply to schools and requires that schools don't present material that "promotes a discriminatory bias" against those groups covered under the anti-discrimination clause. The word "positive" does not appear in the law.

WND offers no evidence that all non-discriminatory references to homosexuals are ipso facto "positive" -- a variation of the Depiction-Equals-Endorsement Fallacy. Nor does WND allow anyone to counter the claims made by opponents of the law, as is standard WND practice.

UPDATE: A Jan. 11 Newsmax article by Lowell Ponte weighs in on the same issue. Ponte, unlike WND, gives a notable amount of space to supporters of the law, though he allows opponents to have the last word on with the law "might" do or "could in theory" do.

Of course, WND does the same thing, admitting that "technically" supporters are correct about the law's provisions but pushes alarmist speculation about what the law "could" do. 


Posted by Terry K. at 7:09 PM EST
Updated: Friday, January 11, 2008 11:46 PM EST
MRC-Fox News Appearance Watch
Topic: Media Research Center

In his appearance on the Jan. 11 edition of "Fox & Friends," MRC president Brent Bozell said of NBC talking heads having opinions: "[A]dmit it. Don't pretend to be anything but what you are." Yet nowhere during this appearance was Bozell or the MRC identified as conservative, allowing Bozell to pretend to be something other than who he is.

Bozell also appeared solo as well. Both of these attributes are key parts of the template for MRC appearances on Fox News.


Posted by Terry K. at 3:04 PM EST
NewsBusters Bashes CBS' Smith -- But Pentagon Proved Him Right
Topic: NewsBusters

In a Jan. 10 NewsBusters post, Kyle Drennen accused CBS' Harry Smith of "sounding like a liberal conspiracy theorist" and "reminiscent of left-winger Rosie O’Donnell" for "question[ing] the authenticity of an audio tape of the confrontation between U.S. and Iranian ships on January 6."

It looks like Drennen must think the Pentagon is a "liberal conspiracy theorist" as well, because it's backing away from the implication that the voice on the tape unquestionably came from an Iranian ship. According to ABC News, "the voice on the tape could have come from the shore or another ship," adding: "The Navy never said specifically where the voices came from, but many were left with the impression they had come from the speedboat because of the way the Navy footage was edited."

Sounds to us that Smith was right to raise questions. Will Drennen admit this?


Posted by Terry K. at 12:49 AM EST
Updated: Friday, January 11, 2008 12:51 AM EST
Thursday, January 10, 2008
CNS Still Attacking Huckabee
Topic: CNSNews.com

A Jan. 10 CNSNews.com article by Josiah Ryan follows in the footsteps of previous CNS bashing of Mike Huckabee by repeating attacks on Huckabee while giving the candidate no real opportunity to respond.

This time around, Huckabee's sin is that, according to "data compiled for Cybercast News Service by Stephen Slivinski, director of budget studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, the tax hike Huckabee supported between 1997 and 2007 [as Arkansas governor] were far heftier than his tax cuts." While Ryan cites a spokesman for Americans for Fair Taxation noting that Huckabee supports the so-called "fair tax," he adds a spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform bashing Huckabee. All of this is countered only by a note that "Repeated calls to the Huckabee campaign for comment on this story were not returned."

Shouldn't CNS explain to its readers why it's attacking a fellow Republican?


Posted by Terry K. at 3:00 PM EST
ConWeb Memo: Attack Obama!
Topic: The ConWeb

Looks like another memo came down from on high at ConWeb World Headquarters: Barack Obama must be attacked! And lo, the ConWeb complied.

A Jan. 7 Newsmax article by Ronald Kessler attacked Obama's "racist church" because it claims to be "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian" with a “non-negotiable commitment to Africa” and a "Black Value System." But Kessler ignores that the church's pastor has stated that the church's philosophy does not "assume superiority nor does it assume separatism." Kessler claimed by way of comparison: "Imagine if Mitt Romney’s church proclaimed on its website that it is 'unashamedly white.' The media would pounce, and Romney’s presidential candidacy would be over." He doesn't mention that the Mormon church has arguably been for a good part of its history "unabashedly white," with a history of anti-black racism. 

A Jan. 9 WorldNetDaily article by Ron Strom claimed that "it is the strong African-centered and race-based philosophy of the senator's United Church of Christ that has some bloggers crying foul." By "some bloggers" Strom means one blogger, some guy named "Ric," whom Strom doesn't identify further or even bother linking to.

A Jan. 8 CNSNews.com article by Penny Starr quoted four "pro-life experts" claiming Obama's "pro-abortion stance make him a danger to the black community" while giving Obama no real opportunity to respond (as we've noted).

A Jan. 9 WND column by Jill Stanek attacks Obama's "fence-sitting votes as Illinois state senator for the Born Alive Infants Protection Act"; Obama's "present" vote on the act, Stanek claims, was "a tactic they devised to show liberal senators a way out who were squirmy on voting to support aborting babies alive and letting them die in hospital soiled utility rooms, which is what a vote against Born Alive meant."

A Jan. 9 CNS column by Terry Jeffrey called Obama "the most pro-abortion presidential candidate ever," citing claims made by ... Jill Stanek.

A Jan. 9 CNS article by Jeffrey features former Bush aide Karl Rove bashing Obama as "a smarmy, prissy little guy."


Posted by Terry K. at 12:58 AM EST
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
NewsBusters Gets It Wrong on Matthews vs. Hillary
Topic: NewsBusters

A Jan. 9 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein claims that the "view emerging from left-wing circles" is that "the libs are angry that the MSM was too biased towards Obama, so much so that it drove people to Hillary out of spite or sympathy. he further noted that MSNBC's Chris Matthews "regularly waxed euphoric about Obama."

But Finkelstein fails to comment on a point that came up more forcefully in the transcripts he cites than Matthews' love of Obama -- Matthews' hate of Hillary Clinton, as illustrated most recently by a testy exchange between them just before the New Hampshire primary. Finkelstein even goes so far as to boldface comments about news coverage being anti-Clinton -- but he doesn't comment on them.

Perhaps this is because Matthews' war against Hillary and other media criticism of the Clintons inconveniently conflicts with the MRC meme that the MSM is a total, unabashed shill for Hillary (not to mention that new book by the MRC's Brent Bozell and Tim Graham that purports to prove it).

Meanwhile, a Jan. 9 post by Kathleen McKinley purports to be shocked that Matthews claimed that the only reason Hillary Clinton has advanced in politics "is that her husband messed around": "I don't think I have ever seen such a harsh analysis of Hillary Clinton. Not from Sean Hannity. Not from Bill O'Reilly. Could the media be turning on Hillary?"

McKinley ignores a few things here:

1) Media coverage of Hillary has been turning negative for months, as demonstrated by a recently released study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs -- one of the MRC's favorite resources, as we've noted -- showing that the majority of on-air evaluations of Hillary are negative. The MRC has yet to acknowledge this study, by the way.

2) Matthews' latest attack on Hillary came just hours after he vowed, "I will never underestimate Hillary Clinton again."

3) Matthews has a long history of animosity toward the Clintons, which the MRC used to love him for.


Posted by Terry K. at 6:31 PM EST
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: CNSNews.com

CNSNews.com 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

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