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Tuesday, February 26, 2008
CNS Press Release Journalism Watch

A Feb. 26 article by Randy Hall focused on a booklet by a coalition including the National Education Association aimed at protecting the well-being of students, including "those at higher risk because of their sexual orientation." Hall quotes from a press release about the booklet, then quotes from an "e-mail statement" by "pro-family" group the Family Research Council, which attacks the booklet as a part of "promotion of homosexuality" and "indoctrinating impressionable school children," and smears the NEA as having "left-wing fanaticism."

So Hall just cribbed from a couple of press releases. He made no apparent effort to contact anyone with the NEA to respond to the FRC's charges or to contact the FRC to substantiate their claim that information about homosexuality is "promotion" of it, thus invoking the Depiction-Equals-Approval Fallacy.

This article is an example of lazy press-release journalism with a conservative bias, since the FRC gets the last word and no one is given a chance to respond to them.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:54 PM EST
FrontPageMag: Waterboarding = 'Homeland Security'
Topic: Horowitz

A link on today's FrontPageMag front page leads to the Discover the Networks article on the Islamic Society of North America. The article notes the group's criticism of torture and waterboarding and the statement, "Torture, like human trafficking, is unlawful and immoral no matter what the circumstances."

But the FrontPageMag headline link reads:

Homeland Security is "Immoral No Matter What the Circumstances"
The Islamic Society of North America condemns waterboarding.

Does David Horowitz really believe that torturing people in the name of "homeland security" is acceptable?

UPDATE: Here's the screen capture:

Posted by Terry K. at 1:25 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 1:37 AM EST
WND Piles On the Guilt-By-Association Smears of Obama
Topic: WorldNetDaily

The sex-and-drugs smear didn't work out so well, so WorldNetDaily is looking to smear Barack Obama through guilt by association.

It tried earlier this week by claiming, in a Feb. 24 article by Aaron Klein, that Obama "worked" with a "confessed domestic terrorist" (un-sensationalized: he was a board member for a nonprofit group, which also had as a board member someone who was in a radical group in the 1960s).

WND tries it again in a Feb. 25 article by Jerome Corsi claiming that a picture of Obama in African garb "raised questions about Obama's links to Kenya, which has Muslim neighbors on several fronts, and was home to Obama's father." The source cited for these purported concerns is Jack Wheeler, who used WND a few weeks ago to smear John McCain as a "nutcase wack job" who "collaborat[ed] with his Communist captors" in Vietnam and Hillary Clinton for her purported "well-known bisexuality and her lesbian affair with her beautiful assistant." So Wheeler is hardly a trustworthy source.

Corsi also rather tenuously claims that since the tribal garb Obama was wearing tribal garb in a country that is "almost entirely Sunni Muslim," "in that sense the Somali elder garb is also Islamic."

Are Corsi and WND really this desperate to smear Obama? Given WND's embrace of Larry Sinclair's never-verified and apparently false claims, we'd have to say yes.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:32 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2008 1:33 PM EST
MRC Stoops to Defend Rove
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center seems a little desperate to defend Karl Rove from an allegation made on CBS' "60 Minutes" that he played a role in targeting the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Seligman.

The first NewsBusters post on the subject, by Kyle Drennen, was offended that one Republican state attorney general who asked Congress to investigate Seligman's prosecution was not Republican enough for him.

This was followed by a NewsBusters post (destined to be a CyberAlert item) by Brent Baker, who claimed that Fox News' "undermined" "60 Mintues' " assertions -- but reporting Rove's reaction to the piece hardly constitutes "undermining."

Baker also highlighted a post on the American Spectator website by Quin Hillyer, who repeated the claims about the not-Republican-enough attorney general and attacked the piece as displaying "the worst journalistic ethics I have ever seen in my life" and asserting that "60 Minutes now has good reason to look up to the National Enquirer as a exemplar of journalistic ethics and accuracy." Nowhere is it noted that Hillyer is hardly one to comment on the journalistic ethics of others given that the American Spectator engaged in its own Enquirer-esque aspirations through its dumpster-diving, Scaife-bankrolled Arkansas Project to smear Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:57 AM EST
Monday, February 25, 2008
Brennan Corrected Again on Haditha
Topic: Newsmax

Over the past couple of years, Newsmax's Phil Brennan has been aggressively defending soldiers accused in the Haditha massacre. Too aggressively, in fact: Newsmax has already retracted one claim Brennan made.

After PBS' "Frontline" did an episode on Haditha, Brennan insisted in a Feb. 20 article that the program "distorted the real picture by omitting crucial facts." On Feb. 25, Newsmax printed a response to Brennan's piece from "Frontline" story editor Catherine Wright:

Mr. Brennan is wrong in his assertion that FRONTLINE portrayed Haditha as peaceful and free of insurgents prior to the arrival of the Marines, while Newsmax and other media had reported the city to be firmly under insurgent control. In fact, what we reported is that Haditha was a "serene oasis" and "a popular vacation spot" before the war, but that "by the fall of 2005, nearly three years into the war, Haditha was war torn, and Sunni insurgents were in complete control."


We were frankly surprised by the article, given that the reaction from the Marines we?ve heard from, including many in 3/1 has been overwhelmingly positive.

At the end was Brennan's response to Wright, in which he walked back most of his criticisms -- "I was wrong to infer that Frontline misrepresented the extent of insurgent control of Haditha" -- and stating:

The Frontline documentary was on the whole stunningly accurate and went a long way toward destroying the media-fed portrayal of the November 19, 2005 battle in Haditha as a mindless massacre of innocent civilians, and I praise Frontline for what they have done.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:38 PM EST
CNS Lets Kincaid Lie About Obama, Global Poverty Bill

In a Feb. 25 article by Pete Winn uncritically quoted Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid as saying about the Global Poverty Act, a bill sponsored by Barack Obama that conservatives are trying to scuttle: "The bill doesn't specifically mention a global tax. ... No one is suggesting that Sen. Obama has officially called for the imposition of a global tax."

In fact, Kincaid has done exactly that. In a Feb. 12 AIM article -- headlined "Obama's Global Tax Proposal Up for Senate Vote" -- Kincaid claimed that the bill "makes levels of U.S. foreign aid spending subservient to the dictates of the United Nations. .... The legislation would commit the U.S. to spending 0.7 percent of gross national product on foreign aid, which amounts to a phenomenal 13-year total of $845 billion over and above what the U.S. already spends," adding, "A global tax will clearly be necessary to force American taxpayers to provide the money."

A Feb. 13 AIM press release promoting Kincaid's accusations referred in the headline to "Obama's Socialist-Oriented Global Tax Bill."

Kincaid repeated the claim that the bill "commits the U.S. to spending $845 billion to eradicate poverty in the rest of the world" in a Feb. 20 AIM article, further calling it Obama's "$845 million earmark."

Posted by Terry K. at 12:32 PM EST
Sinclair Fails Polygraph -- So Why Is WND Still Promoting Him?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A Feb. 24 WorldNetDaily article states that Larry Sinclair -- who claims that he did drugs and had sex with Barack Obama -- "reportedly failed two polygraph tests administered by the website"

But for some reason, the article then goes on to repeat in detail Sinclair's allegations -- as if Sinclair hadn't just been discredited -- and linked to a copy of the lawsuit Sinclair filed against Democratic officials.

The article also adds: "Repeated call and emails to the Obama campaign by WND staff have elicited no responses to the charges." The article doesn't explain why Obama should have to respond to charges that are apparently fictional.

No word on whether this will put a crimp on WND's public relations campaign on Sinclair's behalf. Will WND apologize to Obama for printing unfounded allegations without first making an effort to see if they were true (which landed them in a heap o' trouble from which it extricated itself just a couple weeks ago)? Don't count on it.

But now that this little diversion has fizzled out in WND's hands, it's moved onto another Obama attack -- this time, guilt by association. Indeed, nowhere does reporter Aaron Klein (he of the notorious bias problems) offer any evidence that Obama holds any of the views of those he is purported to have however briefly appeared in the same room with. 

Meanwhile, Vox Day picks up on Sinclair's allegations in his Feb. 25 column, apparently unaware that Sinclair failed a lie detector test. Day goes on to suggest that it's "nothing more than the latest fire drill by Team Clinton practicing its usual politics of personal destruction." But doesn't that mean that WND is doing the Clintons' bidding by repeating Sinclair's claims? What would self-described Clinton-hater Joseph Farah have to say about that? (And no, he hasn't responded to our request for an interview.)

And Michael Ackley bashes the New York Times' "self-serving ethics" on its John McCain story, apparently forgetting that Farah considers WND's reporting of unverified and apparently untrue claims about Obama a prime example of its "professional journalism standards."

Posted by Terry K. at 1:19 AM EST
Sunday, February 24, 2008
An Anti-Revisionist's Revisionist History
Topic: NewsBusters

In a Feb. 24 NewsBusters post, Tom Blumer attacked an Associated Press article because it allegedly "linked criticism of [Barack] Obama's patriotism strictly to conservatives, rewrote the history of the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry," and "played a game of misdirection regarding the candidate's failure to put his hand over his heart during the national anthem." But Blumer is involved in his own revisionist history.

Responding to the idea that "criticism of Obama's patriotism" is being pushed only by conservatives, Blumer claimed that "The 'conservative consultants' are smart enough to know that you don't have to be a conservative to take umbrage at the Obamas' statements and actions." But he offers no evidence of non-conservatives taking offense at Obama'spurported indiscretions. Further, he failed to take note of the conservative consultant quoted in the article, Roger Stone, as the creepy mind behind an anti-Hillary group with the acronym C.U.N.T. Does Blumer approve of such activism by a Republican consultant?

Blumer then claimed that the Swift Boat Veterans' accusations against John Kerry in 2004 "in fact, were far from 'unsubstantiated.' With very rare and relatively insignificant exceptions, the allegations of the Swifts' stand unrefuted," further claiming that the "correct definition" of "swift boating" is "telling the truth about Democrats." In fact, the Swift Boat Veterans got numerous things wrong.

Blumer also asserted that the article "engages in classic misdirection" regarding the issue of whether Obama at one public appearance didn't put his hand over his heart during thte national anthem by noting, "It has been repeatedly reported that the moment came during the Pledge of Allegiance, but that's not the case." Blumer responded: "That's not the topic. What about what Obama actually did or didn't do during the anthem? Martin Finkelstein at NewsBusters was among those who correctly noted that the photograph involved was taken during the national anthem, and explained the significance of the incident." He further insisted: "Obama wasn't doing what most Americans instinctively do during the national anthem."

Talk about revisionist: Blumer gave Mark Finkelstein a new first name! 

Blumer suggests that whether or not Obama put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem is a distinction without a difference. But as Finkelstein himself admitted in the post to which Blumer links, he got it wrong and didn't at first "correctly note[] that the photograph involved was taken during the national anthem":

NOTE: The original version of this item, based on a reader submission, stated that the photo was apparently taken during the Pledge of Allegiance. I've now located the original "Time" image, whose caption states that it was taken during the National Anthem.

Finkelstein certainly thought there was a difference, or else he wouldn't have bothered to correct it.

Blumer offers no evidence that the hand-over-heart rate among Americans for the national anthem is equal to or higher than the rate for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:24 PM EST
Aaron Klein Works His Gimmick
Topic: WorldNetDaily

How slow a week was it for WorldNetDaily Jerusalem reporter Aaron Klein? He was apparently bored enough to ask his terrorist buddies about anti-war statements made by ... Sharon Stone.

As we've detailed, Klein has built an entire book around this chatting-up-terrorists gimmick, in which he quotes these guys saying things that just happen to reinforce conservative views of terrorism, not mentioning the possibility that he's being used by them, or that it's in the terrorists' interests to keep conservatives in power in the U.S. by catering to their (and Klein's) expectations.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:11 AM EST
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Joseph Farah Is Larry Sinclair's PR Man
Topic: WorldNetDaily

It is not normal behavior for news organizations to hire a PR firm to promote news articles, particularly ones in which the claims made in it have not been substantiated.

But WorldNetDaily is no normal "news" organization.

Yesterday, WND sent out a press release on behalf of its PR firm, M. Sliwa Public Relations -- operated by Maria Sliwa, sister of Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, which WND has previously retained to promote books from its publishing operation -- to tout WND editor Joseph Farah's Feb. 22 column claiming that Larry Sinclair's accusations against Barack Obama, which WND has unskeptically promoted and even admitted is "sleaze," are so much worse that what the New York Times published about John McCain. Indeed, the press release's headline screams:


Leaves McCain Scandal in the Dust

As we've noted, WND has offered no evidence whatsoever to support Sinclair's claims, or even suggested that it made an effort to find any -- which puts it in a position similar to the one that resulted in WND having to settle a libel lawsuit by admitting that it published false information and didn't fact-check its reporting before publishing it.

The press release repeats Farah's disingenuous claim that he "is an independent journalist who supports neither Obama nor McCain, and says WND will continue to report both stories regardless of whether he supports either candidate." Again, as we've noted, WND has covered the Times/McCain story only in the context of attacking the Times for running it, whereas it has accepted Sinclair's claims against Obama at face value.

Further, Farah doesn't just not support Obama; he's openly hostile to him. Farah has used guilt by association to smear Obama as a communist and stated that the idea of Obama as president "scare[s]" him. He has smeared Democrats as "socialist race-baiters and phony feminists." Any suggestion that Farah's non-support for Obama translates to "independent" neutrality is absurd.

WND's press release also makes Farah available for interviews about the Obama-sinclair story. We've put in a request to Sliwa's firm to interview Farah, particularly about the unseemliness of a "news" organization hiring a PR firm to promote an unsubstantiated political smear. We'll see what happens.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:13 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2008 10:14 AM EST
MRC Tries to Bury Times-McCain Story
Topic: Media Research Center

Media Research Center employees are doing their best to pretend the New York Times article on John McCain is false (though they make no effort to prove it so) and meaningless:

  • TimesWatch's Clay Waters insists at NewsBusters athat the story is, in the words of his headline, "dying on the vine," making sure to hit those conservative talking points about the article, "anonymous sources" and "nine-year-old allegations."
  • Mark Finkelstein hit those same talking points, citing "anonymous, disgruntled former associates as sources" who were "dredging up old stories."
  • A NewsBusters post promoting a Brent Bozell appearance on C-SPAN notes that "Bozell speaks of the Bill Keller New York Times disaster."
  • Noel Sheppard insists With each passing moment, it appears the New York Times laid a big egg with its hit piece on John McCain."
  • Rich Galen, at, dismisses it as "nothing more than coffee-machine gossip, inference, speculation, and conjecture," as well as "the journalistic equivalent of a blogger sitting in his basement feeding out rumors to the internet over his dial-up connection."
  • Tim Graham plays the distraction card by accusing Times editor Bill Keller of adultery. Graham doesn't explain how this is relevant to to the veracity of the Times story.
  • Brent Bozell called it "rumor and gossip, fit to print only for the likes of the National Enquirer." 

By the way, telling "old stories" wasn't a problem for the MRC a couple years ago, when it used to attack Democrat John Murtha's 40-year-old war record and 25-year-old scandal ties.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:17 AM EST
Friday, February 22, 2008
Newsmax Again Ignores That McCain Defender Is On McCain Payroll
Topic: Newsmax

In the Feb. 21 "Newsmax.TV Minute" video, host Ashley Martella called Robert Bennett, who defended John McCain from a New York Times article, "a prominent Democrat" and a "Democratic Party attorney" without noting that McCain hired Bennett specifically to address issues raised by the story. Further, despite Martella's suggestion, there appears to be no evidence that Bennett was employed by the "Democratic Party."

From the video:

MARTELLA: Even a prominent Democrat is slamming the New York Times for a hit job on John McCain. Democratic Party attorney Robert Bennett, who represented Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones scandal, calls the front-page story shameless. Without naming any sources or offering any evidence, the Times suggests McCain had an illicit relationship with a female lobbyist eight years ago.

This is the second time that Newsmax has touted Bennett's Democratic ties in his defense of McCain and ignored that Bennett is on McCain's payroll.

Posted by Terry K. at 6:50 PM EST
Times Derangement Syndrome
Topic: Newsmax

A Feb. 22 column by Michael Reagan, pubished at Newsmax and FrontPageMag, takes a hysterical kill-the-messenger approach to the New York Times' John McCain story by lashing out at the Times.

Reagan refers to the paper as "the ultra-liberal — ahh, let's say it outright — the Marxist New York Times" and "this virulently anti-American house organ for every enemy of the United States," cited its editors' "corrupt way of thinking," claimed the McCain story was "waiting in Times Editor Bill Keller's bottom drawer, where presumably he also keeps the cross he burns in front of his former Roman Catholic church and his holy Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez relics," and asserted, "Who needs the Times, especially since we already have al Jazeera?"

Reagan ends with one final dose of bile:

Time after time, The New York Times has shown itself to be the Typhoid Mary of American journalism, and as such should be quarantined to prevent its viruses from further infecting our body politic and endangering both our national security and the safety of the American people.

Nowhere does Reagan offer any evidence that what the Times reported about McCain is incorrect.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:01 PM EST
Farah's Double Standard
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In his Feb. 22 column claiming a double standard in how Larry Sinclair's unverified claims against Barack Obama are getting short shrift against the New York Times' legally vetted, multipily (if anonymously) sourced claims against John McCain, Joseph Farah writes of his creation of WorldNetDaily: "I believed it was time for a real media alternative – one that not only had professional journalism standards, but applied them evenly without fear or favoritism."

What are these "professional journalism standards" he speaks of? Didn't Farah and WND just settle a libel lawsuit by admitting they published false statements about someone, after having previously admitted in court papers that the reporting in which those false statements were made was never fact-checked prior to publication? There was certainly no application of "professional journalism standards" there.

Farah himself, meanwhile, is a documented plagiarizer and spreader of false claims. No "professional journalism standards" there, either.

And it's rather curious that Farah is pointing out that the McCain is being "accused by unnamed sources" in the Times, when WND itself has regularly used anonymous sources, including support for the claims WND had to retract as a result of the libel lawsuit.

If WND actually had "professional journalism standards," wouldn't it have tried to verify the accuracy of Sinclair's claims about Obama -- which it has not indicated it his done -- before publishing them? The fact that it apparently hasn't, while demanding verification of the charges against McCain and taking McCain's denial at face value, demonstrates that he is, in fact, showing "favortism" despite claiming that he is "an independent journalist who supports neither Obama nor McCain."

Farah went on to claim: "In fact, I can promise you WND would report both stories regardless of whether I supported either candidate." But WND has done no original coverage of the McCain story, other than an attack on it by Rush Limbaugh.

Apparently Farah has learned nothing from having to admit just a week ago that his website engaged in libelous behavior.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:32 PM EST
Meanwhile ...
Topic: Accuracy in Media

Media Matters busts assertions by Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid in a Feb. 12 column that a Senate bill sponsored by Barack Obama to fight global poverty "would commit the U.S. to spending 0.7 percent of gross national product on foreign aid." In fact, the bill imposes no spending requirement or tax. Kincaid's false claims have been repeated by Rush Limbaugh and WorldNetDaily.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:46 PM EST

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