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Thursday, March 12, 2009
Quote of the Day

It is now clear to me - although I have absolutely no reason to know this to be true - that Hillary agreed not to blow up the Democratic convention in Denver if she became Secretary of State.

-- Rich Galen, March 11 column

Posted by Terry K. at 3:18 PM EDT
The Return of Mark Hyman -- And His False Claims
Topic: Washington Examiner

You may remember Mark Hyman from his heyday as a right-wing Sinclair Broadcasting commentator, during which he peddled all sorts of false and misleading claims.

Well, he's back. In a March 10 Washington Examiner column, Hyman served up a laundry list of anti-Obama attacks -- including some false ones.

In recent days, there were attacks against CNBC hosts Rick Santelli and Jim Cramer, a prominent Obama supporter. The pair articulated on-air what millions of Americans are thinking: Obama’s economic policies are seriously damaging America.

Santelli said he understood the threat when White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs publicly stated, “I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives…” What Gibbs may have hoped to instigate is anybody’s guess.

In fact, Santelli himself backed off his false claim that Gibbs "threatened" him when confronted on it by NBC's Matt Lauer.

Hyman also wrote that "Prosecutors and sheriffs in the swing state of Missouri who backed Obama threatened to prosecute anyone behind information they – as a self-appointed 'truth squad' -- judged to be inaccurate." In fact, as we noted at the time, those prosecutors and Sheriffs made no such threat, and the chief promoter of this claim was Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, a John McCain supporter.

Hyman didn't go only after Obama; he wrote, "The Clinton Administration repeatedly used dirty tricks against 'enemies,'" listing among them "White House Travel Officer [sic] Director Billy Dale." In fact, as we've detailed, independent counsel Robert Ray concluded that because Dale and other employees of the travel office worked at the pleasure of the president, President Clinton had the legal right to fire them without cause. Further, there was indeed evidence of financial mismanagement in the travel office under Dale, though Dale was later found not guilty of criminal charges filed over it.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:43 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, March 12, 2009 1:43 PM EDT
Even Kessler Agrees Klein's Smear Was Unfair
Topic: WorldNetDaily

We've previously noted Aaron Klein's attempt to smear Chas Freeman, the now-former nominee head the National Intelligence Council, by claiming he has "business ties to Osama bin Laden's family." Now we've gotten support for our contention from a most unlikely source.

From Ronald Kessler's March 11 Newsmax column otherwise critical of Freeman:

To be sure, a few of the criticisms leveled against Freeman were unfair.

The fact that Freeman had business dealings with a construction firm owned by Osama bin Laden’s family was a non sequitur. Years before bin Laden began attacking American interests, his family severed ties with him when Saudi Arabia expelled him and confiscated his assets.

Klein, of course, never botherred to report that part of it, all the better to smear Freeman.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:27 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, March 12, 2009 9:31 AM EDT
Tattoos = Porn?
Topic: Media Research Center

A March 11 MRC Culture & Media Institute column by Matt Philbin (excerpted at NewsBusters) -- headlined "How Mainstream Is Porn? Just Ask Body Art Barbie" -- uses the new "Totally Stylin' Tattoos Barbie" doll to make a bizarre, unfounded link between tattoos and porn:

So logically, today we have "Tramp Stamp Barbie," accurately reflecting the aesthetics of our porn-sodden culture. "Sex sells," and it always has. What's fairly new is that it's selling to the grade school set.


From here, the path is clear: next year comes "Urban Ken" with shaved head, baggy pants and barbed wire ink around his neck. Then, "Body Piercing Barbie" and "Pole Dance Barbie." Finally the "Malibu Dream House" will be updated into "Secluded San Fernando Valley Rental Dream House."

Philbin apparently also doesn't like cartoon characters who aren't Barbie-white -- he bashes Dora the Explorer as "the most excruciatingly multicultural cartoon star not under contract to PBS" and as "a repository of feminist ideas about child-rearing. She’s an adventurer in non-gender-specific clothes. No tea parties or doll houses for her!"

Posted by Terry K. at 1:19 AM EDT
WND Bogus Poll Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In a March 6 WorldNetDaily column, Glenn Sacks and Robert Franklin bashed a poll claiming that a high number of mothers were angry with their spouses:

In the social science field this is known as a "SLOP" – a Self-selected Listener Opinion Poll. Four out of five of those receiving surveys didn't respond. The ones who did are more likely to have an ax to grind or be angry – exactly the response the magazine claims its survey revealed. This data cannot be credibly applied to the average mom or family.

WND reporter Chelsea Schilling apparently doesn't read the website she works for, because she treats the same kind of poll as newsworthy.

In a March 10 WND article, Schilling touts how "an MSNBC unscientific online survey" gave President Obama an "F" for job performance. Calling the poll "unscientific" is the only hint Schilling provides to its bogus, SLOP-like nature. It's an opt-in poll with no apparent evidence that respondents are barred from voting more than once, making it wholly unreliable and, in the words of Sacks and Robinson, cannot be credibly applied to the average American.

WND loves to publish these kinds of stories -- indeed, Schilling herself has frequently reported the results of bogus polls as if they meant something. Apparently, Joseph Farah believes this sort of thing contributes to his "reputation and credibility." Well, yeah -- just not the way he thinks it does.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:12 AM EDT
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Deep Thought
Topic: Horowitz
Should a guy who has written a book about "the left's romance with tyranny and terror" be proud of his own association with an unrepentant terrorist?

Posted by Terry K. at 3:55 PM EDT
We Cross The Pond
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Australia's Sydney Morning Herald cites ConWebWatch in reporting on the WorldNetDaily/Wikipedia controversy.

UPDATE: And we're linked to in Hebrew too! Ynet is operated by the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot. (Here's its English site.)

Posted by Terry K. at 12:19 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 1:52 PM EDT
The Farah Media Smear Machine
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Joseph Farah unleashes his vitriolic lashing-out strategy at WorldNetDaily's critics yet again in a March 11 column that attempts to defend Aaron Klein over his attacks on Wikipedia.

Needless to say, he begins by taking out his frustrations on little ol' me. Endeavoring to smear me as a "fulltime anti-WND blogger" (as if that's a bad thing), Farah asserts that I "claim[ed] falsely that Klein himself was the Wikipedia user dubbed Jerusalem21. In fact, Klein's Jerusalem bureau research assistant is Jerusalem21. Oooooooh. Big scandal, right?"

First, Farah is lying; I never asserted that Klein was Jerusalem21. Here's what I wrote in my original post: "'Jerusalem21' is either Klein or someone close to him acting on his behalf, if not his direction." I merely presented the facts of the case -- which Farah does not contradict -- and offered the two most likely possible conclusions, one of which Klein and Farah were forced to admit was correct.

Second, the "scandal" is not that Klein was the man behind Jerusalem21; it's that he didn't follow sound journalistic practice by disclosing this to his readers. Instead, he left the false impression that he had no personal connection to Jerusalem21. If Klein had done proper disclosure about his relationship to Jerusalem21, this "scandal" would never have taken off like it did.

Third, if this is the non-scandal Farah claims it is, why did WND scrub all references to Jerusalem21 from Klein's articles?

Fourth, Farah fails to address the other part of this "scandal" -- the utter hypocrisy of complaining about removal of negative information from Obama's Wikipedia page when Klein (or Jerusalem21) has been similarly quick to remove critical information from Klein's own Wikipedia page.

Nevertheless, Farah continues to hurl insults: He claims I was taking "libelous shots at Klein" (as noted above, a lie) and adding, "Normally no one pays too much attention to Krepel, recognizing him for what he is – an ideological crusader masquerading as a press watchdog, determined to expose the slightest break in the ranks of the Obama media amen chorus."This is Farah's M.O. -- denigrate, discredit and destroy his critics, even when he can't actually prove they got anything wrong.

And Farah whines, again: "What's odd about this tempest in a teapot is that even if what Krepel and company had written were true, that Klein himself had made the submissions on Wikipedia and reported on it, what is the big deal? What is the scandal? What would be wrong with doing first-hand research of this kind and reporting on it?"

Two things: lack of disclosure and scrubbing of the original articles after publication without alerting readers to it. What about that does Farah not understand? Has he been away from the real world of journalism so long that he no longer grasps such concepts? Does Farah have the guts to defend such egregious violations of journalistic ethics? We suspect not -- publicly, anyway.

If Farah has no problem dishing it out attacks on Obama and other people he doesn't like, he should be able to take it when criticism comes back his way. But as his history demonstrates, he can't.

Neither Farah nor Klein can point to a false claim I've made about this controversy (when they aren't making it up one, anyway). They seem to think beligerent bluster will throw me off their scent. In this case, bluster equals cowardice.

What are they afraid of? Why can't Farah admit that some (if not most) criticism of him and WND is legitimate? Why can't Klein have the same live-and-let-live philosophy on his own Wikipedia bio that he demands be done to Obama's bio?

Farah demonstrates even more cowardice by refusing to link to my original ConWebWatch item on Klein. That's not surprising -- Farah similarly deleted links to ConWebWatch in an op-ed I submitted to WND in response to a previous attack on me by Farah (in which he denigrated me as a "talent-challenged slug").

Farah then writes: "I tell you all this because, in my business, reputation and credibility constitute our lifeblood. And, I know from personal experience that when your reputation and credibility is being gang-raped like this – even by people with no reputation or credibility of their own – it causes real damage."

Well, guess what? I have a reputation and credibility to uphold as well. I research what I write about, I back up my claims, and I will defend myself against false and unfounded accusations like the ones Farah is spewing.

I stand by what I wrote about Klein's Wikipedia stories; I'm merely reporting what WND won't. Farah, meanwhile, has not only lied about what I've written, he has already demonstrated he doesn't trust his own reporter or his readers by surreptitiously scrubbing Klein's stories after publication.

So, which one of us has "no reputation or credibility of their own"?

UPDATE: Cross-posted with minor alterations at Huffington Post.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:34 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 7:13 PM EDT
Klein Claims He's Not Jerusalem21 -- And Scrubs His Story
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Aaron Klein has responded to Gawker over our report on the unusual and undisclosed closeness between Klein and "Jerusalem21," the nom de wiki of the Wikipedia contributor around whom Klein built an article to claim that references to the birth certificate issue on Barack Obama's Wikipedia page were being swiftly deleted:

First, I am not "Jerusalem21," but I do know the Wikipedia user (he works with me and does research for me), and I worked with him on this story, which focused on investigating allegations I had received from others of Wikipedia scrubbing Obama's page. I wanted to personally oversee whether indeed criticism of Obama was being deleted. For your information, often investigative journalists engage in exactly this kind of testing – like seeing if they can bypass mandatory disclosures while donating to a candidate (several newspapers did this prior to the November election), or if they can register a dog to vote in Illinois. Thus, even if I had personally edited Obama's page as a test to investigate allegations of scrubbing, this is entirely legitimate journalistic practice.

Then again, reporters typically fully disclose the extent of their involvement in such stunts in their articles -- something Klein did not do until we reported on it and it spread across the Internet (Pandagon, Wired's Threat Level, Gawker/Valleywag). His obviously close relationship to "Jerusalem21" should have been disclosed.

Of course, even Klein's begrudging disclosure here is not sufficient. How do we know for sure that "Jerusalem21" is not Klein? Why take Klein's word for it? After all, the only thing "Jerusalem21" edited at Wikipedia before this is Klein's own bio -- where we know any criticism of Klein is swiftly deleted -- and Klein is still obscuring "Jerusalem21's" real identity, for which he has not given a reason.

Klein further defends his story: "My article from yesterday noted what is clearly a major trend at Wikipedia and is a very legitimate piece. ... Do not simply and misleadingly update your article just by stating that I know 'Jerusalem21' and leaving in the defamatory portrayal that I somehow invented a controversy, when indeed there is indisputably a much wider, documented trend."

But as we also noted, Klein failed to provide proper context. In neither of his articles -- his original one, plus a follow-up -- did Klein mention that a separate Wikipedia page exists regarding Obama birth certificate conspiracies. Nor does he acknowledge that other Wikipedia pages are similarly monitored by editors and critical claims deleted -- like Aaron Klein's.

Klein sent a similar response to Threat Level. As blogger Kevin Poulsen sums it up:

What's missing from this treatise on investigative journalism is the reporter's obligation to disclose when he's engineered events on which he's reporting. In a follow-up e-mail, Klein acknowledges that he should have made that disclosure, but suggests he's guilty of nothing more than an accidental omission in a hastily written story.

"It just slipped my mind," he writes.


That's a lot of mind-slippage. You'd think at some point in the writing, Klein would have a revelation, slap his head and say, "Silly me! Here I am writing about my researcher following my instructions, and I'm making it sound like I don't even know the guy! Glad I caught that."

Further, if Klein is so proud of this story and his association with "Jerusalem21," why did remove all references to "Jerusalem21" after the fact? As Threat Level noted, as of early afternoon on March 10, Klein's original article "was scrubbed clean of the name Jerusalem21, who's now referred to only as 'one Wikipedia user.'" There is no notice on the article to indicate that it has been altered from the original -- another thing a real, conscientious journalist would do.

Fortunately for you (though perhaps less so for Klein), we saved a copy of the original. We're pretty sure Klein's follow-up originally referenced "Jerusalem21" as well, but that's been scrubbed too.

Given that Klein is still obfuscating about "Jerusalem21" and has significantly changed his article(s) after publication without informing readers he did so, why trust Klein on anything?

Posted by Terry K. at 12:06 AM EDT
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
WND's War on Wikipedia
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Aaron Klein's current sock-puppet assault on Wikipedia is far from the only instance of WorldNetDaily's attacks on the website.

In December, WND editor Joseph Farah let loose an anti-Wikipedia screed after someone had edited his Wiki bio to claim he was "noted homosexual." Farah called Wikipedia "wholesale purveyor of lies and slander unlike any other the world has ever known," a "vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit," "a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution," a "wholly unreliable website run by political and social activists promoting their own agenda" and, last but not least, "pseudo-journalistic terrorism and character assassination." You know, kinda like WND itself.

Last May, WND accused Wikipedia of promoting pornography for including "detailed photos of nude homosexual men engaging in sex acts and a variety of other sexually explicit images and content" for, among other things, offering the definition of a "fluffer" and including an image of the European cover of the 1976 Scorpions album "Virgin Killer," which features a naked girl. At no point does WND concede that the images and content occur in the context of an encyclopedia, or that child nudity is not the same thing as child pornorgraphy. WND promoted the story with the blurb, "Wikipedia or Wikipornia?" As one observer put it, WND demonstrates "a shocking misunderstanding of how Wikipedia actually works."

Posted by Terry K. at 4:50 PM EDT
WND vs. Snopes
Topic: WorldNetDaily

As editor Joseph Farah himself has demonstrated, WorldNetDaily's reaction to information they don't like is to attempt to discredit and destroy the source of that information.

A March 9 WND article by Drew Zahn attacking the credibility of the urban legend-debunking site and accusing it of a "political or social bias" follows that pattern. Why attack Snopes? It contradicts WND by declaring Barack Obama to be a natural-born American, and it called out Farah for making baselessly alarmist claims.

To counter Snopes on the birth certificate issue, Zahn uncritically quotes false and misleading claims by Orly Taitz, who has filed numerous lawsuits over the issue, claiming that "His paternal grandmother in Kenya and the ambassador of Kenya made statements that he was born in Kenya." In fact, the claim about Obama's grandmother is based on a conversation selectively edited to make it appear as if she made the claim, and WND itself has reported that Kenyan Ambassador Peter Ogego says he was misquoted on the issue and that he never said Obama was born in Kenya.

Zahn also uncritically repeats Taitz's baseless attack on, asserting that it "claim[ed] to have examined Obama's birth certificate and found it valid. Neither the state of Hawaii, nor Obama has ever released such birth certificate." In fact, FactCheck claimed to have examained the certificate of live birth released by the Obama campaign. Unsurprisingly, Zahn fails to note that WND itself delcared that certificate to be valid.

Zahn goes on to parrot Farah's 2007 attack on Snopes -- but since it's a one-sided account, Zahn doesn't bother to tell the full truth.

As we reported at the time, WND published an alarmist article by Farah on the purported hazards of compact flourescent light bulbs, focusing on the case of a woman who claimed she faced a $2,000 clean-up bill after a bulb broke. Farah failed to mention evidence that a four-figure cleanup of a broken CFL is overkill. Snopes cited Farah's article as an example of a fallacious claim. That got Farah's dander up, and he insisted that it was "ludicrous" for Snopes to claim he suggested that "An environmental clean-up crew needs to be called in to deal with the mercury dispersed by one broken CFL bulb" (despite Farah's enthusiastic promotion of the woman's alarmist claims to that effect) and that "Everything in the story is 100 percent accurate and truthful – and not a word of the original story has been altered" (ignoring the fact that he selectively quoted from the original article, thus introducing factual misrepresentation into his own by telling only one side of the story).

Zahn bizarrely reframes the issue, asserting that "Snopes was investigating claims that the Environmental Protection Agency was covering over safety concerns with compact fluorescent light bulbs" and that Snopes somehow erred by citing the EPA guidelines on how to dispose of a broken CFL. At no pointdid Farah then, or Zahn now, offer evidence to contradict those EPA guidelines.

Farah concluded that 2007 column by laughably asserting that, unlike Snopes and Wikipedia, WND has the "traits" of "honesty, integrity and standards." Zahn demonstrates yet again, through failing to fact-check those whose views he's promoting, that WND has none of those traits.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:15 PM EDT
Newsmax Ignores E-Verify Errors
Topic: Newsmax

Uncriticially repeating claims by the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies, March 9 Newsmax article by David Patten promotes the mandated use of the federal E-Verify system to check the eligibility status of employees and complains that such a requirement was "deleted by Democratic leaders" from the stimulus bill. But Patten fails to note concerns about the error rate of E-Verify databases.

As Media Matters details, several government reports have suggested that E-Verify does not have the level of accuracy needed to be truly useful, and that it contains errors that can misidentify millions of qualified workers, especially foreign-born citizens, as being potentially ineligible for employment.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:24 AM EDT
WND's Imminent Apocalypse
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily's vision of news has turned rather apocalyptic of late.

A March 8 article by Drew Zahn touts how you can be "quietly preparing to survive catastrophe" by purchasing "high-yielding vegetable seeds sealed for long-term storage and awaiting a family's need to grow its own food." WND's front page currently features an ad by a similar company promoted with the line, "Why almost everyone's wrong on coming food shortage."

Another March 8 article promotes claims by David Wilkerson, "best-selling author and founder of a major ministry to teens" as well as author of the evangelical book "The Cross and the Switchblade," of his vision of "fires raging through New York City" that "will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires – such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago. ... We are under God’s wrath." What WND didn't report, as Richard Bartholomew noted, is that Wilkerson has been making such predictions for at least 35 years. WND liked it so much it repeated Wilkerson's claims in a March 9 article.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:26 AM EDT
Meanwhile, Over At HuffPo...
Topic: WorldNetDaily
We've published an exapnded version of our post on Aaron Klein, Wikipedia and "Jerusalem21" over at Huffington Post.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:34 AM EDT
The Rush Limbaugh Defense Center
Topic: Media Research Center

The MRC is not just the Ann Coulter Defense Center -- it's the Rush Limbaugh Defense Center too.

The MRC launched a fusillade against the Associated Press for daring to report Rush Limbaugh's remark that President Obama's health-care plan will "be called the Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care bill," asserting that it was "liberal propaganda to help demonize Rush Limbaugh." MRC chief Brent Bozell also demanded in a letter to AP Washington bureau chief Ron Fouriner that the AP issue "both an apology to Rush Limbaugh and an immediate update to correct the record."

Bozell brought up a two-month-old Fox News article suggesting that Democrats planned to name any health-care bill after Kennedy as evidence that "Democrats themselves who first suggested this naming months ago, not Rush Limbaugh or any other conservative for that matter" and that the AP was negligent.

Nowhere in either the press release or the letter does Bozell quote what Limbaugh actually said.

Fournier caught on to Bozell's spin; according to a NewsBusters post, Fournier replied: 

Saying that a bill should be named after Sen. Kennedy is different from saying the bill will be named after the late Sen. Kennedy. (As Rush Limbaugh put it, "Before it’s over, it’ll be called the Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care Bill.")

In that NewsBusters post, Bozell likened the AP article to Phony Soldiers, Part II":

In October 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led a cabal of liberal Senators in a completely fraudulent attack against Rush fashioned in just the same way - deceitfully taking his words out of context and trumping up a subsequent smear campaign.  The left is at it again. 

Let's remember the MRC's record of deceitfully taking people's words out of context:

  • The MRC patched together several quotes from a book by former New York Times editor Howell Raines to make it falsely appear that Raines was insulting Ronald Reagan. The MRC stood by that for nine years before being forced to issue a "clarification."
  • The MRC is still standing by its 2003 Quote of the Year, a statement in a Boston Globe magazine article by Charles Pierce that "Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to [Mary Jo Kopechne] in her old age," claiming that it's ludicrous sycophancy when Pierce himself has pointed out that in context it was meant, and read by non-MRC employees, as harsh criticism of Kennedy.

Seems to us that Charles Pierce is due an apology long before Limbaugh is.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:21 AM EDT

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