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Christopher Ruddy Flips Out

NewsMax's CEO laments a shortage of truth -- but writes a story based on anonymous tabloid sources.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/22/2000

NewsMax editor and CEO Christopher Ruddy has spent a chunk of time this week embroiled in a fight with the Salt Lake Tribune, among others, over a NewsMax article that claimed that the Boy Scouts were being excluded from participating in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In an Dec. 19 article rebutting the Tribune's claims that the story was false and clarifying that the ban is not on Boy Scouts per se, just Boy Scouts in uniform, Ruddy issued the following statement: "Let me say from the outset that if I believed we had stated something false, misleading or inaccurate, I would immediately retract the story and make any corrections."

Never mind that NewsMax has never, to anyone's knowledge, corrected or retracted an article, let alone established a system that lets its readers know whether an article has been corrected or retracted.

If this is indeed a new NewsMax policy, Ruddy may want to start with NewsMax columnists Dan Frisa and Barry Farber, who incorrectly assert that the TV networks' call of Florida for Al Gore occurred much earlier than it did, allowing them to falsely claim that Republican voters in the Florida panhandle were discouraged from voting.

Then, Ruddy may want to re-examine his own recent work.

Another Dec. 19 article, written by Ruddy, claims the "exclusive" that Bill and Hillary Clinton are selling their Chappaqua house because their neighbors have put the home under 24-hour video surveillance on the off-chance of being able to sell something to the tabloids. His source? Anonymous sources "at some of America's most notorious supermarket tabloids" -- which, like NewsMax, are based in Florida.

These would be the same tabloids that a NewsMax article trashed a few months back as being controlled by Democrats and for writing "smear stories" about Republicans "that bounce up to the networks." But since the tabloids have joined NewsMax in making the Clintons a target, Ruddy and Co. suddenly have a different attitude toward them.

Indeed, Ruddy's article points out that "the entertainment media, especially the tabloids, have discovered a bonanza with Hillary," quoting one "tabloid insider" as saying, "Hillary is our new Lady Di." Any frequent NewsMax reader knows they have discovered the same traffic-building magic, building Hillary into the new bogeyperson for conservatives, complete with a folder of articles about her and a sub-folder to hawk NewsMax-produced tapes of an interview with a former Arkansas state trooper who says all sorts of unkind things about her. You can't accuse NewsMax of not knowing what side their bread is buttered on.

Ruddy's only other sources for this story are the New York Post gossip column and "a source close to Clinton pal Vernon Jordan" -- no actual persons on the record (the author of the New York Post gossip column doesn't count), no attempt to demonstrate any sort of journalistic integrity and ask a spokesperson for the Clintons to tell their side of the story.

Which allows Ruddy to let fly with a gratuitous smear (but if there weren't gratuitous smears, it wouldn't be NewsMax): "The classic 'flip' real estate transaction is no stranger for the Clintons. They were accused of doing just that in their infamous Arkansas Whitewater land partnership deal."

Only one thing wrong with that statement: it's not true.

Ruddy must not have read the 1994 report by a San Francisco law firm that is best known as the Pillsbury Report. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that the report "corroborates most of President and Mrs. Clinton's assertions about their Whitewater real estate development" -- which is that the Clintons "were passive investors in Whitewater Development Corp. and weren't involved in its financial transactions until 1986 (when state and federal regulators removed Jim McDougal from control of the institution)." A year earlier, in 1985, McDougal had liquidated Whitewater's real estate assets for pennies on the dollar without telling his partners, the Clintons.

The introduction of the Pillsbury report even unambiguously states: "There is no credible evidence of any wrongdoing by President or Mrs. Clinton in connection with Whitewater or Madison Guaranty."

Any "flipping" of real estate -- reselling property at an increased price to a different branch of the same financial organization in order to inflate assets for bookkeeping purposes -- was done by McDougal without the Clintons' knowledge. There was no property to "flip" by the time the Clintons became actively involved in Whitewater finances.

And anyway, even if the Clintons are selling their Chappaqua house for a big profit -- not that Ruddy would know since he can't be bothered to ask them -- it, unlike "flipping," is a perfectly legal transaction.

So we have a slanted, unfair story chock full of anonymous and/or questionable sources that contains at least one blatant untruth. And it was written by a person who lamented in his Boy Scout article, "... How sad it is in America that truth is becoming a rare commodity."

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