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Fuzzy Logic, Fuzzy Sources

Poorly informed rants, slandering the Clintons with barely-sourced allegations -- the NewsMax we all know and love is back.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/15/2001

The mood of danger after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has apparently passed to the point that NewsMax feels comfortable again running questionably sourced stories and and old-fashioned rants.

Its biggest alleged blockbuster of late is an Oct. 12 story, the headline of which screams "Hillary Clinton Tried to Stop Barbara Olson's Book." The lead paragraph alleges that "Bill and Hillary Clinton reached new lows in the aftermath of Sept. 11" after "they put their PR spin machine into high gear -- to stop the publication of Barbara's newest book."

Trouble is, nobody offers any actual proof of this.

NewsMax's sourcing for this story is "a mailing being sent by Human Events, the sister company of Regnery," the publisher of Olson's upcoming book, "The Final Days," which purports to describe "the last desperate weeks of the Clinton administration."

In this supposed e-mail, according to NewsMax, "editor Tom Winter reveals that 'Within a week of the dreadful attack on Sept. 11, powerful friends of Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to stop the publication of this book.' Winter reports that Hillary's friends worked feverishly to have Barbara's book 'stopped before it was even printed.'" The story adds that "Hillary's friends were even making threats, suggesting that 'Barbara's reputation would be sullied if the book were printed.'"

That's it for what passes for reportage; the rest of the story is a plug for the book. There is no evidence offered of what "threats" were made and who made them, let alone that a Clinton was involved, directly or otherwise, in what Winters alleges -- or that any of this happened at all.

It's also worth noting that the Oct. 12 issue of Human Events, as posted on its website, makes no mention of Winters' allegation. If this is such a blockbuster story, why wouldn't they report on it first instead of handing it to NewsMax?

Probably because NewsMax loves bashing the Clintons so much that questionable and anonymous sources are secondary to the bashing. Remember, NewsMax has yet to correct or retract a story it ran last December that the Clintons were selling their Chappaqua, N.Y., house, a story it was so proud of that CEO Christopher Ruddy wrote it himself using anonymous sources from supermarket tabloids NewsMax has become rather chummy with over the past year.

(Speaking of tabloids: NewsMax reminded us once again of the type of "news" organization it is with its slow-on-the-uptake coverage of the first Florida anthrax victim, a worker for one of those tabloids in an office in Lantana, Fla., about 20 miles from NewsMax's offices in West Palm Beach. An e-mail news alert sent to NewsMax subscribers when the story first broke was the first paragraph of an Associated Press, complete with AP "bug" after the dateline; its initial headline when the man died was a link to a Miami Herald story.)

That's not the only recent example of fuzzy thinking at NewsMax recently. An Oct. 5 story, for instance, goes ballistic about C-SPAN, the broadcaster of Congress and politics.

"Remember when CSPAN was a program that offered view points heard no where else – with callers around the country reflecting the views of middle America," an Oct. 5 article laments. "Those days are gone. Now, 9 out 10 of CSPAN's media guests are establishment, anti-Republican liberals. And CSPAN's morning media discussions are nothing more than a rehash of what's 'news' in the left-wing press. You can tune into CSPAN any morning and discover how the callers are nothing more than a shill for the liberal establishment."

Their evidence backing up their pulled-out-of-their-you-know-where statistics? A single Brian Lamb-hosted program that allegedly was "nothing more than a rant against Israel, U.S. policies and Pres. Bush." The article goes on to call Lamb "just not honest, or too frightened to call a liberal spade, a liberal spade. Who is he kidding?"

Who is NewsMax kidding to offer a single program as a blanket indictment of C-SPAN? "Carl Limbacher and staff" must not have had their morning coffee before they wrote that one.

An Oct. 11 article rehashes an earlier, botched attempt at defending that conservative darling, Fox News Channel, from charges made by Fairness and Accuracy in Media that the channel tilts conservative, which NewsMax calls "an act of hypocritical chutzpah that boggles the mind."

Again, NewsMax never refutes or even addresses the specific allegation made by FAIR as reported in the story -- that guests on Fox's "Special Report with Brit Hume" are mostly conservative. Instead, they use unrelated examples to try and demonstrate that Fox News isn't conservative, such as breaking the George W. Bush drunk-driving conviction story the weekend before the November 2000 election and the fact that Jeff Cohen, "FAIR's own Complainer-in-Chief," has appeared on a Fox News program. By that same logic, CNN isn't "liberal," as conservatives love to complain, because there's a conservative on "Crossfire."

The article also notes that "A few years ago (FAIR) helped drive conservative talk radio legend Bob Grant off (New York radio station) WABC over an innocuous comment he made about Ron Brown." That "innocuous comment" was essentially wishing for Brown's death (not to mention a whole bunch of other similar remarks). How does that rate on the "innocuous" scale compared to, say, Dan Rather's "buckwheats" remark, which NewsMax used to try and start a short-lived crusade to get him fired from CBS?

Talk about your mind-boggling hypocritical chutzpah. Of course, it wouldn't be NewsMax otherwise.

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