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Basic Instinct

What happens during a slow news week? WorldNetDaily turns to recycling a press release and marrying Hillary-bashing and gay-bashing.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/7/2001

The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is what journalists call a time of "slow news;" since most people are celebrating the holidays, they are not around to create a lot of newsworthy events. But stories still have to be put in the newspaper and on news broadcasts. This is one reason year-in-review stories abound -- they don't require a lot of work, and they fill up space nicely.

This may also be the reason WorldNetDaily ran two of the stories it did between Christmas and New Year's.

A Dec. 31 story by Jon Dougherty was little more than a reworking of a press release from the quite conservative Family Research Council praising George W. Bush's appointment of Rod Paige as education secretary. Then, something odd happened; a week later, that link was dead, and that story was no longer available on WorldNetDaily.

Did someone who was on holiday when the story first appeared come back and order it pulled? Or did Dougherty have second thoughts, decide the story wasn't up to his standards and yank it himself? (Actually, thew latter scenario is unlikely; rewriting a press release fits Dougherty's standards just fine.) On the other hand, WorldNetDaily changed its server provider around the first of the year and story links have changed, so Dougherty's piece may have gotten lost in the shuffle. (Update: The latter is true; with the switch to a new provider, the stories in WND's archive were given new link addresses. The Dougherty story is now linked in all its sycophantic glory.)

A reporter's laziness, however, doesn't explain a Dec. 29 story noting that, "a popular San Francisco-based homosexual website," named Hillary Clinton as its "person of the year."

While the story is written strsightforward enough, it begs the question: Why does WorldNetDaily care enough to report this story in the first place?

The answer lies in WorldNetDaily's political slant. WorldNetDaily opposes both homosexuality and Hillary Clinton, as do many of its readers, so what could be better than to play to the prejudices of its readership and have its two biggest bogeymen appear in the same story, thereby trying to make sure conservatives don't think of Hillary without thinking of homosexuals?

It seems WorldNetDaily is following NewsMax in making Hillary-bashing a more prominent part of its original coverage because the tabloids have learned that it attracts readers.

WorldNetDaily is proud, too, of promoting anti-gay issues. It happily notes that it was "first to provide national exposure to the story of the homosexual rape-murder of 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising." The Dirkhising case has since been portrayed by conservatives as the equivalent of the Matthew Shepard case in which a gay man in Wyoming was killed essentially for being a gay man in Wyoming. The fact that Dirkhising wasn't killed for being heterosexual (he died of asphyxiation during kinky sex at the hands of two gay men -- horrible, to be sure, but not the same thing) doesn't keep WorldNetDaily and conservatives alike from find moral equivalency in the two cases.

WorldNetDaily's anti-gay bias comes through more explicitly in a Jan. 4 story about some people being offended by diversity-promoting bumper stickers in Traverse City, Mich., because the stickers used the rainbow motif associated with gay-friendliness. To bolster the anti-gay content of the story, writer Julie Foster quotes a spokeswoman for the Capitol Resource Institute, which Foster describes as "a non-profit public policy organization in California." That generic description obscures the group's statement on the front page of the organization's web site: "We are an independent organization serving as the California eyes and ears of Focus on the Family."

None of which explains why a group specializing in California issues was sought out to comment on an issue in Michigan, which last time we checked was located nowhere near California. (Indeed, there's not a word to be found about the Michigan bumper-sticker issue on the Capitol Resource Institute web site.) Or why only spokespeople from anti-gay groups were quoted in the story on the significance of the rainbow motif to gays; no gay advocacy groups, who one would think might be a little more knowledgable about the issue, are mentioned at all.

Unless the point was to pound home the gays-are-bad message.

WorldNetDaily still fancies itself as a place dedicated to "independent investigative reporting ... with no sacred cows." Well, here's a hint: If you're denigrating people and groups you don't agree with and running press releases from those you do agree with -- you're not independent.

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