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Is NewsMax Corrupt?

Using the standards NewsMax itself applies to the New York Times, absolutely.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/6/2002

For an organization whose journalistic values hover pretty close to those of its Florida tabloid neighbors, NewsMax sure does get all hot and bothered about the journalistic standards of others.

An Aug. 20 article takes the New York Times to task for allegedly distorting comments by Henry Kissinger to make it appear he is against the apparently imminent war against Iraq. It's actually a compilation of three other articles on the subject: columns by Russ "Mugger" Smith in the New York Press and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer and an editorial in the Washington Times. It starts with a quote from Smith that "It's only a slight stretch to state definitively that the New York Times is a corrupt institution" and goes from there in the direction you'd expect.

The Washington Times excerpt touches on its accusing the New York Times of "willful misrepresentation" and "intellectual slovenliness." NewsMax then summarizes: "Noting that the New York Times is the pre-eminent newspaper in America (and probably the world), the Washington Times said that it has 'a singular responsibility to get its stories right.'"

The WashTimes criticism, of course, rings rather hollow in the wake of its own intellectual slovenliness with its willful misrepresentation of the National Education Association's suggested lesson plans for teaching about the events of Sept. 11 (which the Daily Howler and Spinsanity have dissected). Then again, no one's accusing the Washington Times of being the pre-eminent newspaper in America, let alone Washington, so any "responsibility to get its stories right" is apparently not a high priority to folks like Times employees and NewsMax editors. (And, wouldn't you know it, Laura Ingraham parrots the WashTimes line in her Aug. 20 NewsMax commentary.)

The NewsMax article concludes by saying "it's no stretch at all" to call the New York Times corrupt. Which begs the question: If distortion of another's views is all it takes to be a "corrupt institution," what does that make NewsMax?

So corrupt it's the poster boy for a journalistic RICO statute.

Proof? Let's take a quick tour of the ConWebWatch archives:

  • It distorts reality by running only negative news about its political enemies and avoiding bad news about its political friends.
  • it spent a lot of time misrepresenting Judicial Watch press releases as NewsMax stories.
  • NewsMax CEO Christopher Ruddy presented tabloid rumors as fact in stating the Clintons were selling their house in New York. Today, long after the story can be calling nothing but false, it remains on NewsMax, and it has never published a correction or apology. (Even the New York Times issued a clarification of its Kissinger article. When was the last time you saw NewsMax correct anything?)
  • NewsMax tried to distort reality even more than usual immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks by ham-handedly denouncing anything that could be remotely construed as criticism of President Bush with terms starting with "anti-Americanism" and going all the way to "treason."

NewsMax's use of willful misrepresentation (that phrase is getting a workout here, isn't it?) continues as we speak in its distortion of remarks made by Bill Clinton to plug its latest anti-Clinton book. One recent headline promoting the book on NewsMax's front page declared, "Clinton Blamed America, Christians for 9-11." He, of course, did no such thing; he cited unpleasant events in American history such as slavery and the taking of land from Native Americans as an example of the long history of terror even as he expressed his support to President Bush's antiterror refforts. Even the Wall Street Journal defended Clinton on this, sort of. NewsMax would rather sell books than tell the truth.

NewsMax is so consumed by its biases and distortions that it no longer sees them for they are, if indeed it ever did. An example of this is a Sept. 3 column by Ruddy in which he notes that "A left-wing magazine recently made some snide remarks about NewsMax, noting that we are the heirs to the ideological legacy of Ronald Reagan." (What, Ruddy is suddenly offended by snide remarks?) The commentary to which Ruddy refers appeared in February in the American Prospect, and Ruddy distorts it horribly. That commentary, by Brendan Nyhan, never declared NewsMax "heirs to the ideological legacy of Ronald Reagan"; it cites NewsMax as proof that "the right's cynical exploitation of Ronald Reagan's legacy has always been something of a race to the bottom" and adding that "it's certainly questionable that (Reagan) would endorse NewsMax ... as the key to his legacy."

Then there's the occasional actual legal question involved, as with its recent overenthusiastic promotion of the re-election of New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith. NewsMax toned it down considerably in recent days (not that ConWebWatch is taking credit...), but the "intellectual slovenliness" it employs in the service of its ideology is apparently too inbred to be stopped.

The lead of a Sept. 1 story gushes that "The latest statewide poll in New Hampshire shows U.S. Sen. Bob Smith in a virtual tie against challenger Congressman John Sununu." That's the last we hear of that poll in the story, the rest of which is dedicated to describing Smith's latest ad campaign. The poll statistics nor the poll's conductor are never mentioned.

Wherever it was conducted, it wasn't in a New Hampshire that exists in this particular universe, if another poll is any indication. This one, conducted in conjunction with New Hampshire's top TV station, puts Sununu a whopping 22 points ahead of Smith.

NewsMax is journalistically corrupt, all right -- but in an incompetent, John Gotti Jr. kind of way.

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