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Eternal Damnation

Even in death, NewsMax's attacks and smears of Paul Wellstone go on -- as does a strange lesson in responsible conspiracy-mongering.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/30/2002
Updated 10/31/2002

NewsMax constantly provides new reminders of the piece of work it is, and wouldn't you know, it comes through yet again in its coverage of the plane-crash death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone.

On Oct. 25, the day of the crash, NewsMax "enhanced" a UPI story (something NewsMax likes to do) by doing things like changing "liberal" to "leftist" in the lead, "progressive" to "leftist" in another place and adding references to "the left-wing Mother Jones magazine" and "the leftist Minneapolis Star Tribune." (Is anyone sensing a trend here? More importantly, are UPI officials sensing they should have a little chat with NewsMax about its "editing" of UPI stories?) Then, toward the end of the story, NewsMax inserts the following paragraph (links included):

Though colleagues rushed to praise Wellstone, he had a darker side as well. He recently incited a Democrat mob to attack a cameraman, and an organization of admitted Democrat socialists has plotted an effort to bring out-of-state students to Minnesota to exploit the state's lax election laws for him.

The links are to two NewsMax stories. And as we've come to expect from NewsMax, the stories are either distorted or false.

The false one would be the out-of-state voter thing. First, Wellstone had nothing to do with it, so it couldn't possibly have been a part of his "darker side." A group calling itself "Democratic Socialists of America was indeed planning a voter registration drive, but as Spinsanity tells us, NewsMax, along with the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News Channel's Brit Hume, rather deliberately misinterpreted some ambiguous language in the group's original fund-rasing appeal to mean it intended to bring in out-of-state students to vote -- or, as NewsMax put it, "Just think: The little socialists can vote in their home state, then fly to Minnesota and vote for another DemoRat!" -- when there is no evidence of this.

What's that adage about a lie traveling halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on?

The cameraman thing is a bit trumped-up. NewsMax based its account on something "buried deep in a sickeningly pro-Wellstone, anti-business story in something called the Minnesota Daily, an 'independent' student newspaper at the University of Minnesota" (NewsMax is hardly in a position to complain about the "independence" of other publications) in which attendees of a rally at which Wellstone spoke jostled and held signs in front of person with a video camera whom Wellstone pointed out as a "Republican camera." Not exactly inciting a mob, is it?

Later, according to the Minnesota Daily story, "At one point, after moving to a new location, the cameraman was pushed into an apparent union worker who responded with kidney-punches into the cameraman’s side. Volunteers rushed to the scuffle and escorted away the cameraman, who held his hands in the air."

Annoying a camerman is hardly a "mob attack." And the guy who threw punches could hardly claim to be "incited" since Wellstone didn't tell him (or anyone else) to do it. Again, no "darker side" here.

The "sickeningly pro-Wellstone, anti-business" story NewsMax gets this from, by the way, isn't. It's simply a straightforward account of a "fair trade, not free trade" rally, with everything one can reasonably expect to find at such a rally. If the story is as biased as NewsMax would have you believe, why did the reporter bother to include the account of the guy who hit the cameraman? And why is NewsMax taking that account as gospel? Wouldn't everything in a biased story be suspect?

One more "enhancement" NewsMax threw into that story is a reference to "controversial Clinton Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who was on an Air Force jet that crashed into a mountain in Croatia, killing all 35 aboard." Brown's death has been a favorite subject of conspiracy-mongers like, well, NewsMax's very own Christopher Ruddy.

Which makes an Oct. 27 NewsMax story such a pot-kettle-black moment: NewsMax makes fun of conspiracy-mongers. The story cites some folks who think there's a trend in the similarities of of the deaths of Wellstone and Mel Carnahan, a Missouri Democrat running for the Senate in 2000 killed in a plane crash shortly before the election (and still defeated John Ashcroft).

Oddly enough, those on the far left now raising eyebrows over Wellstone's demise generally dismissed as "nutty" questions about the untimely deaths of Clinton scandal witnesses like Vince Foster, Ron Brown and James McDougal.

But at least conservative conspiracy theorists waited until some evidence of foul play had emerged in each case.

So far, nothing of the sort has materialized in the Wellstone case.

Thank you, NewsMax, for promoting responsible conspiracy-mongering -- which, by definition, would be any conspiracy theory in which a Democrat (or better yet, a Clinton) is implicated and the circumstantial evidence detailed in a videotape and/or book NewsMax can sell. God forbid that liberals give conspiracy-mongering a bad name.

Which leads to an another, very disjointed Oct. 28 story which accuses Minnesota Democrats of exploiting Wellstone's death to motivate voters (as if Republicans wouldn't be doing the same thing if they were in the same situation) and cites a Fox News Channel that "shortly after Wellstone's death, Mondale was after his job," though the story provides no details of this.

The story bizarrely concludes: "Would disgraced lame-duck Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., also had an unpleasant final plane ride had he refused his party's orders to step aside for longtime enemy Frank Lautenberg?"

That's the piece of work that NewsMax is. As if we needed yet another reminder.

(Update: WorldNetDaily takes the same responsible-conspiracy-mongering attitude in an Oct. 31 story, dismissing people and writings promoting the theory that Wellstone was murdered with less-than-unbiased terms like "unabashed liberal," "partisan commentary" and "anti-Bush website." Meanwhile, it describes one person promoting the theory that Ron Brown's body had a bullet wound to the head as a "medical doctor, forensic pathologist and deputy medical examiner" and a link to its own reporting on the subject.)

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