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Update: Last-Minute Distortions

NewsMax's pre-election reports are even more slanted than usual. Plus: bin Laden's dead! No, he's alive! Wait, he's dead!; WND selectively reports poll results; error-ridden, Coulter-related schadenfreude; and more.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/3/2002

For a politically oriented "news" site, NewsMax sure does a crappy job of reporting on politics. That's because it's so blinded by its biases that anything it has to say is automatically suspect. And given that it's just before an election, we can count on NewsMax's articles to be even more biased than usual.

Take, for example, its work on the California governor's race. NewsMax was nowhere to be found when Republican Bill Simon was falsely accusing Democrat Gray Davis of taking illegal campaign contributions, but when old court documents were unsealed detailing accusations that Davis was involved in some shady fund-raising practices, NewsMax is suddenly all over it.

And isn't it interesting how the convicted felon who made the accusations against Davis is getting much more respectul treatment from NewsMax than the convicted felon who won a $78 million judgement against Simon? A Nov. 1 story states that "despite the denials and (Davis' accuser's) criminal record, the charges are being taken seriously by the California press" -- the same press NewsMax derided as "ultra-liberal" when it reported on the jury verdict against Simon.

But then, NewsMax has no consistency on matters like that; everyone and everything from Rudy Giuliani to supermarket tabloids have either been castigated or lavishly praised by NewsMax depending on their relation at any given moment to NewsMax's narrow ideological blinders.

NewsMax also applies the same selective reporting process in a Nov. 1 story on the Arkansas governor's race, in which Republican Mike Huckabee accused his Democratic opponent (on the Don Imus radio show, not in Arkansas) of being controlled by the Clintons and of mischaracterizing the paroling of a convicted rapist.

NewsMax leaves out a whole bunch of stuff here, the major item being the reason the pardon is an issue in the first place. A year after his pardon, the convicted rapist, Wayne Dumond, was accused of raping and killing a woman in Missouri -- a rather important detail here. And while NewsMax faithfully delivers Huckabee's spin that he wasn't even governor when Dumond was pardoned, his behind-the-scenes work in lobbying the state pardon board to vote for it is well documented. Instead, NewsMax offers its usual Clinton-bashing by way of noting the Dumond charges are "particularly ironic, given the still unrefuted charges that he himself raped Arkansas businesswoman Juanita Broaddrick in 1978." (Those rape charges against Ronald Reagan are "unrefuted" too, by the way.)

And then there's a Nov. 1 story by Chuck Noe on the Florida governor's race. The highlight is Noe's hilarious insistence on referring to a group known as the Emergency Committee to Stop Bill McBride, formerly known as Americans for [Jeb] Bush, as somehow "independent" for the purposes of monitoring polling places in the state (which a judge thankfully didn't buy). Is that the same brand of "independence" WorldNetDaily wants us to believe it has?

That's not all: the story continues NewsMax's exploration of the outer reaches of election law by including the following "editor's note" five times throughout the story in bold type: "The Emergency Committee to Stop Bill McBride has an urgent letter to you. Please read it – Click Here." The link takes you to another NewsMax page that looks a lot like a news article (in fact, the URL shows it's filed with the rest of the news articles) but is a solicitation letter from the Emergency Committee. The solicitation does have the legally required "paid political ad" notice at the end of it, but the links to it in the Noe story don't.

NewsMax doesn't seem to understand that as long as it wants people to think it's a "news" site, there are certain obligations that go along with that designation -- like honesty and fairness and distinct divisions between editorial content and advertising. Is that what Scaife money does?

* * *

"Bin Laden alive, well, directing al-Qaida ops" -- WorldNetDaily headline, Oct. 29.

"Source: Bin Laden 'likely dead'" -- WorldNetDaily headline, Oct. 26

"Report: CIA says bin Laden alive" -- WorldNetDaily headline, Oct. 23

"Bin Laden: Dead, alive, does it matter?" -- WorldNetDaily headline, Oct. 17

Hmmmm. What apparently doesn't matter to WND is the absurdity of running four contradictory stories in 12 days' time. That "fiercely independent" attitude WND claims to have must extend to independence from that old journalistic dictum of compiling your sources and analyzing them before you write the story, instead of giving each source its own story.

* * *

One thing we've learned to count on from WorldNetDaily reporter Jon Dougherty is seriously biased reporting. He comes through again in an Oct. 30 story on a survey that claims "more than three-fourths of Americans want U.S. immigration laws tightened to allow fewer immigrants from Arab or Muslim nations into the country."

Which is true as far as it goes, overlooking WND's selective outrage about reporting on polls. (It's worth mentioning that WND's Joseph Farah contributes a book blurb to "Mobocracy" by Matthew Robinson, the book that did much to advance the ConWeb's selective outrage about reporting on polls.) But the "Worldviews 2002" poll Dougherty's story is based on is about much more than that. You won't read about the rest of it at WorldNetDaily because it doesn't conform with WND's conservative editorial policy. Some of those WND-censored findings, according to a Worldviews press release:

  • Substantial majorities of Americans support the United States participating in the International Criminal Court (71%), the Kyoto Protocol on global warming (64%), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (81%) and the treaty banning the use of land mines (75%).
  • Fifty-one percent of Americans support giving the UN the power to fund its activities by imposing a small tax on such things as the international sale of arms or oil.
  • Americans and Europeans are much more willing to use force in a variety of scenarios, including an invasion of Iraq, when there is UN approval and multilateral involvement.
  • Seventy-one percent on Americans believe the United States should not take either side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though 58% think that the United States now generally takes Israel's side.

Dougherty is not only ignoring survey results he doesn't like, he's also a little late to the party. The survey results were released in two parts, on Sept. 4 and Oct. 2 -- the latter release a full four weeks before Dougherty's story appeared.

Must be more of that "fiercely independent" WND at work -- this time they seemed to have declared independence from timeliness, not to mention balanced reporting.

* * *

NewsMax tried its best to work up some schadenfreude when Bob Unger, the editor of what it describes as "something called the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa." -- who gained some notoriety earlier this year for denouncing the factually challenged Ann Coulter and pulling her column from the newspaper -- abruptly left his job.

In an Oct. 22 article, NewsMax insists the Coulter incident got him fired, despite assertions to the contrary by Unger and his former publisher and a statement by the publisher that Unger's departure doesn't mean Coulter's column is returning. But lack of supporting evidence hasn't stopped NewsMax in the past. Thus unburdened by the facts, NewsMax went on to declare:

Unger has learned the hard way what a lot of leftists have learned: Don't monkey around with Ann Coulter. Left-wing editors of small newspapers trying to attract attention to themselves and boost their egos by sniping at nationally prominent hard-nosed conservatives such as Coulter usually end up no longer being left-wing editors of small papers.

NewsMax also offered a link to a column by Richard Poe, who works for David Horowitz's FrontPage online magazine, saying essentially the same thing -- Unger got fired, so don't mess with Ann Coulter. (Don't bother posting to his forum; I tried there recently to solicit Poe's comments on Coulter's documented errors and distortions following another Coulter lovefest he wrote, but for some reason, my comments never appeared. Maybe he's afraid to mess with Coulter too.)

Making assertions based on "facts" you can't document (also known as "lies") is typically a firing offense at most every newsroom in the country. But obviously not at NewsMax and FrontPage.

* * *

A bit of hypocrisy that arrived too late to apear in the most recent edition of "Profiles in Hypocrisy":

In his Oct. 25 WorldNetDaily column looking at the Senate race in Missouri, David Limbaugh spends part of it criticizing the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (excuse me, "the notoriously liberal St. Louis Post-Dispatch") for its word usage in why it endorsed Democrat Jean Carnahan over her Repubican opponent, Jim Talent. "(I)f you are familiar with the ideological proclivities of that newspaper, you will understand that to its editorial board, 'conservative' is a cuss word. And we know that 'staunch' means 'steadfast' or 'unswerving,'" he wrote.

And what "cuss word" does Limbaugh use to describe Carnahan? Detect the pattern:

  • "Carnahan is a liberal in the mold of Tom Daschle and Missouri's own Dick Gephardt."
  • "(D)on't be deceived by efforts to sanitize her liberalism."
  • "I'm sure Mrs. Carnahan is a fine person. But she's very liberal – just check her record."

People who attack others for using political "cuss words" really ought to know better than to use their own political "cuss words" in the attack.

* * *

The Media Research Center has thus far refused to correct its erroneous reporting of Al Gore's speech critical of Bush administration policies on Iraq -- in fact, another conservative joins the misinterpretation pile.

Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media recycle the inaccurate Fox News slant of Gore's speech in an Oct. 10 article. "Gore claimed that he felt betrayed by the "Bush administration’s hasty departure from the battlefield" after the Gulf war. Fox News promptly ran a quote from a Gore 1991 Senate speech lauding Bush’s father for complying with the U.N. mandate that called only for driving Iraqi troops from Kuwait," they write.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, Fox News selectively used sound bites to make Gore look contradictory, based on spin that came straight from the Republican National Committee. Gore was referring to Bush's abandonment of internal opposition to Saddam Hussein, not the end of the Gulf War.

Slate's Timothy Noah figured it out and sort of apologized for misinterpreting Gore. Will the organization that professes to care about "accuracy" so much the word is part of its name do the same?

Naaaah. Accuracy in Media's concern for accuracy doesn't apply to non-conservatives.

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