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Back Into the Mud

Behind NewsMax's thin veneer of "diverse" respectability lies the same folks who want you to believe that Democrats steal elections and that Tammy Bruce is a liberal.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/9/2004

We knew NewsMax's bid for respectability would crumble eventually.

It dumped the suspect Moonie-owned UPI as its wire service in favor of the more credible Associated Press. It has tried taking a few halting steps toward evenhandedness in analysis, as with a recent magazine article series on Howard Dean. And apparently not to be outdone by Joseph Farah's silly, Slantie-worthy claim that WorldNetDaily is "a general interest news service," NewsMax editor Christopher Ruddy wrote Jan. 7 that his site is diverse because it has published columns by Hillary Clinton, former New York mayor Edward Koch and Tammy Bruce.

But beneath that veneer of seriousness lay the black, raging, partisan heart that has beat all along, the one that delighted in reporting every salacious rumor about Democrats in general and the Clintons in particular in disregard of all established standards of journalism. (Assignment for the still skeptical: Find a story about Neil Bush and his shenanigans on NewsMax. You won't; you will, however, find plenty about Roger Clinton.)

A piece of that black, we-don't-give-a-damn-about-journalism heart surfaced in a Jan. 5 story by "Carl Limbacher and Staff," full of innuendo and slander and short on facts.

The story is about a man named John Thune deciding to run for Senate in South Dakota against Tom Daschle. Why is this slander-worthy news to NewsMax? Because Thune lost an election to Tim Johnson in 2002 to South Dakota's other Senate seat. Thune lost by only 524 votes, and Republicans, including the National Review, fueled speculation that there was vote fraud.

Or, as NewsMax put it, "Thune would have unseated Sen. Tim Johnson in 2002 if Democrats hadn't bribed American Indians, given multiple names before voting and perpetrated their other usual forms of vote fraud."

The problem? None of that was ever proven.

Republicans secured three affidavits from residents of the Rosebud Indian Reservation claiming that they were paid $10 to vote. But state Attorney General Mark Barrett -- a Republican, by the way -- concluded that two of the affidavits were false, and the third was suspect due to an apparently forged signature, according to an article on a state politics site. In addition, each affidavit was preworded by Republican lawyers, and the residents merely signed it. The woman who obtained the residents' signatures "carried a stack of the (preworded) documents in her travels," according to the article.

Those vote-buying charges were the most serious of the most serious of allegations of irregularities made in 50 affidavits turned over to Barnett by lawyers for Thune, according to the article The rest of the complaints are minor issues for local officials to deal with or evidence of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote efforts, which were apparently too effective for Republicans' tastes.

The meme NewsMax is trying to advance here, in case you haven't noticed, is that Democrats steal elections. Or to be precise, as David Horowitz puts it, "Democrats steal 2 percent to 3 percent of the vote in a typical election." NewsMax really seems to believe this stuff, facts notwithstanding.

And Ruddy seems to really believe that Koch and Bruce are liberals despite the fact that Bruce is merely a conservative posing as a contrarian liberal and Koch recently wrote a column on why he's voting for Bush and another on "the wisdom of President Bush." Of the 31 "pundits" currently listed on NewsMax's front page, none of them are what anyone outside of the right-wing conservatives that make up the overwhelming majority of NewsMax's readership -- not to mention NewsMax's staff -- would think of as liberal. (And Hillary isn't one of them.) Ruddy thinks this is diverse?

In publishing Hillary, Koch and Bruce, Ruddy writes in his Jan. 7 column, "NewsMax is not endorsing their views. We simply agree to disagree. We simply state that America is a land of diversity and that as Americans we are not afraid of differing opinions."

Gee, is that why NewsMax makes an effort to give anyone and everyone a platform to insult Democrats and liberals every chance it gets? Like calling Wesley Clark "traitorous," "opportunistic," "grandstanding," "more like a leader of a Pinko Parade," a "self-promoting egotist" with "unsettling beady eyes" and "a four-star jackass." (In the same article, mind you.) Like denouncing the entirely reasonable (not to mention accurate) assessment by a former Clinton administration official that the capture of Saddam Hussein won't have "a near-term positive effect on security" simply because a former Clinton administration official said it. Like distorting stories about Paul Wellstone after his death. Like refusing to criticize Republicans for something they did, like lead passage of the USA Patriot Act, as Ruddy once did. Like publishing anything Norman Liebmann writes.

Not to mention the longstanding deliberate avoidance of fact that clash with preconceived attitudes -- like that South Dakota story.

Yes, the NewsMax that once declared that "Real Americans support (Bush) 100 percent" and accused anyone insufficiently complementary of him of treason now proclaims it's tolerant of the views of others.

Ruddy's column only gets better when he writes: "Our 'conservative' readers don’t seem to be afraid of views that oppose their own. What they – and I – fear is a world that makes certain viewpoints unacceptable and the people who hold them anathema."

Isn't that what NewsMax's goal has been for lo these many years?

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