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Rather Lame

NewsMax takes the credit for getting rid of CBS' Dan Rather, when all it did criticize him for things -- bias, selective reporting -- NewsMax itself has done.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/29/2004

NewsMax is so excited that Dan Rather is leaving the anchor seat at "CBS Evening News" that it's descending into delusion.

"NewsMax Led the Way in Ousting Dan Rather," cried the headline of a Nov. 23 story. (Accuracy in Media and certain bloggers would beg to differ.) It states: " Throughout its five-year history, and our print magazine, NewsMax Magazine, have revealed Rather’s attempts to slant the news and his other unethical antics. One of our top agenda items was holding Dan Rather accountable." (This from a "news" organization that publishes writers who regularly complain about the "liberal" media having an "agenda.")

NewsMax then reviews its anti-Rather coverage, starting with the headline of a 2001 issue of NewsMax's magazine calling Rather "America’s Most Biased Newsman." Apparently, no NewsMax employee has read NewsMax itself, or it might have calculated that ranking differently.

This is followed by NewsMax recounting its Rather-bashing record, painting it as "crusading reporting." Hardly -- unless you confuse hopelessly biased partisan attacks with "crusading reporting." ConWebWatch debunked much of it as it occurred.

The first thing NewsMax cites, tellingly, is the results of a worthless, unreliable opt-in poll "asking if the sinking anchorman should resign" that "gained national media attention, including from the leading wire service, AP." That NewsMax lists this first indicates that NewsMax cares a lot more about self-promotion than about fair, accurate journalism.

NewsMax cites what it calls "[t]he most infamous example of Rather’s partisan bias: Although he jumped at the chance to smear America’s Republican president with the bogus 'documents,' for months he refused to join NBC, ABC, FNC, CNN and other news media in covering embattled Democrat congressman Gary Condit’s link to Chandra Levy" in mid-2001, accusing Rather of an "insolent failure to report the news." Much of the "news" at that time, though, was not fact-based but instead speculation over whether Condit, a California congressman, had an affair with Levy, a staffer in Condit's office who had disappeared. (Condit later admitted having an affair with Levy, whose body was found in May 2002; Condit was never a suspect in her death but lost re-election anyway.)

As ConWebWatch noted at the time, NewsMax already had quite a history of refusing to cover things it deemed not newsworthy -- like positive news about Democrats or negative news about Republicans -- so it was difficult to see why, beyond the opportunity to push personal attacks on a Democratic congressman and a news anchor it had an "agenda" to attack, NewsMax would care about anyone else doing the exact same thing.

NewsMax also claims that it "was one of the primary promoters of and outlets for CBS whistle-blower Bernard Goldberg, and helped make best sellers of his books 'Bias' and 'Arrogance.'" That says a lot, given that someone who has actually investigated the claims Goldberg made (as opposed to NewsMax's rote reciting of them), the Daily Howler's Bob Somerby, called one of Goldberg's books "lazy, vacuous, worthless twaddle."

Yet for all of its fulminations about Rather not jumping on the all-Chandra-all-the-time bandwagon, nowhere in NewsMax's archive will you find that Condit settled a $209 million libel lawsuit against three tabloid newspapers that connected him to Levy's death. And while were on the subject of dead women employed by congressmen, NewsMax did not report a thing about the female aide found dead in a branch office run by then-congressman (and current MSNBC host) Joe Scarborough, You already know the difference: Scarborough is a conservative Republican.

NewsMax also states that it "was one of the media’s few voices to follow Rather’s racially insensitive 'Buckwheats' incident." True, but it's hardly something to be proud of.

What this silly little non-story was about: Rather said on the Don Imus radio show that his CBS bosses "got the willies, they got the buckwheats" and ordered him to report on the Condit-Levy story. As ConWebWatch noted, NewsMax ignored it for three days, then sensing the faux-outrage potential, trotted out WorldNetDaily's favorite black guy named Jesse, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, to declare Rather's statement "demeaning to African-Americans."

Yet NewsMax never went after Imus himself for his history of politically incorrect statements; in fact, a May 2000 article lamented that the liberal site had launched a "politically correct jihad" against Imus. While NewsMax seemed to agree that Imus was guilty as charged, it was not sufficiently moved to join any boycott or demand that Imus be fired. (NewsMax's main problem was that conservative radio host Bob Grant was forced to resign a radio job for saying similar things.)

The NewsMax article concludes: "NewsMax proved its worth once again by challenging a major media establishment figure." So, what is the "worth" of hypocritical, partisan attacks? If you're pretending to be a "news" organization like NewsMax, very little. And it's worth even less if you have to convince your readers that you're worth something.

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