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The Revenge Motive

The ConWeb's reaction to conservative media bias shows what it cares about -- and it's not journalism.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/18/2004

Two recent examples of conservative media bias -- the fake Kerry-bashing story written by Fox News Channel reporter Carl Cameron and posted briefly on Fox News' web site on October 1, and Sinclair Broadcast Group's plan to air an inaccurate and biased anti-Kerry documentary -- provided an opportunity for the ConWeb to denounce media bias in all its forms, not just that it attributes to liberals.

Yeah, right.

NewsMax, WorldNetDaily,, the Media Research Center and Accuracy in Media have devoted exactly zero original stories to the Carl Cameron fake-story case. Had Cameron worked for, say, CBS and written a similar tweaking of President Bush that got posted to the CBS web site, the howling of the ConWeb would be as loud and endless as its current round of bashing of perennial conservative target Dan Rather.

The MRC demanded that "CBS must immediately suspend anchor Dan Rather, producer Mary Mapes and all other staff involved" in the controversy of apparently forged documents regarding President Bush's National Guard service, and Brent Bozell branded the report a "political attack." WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah called Rather "a frustrated political activist, not a newsman" and "a fraud. He's always been a fraud. He has no integrity. He's a partisan shill." Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid wrote a Oct. 12 column titled "Biased and Mean Reporters," coming to the following conclusion about one reporter covering Vice President Dick Cheney: "She clearly despises him."

But not a peep from any of these folks about Cameron putting words like "Women should like me! I do manicures" in Kerry's mouth, which could certainly be considered a "political attack" by a journalist and a sign that Cameron "clearly despises" Kerry.

Cameron has a lengthy record of biased reporting, which the ConWeb doesn't seem terribly eager to address. Yet it's terribly concerned about bias when it can be branded as liberal. In an Oct. 14 article in David Horowitz's, Lowell Ponte attacks the politics of Mark Halperin, political director for ABC News, for issuing a memo saying, in essence, that Bush should be held to greater media accountability for his election distortions than Kerry because Bush's distortions are greater, and the media shouldn't "reflexively and artificially hold both sides ‘equally’ accountable when the facts don’t warrant that."

Ponte's way of doing that is to brand Halperin "the red-diaper baby of hard-Left-connected controversial foreign policy specialist Morton Halperin" and spend much of his article attacking Morton Halperin. Ponte never seriously addresses the point Mark Halperin raised in his memo; all he cares about is cranking out yet another liberal-media-is-evil screed.

The same ConWeb attitude exists with the Sinclair controversy. If a broadcast network had announced plans to broadcast Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," the ConWeb would be screaming about "equal time" in the exact same manner the Democrats are about Sinclair's planned broadcast of "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal."

The ConWeb, of course, screamed a lot about "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- a search for the title in the WorldNetDaily archives, for example, turns up 68 hits. Conservatives tried to intimidate theaters into not showing it and tried to stop the movie from being advertised. Keep that in mind when you read things, like at NewsMax, about John Kerry being allegedly "angry and worried" about Sinclair's plan -- that claimed reaction sounds just like conservatives upon the release of "Fahrenheit 9/11." (And by the way, conservatives in the past couple months have come up with not one, not two, but three films attacking Moore and "Fahrenheit 9/11.")

NewsMax, meanwhile, appears to have a little financial stake in making "Stolen Honor" a success. It's hosting a web page that allows people to contribute money to "distribute this video to opinion makers across America, to advertise the availability of this video/DVD and seek to air TV commercials and/or broadcasts of this critically important program." And NewsMax is giving all donors four free issues of the factually dubious NewsMax magazine. In addition, the address provided for anyone who would rather contribute by mail is NewsMax's, not the production company's.

Perhaps, in the spirit of full disclosure, NewsMax needs to divulge the details of this business arrangement and explain how this, as well as its advocacy of the film, does not violate election regulations. (Yes, we see that the production company is described as "a for-profit Pennsylvania corporation"; still, "Stolen Honor" is, for all intents and purposes, a political attack ad.)

NewsMax, meanwhile, makes a massive leap in logic in an Oct. 12 article, comparing Sinclair's plans -- which NewsMax insists is not "even remotely illegal" -- to the CBS-Bush documents controversy by suggesting that someone at CBS forged those questionable documents. The article notes that "not a single CBS News staffer has been fired -- even though forging military records is a federal felony punishable by up to 20 years in jail" despite the fact that no CBS employee has been accused of forging documents.

And Brent Bozell doesn't have the same enthusiasm for enforcing federal broadcast regulations on political content as he does on allegedly indecent content, so thus far he's been silent on Sinclair.

Could all this defensive behavior toward Sinclair -- and complete silence about Fox's Cameron -- after years of complaining of similar behavior by other news organizations (and the current attacks on Rather and others) be because the ConWeb cares more about political revenge than journalism? About making the alleged liberal media squirm over creating a better news product?

If so, that doesn't make the ConWeb any more credible, and certainly no better, than the news organizations they've been attacking for lo these many years. Ultimately, the ConWeb has nothing to offer except a different flavor of bias. That hardly makes for good or trustworthy journalism.

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