Share and Smear Alike
NewsMax and CNSNews.com are running the same columns and regurgitating the same ideas. Are they using protection?
By Terry Krepel
It's never a good sign when a news organization starts to look like NewsMax, but CNSNews.com has been sharing NewsMax columns and ideas.
Both recently shared a Kerry-bashing meme: that Bill Clinton's campaigning for John Kerry is a sign that Kerry's campaign is desperate.
"A desperate-sounding John Kerry said Tuesday that ex-president Bill Clinton would cut short his recuperation from heart surgery to join him on the campaign trail within days," wrote NewsMax on Oct. 19. "Following the announcement that former President Bill Clinton would return to the campaign trail after six weeks of recovery from heart surgery, a Republican pollster Wednesday said it showed Sen. John Kerry was desperate," wrote CNSNews.com on Oct. 21. NewsMax followed up with a claim by writer Chuck Noe that "Sen. John Kerry’s decision to have Bill Clinton and Al Gore campaign for him could cost him the election if recent history is any indication."
CNS and NewsMax have also recently shared columns with partisanship so lazy that they contain major factual errors. Both ran a anti-Kerry column Oct. 19 by conservative icon Paul Weyrich that claimed that testimony at the 1971 Winter Soldier investigation, from which Kerry drew parts of his Senate testimony later that year, was "proven ... false." It hasn't, at least not credibly, as ConWebWatch and Media Matters of America have documented. (Full disclosure: I wrote the article on Weyrich for Media Matters.)
Weyrich also claims the Winter Soldier investigation was "conducted by Kerry and Jane Fonda." Wrong again -- Fonda apparently did not attend (though she did help fund it), and Kerry merely served as a moderator on one panel of witnesses who testified.
On Sept. 23, NewsMax and CNS shared another opinion piece, this time by Peter Flaherty defending House majority leader Tom DeLay against allegations that a DeLay-directed organization illegally steered corporate donations to Texas legislative candidates in 2002. Like Weyrich, Flaherty is so eager to attack he gets his facts wrong.
First, he claims that the Texas district attorney who indicted DeLay's aides in the case, Ronnie Earle, is "a Democrat with a history of bringing politically motivated indictments" against Republicans, citing one case against then-Texas state treasurer and current U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. In fact, Earle has indicted Democrats as well, including the man who ran against Hutchison in the 1996 Senate campaign. A Houston Chronicle editorial notes that "[t]he record does not support allegations that Earle is prone to partisan witch hunts." And Earle is looking into charges against a Texas Democrat similar to those he filed against DeLay's aides.
Flaherty also claims that "Some of the enmity directed at DeLay results from his success in the Texas redistricting. It is rank hypocrisy to suggest that his actions are unprecedented or inappropriate." No, it's not; the mid-decade redistricting that DeLay spearheaded in Texas was highly unusual. According to blogger Joshua Micah Marshall, The last time a non-court-ordered mid-decade redistricting occurred was in the 1950s.
States adjust their congressional district boundaries once a decade, after each census. The Texas Legislature couldn't agree on boundaries, so a federal court drew the boundaries in 2002. The Texas Legislature became majority Republican in the 2002 election, which prompted the re-redistricting.
Flaherty also throws in former Democratic Rep. Phil Burton of California, the alleged "King of Redistricting," as a defense of DeLay's gerrymandering. While it's true that Burton did indeed lead the creation of oddly shaped congressional districts in California -- he called it his "contribution to modern art" -- it's also irrelevant to the issue; Burton never redrew districts mid-decade like DeLay did.
Interestingly, the bio at the end of Flaherty's article notes that he is "President of the National Legal and Policy Center, a foundation promoting ethics in public life." Interesting that the head of a group that claims to be "promoting ethics in public life" would spin so, well, unethically.
Flaherty wrote his opinion piece before DeLay was admonished twice in one week by the House ethics committee for violations -- one of which involved using the Federal Aviation Administration to hunt for Texas Democratic legislators who fled the state in a bid to stall DeLay's re-redistricting. We haven't heard a peep out of Flaherty about that, and there's no mention of it on the NLPC web site. Flaherty's "ethics" seem to be highly selective.
All we can do about all this idea-sharing between NewsMax and CNSNews.com is hope one of them is wearing a condom.