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Recurring Themes

Kerry-bashing, Salon-bashing, journalism vs. commerce, the crippling-sanctions beat -- the ConWeb updates their greatest hits.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/19/2004

Observe something as long as ConWebWatch has, and you'll notice patterns that repeat. Here are a few recurring themes on the ConWeb of late:

Beating up on John Kerry. Some of the latest in this category includes NewsMax reporting that his classmates at Yale didn't like him, WorldNetDaily picks up a Drudge Report item alleging swear words on Kerry's campaign site (you'd think after getting burned on the affair thing, WND would stay away from Drudge).

Going hand in hand with beating up on Kerry is giving voice to anyone willing to do just that and obscuring relevant details about their background. Which is where Ted Sampley comes in.

The head of Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry has a checkered past, though you wouldn't know it if all you read was the ConWeb. Not only does he have an arrest record -- specifically, a conviction for misdemeanor assault for attacking an aide to Sen. John McCain, who calls him "one of the most despicable people I have ever had the misfortune to encounter" -- Sampley is also the source of the McCain-as-Manchurian-candidate meme that Paul Weyrich tried to spread in the 2000 Republican presidential primary when McCain was surging against George W. Bush. (Sampley has his own rambling defense on the whole issue.)

But you'll hardly find any of that on the ConWeb. featured Sampley prominently in a Feb. 19 story on the anti-war book Kerry helped write in 1971, and Weyrich defends Sampley in a 2000 piece that followed his Manchurian-candidate column. WorldNetDaily also promoted Sampley's group.

NewsMax, surprisingly, did redo a New York Times piece that looks at Sampley's past. But a Wes Vernon-penned story mentions Sampley without noting his past, and in another article, "NewsMax gratefully acknowledges the help of U.S. Veteran Dispatch editor Ted Sampley for supplying McCain's revealing 1973 account in U.S. News." NewsMax also ran the uncritical CNS article and Weyrich's two Manchurian-candidate columns.

Fund-raising at WorldNetDaily. As often as WND begs its readers for money -- once a month, at least -- you'd never know that it's a for-profit business.

This time around, the honor of the monthly begging goes to WND vice president and managing editor David Kupelian, trying to talk readers into dropping $39.95 for a year's subscription to its Whistleblower despite the fact that t least some of its content ultimately ends up on the WND Web site.

Kupelian spreads the usual balderdash about WND being "the world's leading independent English-language news website" then turns maudlin: "If I could convey to you the tireless and inspired leadership of our CEO Joseph Farah, and if I described the endless sacrifices, difficulties, attacks and trials we constantly encounter on seemingly every side, my appeal would be more emotionally compelling."

Kupelian also says this: "We serve as your watchdog on government 365 days a year. We guard your priceless freedoms by aggressively exposing corruption and evil everywhere, and by championing good."

This from a Web site that has printed four times as many original stories spreading false rumors of a John Kerry affair than about George W. Bush's National Guard record. As for "aggressively exposing corruption and evil everywhere," WND equals its Bush-guard output by running exactly one original news story to date about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame apparently by Bush administration officials. So much for being "your watchdog on government."

And let's not forget selling stuff -- that's something WND does pretty aggressively, too. Kupelian doesn't mention that; of course, selling stuff is the whole point of his piece.

NewsMax, another for-profit business, has also been trying its hand at fund-raising, too, begging readers to buy subscriptions to its magazine for their local libraries.

"NewsMax Magazine is the antidote to the liberal media," CEO Christopher Ruddy writes. "When the liberal media blames President Bush for the economy and homeland security – NewsMax has taken the lead in pointing out that President Bush inherited a recession and September 11."

Unlike WND, NewsMax is at least making it somewhat worthwhile to contribute to its silliness (wasn't Bush president on 9/11, thereby precluding him from "inheriting" it?). Contributors need only pay $20 for their library subscription, and, Ruddy writes, "we'll match that and send a subscription to the library of your choice."

If getting its magazine into libraries is so important to NewsMax, why doesn't it just send it to 'em for free?

Beating up on NewsMax, WorldNetDaily and the Media Research Center have taken their whacks at them in the past; now it's's turn. It took notice March 10 when "liberal website" Salon beefed up its political coverage and hired Sid Blumenthal to run its new Washington bureau. Reporter Robert Bluey also made sure to include the requisite Republican attack:

The Republican National Committee was quick to rebut's new approach. Spokeswoman Mary Ellen Grant questioned whether people would take the website seriously with Blumenthal overseeing news content.

"They're going to have a lot of trouble passing themselves off as a legitimate news organization with a former Clinton administration official heading up the Washington bureau," she said.

If former political operatives running news organizations is such a credibility problem, why doesn't Grant (or CNS, for that matter) seem bothered by Roger Ailes running Fox News?

The 'crippling sanctions' beat. A March 5 WorldNetDaily story, the latest in a series of WND stories on this issue, delivers the bad news: The United States Justice Foundation faces bankruptcy, according to its president, because of the frivolous motions it has filed in court against Planned Parenthood. At this point, the unbylined story (previous stories on the issue had Art Moore's byline) doesn't even bother to present Planned Parenthood's side of the story beyond a summary that USJF's charges "are frivolous," but one can assume a much more comprehensive argument than that was made in order for both a judge and a state appeals court to rule against USJF.

The true purpose of the story, though, is revealed at the end: "Editor's note: Contributions to the United States Justice Foundation can be made by calling (760) 741-8086 or sending a check to: USJF, 2091 E. Valley Parkway, Ste. 1-C, Escondido, CA 92027."

Lying about Al Gore. After all these years, lying about Al Gore is still a goldmine for conservatives. Columnist Ron Marr writes in a Kerry-bashing column March 18 that "As time goes on, John Kerry seems to be exhibiting traits frighteningly similar to the delusions of Al 'I invented the Internet' Gore." Which, of course, Gore never said.

If Marr can't get such a widely known, easily verified detail correct, why believe anything else he has to say?

Collision of journalism and commerce. A March 18 WorldNetDaily story on a lawsuit filed by Jesse Lee Peterson against Jesse Jackson plugs Peterson's Jackson-bashing book without mentioning that WND published it. It also fails to note that Peterson is a member of WND's speakers bureau. WND has done this before.

Then and Now (One of ConWebWatch's own recurring themes, though in this case it's Now and Now ... and Now):

"On NBC News on February 4, Kerry equated Bush’s Guard service with deserters and draft dodgers: 'If people went to Canada, or if people opposed the war, or if people chose to be in the Guard, that's their choice, and I’ve never raised that as an issue.' No reporter found it noteworthy that Kerry was doing exactly that."

-- Brent Bozell, Media Research Center, Feb. 12

"On Tuesday’s Good Morning America, ABC co-host Charles Gibson pressed conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity ... Gibson also charged: 'But when you equate liberalism with terrorism and despotism, that's going awfully far?' But Hannity never equated them -- his book’s title, Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism, just lists them together as things to be defeated."

-- Brent Baker, Media Research Center, Feb. 19

"In NewsMax's "Hannity's Crusade" you'll find out:
-- Why Hannity decided to take off his gloves and equate liberalism with terrorism and despotism – an act that shocked the media ..."

-- NewsMax promotion for an interview
in its magazine with Sean Hannity, March 17

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