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Update: NewsMax Loves Tabloids (Again)

The longtime love-hate relationship returns to love. Plus: A mixed record on ConWeb political endorsements, an irrelevant story at, NewsMax spins first and tells the truth later, and more.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/9/2004

NewsMax can't decide how it feels about those supermarket tabloids -- it vacillates from love (when they're picking on Democrats) to hate (when they're picking on Republicans). It all has to do with the whims of the moment and whether NewsMax needs a friend or someone to kick around -- not the healthiest basis for a relationship, even though NewsMax got its start with tabloid-like levels of sensationalism (and accuracy).

The last time we visited this issue, NewsMax was disparaging the National Enquirer for allegedly paying the source of allegations that right-wing talker Rush Limbaugh was addicted to painkillers. "The Enquirer's credibility has a mixed record," NewsMax declared last October.

Well, guess what? NewsMax has changed its tune yet again -- this time to promote a new book by Iain Calder about his 20 years running the Enquirer (on sale at the NewsMax store, of course).

NewsMax recruited Phil Brennan (whom we last saw making a contribution to the Democrat-Nazi comparison list) to write a puff-piece interview. The book "has been released with rave reviews from the mainstream press that regularly deride the tabloids," Brennan gushes. "Calder's book is a tour-de-force of the exciting, news-as-entertainment world America lives through on cable news today."

No concerns about a "mixed record" of credibility here. When Calder states that "our millions and millions and millions of readers knew that we did not make up stories, that hand-on-heart we believed our stories," Brennan doesn't challenge it. (By the way, we're still waiting for an apology-slash-correction from NewsMax CEO Christopher Ruddy for his bogus, tabloid-sourced, Clinton-bashing story of a few years back.)

NewsMax's relationship with newfound buddy Calder goes beyond mere puffery -- he's available through NewsMax's speakers bureau (as is Brennan). There's even a testimonial from Calder on the effectiveness of NewsMax's PR "machine" (their quote marks, not ours). Its PR rep Sandy Frazier, he said, "got me interviewed on so many radio stations in such a short time, I had to beg her to slow down!"

This feeling of love from one tabloid to another should last as long as, oh, the next time the Enquirer digs up some dirt on George W. Bush.

* * *

The ConWeb had a mixed record of endorsements of Republican candidates in the Senate race in Florida.

NewsMax came out strongly for Mel Martinez – and not just in the actual endorsement, a painfully fawning Aug. 30 piece which states, among other things, that "He will become a shining example of the new inclusive Republican party. He will not only represent Florida well in the Senate but a symbol to all of us of the American dream."

An Aug. 18 article, written by Kevin Curran, looks like a regular news article but is filled with unattributed statements like, "The best candidate is shaping up to be Mel Martinez, President Bush's former housing secretary." An Aug. 14 "Inside Cover" story declares that "Clearly, the best candidate is Mel Martinez, President Bush's former HUD secretary." It goes on to complain about the other candidates in the race, saying that “we have been disappointed by some of their efforts to torpedo Martinez and curry favor with the liberal media" despite the fact that Martinez has been at least as nasty, to the point where one large Florida newspaper withdrew its endorsement of him (of which, as you'd expect, no mention can be found on NewsMax).

It's highly reminiscent of NewsMax's heavy, campaign law-bending promotion of New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith in 2002, which offered the same type of endorsements thinly disguised as news stories.

Martinez won the Republican nomination in the Aug. 31 primary. Another endorsed candidate, well, didn't.

WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah, in an Aug. 26 column, endorsed Larry Klayman, the former head of Judicial Watch. "Larry Klayman is an American hero," Farah wrote. "I don't make that statement lightly. I don't make that statement frequently. But I make it without any reservations about Larry Klayman."

Klayman finished seventh in the eight-candidate race, gaining just 1.1 percent of the vote. Surprisingly, WND -- which has a history of ignoring negative things about causes and people it likes, including playing down much of Klayman's Judicial Watch work when it was targeted at people not named Clinton -- found a shred of journalistic integrity and reported it to its readers.

* * *

Most irrelevant story of the week: A quite long Aug. 31 story on what Vietnamese people living in Australia think of John Kerry. What, they couldn't get anyone on this continent to issue forth more Kerry-bashing?

Yet it does dovetail nicely with CNS managing editor David Thibault's own opinions of Kerry, which he has conveniently detailed in a Sept. 1 column. One paragraph starts: "The reason why I believe John Kerry is unfit to be U.S. commander in chief is..."

That pretty much sets the overall tone for CNS' election coverage. Caveat emptor.

* * *

WorldNetDaily isn't the only one letting common sense and sound journalistic practices go out the window when it comes to John Kerry. NewsMax writer Paige McKenzie has apparently been taking pointers from fellow writer Jon Dougherty, for she turned in an ultra-long Aug. 19 piece that endeavors to summarize the WND-published book "The Many Faces of John Kerry" by David Bossie for which the only source is, you guessed it, Bossie.

Thus McKenzie repeats, without any evidence of doing her own research, every factually questionable allegation of Bossie's she can squeeze into the story, from the canard about Kerry being the "number one most liberal senator" to the claim that "Kerry has opposed preventive legislation for the threat of nuclear war" (not true -- Massachusetts has a comprehensive disaster plan that Kerry put together; he was opposed only to the impractical relocation of large masses of people).

And of course, there's no mention at all of Bossie's checkered record of accuracy and questionable behavior, which WorldNetDaily itself documented before it got into bed with him for a double dose of Clinton- and Kerry-bashing.

Nevertheless, McKenzie blindly plows ahead, breathlessly concluding: "This is a candidate who believes he is entitled to the presidency and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it – even if that means sacrificing America itself." How would she know? Near as we can tell, all she has read on the subject of Kerry is Bossie's book -- not exactly reliable.

* * *

Shoot first, ask questions later, the old saying goes. At NewsMax, it's spin first, tell the truth later.

"House Speaker Dennis Hastert today responded to a letter from billionaire and left-wing political activist George Soros," starts a Sept. 1 piece, which reproduces the entirety of Hastert's letter, puts Hastert's description of Soros as "dangerous, extreme and wrong" in the headline -- but doesn't say why Hastert felt the need to write the letter in the first place, confusing whatever readers it has that care about those kinds of things.

That comes the next day, with an article headlined "Soros Threatens to Sue Hastert," which finally explains what the heck's going on: "Hastert appeared on 'Fox News Sunday' with Chris Wallace and suggested that Soros might be receiving drug money." It quotes (but for some reason doesn't link to) Hastert's letter -- which was a response to Soros' demand for an apology.

So NewsMax gives us conservative-friendly chapter 3 of the story before deigning to offer up chapters 1 and 2 to explain how we got to that little slice of red meat. Meets the NewsMax standard, apparently.

* * *

We have another contender for ConWebWatch's LoBaido award for most whacked-out statement by a ConWeb commentator. This time, it's Mychal Massie in an Aug. 24 WorldNetDaily column:

"It occurs to me that radical, bloodthirsty Muslims and elitist, socialistic liberals are opposite sides of the same coin, with the same agenda."

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