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Update: Wall? What Wall?

WorldNetDaily pretends an ad is a news story. Plus: WND also pretends gossipy speculation about Yasser Arafat is news, NewsMax balks at issuing a correction, NewsMax's California correspondent returns with more distortions, and more.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/18/2004

From the decidedly dishonest WorldNetDaily, more dishonesty: obliterating the time-honored wall between news and advertising by disguising an ad as a news story.

The object of sale is a newsletter by Jack Wheeler, whom a Nov. 9 ad/story, promoted as a "WorldNetDaily Exclusive," lauds as a man "whose death-defying adventures span the globe and whose achievements have inspired wide-ranging acclaim." The article starts off allegedly being "a positive, historically relevant analysis of the election" on which he claims "the days of 'Clintonian childish perversity' are behind us."

But at paragraph six, the WND article notes that the full analysis is "[a]vailable only to subscribers of "To the Point," Wheeler's newsletter, and from then on the "story" is a plug for Wheeler and his newsletter, which will set you back $95 a year.

Said plug includes all sorts of odd details about Wheeler's odd life, including such tidbits as allegedly being "the youngest person to climb the Matterhorn in Switzerland at age 14." (World O'Crap does a fine deconstruction of the so-called "Indiana Jones of the Right.")

WND did the same thing for Wheeler in ad/stories dated Oct. 21, Oct. 30. and Nov. 16. Each of these articles remained linked on WND's "news" page for several days. Wheeler also made an appearance on Farah's radio show, which we can only assume must have also been part of the ad buy.

Strangely, some of Wheeler's more recent escapades are not detailed by WND. As ConWebWatch has previously noted, Wheeler was a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan who slammed fellow Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan for making catty remarks about her former colleagues in a column about Reagan's funeral. Wheeler also claimed in a Washington Times op-ed that Bill and Hillary Clinton "have had a pact for decades: He gets to fool around with women, and she gets to fool around with women (plus the occasional man like Vince Foster)."

That's the kind of person WorldNetDaily likes to do business with (but WND has done business with Moonies too, so this is hardly a surprise).

WND does this frequently, it turns out: a story dated Nov. 9 (but still on the WND "news" page on Nov. 15) promotes a documentary about Civil War leaders -- Confederates, of course. Same format -- it looks like a "news" story, but it's really an ad.

WND has a history of blurring the line between news and advertising, regularly co-opting its news pages to promote the subjects of books its publishing division is releasing.

We wonder: What does a person have to pay WND to make one's ad look like a news story?

* * *

No one expected Yasser Arafat to get a fair shake from WorldNetDaily in the events leading up to his death -- heck, Joseph Farah advocated his death for years.

Whether Arafat deserved Farah's death-sentence fatwa is beyond the purview of ConWebWatch. But did Arafat deserve to get the same speculation-as-news treatment WND gave to John Kerry in the days leading up to his death?

WND's attacks on Arafat came in the form of Aaron Klein, billed as WND's "special Middle East correspondent." An Oct. 28 story by Klein alleged that Arafat was faking his illness. In a Nov. 4 story, Klein reversed course and reported that "[s]ome have been speculating Arafat might be suffering from HIV/AIDS." Those stories are short on actual facts and long on speculation and gossip, just like WND's spreading the baseless rumor earlier this year that John Kerry had an affair.

And following Arafat's death on Nov. 10, Klein penned a Nov. 12 article (presented on the "news" page) that is essentially a rebuttal to the New York Times obituary of Arafat that allegedly "gushes" over him. Again, that follows in the WND tradition of opinion as news and the belief that its interpretation of events is the only true one.

Klein, in his zeal to attack the Times, gets a couple things wrong. He insists that the "glowing obituary" whitewashed Palestinian terrorism, but the obituary's second paragraph called Arafat "a leader who rejected crucial opportunities to achieve his declared goal," the third paragraph noted that some "came to see him as undemocratic and his administration as corrupt," and the fourth paragraph pointed out that "Mr. Arafat began his long political career with high-profile acts of anti-Israel terrorism."

It seems that Klein has a quite pronounced pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian agenda in his "reporting." In other words, he's fitting in at WND just fine.

* * *

What is WorldNetDaily's aversion to full disclosure regarding the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson?

A Nov. 17 WND story shilling for donations to a home for troubled boys operated by the group that Peterson heads fails, as WND repeatedly has in previous stories, to accede to basic journalistic ethics and disclose WND's business relationship with Peterson -- namely, publisher of a book he wrote and procurer of speaking gigs for him.

Is WND that far out of the mainstream that it won't behave like most other news organizations and inform its readers of the business arrangements it has with the subjects it covers?

* * *

It's correction time at NewsMax.

An Oct. 30 NewsMax story quotes New York Times columnist David Brooks as claiming that John Kerry endorsed President Bush's tactics during an operation in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, to attempt to capture Osama bin Laden, Kerry criticized Bush during his presidential campaign for "outsourcing" the operation to Afghan forces.

In his Nov. 13 Times column, Brooks issued a correction:

Not that it will do him much good at this point, but I owe John Kerry an apology. I recently mischaracterized some comments he made to Larry King in December 2001. I said he had embraced the decision to use Afghans to hunt down Al Qaeda at Tora Bora. He did not. I regret the error.

Media Matters for America, by the way, caught Brooks' error on Nov. 1.

OK, NewsMax, it's your turn. It has been four days as of this writing since Brooks issued his correction to his reader. When will NewsMax readers see that correction, preferably displayed in the front-page "Inside Cover" column as the original story was?

* * *

Patrick Mallon served as a hopelessly biased special correspondent for NewsMax during the 2002 election for California governor. As ConWebWatch documented, he downplayed major screw-ups by Republican candidate Bill Simon in favor of continual attacks on Democrat Gray Davis and attacked journalists who reported the truth of Simon's foundering campaign as Democrat shills.

Mallon has returned with a self-published book called "California Dictatorship: How Liberal Extremism Destroyed Gray Davis." Mallon claims in a Nov. 12 NewsMax column-cum-book promo that his book is "dedicated to empowering fainthearted independent and conservative voters who have long been discouraged by the communal tyranny and social demolition of political correctness."

"I ignore the taboos of elite, mainstream journalism and dissect California's liberal dysfunction, exposing how a monopoly of Democratic Party ideologues exploited their unchecked power to bulldoze into law hugely unpopular policies," Mallon writes. In other words, the attack on Gray Davis continues, with presumably the same respect for the truth he demonstrated in his NewsMax dispatches.

Mallon provides chapter summaries from his book. One reads: "The Electricity Crisis: As Davis addictively raised campaign cash, he dodged his duties and laid the blame on both the utility companies and the wholesale energy providers, while angry residents pointed fingers at the governor, renaming the blackouts 'gray-outs.'"

But utility companies and wholesale energy providers did cause the California electricity crisis. Audiotapes released earlier this year capture Enron energy traders deliberately driving up wholesale electricity prices by ordering power plants shut down through secret deals with power producers. And the deregulation policy that made Enron's manipulations possible was signed into law by Davis' predecessor, Republican Pete Wilson.

If the rest of Mallon's book is as misleading as his chapter summaries, it would be ... just what we'd expect from him.

* * *

Let's play Then and Now:

"'Big Brother is watching you.' You've heard the saying before, but a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union warns you're about to be watched by Big Brother like never before."

-- WorldNetDaily, Jan. 16, 2003
(as previously noted by ConWebWatch)

"The ACLU is never going to change. It is an anti-American organization. It is a group that seeks to destroy all that makes America a unique experiment in freedom. It is an organization in league with all of America's enemies. It is an organization that hates God, hates what is right, decent and morally upright. It is an organization in league with the Devil, as far as I am concerned."

-- Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily editor and CEO, Nov. 17

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