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If Only Biased Reporting Was Illegal

WorldNetDaily's Slantie-winning reporter turns author. Plus: WND fawns over Katherine Harris again, and more violations of journalism and/or common sense.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/16/2004

Jon Dougherty, WorldNetDaily's Slantie-winning king of the one-source story, has penned a new book called "Illegals" (pubished by WND Books, natch). Promoted in typical WND fashion with the requisite press release posing as a news story, it's about "the hard truth that both major political parties have missed – namely, that sustained high immigration levels from south of the border will continue to pose economic, labor, security and criminal threats to the United States, unless American and Mexican leaders find ways to limit it."

WND its doing its part to promote the book by slanting stories on WND's news page to reflect its content (remember Paul Sperry?), such as a Jan. 17 story with the alarming headline "4 illegal aliens gang-rape woman in NYC."

WND also offers the requisite book excerpt, which seems to demonstrate that the kind of one-sided work we've come to expect from Dougherty at WND has found its way into the book. In the tradition of his making an anti-abortion extremist come off as merely misunderstood, Dougherty plays T-ball with the spokesman for a group called Ranch Rescue, a "citizen border group" whose stated goal is to "stem the daily flow of illegal aliens over America's southern border in the absence of adequate government patrols." It can probably be assumed that Dougherty didn't see fit to include any dissenting views of Ranch Rescue in his book, such as that of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which calls Ranch Rescue "a group of vigilantes ... They conduct paramilitary operations and equip themselves with high-powered assault rifles, handguns, night-vision devices, two-way radios, observation posts, flares, machetes, all-terrain vehicles, and trained attack dogs." The head of Ranch Rescue's Arizona branch, Casey Nethercott, was arrested for allegedly pistol-whipping and holding a Salvadoran couple against their will. Dougherty probably didn't put that in his book, either, especially since he quotes his Ranch dude as saying, "In every case, the one standard that we apply is that everything we do be within the law." (Dougherty lobs another softball to him on the vigilantism allegation, allowing him to dismiss it as "an uninformed opinion."

Also likely missing from Dougherty's book is what exactly Nethercott's Arizona operation is putting together -- which, according to local reports, seems to be a paramilitary operation, complete with guard towers, bunkers, barracks, a helicopter landing pad and indoor weapons range, not to mention gun-mounted dune buggies and .50-caliber sniper rifles with a range of up to two miles. As blogger David Neiwert (where all this first appeared) points out, "why, exactly, does it need a sniper rifle that can kill from two miles away?"

Another thing worth noting is that both the WND PR article and the book excerpt calls Dougherty a "veteran journalist."

The problem here is that, according to his bio, nothing Dougherty did before arriving at WorldNetDaily -- paramedic, poet, radio talk show host and producer -- falls under the category of journalism. (His bio on the WND Books site additionally notes that he "published and edited a daily web-based newspaper, USA Journal"; a Google search shows no evidence of anything with that currently existing, so it's impossible to judge how much, if any, actual journalistic endeavor was involved.) And Dougherty's record at WND -- which involve a lot of rewriting press releases and puffing up or tearing down people with one-sided articles based on WND's conservative slant -- can be called a lot of things, but journalism ain't one of 'em.

* * *

A Jan. 8 story on "Dems still crying foul over Florida vote," written by John Berlau through WND's partnership with Moonie-owned Insight magazine, is hilariously slanted. The goal of it is to ridicule Democrat claims that had all presidential votes in Florida been counted properly, Al Gore would have won the state and the presidency.

The meat of the article (in other words, the reason for its existence) is apparently answers to questions about the election released by the office of Katherine Harris, then Florida secretary of state, now U.S. representative whose election WND eagerly promoted in conjunction with her WND-published book.Or, as Berlau puts it, Harris' office "shared her responses to skeptical, if not hostile, questions from the liberal-leaning ethics watchdog group, the Center for Public Integrity, or CPI, which is writing a book that includes the subject."

Berlau writes that CPI asked "in an accusatory tone" a question about the voter purge in which a number of non-felons were included on a list of felons to be removed from voter databases. Harris "patiently explained" her defense, he adds.

And it goes on like that, essentially providing Republican talking points to questions about the election.

* * *

More violations of journalism and/or common sense recently noted at WorldNetDaily:

The rootin-est, tootin-est congresswoman in the West -- er, Florida! This photo accompanied WorldNetDaily's article on Katherine Harris.

-- As if the Berlau article wasn't proof enough that WND is still in love with Katherine Harris (even as it sells her book at remainder levels -- as low as $5 but $7.99 as of this writing): a Jan. 8 story on her pondering a Senate run in Florida is padded out with lame biographical information -- which, coincidentially, appears word-for-word on the page selling her book in the WND store.

And a Jan. 16 story on Harris' decision (she won't) includes, for some reason, a cheesecake shot of Harris in T-shirt and jeans astride a horse, lacking only a beer in one hand. One has to wonder if WND staffers have large-scale versions of this thing pinned up over their desks. If they didn't before, they probably do now -- as if they haven't been drooling over her enough in print.

-- Proving that it still has problems in getting basic facts down, a text link to an ad for WND's Internet service partner read: "Unlimited access to 'Al Gore's invention."

-- Another Jan. 8 story promotes a Web site that purports to challenge statements in Al Franken's book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." Funny, we don't remember WND doing a story about Web sites that document factual errors in Ann Coulter's books.

-- Yet another example of story-subject conflict of interest: A November story by Art Moore (king of the potentially-crippling-sanctions-against-pro-life-lawyers beat) on evangelist John Hagee's syndicated program getting kicked off a Canadian TV station for alleged incitement of hatred of Muslims fails to note that Hagee was briefly a WND columnist in 2002.

-- Noted in a Jan. 16 plug for Joseph Farah's radio show: "Every day, callers who get through and contribute to the program are given free copies of WND Books – including new books and some best sellers." Is Farah really down to bribing people to call in? Not exactly, as the article claims elsewhere, "taking America by storm."

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