ConWebWatch home
ConWebBlog: the weblog of ConWebWatch
Search and browse through the ConWebWatch archive
About ConWebWatch
Who's behind the news sites that ConWebWatch watches?
Letters to and from ConWebWatch
ConWebWatch Links
Buy books and more through ConWebWatch

NewsMax's Fiction Writer

James Hirsen takes a break from plugging his new book to advance a couple of bogus claims.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/14/2005

When you're in the middle of a book tour, the last thing you want to do is generate publicity by getting caught making factually inaccurate, easily contradicted claims.

Yet NewsMax's James Hirsen -- currently plugging his new liberal-bashing book, "Hollywood Nation" -- has done just that. Twice.

An Oct. 10 NewsMax article cited Hirsen as the source for a claim that rock band U2 was holding a fund-raiser for Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum:

Teaming up with the legendary rock group U2 for a one-night only appearance will be Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.).

The thousand-dollar-a-seat concert has been put together by Sean and Ana Wolfington and will take place at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia in support of Santorum’s re-election, reports NewsMax's James Hirsen.


Wolfington puts it this way: "It's truly appropriate for U2, a band with a purpose, to be involved in a fund-raiser with Senator Rick Santorum, a politician with a purpose. Both men are passionate about what they believe and their faith is very important to them."

But Hirsen's claim was false; there is no "teaming up" taking place. U2 is playing a previously scheduled concert, and Santorum's campaign merely rented a luxury box for use by well-heeled donors.

Once the truth became apparent, thanks to bloggers such as Joe Trippi and Santorum Exposed -- and after a spokesman for U2 lead singer Bono issued a statement making it clear that "U2 concerts are categorically not fundraisers for any politician - they are rock concerts for U2 fans" -- NewsMax quickly changed the article to somewhat closer reflect reality:

On Sunday, October 16, a unique political event will take place.

At a concert of the legendary rock group U2, Senator Rick Santorum will hold a fund-raising event for one night only.

The thousand-dollar-a-seat fund-raiser has been put together by Sean and Ana Wolfington, and it will take place at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia in support of Santorum's reelection.

But NewsMax makes no note of the correction or even any hint of the article's significant alterations -- which also removed Hirsen's name. The revised article also still states that "As in the case of Santorum, Bono's religious convictions inform his activities," implying that Bono supports Santorum.

NewsMax thus joins WorldNetDaily in wanting to believe something so badly it ran a false news story.

As it turns out, even the part about it being a "unique political event" was false. An Oct. 12 NewsMax article reports that Sen. Hillary Clinton has her own U2 luxury box for the benefit of her wealthy donors. But now that a Clinton is doing the same thing, NewsMax's tone has changed drastically. Rather than the worshipful prose offered to Santorum, NewsMax huffed that both Santorum and Clinton "have tried to cash in on the popularity of rock group U2 and its front man Bono by scheduling fund-raisers at the band’s concerts."

The article also quotes the U2 publicist without noting that her statement was directed at false reports about Santorum's fund-raiser -- reports advanced by NewsMax, then withdrawn without acknowledging it had run false information.

An Oct. 13 article pulls the same stunt, repeating U2's complaints without not that they were originally directed at the false Santorum story advanced by NewsMax. It also describes the amenities in the luxury box Clinton will use -- " wet bar, private bathroom and plush chairs" -- without noting that Santorum's luxury box likely has similar amenities. And, of course, no admission of Hirsen's earlier error. When CNN ran the Santorum story -- taken, presumably, from NewsMax -- it at least publicly retracted it.

Refusal to admit its mistakes is an unfortunate NewsMax trait; editor Christopher Ruddy has yet to admit a Clinton-bashing article he wrote five years ago was false, let alone his misquote of Louisiana politician Aaron Broussard, which was also quietly changed without admitting the error to readers.

This is not the only dubious claim Hirsen has set in motion in recent days. According to a Sept. 27 NewsMax article on a Hirsen appearance on MSNBC: "Hirsen applauded select members of the media - 'talk radio host Rush Limbaugh and Web sites like' - for drawing attention to emotionally laced hysterics reported during and after the storm's destruction." That storm, of course, is Hurricane Katrina.

Hirsen is being disingenuous at best -- name a media outlet that wasn't claiming that things in Katrina's aftermath weren't as bad as originally reported -- and wrong at worst. NewsMax, after all, was no different than the rest of the media in forwarding "emotionally laced hysterics" in Katrina's immediate aftermath. Here are headlines from Associated Press articles that NewsMax ran:

NewsMax-written articles were equally alarmist. A Sept. 1 article was headlined, Doc: 6 Murders, 12 Rapes Inside Superdome. A Sept. 2 article quoted Rep. Peter King as saying that "Armed gangs of roaming thugs are the primary reason relief efforts in flood-ravaged New Orleans have been delayed." Two articles on Sept. 3 quoted both FEMA director Michael Brown and New Orleans police chief Edwin Compass citing "urban warfare" as a factor slowing down aid to stranded New Orleans residents.

This shows the folly of NewsMax's admit-no-mistakes policy. If Hirsen is never made to publicly take responsibility for his errors, how will he ever learn from them? Then again, that would detract from publicity for the book.

Send this page to:
Bookmark and Share
The latest from

In Association with
Support This Site

home | letters | archive | about | primer | links | shop
This site © Copyright 2000-05 Terry Krepel