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Update: Getting It Wrong the First Time

NewsMax spreads more lies about Al Gore and distorts Bill Moyers and Ted Kennedy. Plus, WorldNetDaily has a job opening, and more.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/17/2005

NewsMax has never been the place to go for facts about Al Gore -- it repeatedly promoted (and published anyone who did the same) the lie that Gore said he "invented the Internet" -- and it keeps up the streak in a Jan. 4 story on the cable news channel Gore is an investor in. Gore and other investors are purchasing the Canadian channel Newsworld International and plan to rename it INdTV and retool its content for an under-35 audience.

NewsMax, predictably and falsely, bashes Gore for wanting to start "a left-wing news channel," adding that "we're predicting GoreTV will be to news broadcasting what Air America is to the talk radio industry."

The problem? Gore never said he was trying to start a "left-wing news channel." As Gore said in a May 2004 news conference announcing his intention to invest in the channel: "This is not going to be a liberal network, a Democratic network or a political network." NewsMax knows this, since it published an Associated Press article containing the exact same quote.

Yet NewsMax has been working for years to spread the lie and hang that label around it. A September 2003 article insisted that "says he wants to set up a liberal alternative to the Fox News Channel"; an October 2003 article called the channel "another liberal network [that] competes with, well, the other liberal networks"; and a May 2004 article by Slantie winner Jon Dougherty begins: "Al Gore swears his new network won't be a bastion of liberal programming, but his big financial backers are all liberal, including one of the backers to the ultra-liberal Air America radio network."

NewsMax concluded its Jan. 4 article by mulling whether Gore's "political afterlife" would "be as comically unsuccessful as his presidential bid." Last time we checked, Gore won the popular vote in 2000, hardly anyone's idea of "comically unsuccessful." Anyone outside of NewsMax employees, anyway.

* * *

More inaccuracies arrived from NewsMax in the form of a Dec. 19 article by Phil Brennan that is, to nobody's surprise, harsh on Bill Moyers' final stint hosting his PBS program "Now."

In a review not of the actual program but apparently of Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales' article about the program, Brennan wrote that "Moyers seemed to take the low road once again during his last show," citing the usual blah-blah like "Moyers dipped into his bucket of liberal slime to cite Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' in connection with the Pentagon's "use of deception and disinformation against enemies, real or imagined, abroad.'"

Brennan also documented another Moyers offense: he was caught "[a]lleging that Sinclair Broadcasting tried to force its stations to air "Stolen Honor - a documentary which detailed the pain and suffering Kenny's [sic] anti-war activities caused U.S. P.O.W.s in Hanoi - Shales described it as merely a free political infomercial for Bush."

Well, Phil, it wasn't an allegation Moyers was making; he was merely reciting established facts. As Media Matters for America has pointed out, when the story about Sinclair Broadcast Group's plans to broadcast "Stolen Honor" -- a factually flawed attack on John Kerry was, as Shales alleged, a informercial for the Bush re-election campaign -- company officials never denied that it originally intended to broadcast the entire film, and advance TV schedules for Sinclair stations across the country listed "Stolen Honor" as the show to be broadcast. (Sinclair eventually relented to public and shareholder pressure and broadcast a more balanced news program that featured only a few minutes of "Stolen Honor.")

While we're at it, does NewsMax even employ copy editors? (We're thinking not, given NewsMax's history of such mistakes.) Brennan's article is riddled with typos and grammatical errors, such as the reference to "Kenny's anti-war activities." How bad is it? Brennan's own name is misspelled in the byline as "Brennen."

* * *

Still more evidence that NewsMax has trouble getting much of anything right: A Jan. 13 story on a speech by Sen. Ted Kennedy doesn't even support its own biased summary.

The story, by Dave Eberhart, claimed that "Kennedy offered little contrition for the loss and offered the same old liberal shibboleths: more abortion rights, more gay rights, more payroll taxes, more pacifism in the wake of terror." Yet little of what Eberhart himself writes afterwards offers any proof of this.

The only thing that remotely comes close to supporting Eberhart's claim that Kennedy supports "more pacifism in the wake of terror" is his quoting of Franklin Roosevelt as saying that "We cannot live alone at peace." The Kennedy quote that with abortion "we are dealing with a personal and private reproductive decision" is translated by Eberhart as supporting "more abortion rights." Eberhart supported the claim of "more gay rights" by writing that Kennedy "said he supported civil unions with equal rights for gays."

Despite the ridiculous slant of Eberhart's story, there was one bright side that NewsMax can be proud of: relatively few typos, though attorney general candidate Alberto Gonzales' first name somehow became "Roberto."

* * *

We were going point how, in a Jan. 11 article, WorldNetDaily has once again failed to get its facts right regarding former national security adviser Sandy Berger and accusations that he took classified documents from an archive, but Media Matters beat us to it. (Full disclosure: I work for Media Matters but did not write this article.)

And while I'm talking about my employer, a Jan. 6 story reported that the office-supply store chain Staples accused Media Matters of "misrepresenting" the company's position regarding a statement that it had dropped its ads from the local newscasts of stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, the company that had planned to air an inaccurate John Kerry-bashing film on its 62 TV stations shortly before the election until a slumping stock price and growing shareholder revolt forced it to air a somewhat more balanced program.

The CNS story fails to note, nor did any follow-up article, that Media Matters has pointed out that Staples approved the language in the press release that was originally sent out regarding the ad withdrawal.

* * *

A Jan. 3 WorldNetDaily article stated that editor Joseph Farah's radio show is looking for a new syndicator. But since this is WND writing about itself, one thing we can count on is for such an article to avoid telling the whole truth.

The big clue to the rest of the story came from, interestingly, NewsMax, which reported later the same day that G. Gordon Liddy's radio show is jumping syndicators, from Westwood One to Radio America -- Farah's soon-to-be-former syndicator -- as of Feb. 7. So in reality, Farah got squeezed out of Radio America's schedule to accommodate Liddy. (Liddy, in turn, is getting squeezed out of Westwood One to make room for MSNBC host Joe Scarborough's new radio talk show.)

So the WND story is more of a ad trying to entice a new syndicator, which means it contains self-promoting statements like this: "The show has proved popular because of WorldNetDaily's immense reader base of more than 6 million and because Farah, the editor of the dynamic Internet news resource known for breaking the big stories, combines his unique insights as a daily columnist with 30 years of experience as an intrepid, investigative newsman."

* * *

It appears to be official now -- the Alexa popularity-ranking box has disappeared for good from WorldNetDaily's front page.

As ConWebWatch has noted, WND's Alexa ranking hit the upper 400s in the fall of 2003 before beginning a steady slide down. It hovered around the 1,600 mark through most of the election season, after which the decline resumed -- and the box displaying the ranking disappeared.

WND's current Alexa ranking as of this writing: 1,799.

* * *

WorldNetDaily posted on Jan. 3 a job opening for a legal affairs reporter.

"If you've got hard-news reporting experience and an inclination to do investigative reporting focusing on U.S. legal affairs, this may be the job for you," the notice reads. This is followed by the usual blather claiming that WND is "an independent newssite" and "a watchdog exposing government waste, fraud, corruption and abuse of power." However, that alleged watchdog function, as ConWebWatch has repeatedly detailed, applies only to politicians who don't follow WND's hard-line conservative agenda.

Perhaps WND should have added to its job opening: "Ability to overlook or explain away any legal or ethical violation that furthers the cause of conservatism is a plus."

Another clue to the standard of journalism to which WND aspires and the caliber of reporter it seeks: a Jan. 15 article promoting an internship program at the National Journalism Center, which is a project of the decidedly conservative Young America's Foundation. In other words, it's committed to creating conservative journalists and commentators, though it doesn't appear to explicitly state that anywhere. A Human Events article the NJC web site links to further details its conservative agenda.

The front page of NJC's web site touts some of its more famous alumni; the first two listed are John Fund (last noted by ConWebWatch as embroiled in a sex scandal) and Ann Coulter (who, unfortunately, needs no introduction).

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