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WorldNetDaily's Deadly Journalistic Legacy

WND was so committed to promoting a program purporting to link Darwin to Hitler that it buried the real news: The show's producers apparently deceived a scientist about his appearance in it.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/6/2006

A lot of what WorldNetDaily considers "journalism" is, in fact, stenography and public-relations work for the conservative and evangelical Christian causes it loves to promote -- the so-called war on Christmas, for instance. Genuine journalistic efforts, such as telling a balanced account of events, is secondary, if it happens at all.

A recent case in point is WND's treatment of a video aired Aug. 26 and 27 by D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, called "Darwin's Deadly Legacy." The overall point of the program is to "show why evolution is a bad idea that should be discarded into the dustbin of history" by trying to directly link Charles Darwin's evolutionary theories to Adolf Hitler. WND first promoted the article in an Aug. 19 article.

The Darwin-Hitler link is an idea WND wholeheartedly endorses. In a March 23 column, WND editor Joseph Farah called evolution "a malodorous, filthy, contemptuous lie from the pit of hell" and cited an article purporting to illustrate "how the genocidal mania of Hitler could only be built on a foundation of evolution." (That may explain why WND is treating the Darwin-Hitler claim as fact.) And a July 1 column by Tom Flannery (he "writes a weekly political column called 'The Good Fight' and a continuing religious column called 'Why Believe the Bible?' for a hometown newspaper in Pennsylvania") claimed, "The idea of a superior race eliminating all 'inferiors' on the basis of evolutionary dogma originated not with Hitler, but with Darwin. Not surprisingly, this was an idea also enthusiastically embraced by the racist and eugenicist Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood."

While WND was embracing the Coral Ridge program, criticism of it was appearing. One of the leaders was PZ Myers, a university biology professor who runs the blog Pharyngula; Myers was especially critical of the appearance of Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, in the program. Collins is a "theistic evolutionist" who, as Myers put it, works to prove "how Christianity and evolution can be reconciled."

One of Myers' readers wrote Collins about his appearance in the program, and according to Myers, he stated that "he was interviewed about his book [about theistic evolution], and that was then inserted into the video without his knowledge." Myers added: "I apologize to Dr Collins for assuming he was a party to this creationist video, and I hope he sues those frauds."

The above photo and caption -- which accepts as fact a direct connection between Charles Darwin and Adolf Hitler -- accompanied an Aug. 22 WorldNetDaily article.

(Image capture taken from Bartholomew's Notes on Religion)

An Aug. 22 WorldNetDaily article about the controversy led not with Collins' repudiation of his appearance in the Coral Ridge video but stated that the show "even on the air yet, and already the attacks have begun on those who appear in it," citing Pharyngula but unwilling to name Myers. It's not until the article's sixth paragraph that it notes that "Collins explained that he had been interviewed by Coral Ridge about his book, and the taping was inserted into the program without his advance knowledge."

And it's not until the 14th paragraph -- after explaining Collins' background -- does a Coral Ridge comment about Collins' claims. "Collins' comments weren't sought in an advocacy role" and "is not presented as an advocate of the Darwin-Hitler thesis."

The article also notes that "blog criticism attacked him for appearing on the special, then offered a half-hearted apology," but the article links to Myers' item apologizing to Collins, which is much more than "half-hearted."

Interestingly, the article treats the Darwin-Hitler link as incontrovertible fact rather than a provocative, partisan thesis promoted by right-wing Christians. An accompanying photo of a emaciated prisoners at a World War II concentration camp carries the caption: "The results of Darwin's theories."

(A follow-up post by Myers states: "I've been linked to by WorldNetDaily. Hoo-weee, you should see the sewage in my mailbox now.")

An Aug. 23 WND article continued to play up the persecution angle, reporting on criticism of the show, this time coming from Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman. WND's columnists are not big fans of Foxman; an Aug. 3 column by hyperbolic anti-Kinsey activist Judith Reisman for giving an ADL award to "Hugh Hefner, whose Playboy empire led the traffic in human persons from December 1953 to today. Not to be outdone, the ADL awarded Christie Hefner – the expensively clothed 'madame' of daddy's pornography palace – a 'Champion of Freedom Award,'" suggesting that Foxman " legitimizes, encourages, and patronizes pornographic hate mongers, giving them credibility and honor." An Aug. 4 column by Ilana Mercer called Foxman an "ersatz defender of Jewish interests" for purportedly being "adamant to milk" Mel Gibson's drunken, anti-Semitic tirade "to the utmost." And an Aug. 7 column by Barbara Simpson misleadingly claimed that Foxman was railing "that no apology was sufficient, no mea culpa would be accepted and saying, in essence, Mel Gibson should just disappear." In fact, while Foxman had rejected Gibson's initial apology as "unremorseful and insufficient," Foxman had already accepted a second, more extensive apology from Gibson nearly a week before Simpson's column appeared.

The article also joined Coral Ridge in conflating social Darwinism and evolution by misrepresented the views of a scientist on the issue:

Even Niles Eldredge, curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, said there's a link.

"Social Darwinism," he wrote, "has given us the eugenics movement and some of its darker outgrowths, such as the genocidal practices of the Nazis in World War II – where eugenics was invoked as a scientific rationale to go along with whatever other 'reasons' Hitler and his fellow Nazis had for the Holocaust."

But even Coral Ridge didn't misrepresent Eldredge the way WND did. WND apparently lifted the quote from an essay on the Coral Ridge website by Tom DeRosa. But it notes, where WND doesn't, that Eldredge regards social Darwinism "as an illegitimate offspring of Darwin’s theory."

DeRosa goes on to note that "contemporary apologists of Darwin" make a distinction between social Darwinism and evolution, he dismisses it: "Today when evolutionists are questioned as to how Darwinian evolution gave birth to Hitler’s Nazism, they immediately want to beg the question, answering that racism has nothing to do with science. They are correct! Racism has nothing to do with science, but it has everything to do with evolution -- a fact that is unavoidable."

However, as Myers points out: "Racism, anti-semitism, and ethnic cleansing long preceded Darwin, and the idea of selection was common to anyone who had domesticated and bred plants and animals."

An Aug. 25 WND article revisits the Collins issue once more -- but again, it buried the real news while playing up the persecution angle. The article began with Rabbi Daniel Lapin's defense of the video against the Foxman accusations. (Lapin's organization, Toward Tradition, has ties to scandal-tarred lobbyist Jack Abramoff.) A separate article reprinted the entirety of Lapin's defense against Foxman's "ad hominem attack."

It's not until the 14th paragraph of the article that WND gets around to addressing the Collins issue, repeating a statement from Coral Ridge countering Francis' claim that he was deceived about his appearance in the video. "A producer told Dr. Collins in person before the interview began that he was being interviewed for a program that would address the adverse social consequences of Darwin," according to Coral Ridge, and "he was asked specifically, during the interview, about the Darwin-Hitler connection and responded on tape that he did not agree with that view." Nevertheless, Coral Ridge has agreed to leave Francis' name off promotions and remove him from future airings of the video.

This, however, is a somewhat contradictory stance from the one taken in an Aug. 24 Baptist Press article by Jerry Newcombe, co-producer of the program:

"We interviewed a number of scientists for the science section [of the program]," Newcombe said. "We didn't interview Dr. Collins ... about Hitler. In hindsight, we would not have put Dr. Collins in the program. But he understood it was Coral Ridge Ministries. He understood we were doing a special about Darwinism.... We're sorry we had this misunderstanding and we wish him well."

Newcombe seems to be the one who's being the most straightforward here; the Coral Ridge statement is defensive and couched in vagaries, such as the reference to "a program that would address the adverse social consequences of Darwin," which indicates that they were hiding the program's specific anti-Darwin thesis from Collins. Coral Ridge did rather quickly acquiesce to Collins' demand to be disassociated from the video, which appears to be something of an admission of guilt.

Nevertheless, WND does not note the conflict between the statements of Coral Ridge and Newcombe.

What of the actual video itself? WND never served up a review of the program it promoted so much. Perhaps that's because it wasn't very good, to the point that even some conservatives were critical.

A Sept. 2 column at the Alan Keyes-operated right-wing Renew America website by Bonnie Alba (who declares herself "a 'politically incorrect' researcher-writer") seems to bear this out. After promoting the program in an earlier column, Alba issued an apology to her readers:

I apologize. After viewing Dr. D. James Kennedy's "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" last weekend, I felt totally disappointed and regretful that I had recommended this program to Christian families. It appeared hastily put together and thinly disguised to promote authors and their books. But the clincher was Dr. Kennedy's statement: "No Darwin, No Hitler." Sorry Dr. Kennedy, as much as I respect you and your ministry, this is not a true statement. At the least, it's only part of the story.


To Christian families: There are many resources available to help educate your children about Darwinism, and also about Humanism and Atheism. Kennedy's "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" is just not a good one.

If WND had any basic honesty, would it not have also issued a review of the program and deviate from its PR script to tell its readers that it was shoddily made? Alas, it was too wrapped up in promoting its own causes that the truth was ignored.

It's something we see time and time again at WorldNetDaily. From John Kerry to Ehud Olmert, WND regularly shows itself to be such a slave to its agenda that the basic journalism mission that it loves to tout goes by the wayside.

But ideology may not be the only reason behind WND's enthusiastic promotion of the Coral Ridge program; good ol' mammon may also be involved. A Sept. 6 article -- less than two weeks after the program aired -- reported that "The Marketing of Evil," written by WND managing editor David Kupelian and published by WND's book division (and featuring the dubious claims of anti-Kinsey researcher Judith Reisman), "is being featured throughout September on the nationally broadcast television program of D. James Kennedy, 'The Coral Ridge Hour.'" Further, according to the article, "Kennedy has taken the dramatic step of offering to send a special paperback edition of Kupelian's bestseller to everyone who donates to Coral Ridge Ministries between Sept. 10 and Oct. 8."

The article added that "Kupelian will be interviewed on the show by Coral Ridge Ministries Senior Producer Jerry Newcombe" -- the director of "Hitler's Deadly Legacy."

What a coincidence. And it looks not unlike the mutual backscratching-cum-promotion between WND and the Alliance Defense Fund, also involving Kupelian's book.

While WND's slanted coverage isn't directly killing anyone, it does harm journalism as a whole. That's WND's deadly legacy -- debased journalistic standards in which agenda and cash are more important than truth.

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