AIM: What Is It Good For?
Accuracy in Media forsakes actual media criticism for the hateful, conspiratorial rantings of Cliff Kincaid and Don Feder.
By Terry Krepel
Accuracy in Media, it can be argued, was founded in a fit of pique.
In his 1984 book "Media Mischief and Misdeeds," Reed Irvine stated that AIM's founding came about because of what he called "abuses" by television networks in "their coverage of such events as the riots in Chicago at the time of the 1968 Democratic National Convention." After trying and failing to find journalists willing to criticize fellow journalists, he claims, AIM was founded in 1969 "with the deliberate policy of not involving active journalists in its work or its direction" with $200 in seed money contributed by conservative philanthropist Wilson Lucom.*
Irvine claimed that his criticism of the media was "hard-hitting" and "factual," further asserting they were "just, accurate and well documented."
That's debatable. But if AIM was ever "just, accurate and well documented," it certainly isn't now. With the most prominent public voice of AIM is the ranting, conspiracy-prone Cliff Kincaid, it can't be otherwise.
As ConWebWatch has documented, Kincaid has been on a year-long tirade against Barack Obama, obsessing over his alleged ties to various communists and terrorists as well as repeatedly making the false claim that a bill sponsored by Obama expressing support for a United Nations initiative to fight poverty commits the U.S. to spending $845 billion. In fact, as Media Matters detailed, the Global Poverty Act would establish no specific funding source, would not commit the United States to any targeted level of spending, and would not give the U.N. the power to impose a tax on the U.S.
That obsession climaxed, as it were, with a Oct. 14 AIM column headlined "Was a Communist Obama’s Sex Teacher?" Merging two obsessions -- Obama and his alleged mentor, Frank Marshall Davis -- with sex, Kincaid proudly proclaimed how the National Enquirer "seized upon the Frank Marshall Davis story," focusing on "his role as sex pervert, pedophile, pornographer and mentor to Obama. This 'exclusive' was actually broken wide open by my group America’s Survival, Inc. weeks ago."
Indeed, AIM's main purpose these days seems to be serving as the public-relations arm of Kincaid's other group. While America's Survival is ostensibly focused more on anti-U.N. activity, the group's 2008 annual report lists "two major public education campaigns" as its main achievement for the year -- "A project to expose the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea," and "A project to educate the public about the influence and activities of Communist agents in America, including members of the terrorist Weather Underground and Frank Marshall Davis, who was Barack Obama’s childhood mentor."
Kincaid has used AIM to promote both subjects. The Davis attacks are noted above; Kincaid has written numerous AIM columns bashing the Law of the Sea treaty.
So where, exactly, is the line between America's Survival and AIM? It's hard to say. Like AIM, America's Survival has received largesse from conservative moneybags Richard Mellon Scaife. AIM has received more than $4 million from Scaife-connected groups since 1985; America's Survival has received $375,000 since 1999. As the largest individual institutional contributor by far to both groups, Scaife might want to consider combining his interests into a single group.
Shortly before the Nov. 4 presidential election, Kincaid found a new conspiracy with which to tar Obama: that the global financial crisis was engineered by George Soros to get Barack Obama elected. As Kincaid described it in an Oct. 27 column:
Incredibly, we have no definitive explanation of why a global financial crisis suddenly materialized just six weeks before U.S. presidential and congressional elections. Instead, controversial hedge fund operators like George Soros, an Obama backer who was convicted of insider trading in France and was in the news earlier this year for his possible role in betting on a U.S. economic collapse, have largely escaped scrutiny.
Kincaid followed up the next day by dragging Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson into the conspiracy: "It is a fact that President Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who worked for a Democratic firm, Goldman Sachs, and has very close ties to Communist China, is the one who convinced Bush to demand hundreds of billions of bailout dollars from Congress."
A Nov. 20 AIM Report added economist Joseph Stiglitz: "Stiglitz, a financial contributor to Obama’s presidential campaign and major backer of the national Democratic Party, is in a perfect position to guide the transition into a global socialist economy."
Kincaid brought it up again in a Nov. 24 column:
Whether the financial meltdown has been engineered or not -- and there are major questions about its timing, just six weeks before the national elections -- it will be up to President Obama to manage America’s transition into this New Global Order. With his background in Marxism and extensive Wall Street contacts and associations, he seems perfectly suited for the task.
Meanwhile, Kincaid indulged in a bit of gay-bashing in a Dec. 14 column, accusing media outlets of "cozying up to the gays," opposing federal efforts to stop AIDS because "there is nothing compassionate about wasting taxpayer dollars promoting a “lifestyle” that spreads disease and death," and further lamenting that "AIDS gets far more money than 16 diseases that kill a million more Americans than AIDS annually."
Kincaid also falsely attacked open gay congressman Barney Frank. Kincaid claimed that Frank "hired a 'hot bottom' out of the Washington (Gay) Blade and then let him use his apartment as the base of a homosexual prostitution ring"; in fact, the the House ethics committee determined that Frank "did not have either prior or concomitant knowledge of prostitution activities involving third parties alleged to have taken place in his apartment." Kincaid also wrote of Frank:
Frank found a new “partner” or “lover,” Herb Moses, who became assistant director for product initiatives at Fannie Mae while Frank was on the House Banking Committee, which had jurisdiction over Fannie. In this case, Bill Sammon of Fox News did the necessary digging, noting the obvious conflict of interest. He reported, “Although Frank now blames Republicans for the failure of Fannie and Freddie, he spent years blocking GOP lawmakers from imposing tougher regulations on the mortgage giants. In 1991, the year Moses was hired by Fannie, the Boston Globe reported that Frank pushed the agency to loosen regulations on mortgages for two- and three-family homes, even though they were defaulting at twice and five times the rate of single homes, respectively.”
But as Media Matters pointed out, Sammon cited only two less-than-objective sources for his claims: an anonymous Republican congressional staffer and Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute. Further, Sammon failed to note that Frank has supported bills to increase regulation of Fannie Mae and create a government regulatory agency that would supervise and have authority over some aspects of the company.
ConWebWatch has previously documented Feder's shoddy stewardship of AIM's Times boycott website, where he regularly peddles false and misleading claims. Feder's handiwork has continued after the election, pulling itself away from the pro-John McCain activism that informed the site's early work.
A Nov. 10 item by Feder noted a Times article on the reaction of some Middle East terrorists to the election of Barack Obama, adding, "why didn’t The Times report on Obama’s support from communists and Islamacists before the election?" Feder then adds alleged examples of such:
In May, Fidel Castro wrote in Granma that he believed Obama was “doubtless, from the social and human points of view, the most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency.”
In the case of Castro, Feder failed to note that, according to PolitiFact, Castro was giving Obama a compliment that was backhanded at best and that Castro also called the U.S. embargo against Cuba, which Obama has pledged to maintain, "an act of genocide." As PolitiFact also noted, Castro did not actually endorse either Obama or John McCain.
In the case of Hamas, that statement came from an interview Yousef did with WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein and right-wing radio host John Batchelor. As ConWebWatch has detailed, there are numerous questions about the interview regarding the nature of Yousef's participation in it that Klein has yet to answer.
Nowhere did Feder mention terrorist endorsements on the Republican side. Not only did an al-Qaeda linked website endorse McCain, a 2004 videotape by Osama bin Laden -- which conservatives portrayed as an endorsement of John Kerry -- was, according to CIA analysts as reported in Ron Suskind's book "The One Percent Doctrine," intended to assist President Bush's re-election.
Feder offered even more misleading claims and unsupported or hypocritical assertions in a Nov. 24 column he wrote for WorldNetDaily promoting the boycott website, in which he attempted to portray portraying the Times' coverage of the presidential campaign as "biased, brutish and business as usual." Feder claimed "the Times tried to soft-peddle Obama's ties to unrepentant terrorist William Ayers," adding:
An Oct. 17 editorial charged that by bringing up Ayers, McCain and his running mate had moved beyond mere "distortions," driving deep "into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia." Since Ayers is white and native-born, this left many Times-watchers scratching their heads.
The editorial in question was published on Oct. 8, not Oct. 17, and the remarks about "race-baiting and xenophobia" were not in reference to Ayers. From the editorial:
Ms. Palin, in particular, revels in the attack. Her campaign rallies have become spectacles of anger and insult. “This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America,” Ms. Palin has taken to saying.
Feder made no mention of AIM's relationship with another "unrepentant terrorist," G. Gordon Liddy:
ConWebWatch could find no record of Kincaid or any other AIM employee criticizing Liddy for his actions during Watergate or other related controversies.
Feder also wrote:
In an Oct. 3 story on the vice-presidential debate, the Times characteristically reported that the governor "used a steady grin, folksy manner and carefully scripted talking points." In other words, Palin is a hick, a rube a political Stepford wife who would have been lost without her script (doubtless written by the RNC). In a companion editorial, the paper charged that Palin "never got beyond talking points in 90 minutes, mostly repeating clichés and tired attack lines and energetically refusing to answer far too many questions."
Feder offered no evidence that Palin did, in fact, venture beyond Republican talking points during the debate or that she did not refuse to answer all the questions she was asked.
Feder referred to the Times "coverage of Palin's daughter's unwed pregnancy" as "sleaze." But the Times did not break that story; the McCain campaign announced it.
Feder claimed that the Times "studiously ignored" alleged statements in support of Obama by terrorists and dictators, repeating Castro's out-of-context statement that Obama is "the most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency" and the murky endorsement from Ahmed Yousef.
Feder continued to mislead in a Dec. 1 article, claiming: "In a series of six alleged 'news' stories on the Mumbai massacre, from November 27 to December 1, The New York Times (America’s newspaper which sounds like a broken record) refused to call the terrorists Muslims or Islamic extremists." But Feder is cherry-picking; according to the Times' archive on the subject, The Times published 25 articles related to the attacks between Nov. 27 and Dec. 1. Feder does not state which six articles he plucked out as a purportedly representative sample of the Times' coverage.
Feder then asserted that "The Times adamantly refuses to recognize a connection between Islam and worldwide terrorism, even though most terrorist acts are committed by Muslims, terrorist groups have names like jihad-this and Islamic-that, and terrorists regularly quote the Koran’s kill-the-infidels verses." Using technical terms like "jihad-this and Islamic-that" is Feder's idea of research, it seems.
By cherry-picking those six stories, Feder carefully avoids Times articles that did, in fact, mention Islamic links to the incident:
That aside, The Times frequently got the facts wrong or omitted important details. In a November 30 story, the paper described the murders as “indiscriminate.”
Feder apparently never bothered to read the rest of the article to which he linked. It stated:
Contrary to earlier reports, it appeared that Westerners were not the gunmen’s main targets: they killed whomever they could. By Saturday evening, 18 of the dead were confirmed as foreigners; an additional 22 foreigners were wounded, said Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra State, where Mumbai is located.
If the terrorists were "told to target foreigners" and Jews, why were so many Indians killed? Feder doesn't answer that question.
Feder also wrote: "In thousands of words of coverage, The New York Times never mentioned that victims’ bodies frequently bore the marks of torture. One of the doctors who performed post-mortems was quoted on the Indian news website Rediff.com as saying 'of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks.'" But the Rediff article to which Feder is referring contains only one named source; the rest, including the doctors purportedly being quoted, are anonymous. That's not to say it isn't true; it's just unverified with no reason given to protect the identities of those being quoted.
And like Kincaid, Feder engages in gay-bashing. In a Dec. 12 article, Feder mocked the Times for doing an article on gay activists -- not for any false claims in the article, but simply for the fact it was done at all:
At times, The New York Times reads like The Gay Community News - actually, that would be all of the time. A December 10 story, “Gay Marriage Ban Inspires New Wave of Activists,” is typical.
So, how is it that Kincaid and Feder are running roughshod over AIM? We do not claim familiarity with AIM's inner workings, but it's clear that Don Irvine, Reed Irvine's son, who replaced his father at the helm when the elder Irvine died in 2004, is not his father. While Reed Irvine was a prolific writer, Don Irvine's writings are pretty much limited to a blog that mostly quotes other articles with his own brief observations added.
AIM does publish guest columns, but those too are laden with extremist rhetoric. Many are republished from the right-wing site Family Security Matters.
For instance, in a Nov. 3 Accuracy in Media column, Alan Caruba wrote:
Barack Obama wants to institute a Civilian National Security Force, a vast militia not unlike Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a personal army. He knows he would need such a force to protect him and to enforce his will on Americans.
In fact, as ConWebWatch detailed when WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah was promoting this same lie, Obama has never claimed to want to create a "personal army." Obama specifically described the "civilian national security force" he proposed as "teams that combine agricultural specialists and engineers and linguists and cultural specialists who are prepared to go into some of the most dangerous areas alongside our military."
Perhaps most disgracefully, AIM published a July 25 column by Olavo de Carvalho ("a philosopher and the author of several books" who "writes for three very influential dailies in Brazil") aiming to smear Obama in an avalanche of falsehoods, distortions and unsupported claims:
Carvalho goes on to baselessly assert, "In the Democratic Party and U.S. big media, nobody seems to find anything strange about Obama. Even among supporters of John McCain there is some sort of tacit agreement not to hurt the opponent's feelings with demands beyond his capacity." He also asserted that Obama "listens to the Star-Spangled Banner with his hands on his genitals, and not on his heart" -- now we know where Carvalho's mind apparently likes to wander -- and claimed that "the candidate displays the kind of absolute trust in his own invulnerability that is so typical of revolutionary sociopaths."
AIM's current management was apparently proud enough of that column to republish it. Is that a view Reed Irvine would want repeated by the organization he founded?
Would Reed Irvine even recognize the organization today? As someone who made a habit of proclaiming AIM's "just, accurate and well documented," would he put up with Kincaid's conspiracy theories and Feder's hateful rants?
How can Accuracy in Media be a credible media watchdog when it has trouble getting its facts straight and keeping its emotions in check? Instead of lobbing incendiary rhetoric, AIM's writers should be asking themselves that question.
* * *
* Lucom died in 2006. A dispute over his will broke out after Lucom, who was reportedly not especially fond of children during his lifetime, left the bulk of his multimillion-dollar estate to fund the creation of a foundation to aid poor children in Panama, where he spent his final years. Lucom plays a role in another ConWeb organization -- as detailed on ConWebBlog, he wrote several columns for Newsmax, was a star in Newsmax's abortive 2001 infomercial, and Newsmax's Christopher Ruddy -- who at one time shared a power of attorney over Lucom, which Ruddy used to help create the Panamanian foundation at the center of the dispute -- owed more than $1 million to Lucom at the time of his death. [Return to top]