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

Phil Brennan, Conservative Lackey

The longtime Newsmax columnist has demonstrated himself to be a reliable shill for conservative causes and basher of liberal ones.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 5/27/2009

Phil Brennan has an eclectic background -- a former Marine who has written for both the National Review and the National Enquirer. He has brought the worst of both worlds to his gig as a Newsmax columnist: Brennan not only slavishly regurgitates conservative talking points, he's prone to taking liberty with the facts along the way.

Brennan has been writing columns for Newsmax since at least 2001, which makes him something akin to a charter member of the anti-Clinton cabal. Indeed, Brennan asserted in a January 2001 column that Bill and Hillary Clinton were nothing but "conscienceless white-trash boors" and the Democratic Party was "a collection of would-be Mafia dons who have converted a once relatively honest and respected political party into a criminal conspiracy."

ConWebWatch has documented Brennan's various misdeeds over the years:

  • He went on an anti-media tirade after 9/11, suggesting that journalists who were insufficiently praising President Bush be "put in the nation's cross hairs."
  • He pounded out an error-riddled (both factually and typographically) screed against Bill Moyers in 2005.
  • He is among the many conservatives who have likened Democrats to Nazis. He has also linked President Obama to Hitler.
  • He followed the right-wing playbook by defending Ed Klein's questionable attack book on Hillary Clinton while ignoring the errors he made.
  • He has repeated debunked claims about Social Security.

But those aren't the only things Brennan has misled readers about or has gotten wrong over the years.

Global warming

Brennan has served as a longtime promoter of the claims of global warming skeptics, even when they are contradicted by clear evidence to the contrary.

For instance, Brennan has repeatedly claimed that, as he wrote in a Nov. 5, 2008, column, "The Earth is not warming. The 28-year period of warming between 1970 and 1998 stopped dead in its tracks, and the climate has been cooling ever since." In fact, while 1998 remains the warmest year on record, the 11 warmest years on record occurred in the past 13 years. Further, most scientists who aren't on the take from the oil and gas industry believe the Earth remains in a warming trend.

Similarly, in a Sept. 8, 2008, article, Phil Brennan selectively reported climate information to assert that "The global warming theory is going into the freezer." Brennan quoted from a Reuters report stating that "The first half of this year was the coolest in at least five years, according to the World Meteorological Organization." But Brennan failed to note a statement in the very same article that temperature dips "do not undermine the case that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are causing long-term global warming, climate scientists say."

Brennan has also repeatedly suggested that cold winter temperatures disprove the existence of global warming. In fact, weather conditions in a given location at a given time do not prove or disprove the fact that global warming is occurring -- even fellow global warming skeptic Patrick Michael agrees with that. The New York Times reported that Michaels "has long chided environmentalists and the media for overstating connections between extreme weather and human-caused warming" and that "those now trumpeting global cooling should beware of doing the same thing, saying that the 'predictable distortion' of extreme weather 'goes in both directions.'"

In a Nov. 19, 2008, column, Brennan quoted a UK Daily Mail article featuring a claim that global warming might be blamed on "falling -- rather than climbing -- levels of greenhouse gases," featuring the statement: "Lead author Thomas Crowley from the University of Edinburgh and Canadian colleague William Hyde say that currently vilified greenhouse gases -- such as carbon dioxide -- could actually be the key to averting the chill." But Brennan didn't quote the part of the Daily Mail article in which lead author Crowley warned against using the study to dismiss the threat posed by global warming, saying:"There’s no excuse for saying 'we’ve got to keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.'"

In a May 19 column, Brennan falsely suggested that environmentalists want to get rid of all carbon dioxide:

So just what is this atmospheric pollutant we call carbon dioxide? Is it a deadly greenhouse gas much of which we should get rid of?


Without it we'd all be dead. Plant life would vanish, and with it all of humanity.

Simply put, plants inhale CO2, convert it into sugars that enable them to grow and thrive, and exhale oxygen — the stuff that keeps us alive.

According to Dr. Tim Ball, a renowned environmental consultant and retired professor of climatology at the University of Winnipeg, plants require CO2 to exist as we require oxygen to exist.

As the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increases the plants grow more vigorously. Current levels of atmospheric CO2 is 385 ppm (parts per million) but research shows that plants grow most vigorously at 1,000 to 1,200 ppm, which is why commercial greenhouse pump that much into their atmospheres.

Some pollutant!

In fact, no one is claiming that carbon dioxide, in and of itself, is a pollutant, as Brennan suggests. Rather, scientists argue that excessive levels of CO2 in the atmosphere can have a polluting effect, and that global industrialization has increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere -- an argument Brennan does not address.

Phil Brennan

Brennan will go to surprising lengths to attempt to discredit the idea of global warming -- even discrediting himself in the process. A Jan. 13 column promoted one Gregory F. Fegel, "writing in Pravda Ru that we are on the brink of a new ice age, a revelation that has shocked many Americans but one that I explained 12 years ago in my series The Icemen Cometh." At not point did Brennan note Pravda's history as the official house organ of the Soviet Communist Party (though the current version of the paper, according to Wikipedia, "often takes a nationalist and sensationalist approach"), nor does she note that Fegel also believes that " the Bush Administration, in collusion with many other officials from the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, FEMA, NSA, NORAD, New York City officials, air-traffic contollers, airline executives, controlled demolitions experts, computer graphics technicians, media executives, and others together planned and committed the horrible attacks of 9/11/2001 against the Pentagon and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City."

Shockingly, Brennan was not the only member of the ConWeb to jump on Fegel's claim; NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard (like Sheppard a global warming bamboozler) and WorldNetDaily's Chelsea Schilling did as well.


Brennan has been a longtime defender of soldiers accused of crimes in a 2005 incident in the Iraqi town of Haditha, in which several civilians were killed. While charges were eventually dropped against most of the accused soldiers (with another acquitted by a military jury), Brennan made false claims in defending the soldiers that he was later forced to retract.

A Sept. 5, 2007, article by Phil Brennan alleged that a video shot from an unmanned aerial vehicle "was heavily edited by government investigators." Brennan claimed that the video "was a small, carefully edited part of what the Scan Eagle transmitted during its daylong surveillance flight over the battle scene on Nov. 19, 2005. And shockingly, the approximately one hour of edited footage was the only Scan Eagle footage provided to the Marines’ defense teams by the prosecution." Brennan further claimed that prosecutors engaged in "deliberate editing of the video to show the defendants in the worst possible light." Brennan attributed these claims to an anonymous "Marine intelligence expert."

A moth later, however, Newsmax issued a correction that walked much of that back:

In a September 5th story “Haditha Video Doctored by Investigators” by Phil Brennan, NewsMax.Com reported that a video taped from a Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle that purported to show the action that took place in Haditha when 24 Iraqi civilians and insurgents were killed was heavily edited by government investigators and the entire video withheld from the defense.

We further alleged that what we termed “The deliberate editing of the video to show the defendants in the worst possible light,” as a Marine intelligence expert told Newsmax

These allegations are incorrect and NewsMax regrets having reported them.

In a letter to NewsMax., Marine Lt. Col, Sean Gibson wrote that "all of the footage of Scan Eagle surveillance of the area that day was provided to all defense counsel teams involved.”


We believe the video did indeed show that the Marines had encountered insurgents and had taken appropriate action. We believe the video evidence was important in helping exonerate several of the Marines present from charges they engaged in misconduct during the incident.

After PBS' "Frontline" did an episode on the Haditha incident, Brennan insisted in a Feb. 20, 2008, article that the program "distorted the real picture by omitting crucial facts." On Feb. 25, Newsmax published a response to Brennan's piece from "Frontline" story editor Catherine Wright:

Mr. Brennan is wrong in his assertion that FRONTLINE portrayed Haditha as peaceful and free of insurgents prior to the arrival of the Marines, while Newsmax and other media had reported the city to be firmly under insurgent control. In fact, what we reported is that Haditha was a "serene oasis" and "a popular vacation spot" before the war, but that "by the fall of 2005, nearly three years into the war, Haditha was war torn, and Sunni insurgents were in complete control."


We were frankly surprised by the article, given that the reaction from the Marines we?ve heard from, including many in 3/1 has been overwhelmingly positive.

At the end was Brennan's response to Wright, in which he walked back most of his criticisms -- "I was wrong to infer that Frontline misrepresented the extent of insurgent control of Haditha" -- and stating:

The Frontline documentary was on the whole stunningly accurate and went a long way toward destroying the media-fed portrayal of the November 19, 2005 battle in Haditha as a mindless massacre of innocent civilians, and I praise Frontline for what they have done.


I was wrong to infer that Frontline misrepresented the extent of insurgent control of Haditha. I had based that assertion on what several of the 3/1 Marines had said about the state of the city on the morning of November 19th prior to the IED blast.


I have no further criticisms of any real substance to offer. Frontline performed a great service to the United States Marine Corps and they deserve much credit for a superb documentary. If I gave any other impression, I apologize.

Brennan's overenthusaism to defend also went awry in August 2006 article, which began: "Unnamed sources in the Pentagon with their own agenda have been leaking false information about the killing of civilians in Haditha by Marines last November," To whom did Brennan attribute this claim? Anonymous "Marine intelligence sources" and " one well-placed NewsMax source." Citing anonymous sources to complain about the citing of anonymous sources severely undercut Brennan's argument.

Other claims and right-wing fealty

During the 2008 election, Brennan was an enthusiastic backer of Sarah Palin, using a Sept. 10 article to uncritically repeat a claim in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Republican Rep. Jim DeMint that Palin "killed" the "bridge to nowhere" project in Alaska. In fact, the project was dead as a federally funded enterprise long before Palin "killed" it.

Writing about the contentious post-election battle for a Minnesota Senate seat between Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman in a Nov. 9 2008, article, Brennan wrote: "one election judge who recalled that because of a communications snafu, the vote tallies could not be transmitted to the state electronically and that the top official in his voting district, a Democrat, simply took the results and carried them to the state in her car -- with no one to keep an eye on her." In fact, the ballots were kept in a secure location and were never left in anyone's car. Further, even a lawyer for Coleman, Fritz Knaak, has said of the claim that "we've heard enough from the city attorney to let go of this. It does not appear that there was any ballot-tampering, and that was our concern."

A Jan. 18, 2008, article by Brennan took a one-sided view of a controversy over Radio & Records magazine's reversal on honoring longtime conservative radio host Bob Grant, telling only Grant's side of the story, bashing his detractors and refusing to detail the controversial remarks by Grant that led to the reversal. R&R decided not to honor Grant with a planned lifetime achievement award after, according to a Washington Post article, activist Scott Pellegrino emailed the magazine's employees with some of Grant's more notorious rantings over the years, such as calling blacks "screaming savages" and "sub-humanoids" and saying in 1996 that then-Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, also an African American, had survived a plane crash, adding "because at heart, I'm a pessimist."

But Brennan made no mention of Pellegrino -- noting only that Grant had called the person who emailed R&R a "stalker" -- instead attacking liberal media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Media, which had apparently compiled the Grant remarks Pellegrino sent to the magazine, as "deceptively named" and repeating Grant's attacks on FAIR. Brennan then noted that FAIR "transcribed the e-mailed comments from tapes of Grant's show, whom he says has obsessively harassed him for years." Of course, transcription of comments is a universally accepted form of media watchdogging; we suspect that Brennan and Grant wouldn't describe, say, the Media Research Center as obsessive harrassers.

Further, nowhere did Brennan detail the offensive remarks attributed to Grant, even though they are central to the controversy, vaguely describing them only as "remarks he made back in the 1990s "and allowing Grant to complain of Pellegrino, "He keeps regurgitating the same things I said back in the early '90s. There’s no statute of limitations." Brennan provided no evidence that he explored the issue of whether Grant has offered others a similar "statute of limitations" on remarks he considers offensive.

(Newsmax has long been a defender and supporter of Grant -- indeed, Newsmax chief Christopher Ruddy was among Grant's final guests before his retirement in 2006, after which "NewsMax feted the radio trailblazer at Gallagher's restaurant in Manhattan, where luminaries from former Congressmen John LeBoutillier and Dan Frisa, to Grant's former WABC colleagues Barry Farber and Lynn Samuels, paid tribute." In 2005, it declared Grant the victim of "the forces of political correctness" over his Brown remark, which got him fired from New York's WABC. Newsmax insisted in 2006 that Grant's comment on Brown "prompted no outrage at the time" and it was only after "Grant enemies" former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and Rev. Jesse Jackson got involved that he was fired.)

Brennan has also offered unusually fluffy interviews of conservatives. In an August 2006 article, Brennan first drooled over David Horowitz's questionably sourced book "The Shadow Party" -- uncritically shilling Horowitz's claim that liberal supporter George Soros "might just be the most dangerous man in America, a frenzied leftist ideologue with both a surfeit of the money -- an estimated $33 billion -- and the brains needed to use his money skillfully to impose his twisted will on the United States and the world" -- then tossed softballs at Horowitz in a Q-and-A, such as "Brennan tosses such hard-hitting questions as "Just how dangerous is George Soros?" and "What is Soros ultimate aim?"

Similarly, in a March 2007 interview of R. Emmett Tyrrell, author of "The Clinton Crack-Up," Brennan tossed several slowpitch-softball questions Brennan Tyrrell's way:

  • "You paint a picture of a thoroughly despicable human being in describing Bill Clinton. Reading the first two chapters makes one feel as if he were in a cesspool. How accurate a depiction is that?"
  • "In regard to his wife, are we going to see her ruthless, or Bruno, side or will that remain behind the scenes?"
  • "Most Democrat candidates today are essentially socialists, but Hillary embraces the fascist political philosophy - the mixed state pioneered by Benito Mussolini, doesn't she?"
  • "Given the Clinton modus operandi, do you expect that Hillary's people will go to work on Obama behind the scenes and he'll never know where it's coming from?"

Brennan has demonstrated himself to be a hater of all things liberal and a fluffer of all things conservative -- that is, a loyal Newsmax employee.

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 2000-09 Terry Krepel