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Joseph Farah's Thin Skin

The editor of WorldNetDaily has demonstrated a clear inability to handle criticism, to which he responds by insulting his critics and trying to change the subject.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/26/2009

WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah handles criticism of him and his website in three main ways:

  • He denigrates his critics by hurling insults.
  • He attempts to de-legitimize the criticism by belittling his critics' journalistic experience relative to his.
  • He ignores the main point of the criticism to attack minor issues.

ConWebWatch found that out the hard way. After I published an article at the Huffington Post in September 2008 offering a condensed history of WND, Farah responded with a column that hit all three bullet points: He insulted me as a "talent-challenged slug," suggested my criticism wasn't legitimate because I wasn't "an actual lifelong, working journalist" like him (in fact, I worked in newspaper newsrooms for 17 years, which more than qualifies me to serve as a media critic), and challenged only one piece of information in my article (which I was able to back up).

Further, while Farah agreed to publish my response to his column and did so with only minimal editing to it (i.e., removing a reference to rival ConWeb site Newsmax), all the links I had supplied to WND backing up what I had written were stripped out. (See the version of the article published at ConWebWatch for all supplied links.) It's unclear why that was done; perhaps Farah doesn't want to make it easy for his readers to learn alternate, realistic views of WND.

That appears to be how Farah rolls -- even when offering up a concession, he's not playing entirely straight. But ConWebWatch has not been the only media target of a Farah tantrum that manages to miss the point of the criticism being offered.

In a Sept. 20, 2008, column headlined "The shame of the media," Farah unloaded on a small daily newspaper in Kansas, the Pittsburg Morning Sun ("I didn't know there was a Pittsburg, Kansas," Farah sneered, further smearing the paper as "some rag"), which printed a letter to the editor claiming that Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King took his claim that illegal immigrants in the U.S. kill 12 people a day from WND. Actually, as Farah states, "In fact, WND's 2006 report on this matter – not that illegals commit crimes, but that they kill 12 Americans a day – was clearly attributed to him as the source."

Farah failed to mention that he made no apparent effort to find out whether King's claim was true -- which it appears not to be. As Colorado Media Matters detailed, King has cited as support for his claim a GAO study purportedly claiming that 28 percent of prison inmates are "criminal aliens." King claims to have "extrapolated" his death toll from that number. But statistics from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics and has found no support for his assertion; according to the BJS, 6.4 percent of all state and federal inmates at midyear 2005 were "noncitizens." While it may have been accurate that King made claims using these numbers, it doesn't mean the numbers themselves are accurate -- a distinction Farah apparently fails to grasp.

Farah continues:

I was hopeful the editor-publisher of the Morning Sun would recognize he had printed a letter that is defamatory, prejudiced, incendiary and just verifiably untruthful and retract it and apologize for it. Having been an editor and publisher of daily newspapers much bigger and more influential than the Pittsburg Morning Sun, I was actually confident of being able to reason with Stephen Wade. I was wrong.

He wrote back to me suggesting I pen a letter to the editor in response. Facts were not important to him. Reality is not important to him. Stephen Wade, like so many other media types in this strange new world, seems to think everything is just a matter of opinion. And that's scary.

It's unclear why Wade's handling of the situation made Farah so upset -- especially since Farah treats false and misleading claims in WND in exactly the same way Wade did.

For instance, when WND published an article by Bob Unruh and a column by Scott Beason making numerous false and misleading claims about a public school Bible curriculum called "The Bible and Its Influence," did Farah run any corrections? Nope -- it ran an op-ed by an editor of the curriculum debunking it that is not linked to from the other articles, which also pointed out one significant fact the other articles didn't -- that Beason is a member of the advisory board of a rival Bible curriculum.

And when Clark Jones wanted WND to retract false claims it published about him, did Farah print a correction? Only after seven years of fighting a libel lawsuit Jones filed, only to abruptly settle it just before it was to go to trial by admitting that the claims WND published about Jones were false.

Another example: In April 2008, WND published an article about a 13-year-old Texas girl who claimed she was beaten over a sign she made for a history class calling for an end to illegal immigration remains. Despite the fact that WND published another article the next day pointing out that the girl fabricated the story, the original one remains live on the WND site with no indication that the girl's claim is bogus.

Indeed, ConWebWatch has documented numerous false and misleading claims WND has published over the years -- claims WND has made no effort to correct.

WND's own pathetic record on accuracy notwithstanding, Farah remained on his high horse and chose to get pissy with the Pittsburg Morning Sun:

So I wrote to Wade's bosses at GateHouse Media in New York demanding a retraction and apology – so far to no avail. Bottom line: I may have to sue these people, costing them and me a lot of money, just to motivate them to do what decent journalistic and business ethics should motivate them to do.

Imagine now, if you will, how ordinary Americans feel when they get slimed.

I have something of a public profile.

I have financial and legal resources.

I have the ability to call out the errors and bad behavior of people.

I make a habit of doing just that – it's my job.

Nevertheless, because of arrogance or ignorance or stubbornness or pettiness, this little newspaper in this little town refused to do the right thing.

Interesting that Farah can't get as incensed about his own publication's falsehoods as he does about those of a small newspaper in Kansas. Just ask Clark Jones.

"The shame of the media"? That's Farah and his website.

Farah aimed at an even smaller target in his Nov. 25, 2008, column: Kevin Hulten, a blogger for a weekly newspaper in Lake Stevens, Wisconsin. Writing about someone who forwarded to him a Nov. 11 WND article by Bob Unruh about how "members of a pro-homosexual, pro-anarchy organization" interrupted a church service in Michigan, Hulten stated: "The mere fact that you reference a 'story' from a site that purports to be 'A free press for a free people' and then in the next breath complains that no news outlets have covered the purported attack should tell you that upon deeper examination that even you know that the old WorldNetDaily is not an acceptable source of information."

Of course, as ConWebWatch has repeatedly detailed, Hulten's basic premise that WND "is not an acceptable source of information" is correct. But that didn't stop Farah from going off the handle. As is standard operating procedure, Farah started hurling insults, calling Hulten's paper "insignificant," a "pathetic journalistic institution" and "that rag," and denigrating Hulten by calling him a "simpleton" and someone "who pontificates on things he doesn't understand in between blogging about high school football games." He engaged in his manhood-measuring game again, complaining that the paper's website "provides no place on its website where readers can evaluate the relative experience of its top management and staff." And he engages in his usual disingenuous defense of WND.

Farah wrote that "WND based its Nov. 11 story, written by a 30-year veteran of the Associated Press, by the way, on five separate sources and has yet to be questioned by anyone with any knowledge of the report." In fact, Unruh's account of the church protest is based solely on one person, a right-wing blogger, Nick DeLeeuw. The other sources Unruh cites -- a press release from the church, and right-wing activists Randy Thomasson, Gary Glenn, and the Catholic League's Bill Donohue (the church in question is not Catholic) -- are commenting on the incident, not corroborating DeLeeuw's account. Further, as ConWebWatch has detailed, Unruh's work for WND has produced articles so deficient in journalistic balance and ethics that they would never pass muster at his old employer, the AP.

Nowhere, however, did Farah respond to this statement by Hulten, which demonstrates a better grasp of journalistic principles than Farah has exhibited thus far:

This is another important sign to note when evaluating your potential media gathering sites: if investigative articles are followed by attempts to propagandize the conclusions reached in said article with the profits headed directly towards the authors, then this is not a good sign. Not good at all.

The beauty of today’s electronic age is that we all have the ability to evaluate the worth of any given form of media, and to discard it if it doesn’t live up to certain standards.

It has become extremely popular in some circles to blame the media for all the ills that society faces, especially in the political realm. I often wonder if this media spite is a backlash from partisans who are just a little pissed that certain media members uncovered a little too much dirt about their party favorites.

That said, in today’s media world, if you don’t like the point of view provided by the source you’re evaluating, then you are free to navigate your way to a provider that lines up with the way that you see the world.

But therein lies the rub: if we all surrender the middle ground in attempt to find “media” sources that line up with a certain ideology, how will we ever know what is true anymore?

That, dear reader, is why you get the Lake Stevens Journal in your mailbox every Wednesday.

Further, contrary to Farah's claim that "I still care about truth – and fighting for it everywhere," WND has, again, a long history of lying to and misleading its readers.

Farah let loose another freak-out in a Dec. 14, 2008, column. The target of Farah's ire this time: Wikipedia. Why? Someone had changed the Wikipedia page on Farah to call him a "noted homosexual." That's actually rather hilarious, given Farah's previous freak-outs about gay people and his website's anti-gay agenda. But Farah was too far gone down Freak-Out Boulevard to see the humor.

Instead, Farah served up an screed calling Wikipedia a "wholesale purveyor of lies and slander unlike any other the world has ever known," a "vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit," a "wholly unreliable website run by political and social activists promoting their own agenda" and a "a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution," not to mention pushers of "pseudo-journalistic terrorism and character assassination."

That's even more hilarious, because those same things can be said about WND.

"Wholesale purveyor of lies and slander"? "Vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit"? Just ask Barack Obama. WND has promoted numerous lies about Obama, and WND's Jerome Corsi used bogus documents to falsely impugn him. WND enlisted numerous people, including a former Nazi, to smear Obama as a Nazi. And Farah and his website are engaging in journalistic fraud by pimping claims that Obama wasn't born in America when it declared months ago that the birth certificate submitted by Obama's campaign is "authentic."

All of which make it, yes, a "wholly unreliable website run by political and social activists promoting their own agenda."

Farah even claimed, "I actually had to threaten a libel suit against Wikipedia to get the site to remove the previous attempt at defamation." Farah thus demonstrates that he fails to understand how Wikipedia works. According to a Wikipedia comment thread on Farah's complaints, a Wikipedia editor noticed Farah's screed and made corrections accordingly. Farah does not state whether he made any attempt to correct or complain (or threaten a libel suit) prior to grinding out his column.

(Given Farah's record on libel lawsuits -- and given that Obama has a pretty good case against WND -- he might not want to actually go there. And no, Farah has never threatened ConWebWatch with a libel lawsuit nor otherwise contradicted anything published here, which hopefully speaks to our accuracy in reporting on WND.)

Farah concludes by calling Wikipedia "an electronic graffiti board under the control of high-tech Crips and Bloods." If so, then WND is run by the same gang, with Farah as its chief thug.

Remember, this screed was set off by some anonymous prankster calling Farah a "known homosexual."

Farah is a horrible journalist (not to mention plagiarist) whose credibility is lacking most completely when he judges other journalists, holding them to standards he has no interest in following himself.

If you dish it out, shouldn't you be able to take it? Farah has demonstrated that he can't.

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