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WorldNetDaily's 'Real Reporter' Gambit

WND tries to bolster its roster of right-wing hacks with a couple Washington Times refugees with something approaching actual journalism credentials. Turns out they're prone to right-wing hackery too.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/8/2016

Cheryl Chumley

WorldNetDaily's credibility has been subterranean for years, particularly after its obsession with destroying Barack Obama imploded as it denied the facts to further its birther conspiracy theories.

In 2014 alone, WND had several Slantie Award nominees, including trying to re-litigate Todd Akin's controversial "legitimate rape" gaffe as part of promoting his new WND-published book, promoting questionable medical advice from the far-right-fringe Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, promoting Cliven Bundy and an embarrassing miscue from Aaron Klein in

which he attacked the wrong Loretta Lynch.

It seemed that around that time, WND decided it was time for some new reportorial blood. WND's chief news writers at the time were Klein (a sympathizer of right-wing extremists in Israel who would flee in late 2015 to Breitbart, which apparently did no investigation of his journalistic record before hiring him), Jerome Corsi -- who's best known for his birtherism and outright fabrications about Obama -- and Bob Unruh, a dedicated propagandist who has forsaken his journalistic training and usually can't be bothered to tell any side of a story that conflicts with WND's right-wing agenda.

In March 2015, WND announced via tweet that Cheryl Chumley had joined "the WND Editorial Team." Chumley had been kicking around right-wing media for years, most recently at the Washington Times; apparently the Moonie Times was too credible for Chumley to be associated with. WND had published Chumley's book "Police State USA" the previous year, so she already had a relationship with WND.(Her latest WND-published book comes out later this month; as the title "The Devil in DC: Winning Back the Country from the Beast in Washington" suggests, she's effectively equating anything that deviates from right-wing orthodoxy -- i.e. welfare, gay marriage and immigration -- as satanic.)

Chumley's record of deceptive and misleading reporting, however, made her fit right in all too well at WND:

  • In 2009, Chumley wrote a shoddy Capital Research Center report on ProPublica that accused it of having a liberal bias; at no point did she identify any inaccuracies in ProPublica's reporting, only that it defied the right-wing media agenda.
  • In 2010, Chumley wrote a Washington Examiner article on the right-leaning Franklin Center, which funds numerous blogs and "watchdog" websites. In contrast with her attack on ProPublica, Chumley played down the Franklin Center's political leanings (and the resulting bias) and completely ignored the fact that the Franklin Center has refused to disclose from where its funding comes -- transparency that's critical to the credibility of news operations.
  • And because any new WND employee must be a confirmed carrier of Obama Derangement Syndrome, we have Chumley ranting on a fringe website that "the best chance to turn back the Islamic onslaught – the most hopeful option is to hold out for 2016 and the next presidential election."

WND wasn't done raiding the Washington Times for talent (if you could call it that). Later in the year, former Times reporter Douglas Ernst jumped to WND. In addition to the journalistic credentials, he also has right-wing cred as well, having previously worked in the Heritage Foundation's Young Leaders Program, which aims to "train, equip, and develop tomorrow’s young conservative leaders."

So, more right-wing activist than journalist, though more journalist than WND has usually hired.

While Chumley and Ernst have mostly stuck to rewriting news items from other outlets -- which is a slight improvement from the wholesale theft WND usually engages in (which it insists is merely "fair use") -- they have also regressed to the WND norm.

Jade Helm conspiracy promoter

WND was all about fearmongering about the U.S. military's Jade Helm 15 exercise last year -- columnist Chuck Norris suggested that Jade Helm had a nefarious purpose by people "pulling the strings" in Washington and argued that the government was "stoking the fire" by conducting it (a claim he later walked back lest he appear too crazy), and reporter Leo Hohmann even listed its among the "potentially prophetic events" heralding the WND-promoted (and rather dubious) Shemitah prophecy as promoted by WND friend Jonathan Cahn.

The leader of the fearmongering brigade at WND, though, was Chumley. She promoted the conspiracy theory that the closing of some Walmart stores in the states where the exercise took place was a part of a Jade Helm conspiracy, and she ran to the defense of disgraced pastor Jim Bakker after his promotion of Jade Helm conspiracy theories earned him some media derision. She also fretted that "several in the press" were taking "pot-shots" at Jade Helm conspiracy-mongers who are in reality just "government watchdogs who expressed concerns at its secrecy."

And a June 8 article by Paul Bremmer quoted Chumley -- described only as an "author and reporter" and bizarrely failing to note the fact the place where she's a reporter is WND -- declaring that the residents of the states where the exercise was being held were "the test subjects for these special operations soldiers" and the the citizens themselves were "guinea pigs." Chumley went on to raise more suspicions: “So if they’re training on civilian grounds, in communities in seven different states, then you have to wonder, what are they training for?”

Well, Jade Helm ended in the middle of September -- and nothing happened. And, as Right Wing Watch pointed out, the far-right fringers who promoted those Jade Helm conspiracy theories suddenly "fell silent when it became clear that none of the scenarios they predicted had materialized."

That's how it went at WND too. In the two months after it was announced that Jade Helm had ended, Chumley has written more than 400 bylined articles at WND. Near as we can tell, not one of them was about how the actual exercise failed to live up to the conspiracy theories she and WND promoted about it.

But that hasn't discouraged Chumley from conspiracy-mongering one bit. She has been a leader at WND in pushing the discredited idea that conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died from other than natural causes. So committed is Chumley to this conspiracy that she promoted it outside of WND; she declared in an opinion piece published on right-wing sites The Blaze (operated by Glenn Beck), News With Views and People's Pundit Daily that "it the fact that so many questions have gone unanswered, and that those in position to answer those questions are shrugging their shoulders –a la “Questions? What questions?” – is suspicious in and of itself."

Carrying WND's ideological water (and failing)

Both Chumley and Ernst have gotten burned while trying to peddle stories that forward WND's right-wing ideology.

Chumley wrote in a Nov. 24 article:

A man who was used by American leftists as an example of righteous outrage over the U.S. government’s no-fly lists and the supposed biased targeting of innocent Muslims has been arrested and jailed by Turkish authorities who say he’s tied to ISIS.

Saadiq Long and his family members were all arrested near the Turkey-Syria border earlier this month on charges they belonged to an ISIS terrorist cell, PJ Media reported.

What’s most interesting about the arrest is Long was the face chosen by the likes of MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Mother Jones magazine and author and columnist Glenn Greenwald to use as an example of government surveillance gone wrong.

Turns out those accusations against Long aren't true at all.

Douglas Ernst

The Intercept reported that "Neither Long nor his wife or daughter have been arrested on charges that he joined ISIS. He faces no criminal charges of any kind in Turkey." The reason for his detention is that he is apparently on the no-fly list -- which WND itself noted just a few days ago "relies on an overly broad standard of reasonable suspicion" and is filled with "thousands of innocent people" -- and the U.S. embassy in Ankara is intervening on his behalf. A month later, Long left Turkey and returned to the U.S. without incident.

Meanwhile, Chumley's article remains at WND false and uncorrected -- typical behavior for WND, which generally allows falsehoods to remain uncorrected unless a lawsuit or threat of a lawsuit is involved.

Meanwhile, Ernst was using a Nov. 11 WND article to proclaim that the reports of racial tension at the University of Missouri were all based on "unsubstantiated rumors":

The world now knows why University of Missouri activists needed “muscle” to remove inquisitive reporters from their “safe space” on Monday: Their leaders love to run with unsubstantiated rumors.


Perhaps the most egregious claim by students at the University of Missouri involves a story of a swastika made out of human waste. The symbol was allegedly written in a dormitory bathroom Oct. 24. Reporting by the Federalist on Monday indicates there is no evidence such an event ever happened.

Billy Donley, president of Mizzou’s Residence Halls Association, said he did not witness the event. Instead, he read about it “via a flyer posted on the walls,” the website reported.

Donaley would not speak to the Federalist for its story, but two other RHA staffers did. Neither of them said they witnessed the swastika made of human waste. One staffer did not know of any photographic evidence of the alleged incident.

The website also called the University of Missouri Police Department, which investigated claim. Again, no evidence was provided.

Concerned Student 1950 also failed to provided photographic or documentary evidence of the swastika.

Contrast that with Ernst's article the next day, in which he pretended he never accused the swastika story of being a hoax:

It took media pressure and a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the University of Missouri’s custodian of records, but the infamous “poop-swastika” photo and police report were released late Wednesday.

The reaction by school officials to an Oct. 24 incident in the university’s Gateway Hall was used by activists to pressure system’s president Timothy Wolfe to resign. Wolfe stepped down on Monday, but up until late Wednesday the school resisted requests to provide its records.

Concerned Students 1950, the group organizing campus protests, charge that Wolfe and administrators did not adequately respond to the incident. A police report obtained by the Daily Caller and emails released to the Federalist on Thursday challenge that claim.
  • A police report was filed shortly after the incident.
  • The university’s Title IX office was immediately notified.
  • Gateway Hall hall coordinator Susan Cohn contacted multiple school officials.
  • Representatives of the school’s minority communities were informed.
  • Officials held discussions on the best way to respond.
  • The executive director of Mizzou Hillel was contacted.
Officials had an idea who the culprit was, but could not definitively prove he was guilty.

Salama Gallimore, the lead investigator in the university’s Title IX office, wrote Gateway Hall coordinator Susan Cohn about an incident between a Jewish student and a group of minorities just days before the swastika was found.

Note Ernst's new framing -- it's suddenly no longer about whether it was a hoax, it's now about whether campus officials adequately responded.

At no point does Ernst mention that just the day before he was accusing the swastika story of being an "unsubstantiated rumor." As per WND style, his earlier story proclaiming the purported hoax remains uncorrected; instead, it has added a link to Ernst's later story proving the swastika story as a "related story."

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