Faking It at WND
WorldNetDaily complains about being lumped in with providers of "fake news" -- even as it's serving up fake news to its readers.
By Terry Krepel
You want to make WorldNetDaily mad? Accuse it of publishing fake news. Somebody did, and WND is angrier than a wet hen.
Chelsea Schilling complained in a Nov. 17 article:
The mainstream media are going wild circulating a viral list of so-called “fake news” websites and the list includes established news sites like WND, Breitbart, Red State, the Daily Wire and Project Veritas but WND has found a leftist, Trump-bashing assistant professor in Massachusetts who specialized in “fat studies” is behind the effort to target and discredit legitimate news organizations.
WND's complaining about appearing on that list might be a bit more believable if it didn't have a lengthy history of doing exactly what the list claims it did -- publish fake news.
The most obvious example of this is WND's multiyear birther crusade, which Joseph Farah and Co. pursued for the sole purpose of waging a war of personal destruction against Barack Obama. After all, if WND was genuinely concerned about constitutional eligibility for the presidency, it would have pursued the eligibility case against Ted Cruz with the same vigor, which it didn't. Or when any of the numerous allegations it promoted regarding Obama's eligibility were discredited, which it never did. WND turned its birther crusade into fake news, and that alone earns its inclusion on the list.
Then there was perhaps the most notorious spasm of fake news WND perpetrated, if only because it actually suffered legal consequences for it. Before the 2000 election, WND published a series of articles attacking Al Gore, several of which made the claim that a Tennessee car dealer was involved in drug dealing. The car dealer sued WND and related people and entities for defamation; the lawsuit dragged on for years -- with Farah asserting at one point that "this lawsuit would be dropped in a flat second if Al Gore wanted it to be dropped" -- until just before the case was to go to trial seven years later, when WND abruptly settled the suit out of court for terms that still haven't been disclosed. As part of the settlement, WND admitted that what it published about the car dealer was not true and that "the sources named in the publications have stated under oath that statements attributed to them in the articles were either not made by them, were misquoted by the authors, were misconstrued, or the statements were taken out of context."
While WND appended the settlement statement to several articles in the series, all of those articles are still live on the WND website despite no apparent effort by WND to fact-check the other claims made in the articles. But if one significant part of the series has been found to be a lie and its reporters exposed as engaging in sloppy reporting, there's no reason to believe the rest of what was written (though WND's lies arguably had their intended effect of keeping Gore from getting elected).
There's also another Obama-related bit of fake news, WND's insistence that Obama's 2008 reference to a "civilian national security force" was never explained and/or actually meant he would create a police-state apparatus -- in fact, he meant the use of diplomatic "soft power" in international conflicts to complement military might. WND was wrong in 2008, it continued to be wrong in 2012, and it continued to be wrong when WND "practical prepper" columnist Pat McLene asserted in July that "back in 2008, then-candidate Obama argued for a powerful well-funded federal police force." Zombie lies, and zombie fake news, stay alive at WND.
Let's not forget that Farah is weirdly proud of the fact that WND publishes "misinformation" (read: lies) and that his own record of writing is strewn with falsehoods. Heck, even the WND body of work of Chelsea Schilling, who wrote the above article, is similarly falsehood-laden.
Schilling's record of mendacious reporting continues in this article. She found the most unflattering photos of Zimdars she could find to accompany her article and attacked her academic record, emphasizing that she has done research in "fat studies," published a paper on "fat acceptance TV" and she "enthusiastically declares that she’s 'less self-conscious of my own rear end than I used to be.'"
The fact that WND uses its "news" pages to carry out personal vendettas against its critics is just another reason nobody believes it -- and another reason it indisputably earned its place on that fake-news list.
WND's fake news: the evidence
One more reason: Three days before Schilling's article appeared, WND published a blatant piece of fake news.
a Nov. 14 WND article copied-and-pasted an item from the right-wing site ZeroHedge claiming proof of "professional agitators" leading anti-Trump protests in the form of "a video of 5 city blocks on the West side of Chicago lined with busses from Wisconsin (Badger Bus Lines) bringing in protestors."
Just one problem: The article is bogus. The Washington Post explained:
A story at the pro-Trump site ZeroHedge that was picked up by the Drudge Report shows a video recording a line of buses in Chicago, suggesting that the buses were used to bring people in from Wisconsin to protest Trump.
So the article is a lie, but there it sits at WND presented as fact. It remains at WND today, live and uncorrected.
And a couple weeks before that, WND's Schilling promoted more fake news. In a Nov. 1 article, she promoted a bogus attack on Clinton aide Huma Abedin, declaring that "The hacktivist group Anonymous released a stunning video laying out the scandalous details of Abedin’s background on Oct. 24. In just one week, the video has gone viral with 1.6 million views."
In fact, Snopes explained, the video was posted in September by someone other than Anonymous, and it, in turn, "closely follows the text of an article posted approximately 10 days before that in a subreddit populated by Donald Trump supporters." Schilling claiming the video was made by Anonymous simply doesn't pass the smell test at first whiff; the loosely affiliated group is known for hacking websites, not making slick videos filled with faux research.
Snopes went on to debunk the video's main claims that Schilling repeats uncritically as "the hair-raising details of Abedin’s past," invoking such purportedly stellar sources as Walid Shoebat and WND's own Jerome Corsi. At no point does Schilling indicate she made any attempt whatsoever to fact-check the contents of the video before writing her WND article about it, let alone the source of it.
Snopes also points out:
[B]efore she could serve as Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff at the State Department, Abedin underwent a security clearance requiring, among other things, vetting of her personal and professional history to establish her loyalty to the United States and "freedom from conflicting allegiances and potential for coercion." While we would not argue that the clearance process is infallible, nor that information could not subsequently come to light that might change the assessment, we think it likely that the investigators charged with the task have better research tools available to them than does the average Internet user.
The video is fake news, and WND treated it as real.
Farah piles on
WND editor Joseph Farah piled on the list-making professor in a Nov. 24 WND column, ranting that Zimdars "had never actually worked in the media only researched it and taught it." Then, as he is wont to do, he drops his pants and engages in a manhood-measuring contest by devoting a very long paragraph to reciting his resume, though much of what he recited took place before he started WND. He then huffed: "Between Ms. Zimdars and me, who do you think is in a better position to determine real news from 'fake news'?"
Actually, one does not need to have worked in journalism to be able to determine real news from fake, and one can argue that the extensive journalism experience Farah prides himself on having has only made him experienced in presenting fake news as real.
Farah then serves up his own, um, interesting definition of fake news:
Let me make my position on “fake news” clear. It does exist. It is most evident in the revolving door between politics and the media a phenomenon that doesn’t bother the establishment media or establishment politics one little bit.
Farah seems to not be aware of journalistic prostitute (and WND employee) Jerome Corsi, who teamed up with sleazy Trump adviser Roger Stone to use the pages of WND to push even more sleazy rumors about Hillary Clinton -- many of which lacked verification, which would seem to be a much more authentic definition of "fake news" than the one Farah offered. Indeed, Farah surely knows there has never been any line between news and political agitprop at his website -- all its political "news" is designed to promote the Republican or conservative and denigrate the Democrat or liberal.
Farah also seems to have missed that revolving door happening between news and government happening not only with the Trump campaign -- which hired the head of Breitbart News to run the campaign -- but within his own website, in which political prostitute Jerome Corsi touted how "WND author and Oxford professor Theodore Roosevelt Malloch is being referred to the Trump transition team as a candidate for either ambassador to the United Nations or to the United Kingdom," according to "sources close to the vice-president-elect, Mike Pence." (Malloch's also a major Trump fanboy, which undoubtedly helped put him on Trump's radar.)
And as usual -- despite the evidence that WND does, in fact, traffic in fake news -- Farah manages to portray himself as the victim rather than the perpetrator, asserting that fake news is "found in scandalously phony reports like the one published by Ms. Zimdars and broadcast nationally by outlets thrilled by the condemnation of their anti-establishment competition" and complaining about an actual fake news site that "intentionally and shamelessly seeks confusion with the oldest, enduring similarly named site you are reading now." Given how litigious WND is, it can easily sue that "notoriously exploitative website" out of existence (or at least into changing its name and look). Yet, strangely, it apparently hasn't.
Farah concluded by stating how to "put an end to" fake news: "In one word discernment." Remember, people like Clark Jones have already discerned that WND is a provider of fake news, and he would know better than pretty much anyone.
Fake news from Farah
Despite all his whining about being accused of putting out fake news, Farah can't stop publishing fake news. He whined in a Dec. 3 article:
This was the headline in a Politico story Friday: “Trump inherits Obama boom.”
As ConWebWatch pointed out regarding CNSNews.com's similar obsession with the labor force participation rate, a significant percentage of those "nearly 100 million adult Americans NOT WORKING" (it's actually 95 million, but who's counting?) are students and retirees, and the main reason that number is increasing is that baby boomers are retiring. Also, as even CNS has conceded, there have never been more Americans employed than right now.
Farah also ranted that the unemployment numbers are "cooked" and "literally only count those collecting unemployment checks." Farah is lying: The unemployment numbers are computed the way they always have been, and "those collecting unemployment checks" is not the only employment-related data the government issues.
You know who else has given Taylor credibility? WND. In October, WND columnist Jesse Lee Peterson spoke admirably of Taylor's work: "If you don’t already know about rampant black-on-white crime (rape, robbery, murder and atrocious assaults), check the research of Colin Flaherty, Heather Mac Donald and Jared Taylor." Flaherty, of course, is a race-baiter to whom Farah's WND has given a prominent platform.
(Peterson has also treated with credibility the "Pizzagate" hoax on the pages of WND, declaring in his Nov. 27 column that "we have a liberal media quick to cover up for powerful people we all know are corrupt, and who may be affiliated with the sickest cruelties against the most innocent human beings." Farah didn't mention that, even though WND has, to its credit, otherwise stayed away from promoting the Pizzagate story.)
Farah went on to complain that "The Times also buys into the unfounded, groundless conspiracy-mongering of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama about Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election." Farah doesn't back up his claim that Russian involvement in the election is unfounded and groundless -- unsurprising, given that there's plenty of evidence showing otherwise. (Since then, the heads of both the FBI and CIA have concurred that the Russians interfered in the election in part to get Trump elected.)
While Farah complained that Richard Spencer was also among the white nationalists quoted by the Times, he immediately defends Spencer later in his article:
It all started with a segment on CNN’s The Lead which quoted prominent white nationalist figure Richard Spencer as wondering if Jews were actually people. CNN host Jim Sciutto said, “of Jews Spencer said, ‘one wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem.'”
Farah is actually unusually correct here -- Snopes says Spencer was "questioning the humanity and intelligence of members of the 'mainstream media,' not specifically that of Jews" in the specific remark CNN cited, but noted that in the same speech Spencer also referred to "Lügenpresse," a term "commonly used in Nazi-era German propaganda to describe non-party-friendly (e.g., Jewish, Communist, and foreign) news sources"), but he omits the fact that Sciutto and CNN host Jake Tapper, on whose show the segment took place, both denounced and apologized for the chyron after they learned about it.
If only Farah and WND would have, say, offered Clark Jones such a quick apology for publishing fake news about him rather than fighting him in court for years before abruptly offering to settle his defamation suit against WND out of court.
WND walks back fake news
A few days after Farah was wailing about others promoting fake news, his own website did it again.
A Dec.. 7 article by executive news editor Joe Kovacs carried the headline "Video: ‘Migrant’ kicks young woman down flight of stairs." It began: "Video emerged Wednesday of a young woman in a German subway station being kicked down a flight of stairs, in what some are calling an unprovoked attack by a 'migrant gang.'"
But sometime after its posting and Dec. 10, Moore's article got scrubbed, to the point that Kovacs' byline was removed from it. The headline was changed to "Video: Man kicks young woman down flight of stairs" -- with "man" replacing "migrant" -- and the lead paragraph adds that the alleged perpetrator is "unidentified." A later paragraph originally stated that "It has not been reported if police have any suspects," but that also was rewritten to add that "it cannot be confirmed at this point if the perpetrator is actually a migrant."
Curiously, though WND has the capability of noting updates in its articles (in red type after the posting date), at no point does this acknowledge this article has been updated to remove what WND decided after the fact was false, fake information -- let alone explain to readers why.
(Here's the scrubbed article, and here are screenshots of the scrubbed and unscrubbed versions for comparison.)
Kovacs wrote an update on Dec. 19, noting that the person arrested in the incident was of Bulgarian descent. But not only did Kovacs not admit the false information he reported and then scrubbed from his original article on the incident, he tried to perpetuate it by noting that "the video initially sparked a firestorm on social media, as some were blaming the attack on a migrant as a result of Germany’s policy of welcoming migrants, many of whom are Muslim."
This isn't the first time Kovacs has gotten things wrong. In 2011, for instance, he wrote that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's name came up "at least nine times on [Supreme Court] dockets involving Obama eligibility issues" stemming from her connection as Obama's former solicitor general; in fact, none of those docket items has anything to do with "eligibility issues." That article required some heavy scrubbing as well.
The capper: A week after Kovacs' fake news article first appeared, Farah declared in his Dec. 14 column: "WND uses the same standards and practices I cherished during my 20 years in the “mainstream media.” Yes, there were rules good rules. I did my best to live by them then and I do so now."
What Farah said is a total joke but, sadly, he wasn't joking.