WND Loves Its Tax Protesters
WorldNetDaily has a long history of taking the side of people who refuse to pay their taxes. Here are a couple recent examples.
By Terry Krepel
One of WorldNetDaily's early funders was a tax evader. Robert Beale (father of longtime WND columnist Vox Day) failed to show up for his trial on tax-evasion charges and went on the lam for 14 months; he was eventually captured and convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Beale made things even worse for himself by threatening a judge, for which he was sentenced to four more years in prison.
So, protesting taxes would seem to be the DNA of WND -- while WND itself has not been accused of trying to skip out on the taxes it owes, it is incorporated in the business-friendly state of Delaware -- and it's unsurprising that it has spent a lot of time over the years defending tax protesters.
That defense, however, tends to be dishonest and lacking in certain inconvenient facts.
An unbylined December 2013 WND article is one example. It touted a proposal that would reduce the sentences of "first-offense, nonviolent federal offenders who exhibit good behavior." The article features one possible beneficiary of the law, creationist pastor Kent Hovind, who at the time was serving a 10-year prison sentence for various tax offenses.
But try as it might, even WND can't quite pull off the full whitewash job on Hovind, which involves trying to explain away 12 tax offenses, one count of obstructing federal agents and 45 counts of structuring cash transactions to avoid scrutiny under money-laundering laws:
His son, Eric Hovind, who now directs a new ministry in Pensacola with the same mission of his father’s Creation Science Evangelism, contends the government completely misrepresented his parents in the trial, portraying them as anti-government radicals. His mother, Jo, the ministry’s bookkeeper, served one year in prison.
WND didn't quite come clean, though. As Peter J. Reilly reports at Forbes: "Although Hovind states that he has paid all taxes that he owes, I have never seen him explicitly state that he actually filed returns for the years 1998 through 2006, which were the years that were the subject of the Tax Court decision. It is pretty challenging for an American to be earning enough for any sort of reasonable lifestyle without triggering a return filing obligation."
The article also refers to "Paul J. Hansen of Omaha, Neb." as "an attorney advising Hovind." In fact, Hansen is not an attorney -- he's an activist in the "sovereign citizen" movement who contends he does not have to follow the laws of government if he doesn't want to. And that exposes WND's big omission: Hovind is affiliated with the "sovereign citizen" movement as well.
On top of that, there's an undisclosed conflict of interest: WND sells products from Hovind in its online store, including a $149, 20-DVD set of Hovind "debat[ing] evolutionists on 100 occasions, engaging professors and scientists from many different fields." Oddly, the WND store does the disclosure that the WND "news" operation won't from the other side: "Hovind is currently serving a prison term for tax evasion but has appealed. His son Eric is carrying on the ministry in his absence."
A year later, WND wrote about Hovind and Hansen facing new charges of mail fraud and conspiracy over an attempt to block the government from selling Creation Science Evangelism property to settle the tax judgment against him. Strangely, though, it apparently didn't write about those charges ultimately being dropped, or about Hovind's release from prison in July 2015. Perhaps even WND figured it had done enough damage control for him.
Another whitewashed tax protester
But there's always another tax-protester case for WND to latch onto, and it did just that earlier this year.
In WND tradition, Newman is highly biased toward Hendrickson's plight, to the point that he leaves out inconvenient facts. At no point in his 77-paragraph article does Newman bother to quote from the prosecution's case (though he claims that "The Justice Department did not respond to repeated requests by phone and email for information from WND") or even to describe exactly what Hendrickson did, let alone demonstrate what was supposedly false about the amended tax returns she was allegedly compelled to sign.
Apparently, Newman was incapable of performing a simple Google search that would have quickly uncovered the DOJ press release on Hendrickson's sentencing (which occurred last April, meaning Newman had many months to work on this story) that explained exactly what Hendrickson did:
According to court filings and evidence presented at trial, Hendrickson and her husband, Peter Hendrickson, filed federal income tax returns for the years 2002 and 2003 on which they falsely claimed they earned zero wages. Based on these false returns, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the Hendricksons more than $20,000 in income tax refunds that they were not entitled to receive. In 2006, the Tax Division sued the Hendricksons to recover these refunds. As part of that litigation, Judge Edmunds ordered the Hendricksons to file corrected amended tax returns for 2002 and 2003 that reported all of their income, and further ordered them to repay their fraudulently obtained refunds to the IRS. Judge Edmunds also barred the Hendricksons from filing additional false tax returns.
Newman never explained why Doreen Hendrickson's claim that she made no money in 2002 and 2003 is accurate, given that the DOJ apparently provided evidence that she did, in fact, have taxable income. He also failed to mention that Pete Hendrickson spent time in prison for filing false tax returns.
And even though Newman apparently had months to write this story, the only thing he says of Pete Hendrickson's anti-tax screed is that "WND has not reviewed the book nor its arguments" and quotes him as asserting "This entire affair is an effort to discredit my book."
Newman went on to repeat Pete Hendrickson's assertion that "many Americans had successfully used the arguments he advances and posted the evidence of success online." Well, that's not quite true: there's at least one case in which someone using his arguments was fined $2,500 for doing so.
The ruling sums up Hendrickson's book as "an antitax screed, short on substance and long on invective" and is "largely an exercise in twisting the meaning of words into what the author wants them to mean, even if statutes, regulations, and case law define those words otherwise."
The fact that Newman could not or would not find any of this information tells us he's serving as a stenographer and propagandist, not a reporter.
After Hendrickson lost an appeal of her prison sentence, Newman returned to dishonestly defend her again. In a May 7 WND article, Newman once again asserted that the government ordered Hendrickson to "perjure herself," and once again he failed to explain exactly why she disputes her income is exempt from the income tax, let alone clarify that Hendrickson falsely claimed she earned no income at all, not that her income was exempt from taxes.
Newman also seemed weirdly surprised that the appeals court ruling -- to which he fails to provide a link so WND readers can check it out for themselves -- rejected the bizarre argument from Hendrickson's attorneys that likened the government's actions "to Islamic Shariah law demanding the affirmation of Allah."
He also complains that the appeals court invoked the "collateral bar" principle to deny Hendrickson's challenge of the constitutionality of the laws under which she was convicted, calling it an "obscure legal theory" and a "rarely used doctrine" and parrots Hendrickson's attorney's assertions that her conviction is "transparently invalid." But the appeals court ruling -- which was actually issued in March, making Newman a couple months late to the party -- explicitly explains why Hendrickson's conviction does not fall under exceptions to the collateral bar prinicple.
Newman completely ignored another section of Hendrickson's appeal, that the standby attorneys assisting her in representing herself at her trial refused to ask her questions under examination that she had instructed them to ask. As the appeals court noted,Hendrickson didn't raise this objection until after her trial, and the standby counsel explained that the government had repeatedly objected to similar lines of inquiry (related to "her beliefs regarding the legal validity of the order") and that he did not ask the questions because Hendrickson had already “struggle[d] to provide answers to some of the questions she had provided.”
As before, Newman lazily glossed over the fact that Hendrickson and her husband, Peter, are tax protesters and that Peter Hendrickson has written an anti-tax book that caused at least one other person to face criminal penalties for following them. Instead, Newman parroted the Hendricksons' assertion that "the government hopes to suppress arguments made by Mr. Hendrickson in his book 'Cracking the Code The Fascinating Truth About Taxation In America.'"
Despite the fact that Newman has had three more months to read the book so he can properly explain its arguments -- which appear to be at the core of the controversy he's writing about -- he once again states that "WND has not read the book or independently verified its arguments."
And aside from a few paragraphs attacking the appeals court ruling, Newman made no effort whatsoever to present the government's case against Hendrickson with anything resembling fairness or accuracy. Instead, Newman devoted nearly the entirety of his article to letting Hendrickson, her husband and her attorneys attack the government with impunity and portray Doreen Hendrickson as a victim.
That's a violation of WND editor Joseph Farah's rarely followed edict that "WND reporters and editors are always encouraged and required to seek out multiple sources and contrary viewpoints in news articles."