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The Creeping WND-ization of CNS

The Media Research Center's "news" division has gone from echoing WorldNetDaily's editorial decisions (and columnists) to beating WND to the punch on conspiracy theories.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/27/2019

Susan Jones

ConWebWatch has previously documented the creeping WorldNetDaily-ization at the Media Research Center -- which is also happening at its "news" division, Over the past couple years, CNS' story selection has been slowly creeping toward that of WND's.

For instance, CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman wrote in a December 2016 article: "According to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), the State Department gave $349,276 in U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to a political group in Israel to build a campaign operation, which subsequently was used to try to influence Israelis to vote against conservative Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2015 election for prime minister."

If this story sounds familiar, that's because it is: WorldNetDaily covered it five months earlier. And like WND, Chapman de-emphasized the fact that the State Department's funding of the Israeli group One Voice had nothing to do with the group's anti-Netanyahu campaign and involved a separate project. Chapman unprofessionally puts in bold italic statements like "OneVoice used the campaign infrastructure and resources built, in part, with State Department grants funds to support V15" but not statements like "no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections."

Chapman also uncritically quoted Republican Sen. Rob Portman saying, "American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them." But Israel as a whole is the ally in question, not just Netanyahu. Is Portman saying that any Israeli politician who opposes Netanyahu is an enemy of the U.S. If so, Chapman apparently agrees with the sentiment.

The lag time was much shorter in another December 2016 article by CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman complaining that Rex Tillerson, then the nominee for secretary of state, "lobbied for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to change its rules on youth membership and allow homosexuals to join the organization." WND raised the same concern two days earlier.

In a February 2017 article, WND's Leo Hohmann wrote about how "A recently retired U.S. State Department veteran has published a whistleblower letter in the Chicago Tribune fingering the refugee resettlement program as fraught with 'fraud' and “abuses.'" Hohmann made no apparent effort to verify that the letter writer, Mary Doetsch, was who she said she was or that anything she wrote was true; instead, he crows that Doetsch's letter "affirms two-and-a-half years of reporting by WND, which has reported that the 'vetting' of refugees from broken countries such as Somalia, Syria and Sudan often consists largely of a personal interview with the refugee."

The next day, CNS' Andrew Eicher wrote about the same letter. Like Hohmann, Eicher also apparently failed to make an effort to verify Doetsch's identity or claims.

(Of course, the possibility exists that CNS stole its idea from Fox News, where Doetsch's letter was reported on the same day Eicher's article was published.)

Columns and conspiracy theories

CNS also began to run the occasional column from right-wing WND stalwarts like the Benham brothers and Jesse Lee Peterson. CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman has grown fond of Peterson's rantings; a January 2017 blog post by Chapman highlighted how Peterson claimed that President Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning because "he has some type of issue going on that causes him to identify with these types of people," and a September 2017 blog post cheered how Peterson called pro football players who kneeled during the National Anthem "evil."

Over the past year, though, WND's severe financial problems has decimated its reporting staff. Meanwhile, CNS is now beating WND to the punch on things that have historically in WND's wheelhouse.

Conspiracy theories, for example. Susan Jones came up with a doozy in a July 25 CNS article:

Let's take another look at that June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where Donald Trump Jr. met with a group of Russians who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton, but never delivered any.


Transcripts released by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May show that the people who met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, crossed paths not only with each other but also with people in the Clinton orbit. They all worked and socialized with each other at various times.

And some of them went out of their way to be in New York City on June 9, the day of the meeting.

Another fact: The June 9 meeting happened at a time when the Democrat Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign were paying Fusion GPS (through a law firm) to conduct opposition research on candidate Donald Trump. Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson testified that he started paying for the Steele dossier in “May or June of 2016.”

What followed was an examination of those alleged connections, which is so lengthy and convoluted that one wonders if Jones has a wall of pictures and strings at the CNS offices dedicated to illustrating this.

It wasn't until Aug. 13 that WND's Art Moore got around to spinning its own version of the same conspiracy theory:

Newly released records and a pattern of efforts by Hillary Clinton operatives employed by Kremlin-linked figures to connect the Trump campaign to Russia indicate the infamous Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer and Trump campaign staff may have been a set up.

Lee Smith of RealClearInvestigations reported the first line of evidence includes emails, texts and memos recently turned over to Congress by the Department of Justice.

The records, he said, show how closely senior Justice Department officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation worked with employees of Fusion GPS, the research firm paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to create the still-unverified “dossier” of dirt on Trump obtained from Russian operatives.

Smith noted the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between high-ranking Trump campaign staff, including Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer is cited as key evidence that Trump colluded with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton.

But Smith contends a growing body of evidence indicates “the real collusion may have taken place among those who arranged the meeting rather than the Trump officials who agreed to attend it.”

WND's staff is so skeletal at this point that it must outsource its conspiracy theories -- and lets other right-wing outlets get to those conspiracy theories first.

Indeed, that outsourcing means CNS is doing a better job at embracing conspiracy theories that WND does now. The arrest of Trump confidante Roger Stone spurred Trump to speculate on why CNN happened to be outside Stone's house when he was arrested. Jones then did her best to promote Trump's conspiracy theory:

In a mid-morning response to the indictment of his friend and former campaign adviser Roger Stone, President Trump tweeted: "Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better. Who alerted CNN to be there?"


In an early morning tweet, CNN's "New Day" explained how a TV crew just happened to be in Stone's neighborhood before dawn: "CNN's @davidgshortell was on the ground when Roger Stone was arrested in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., this morning. He says he was monitoring the situation because of 'unusual grand jury activity in Washington D.C. yesterday.'"

Back to Trump's question: "Who Alerted CNN to Be There?"

Attempts to reach the FBI press office during the shutdown were unsuccessful.

But some suspect that Mueller's office or someone in the FBI or even the grand jury tipped off CNN, a liberal media outlet that Trump has blasted as "fake news."

Journalist Greta van Susteren tweeted: "CNN cameras were at the raid of Roger FBI obviously tipped off CNN...even if you don’t like Stone, it is curious why Mueller’s office tipped off CNN instead of trying to quietly arrest Stone; quiet arrests are more likely to be safe to the FBI and the person arrested."
Jones spent one paragraph on how CNN pointed out it had been alerted to a possible Stone arrest because of "unusual grand jury activity," and gave nine paragraphs to random conservatives falsely speculating that CNN was somehow tipped off by special counsel Robert Mueller himself.

Jones pushed the conspiracy theory again when acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was asked about it by Republican Rep. Doug Collins during congressional testimony, devoting much of a Feb. 8 article to it. Jones touted how Whitaker said he was "aware -- and deeply concerned -- about CNN being there to cover Stone's arrest" and helped Collins push the unproven claim that "CNN may have been tipped off."

Of the 11 paragraphs in her article devoted to the conspiracy theory, only one reported the truth, and even then only parenthetically, as if it was an unimportant aside instead of the thing that blows up the other 10 paragraphs:

(CNN insists it was not tipped off about Stone's arrest. CNN said it was just good reporting -- noticing "unusual activity" at the grand jury venue in Washington that prompted a CNN team to wait outside Stone's house on that particular Friday morning.)

Even WND wasn't this enthusiastic about it. Its first report, coinciding with Jones' first report, was simply copied-and-pasted from far-right blog Gateway Pundit. WND didn't touch it again until Feb. 13, when Stone issued a court filing claiming -- according, again, to Gateway Pundit, to whom WND has apparently outsourced this conspiracy theory -- "the metadata on a draft copy of the indictment obtained by a CNN reporter and sent to Roger’s attorney after his arrest showed a save date of two days prior to the January 25th unsealing of the court documents following the Stone’s arrest."

But Stone's filing never proves the indictment was sent out before Stone's arrest, wrote Buzzfeed News' Zoe Tillman, who added: "Per today's filing, Stone was arrested at 6:06am. An email from Mueller's office to reporters, with a link to the indictment, went out a few minutes later (my email has it time-stamped 6:17am). Stone's filing has a text from a reporter to Stone's lawyer with that link at 6:22am." The noted "save date" two days before Stone's arrest is irrelevant to whether reporters got a copy before the arrest.

Mueller himself has since confirmed that he did not tip off CNN to Stone's impending arrest. Neither WND nor CNS have seen fit to report this development so far.

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