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Terry Krepel

Terry Krepel

Posted: September 22, 2008 05:09 PM

Anti-Obama Author Corsi Reflects the (Lack of) Journalistic Values of his Employer, WorldNetDaily


As Jerome Corsi promoted his factually challenged attack book on Sen. Barack Obama in recent weeks, it has been noted several times by the author and others that, for his day job, Corsi works as a reporter for a news organization called WorldNetDaily. That association, though, reveals even more about Corsi than the numerous errors and distortions in his book.

WorldNetDaily is a website founded in 1997 by Joseph Farah, a longtime right-wing journalist whose stint as editor of the failing Sacramento Union in the early 1990s only caused it to fail even faster. In his 15 months there, Farah pulled the already conservative-leaning paper -- it had been owned by conservative moneybags Richard Mellon Scaife shortly before Farah's tenure -- even further right, prohibiting the use of terms such as "gay," "assault rifles," and "women's health center" (replaced by "homosexual," semi-automatic rifles," and "abortion clinic," respectively), and bringing in Rush Limbaugh as a columnist (the two later collaborated on Limbaugh's book "See, I Told You So").

The result: The Union's circulation plunged nearly 30 percent. The paper went out of business a few years later.

Farah went on to co-found the Western Journalism Center, which professed to have no ideological agenda but, in reality, did little beyond attacking the Clinton administration. The main activity of the center, which received $330,000 in donations from the aforementioned Mr. Scaife, was to promote the conspiracy theories of Christopher Ruddy, then a reporter for a Scaife-owned newspaper in Pittsburgh, regarding the death of Clinton aide Vince Foster. (Ruddy now runs Newsmax, a rival right-wing website.)

Farah created WorldNetDaily as a project of the Western Journalism Center; it later became a for-profit venture, with a group of mostly California conservatives putting up the money. One early investor was Robert Beale, a business owner who later gained notoriety for going into hiding to avoid trial on tax-evasion charges. After 14 months on the lam, Beale was captured and found guilty as charged -- then faced new charges of obstruction and conspiracy to impede justice for allegedly saying over a prison phone while awaiting trial, "God wants me to destroy the judge. ... That judge is evil. He wants me to get rid of her."

WorldNetDaily claims to be "a watchdog on government -- to expose corruption, fraud, waste and abuse wherever and whenever it is found." In practice, of course, the agenda is the same as that of Farah's previous venture: to attack Democrats and promote conservatives. Indeed, it's very slow to criticize those on the right -- the first original WND article about the corruption of Republican congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham appeared five days after he resigned in disgrace.

Among WND's favorite targets are Democratic presidential candidates -- and the actual truth of the charges it forwards is irrelevant. In 2004, it repeated never-verified and definitively denied claims that John Kerry had an affair and falsely claimed that his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, donated money to "radical causes"; in fact, her contributions were earmarked toward specific environmental projects.

In 2000, WorldNetDaily published a multi-part series purporting to tie Al Gore to a "Hillbilly Mafia" in Tennessee that it proclaimed cost Gore a victory in his home state and, thus, the election (since it would have made the post-election turmoil in Florida moot). Afterward, a Tennessee businessman and Gore fundraiser sued (pdf) WND for libel and defamation, claiming he was falsely accused in the articles of being a "suspected drug dealer" and of asking Gore to intervene to stop an alleged police investigation.

After a seven-year court battle -- during which WND conceded that it didn't fact-check the articles before publication -- WND abruptly announced a few weeks before the case was to go to trial that it had settled the lawsuit, admitting in a statement not only that "no witness verifies the truth of what the witnesses are reported by authors to have stated" but also 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."

WND brought that atrocious journalistic record into its coverage of the 2008 presidential race -- and Obama is a target of its dubious reporting just as Gore and Kerry were in past elections. WND has repeated thoroughly discredited assertions by a man who claimed to have done drugs and had sex with Obama, played guilt-by-association by attempting to tie Obama to terrorist groups, and promoted the discredited and ludicrous allegation that Obama released a "fake" birth certificate to hide that he's not a natural-born American.

One WND reporter, Aaron Klein, has penned dozens of anti-Obama "news" articles. Among them is an interview with a member of the militant group Hamas who appeared to endorse Obama -- downplaying the fact that Obama opposes U.S. negotiations with Hamas until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel. Klein has never explained why a member of Hamas would willingly chat up a right-wing reporter who opposes Hamas, let alone knowingly take part in that reporter's anti-Obama agenda.

Farah recently declared that he "stand[s] with" Corsi. Given the shoddy journalistic history of both men and the "news" organization they work for, that's hardly a ringing endorsement.

Terry Krepel is a senior editor at Media Matters for America. He is also the founder and editor of ConWebWatch.