It seems that WorldNetDaily is incapable of honestly dealing with allegations of child abuse when one of its pet issues is involved. This sad lesson was demonstrated once again in a custody case in which WND all but ignored child abuse allegation in the service of advancing its political agenda.
An Oct. 8 WND article by Bob Unruh claimed that an hours-old baby "was snatched from her parents by authorities in Concord, N.H., after social services workers alleged the father is a member of Oath Keepers." Unruh continued:
The father, Johnathon Irish, told WND that the affidavit signed by Child Protective Service worker Dana Bicford seeking government custody of newborn Cheyenne said the agency "became aware and confirmed that Mr. Irish associated with a militia known as the 'Oath Keepers.'"
Irish, in an interview with WND, said officers and other social services workers ordered him to stand with his hands behind his back, frisked him and then took his daughter from him and his fiancé at Concord Hospital where the baby had been born.
The facts show, however, that this isn't exactly the case. The Manchester Union Leader reported that there's much more to this story that Unruh didn't see fit to tell his readers:
In court paperwork, the state alleges the health and safety of the infant, named Cheyenne, was in "imminent danger" if she was left with her parents because of "a lengthy history of domestic violence" between them.
DCYF asked for the case to be moved from family court in Concord to the family court in Dover, citing that court's familiarity with the family involved.
Their battle with DCYF dates back to January of last year, Taylor said, when the state welfare agency took her other two children, boys who are now 2 and 3, for alleged abuse and neglect.
The boys currently live with a foster family, and Irish said he was told baby Cheyenne will go to live with the same family for now.
DCYF is legally prohibited from discussing child welfare cases. A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said it can't even confirm a child was taken into custody at Concord Hospital.
But Concord police Lt. Keith Mitchell confirmed officers from his department were asked by both DCYF and Concord Hospital security to "stand by" during a "custody issue" on Thursday and again yesterday.
"We were there just to keep the peace, to make sure there were no issues between the parties involved," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said there are no criminal charges pending in the case from his department.
[Mother Stephanie] Taylor said she is seeking a divorce from her sons' father, who lives in Seabrook. But because she is still married to him, DCYF considers her husband to be the "legal father" of baby Cheyenne, according to the affidavit.
In its affidavit, DCYF cites "significant mental health and safety concerns" involving "all parents" that remain unaddressed. It also states that a termination of parental rights hearing was held on Sept. 14 in Rochester Family Court involving Taylor's other two children; a decision is pending.
DCYF says Taylor "has failed to recognize the impact of domestic violence in her life and the potential danger it poses to a newborn baby."
And it states that Irish "has not acknowledged any responsibility to date and remains a significant safety risk to an infant in his care."
The agency concluded that "the infant's health and safety is in imminent danger if left in the care of" either Taylor or Irish.
The Union Leader also reported that the DCYF also noted Irish's purchase of "several different types of weapons including a rifle, handgun and Taser."
Unruh didn't mention Irish's cache of weapons, let alone explain why he feels the need to have a Taser. Unruh also doesn't mention the name of the infant's mother.
Most disturbingly, Unruh plays down the abuse allegations, uncritically repeating Irish's claim that it presumably "pertained to an incident weeks earlier in which one of his fiance's older sons allegedly was struck by a babysitter."
WND has a sad history of burying the background of abusive parents who serve as symbols of WND's far-right agenda. As I detailed in 2008, WND -- based on reporting by Unruh -- promoted a family as role models for homeschooling in a squabble with the state over the children's education, while burying the family's history of a controlling and abusive father (who wouldn't even allow his children to have birth certificates), a meek and acquiescent mother, sexual abuse by a family friend, deplorable living conditions, and a substandard homeschool education.
A follow-up Oct. 11 article by Unruh conceded in the first paragraph that this is an "abuse case" -- but never mentioned it again, trying to change the subject by making the Oath Keepers reference the issue, not the abuse. Unruh does note Irish's weapons cache this time but offers no explanation of why Irish needs a Taser.
Unruh also quoted the local Oath Keepers guy as calling for a "peaceful gathering in support of both the due process rights of the parents," but he doesn't mention that the day after the baby was taken, the FBI reported threats against the hospital where the baby was born that "prompted a response from the FBI and the state police's bomb sniffing dogs."
In an Oct. 14 article, Unruh touted how Oath Keepers sent a letter to the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Family complaining about Irish's membership in the group being cited as a reason for the state to take the child. Unruh's repetition of the Oath Keepers' complaint that "the political affiliations of the parents have no business being cited in an affidavit alleging possible child abuse or neglect," and his later quoting of a statement that Oath Keepers members "have seen first-hand the heart-rending abuse that children can suffer at the hands of dysfunctional adults. It is to prevent such abuse that child protective services is given great latitude and power" were his only references to the abuse aspect of the case.
Instead, he obliquely stated that WND "has confirmed there are other allegations and issues included in the charging document, a copy of which has been posted at Oath Keepers with blocks of information unrelated to the Oath Keepers allegation redacted." Unruh clearly has no interest in delving into those "allegations and issues."
In his shilling for Oath Keepers, Unruh described the group as one that "charges its members with following the U.S. Constitution and protecting the American life and American people," uncritically repeating Oath Keepers' claims that "they do not constitute a militia" and gives plenty of space to Oath Keepers defending the group.
Unmentioned are some of the more conspiratorial beliefs of the group, such as fearmongering about the government turning cities into "giant concentration camps." The New York Times has reported that Oath Keepers plays a role in a "resurgent militia movement" and has been "recruiting at Tea Party events around the country and forging informal ties with militia groups."
WND itself, meanwhile, has promoted the anti-Obama aspect of the group, quoting Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes -- whom Unruh prominently featured in his articles on the Irish case -- stating that "fears crystallized when Obama took office and suddenly had access to the accumulated power" and that "WND already has reported on several members of the U.S. military who have raised concerns about the implications of Obama's possible ineligibility to be commander-in-chief."
Unruh wrote in a article published later on Oct. 14 that the baby had been returned to the parents, misleadingly claiming that the child was "snatched from her parents' custody a week ago when her father was accused of being an 'Oath Keeper.'" Unruh wrote that "According to WND sources close to the case, the accusations against the father ... have been dropped" -- but he never mentions what those accusations were -- you know, abuse -- despite the fact that they are central to the story.
The Concord Monitor reported that a judge determined in 2009 that evidence pointed to Irish as "the main suspect" in an assault of his fiancee's oldest son, and even Irish's own father "told a reporter within earshot of Johnathon Irish that his son had spent a portion of his childhood in facilities for juveniles and had gotten in trouble with the law" and that he "deserved to be scrutinized by the state." This turned into a shouting match between Irish and his father.
Further, according to the Associated Press, as a high school student Irish pleaded guilty in 2003 to criminal threatening after telling a fellow student he was going to "create another Columbine." He received a 12-month suspended sentence.
Unanswered questions remain about the Irish case, the most prominent being the abuse allegations and questions about Irish's history. And it can be argued that the state Division for Children, Youth and Families made a mistake by highlighting Irish's Oath Keepers membership; the Concord Monitor editorialized that information about Irish's background, including the fact that Irish and his fiancee "have taken restraining orders out against each other in the past," is "necessary for the agency and the court to consider. Political affiliations are not."
But for WorldNetDaily to almost completely ignore the abuse allegations in favor of obsessing over the Oath Keepers mention is an irresponsible dereliction of journalistic duty. Is advancing its right-wing agenda so important to WND that it must take priority over everything, even allegations of child abuse?
Given that this is the second time WND has done it, we have to assume the answer is yes.
(Originally posted at ConWebWatch.)
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