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Showdown in press gallery

WASHINGTON – Today’s the day.

The Standing Committee of the U.S. Senate Daily Press Gallery will hold an appeal hearing on its denial of permanent press credentials to WorldNetDaily.

In case you have missed this First Amendment controversy until now, on Feb. 8, 2002 the Senate Press Gallery formally notified WorldNetDaily in writing that it was ineligible for accreditation for two reasons:

  1. WorldNetDaily does not provide “daily news with significant original reporting content.”

  2. WorldNetDaily is not separate and independent from the Western Journalism Center, a tax-exempt, non-profit corporation also founded by me.

Today we will tell the official guardians of the press gallery that their denial is unconstitutional – a First Amendment violation and a blatant violation of our rights to equal protection and due process.

Our position is that the committee is making up the rules as it goes along – and specifically rewriting them to block WorldNetDaily from exercising its First Amendment rights.

The Congress of the United States has authorized the press gallery to limit admissions based on the following criteria only:

Now the Senate Press Gallery has redefined its mission – excluding from accreditation the world’s leading independent Internet newssite.

Why do you think that’s the case? Why is the committee making excuses? Why is it grasping at straws in a determined effort to keep WorldNetDaily out?

We believe it is unlawful discrimination based on some prejudice by its members. Maybe they don’t like the hard-hitting, watchdog-style, investigative journalism for which WorldNetDaily has become known. Maybe they don’t like the New Media and see WorldNetDaily as a threat to their own organizations – newspapers and offline news services. Maybe their own political biases skew their view of WorldNetDaily and its mission.

Whatever the case, WorldNetDaily is being shut out – for now. It has been a major inconvenience for us. The denial by the press gallery kept some of WorldNetDaily’s staff out of the 2000 national political conventions. The denial has made Washington bureau chief Paul Sperry’s already difficult job more difficult. The denial is also an affront to all those who take the First Amendment seriously.

The government has no business blocking the free exercise of the press. And that is exactly what it has done in this case.

You can decide for yourselves whether WorldNetDaily contains enough original reporting to be considered. Let me add, however, that the gallery has accredited news organizations with exactly one employee! WorldNetDaily has 13 full-time editorial professionals alone – including Sperry, who previously was accredited by the press gallery when he served in exactly the same position with another news organization!

I will also point out that WorldNetDaily’s archives include many thousands of original news stories, not to mention an equal number of original commentaries on the news. Our scoops are legion. But I suspect the press gallery guardians already know that. In fact, I suspect it is not the lack of content that concerns them, but rather the kind of content.

For the record, I will also tell the committee, once again, that WorldNetDaily is 100 percent independent of the non-profit, tax-exempt Western Journalism Center – not that it should make any difference. Many of the news organizations already accredited by the gallery are non-profits themselves or controlled by non-profits. Some of them are even state-controlled “news” organizations.

I will also remind my colleagues of my own professional accomplishments and achievements in 25 years in the daily press. At 27 years of age, I was running a newsroom in a major daily in the second-biggest market in the U.S. At 33, I was editor in chief of my own daily newspaper and several weeklies. At 36, I was editor in chief of the oldest daily west of the Mississippi. At 39, I founded the Western Journalism Center, a non-profit created to encourage and fund independent investigative reporting into government waste, fraud, corruption and abuse. At 42, I founded WorldNetDaily.

What is it about this record that they don’t like?

It seems WorldNetDaily is being held to a different standard, doesn’t it?

I’d appreciate your prayers today as we face off with adversaries who seem determined – in spite of the facts – to deny WorldNetDaily equal access to the most vital institutions of government in Washington.

Earlier stories:

WND’s press-gallery hearing next week

April appeal in WND’s Senate press fight

Denial of WND press pass unlawful, says legal group

Readers flood Senate gallery with e-mails

WND denied congressional pass

Earlier columns:

The Senate Star Chamber

Open letter to the news police

Busting the media gatekeepers

The Senate Press Rogues Gallery

The government media cabal