Editor’s note: This is the statement Joseph Farah prepared for his presentation to the Senate Press Gallery standing committee yesterday in Washington.
I have little hope today of persuading this committee to reverse itself on its rejection of WorldNetDaily for accreditation to the Senate Press Gallery.
For 15 months, my news organization, the largest independent newssite on the Internet, has patiently waited, answered irrelevant and often insulting questions about our ownership, our associations, our content and received the runaround as we have sought nothing more than to fulfill our obligation to our 2.5 million readers by covering the Congress on an even footing with our competitors.
The ultimate insult from this committee came in the form of a formal rejection of accreditation – a blatant denial of our First Amendment rights by an arm of the U.S. Congress.
It was a clearly discriminatory decision and one not based on the rules governing the gallery, as Mr. (Richard) Ackerman (WorldNetDaily’s attorney) has already pointed out.
While I have little hope of disabusing you of the prejudices and biases you have against me and my news organization, I come here today to set the stage for a legal challenge and a public-relations offensive that will be successful. We will not give up. We will not roll over. We will never let this issue rest.
Clearly, based on the committee’s release of the documents it examined in rendering its decision, there is a political bias at work. Clearly, the focus on a few unflattering articles – many of which pre-date the very existence of my news organization – demonstrates the predisposition of the committee against WorldNetDaily. Clearly, many of the questions raised by Senate Press Gallery Deputy Director Joe Keenan over the last 15 months show the committee grasping at straws to find a justification for denial – even when none exist under the rules governing the gallery.
Double standards are being used to block WorldNetDaily’s access to the Capitol:
While the committee finds WorldNetDaily ineligible because of association with a nonprofit organization solely devoted to promoting investigative reporting, it approves other news organizations that are themselves nonprofits and others controlled and owned by nonprofits with political and religious agendas. It even approves foreign “news” organizations completely under the control and domination of totalitarian governments.
- While the committee finds WorldNetDaily ineligible because of a lack of original content, it approves other news organizations with far fewer resources and far less in the way of track records of achievement in breaking nationally and internationally significant news stories.
- While the committee finds it objectionable that WorldNetDaily runs clearly labeled advertisements for books, videos and other products and services with its news presentation, it apparently has no problem with U.S. newspapers, which typically devote 80 percent of their space to selling goods and services to the public.
Those are the objections cited in your rejection of our application. None of them stands the smell test. None of them is within the purview of this committee under the rules governing the gallery. All of them strongly suggest underlying motives, biases and prejudices.
Let’s deal with some facts:
WorldNetDaily’s original investigative reports have been picked up and credited by the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Jerusalem Post, the London Times, the Wall Street Journal, the South China Morning Post, United Press International, the Toronto Star, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun-Times and dozens of other responsible papers across the nation and around the world.
Indeed, WorldNetDaily has been cited by all five of the news
organizations represented by this committee – Reuters, Cox Newspapers,
Knight Ridder, Bloomberg – even the Columbus Dispatch.
We’re doing the job. We’re just doing it with a handicap, as our access to the Capitol, to the White House and to the major political conventions has been severely restricted by the actions of this committee and its staff.
Somewhere, somehow, this committee has concluded that WorldNetDaily is not a legitimate news agency. I can only guess – based on the improper and out-of-bounds questions its staff has asked and on the information released by the committee about its decision-making process – that this conclusion is based on political biases.
Indeed, WorldNetDaily marches to the beat of a very different drummer. Our mission has always been to provide aggressive, watchdog-style coverage of government fraud, waste, abuse and corruption. This often makes government officials and bureaucrats wary of us. And it also makes our less aggressive colleagues nervous.
Some, because of their own biases, choose to stereotype WorldNetDaily inaccurately as a “conservative” or “libertarian” newssite. That, I believe, is exactly what this committee is doing. It is uncomfortable with our style of journalism, so it is making excuses to deny us access to the Congress. That is unconstitutional. And we will prove it.
I dare suggest to you that I have more daily news experience and accomplishments than anyone in this room.
Twenty years ago, when I was 27 years old, I was running a newsroom of some 200 in a major-market U.S. newspaper. A few years later I was serving as editor in chief of a group of dailies and weeklies. A few years later, I was serving as editor in chief of the oldest daily West of the Mississippi. I’ve been a reporter. I’ve been a city editor. I’ve done everything there is to do in a daily newsroom. And that’s all I’ve done in my career. I’ve never crossed the line and worked for political candidates or government. I don’t even register to vote with a political party to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest.
Let me briefly talk about the man you denied accreditation. Paul Sperry was not only accredited previously as Washington bureau chief of Investor’s Business Daily, but while in that position, he determined for the gallery which other IBD staffers would receive accreditation. Sperry is a fearless and incorruptible investigative reporter – for my money, the best in the city. That’s why we hired him more than two years ago. But, when he came to WorldNetDaily, suddenly, in the eyes of the gallery, he became a pariah.
What is this controversy all about? There have been hints revealed in some of the questions raised by the committee.
I was asked about WorldNetDaily’s connections with Judicial Watch, a conservative nonprofit group. Judicial Watch has no connection with WorldNetDaily.com Inc. The group is a source of news to WorldNetDaily just as it is a source of news to many other news organizations. The chairman of the group sometimes writes opinion pieces published by WorldNetDaily. But there is no connection. Yet the question itself is revealing. Why would this be a concern? I believe the committee’s own political biases are affecting its judgment and its ability to fulfill its responsibilities to the Congress and the press.
As further evidence of this point, I was asked about WorldNetDaily’s relationship with Richard Mellon Scaife, the man Hillary Clinton described as at the epicenter of the “vast, right-wing media conspiracy.” Again, WorldNetDaily has no relationship with Scaife, though he does reportedly invest in a competing newssite and owns his own newspaper. Yet, why is the question even asked? Because, clearly, the committee and/or staff has a political agenda of its own and is imposing certain litmus tests on applicants.
The committee’s fixation on Western Journalism Center is another giveaway of this political bias. Though I founded WJC and ran it for years as a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 corporation specifically restricted from lobbying, the committee has suggested in its rejection of our application that the center is some kind of political front group. It is nothing more – and never has been – than a charity promoting independent investigative journalism. Yes, it makes some politicians and government officials nervous to have watchdogs looking over their shoulder. But that’s what the free press is all about. And that’s the only agenda at work in Western Journalism Center. Despite the contentions of this committee, Western Journalism Center does not advocate anything except good journalism.
There are, however, many accredited members of the gallery who advocate, lobby, even spy on the U.S. Congress. They are the official organs of totalitarian states that have no concept of a free press. This is what makes your decision about WorldNetDaily so remarkable, so flabbergasting, so unjust, so duplicitous, so immoral, so unconscionable.
After Sept. 11, most ordinary, tax-paying Americans are severely restricted from access to their own U.S. Capitol. But you have bestowed upon these state-sponsored propagandists privileges and access ordinary Americans will never know. You have given them unfettered access to the U.S. government while denying WorldNetDaily.
With all of the new security procedures in place today at the Capitol, unfettered access by the legitimate press is more important than ever. The American people still have a right to know what is happening in Washington, and the press’ role is more important than ever. At the same time, it is my personal opinion as an American taxpayer that spies and lobbyists representing foreign dictators while masquerading as “journalists” do not belong in our Capitol.
I look forward to addressing any and all of your questions today.
By the way, a week ago, I moved my entire family to the Washington, D.C., metro area because this is where we intend to build up our editorial resources in the coming years. The actions of this committee are adversely affecting my business and our ability to compete. I not only expect to get this situation with Paul Sperry resolved, I expect many more WorldNetDaily staffers to be accredited in the years ahead – and without this kind of unacceptable and unconstitutional hassle.
Read special report on WND’s hearing before the Senate Press Gallery yesterday: “Senate press panel withholds evidence.”
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