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WND banned from covering Capitol

America’s founders, fearing the day would come when Congress would make laws restricting the free press, crafted the First Amendment to the Constitution as a special protection against such abuse.

They understood without a vibrant, independent watchdog, government would become too powerful, exceed its authority and the people would be deliberately kept in the dark about what Washington was doing.

That time has come – despite the founders’ clear provisions designed to prevent such abuses.

Last week, in a secret meeting, the Standing Committee of Correspondents, an official institution of Congress funded by tax dollars, banned WorldNetDaily Washington Bureau Chief Paul Sperry from covering the Capitol.

It was the ultimate act of spiteful arrogance that followed 18 months of stalling and excuse-making by the committee, which has searched in vain for any legitimate reason to block WorldNetDaily from the accreditation process that would give the independent newssite unfettered access to the Capitol.

Until last week, the committee had simply refused to grant permanent accreditation to WorldNetDaily, but provided limited access through day passes. Now, even the day passes have been revoked.

According to the committee’s chairman, William L. Roberts III, himself a journalist for Bloomberg News Service, there wasn’t even a vote by the five-member board. There was no notice of the meeting. No hearing preceded it.

The latest reason for turning away WorldNetDaily from the Capitol? The attorney for the committee says the unprecedented action was meant as punishment for Sperry for allegedly making “factually inaccurate” statements at the appeals hearing last April.

Accusing Sperry of misleading the committee is the latest in a long list of excuses used to deny WND unfettered access to Congress.

First, WND was told the committee had no rules governing Internet-based media. The next objection was WorldNetDaily’s association with the nonprofit Western Journalism Center, from which it was spun off three years ago. Then came erroneous charges that WND takes money from businessman Richard Mellon Scaife, whom the Clinton administration alleged directed a vast, right-wing media conspiracy. Then questions arose regarding WorldNetDaily’s non-existent connections to Judicial Watch. In the end, the committee settled on an alleged shortage of “original content” on the newssite as a main basis for denying WND accreditation.

Nevertheless, through the entire fishing expedition, Paul Sperry was permitted access to the Capitol through the indignity and inconvenience of day passes. Last week, he was informed that he would no longer be welcome in the Capitol at all.

This is the same Paul Sperry, by the way, who not only was previously accredited to cover the Capitol but who, as the former Washington bureau chief of Investor’s Business Daily, actually decided which other reporters from his news organization would be accredited by the committee.

Now, it should be clear to one and all that this committee is discriminating against WorldNetDaily because of its independent, muckraking reputation.

The committee, comprised by William L. Roberts III of Bloomberg Business News, Donna M. Smith of Reuters, Scott Shepard of Cox Newspapers, Jack Torry of the Columbus Dispatch and James Kuhnhenn of Knight Ridder, has managed to insulate itself from criticism and accountability. So it’s time to go over their heads and make the Senate Rules Committee accountable for this egregious First Amendment violation.

It’s not Sperry who is lying to these self-appointed press police. It’s they who are lying to the American people and to themselves about their own inexcusable, un-American actions.

Related stories:

WND reporter banned from covering Capitol

Shake-up at the Senate Press Gallery

Senate gallery moves ‘goalposts’ again

Senate gallery ‘dragging feet’ on WND appeal

Senate press panel withholds evidence

WND’s press-gallery hearing next week

April appeal in WND’s Senate press fight

WND appeals Senate gallery decision

Denial of WND press pass unlawful, says legal group

WND denied congressional pass.

Readers flood Senate gallery with e-mails

Related columns:

“Freedom of the press?”

What I told press police

Showdown in press gallery

Open letter to the news police

The Senate Press Rogues Gallery

The government-media cabal (including the Senate Press Gallery’s list of currently accredited daily news organizations).