On This Day in WND History
WND, which debuted in May of 1997, is now celebrating its 15th anniversary. In honor of that, here are some key events in the history of WND.
Just days before the transition, Joseph Farah, editor, co-founder and chief executive officer of the first independent online news agency begun in 1997, previewed the change, saying, "What we're launching the first of the year is so radically different in design from what we have been for the last 15 years, we think it's important to give everyone a head's-up. It's going to be fresh, contemporary, cutting edge, more video, with easier navigation and expanded coverage."
"About the only thing that will remain is the mission and the founding commitment to independent investigative reporting that is second to none in exposing fraud, waste, abuse and corruption in government and other powerful institutions in need of watchdogging," said Farah. "We'll definitely maintain the same fiercely independent commitment to the truth – maybe even step it up a notch or two."
Joe Kovacs, WND executive news editor, wrote the first of his "Funniest news stories of the year" columns, an annual feature readers have looked forward to ever since.
"No duh! So, I won't bore you with the typical garbage. Instead, I wish to reminisce for a few moments about some of the really important events -- you know, the stories that make you grin or just shake your head in utter disbelief.
In fact, all the stories you'll see in my list had to pass very rigorous WorldNetDaily standards. They had to: 1) make me laugh; or 2) spill my beverage because they were so bizarre."
WorldNetDaily's Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein and ABC Radio's John Batchelor made history when they interviewed live on national radio the terrorist leader of the notorious 2002 siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade's Jihad Jaara had given an exclusive interview to WND the previous day, discussing the siege in which members of his group and other terror organizations holed up inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem while fleeing a massive Israeli anti-terror operation.
One of Christianity's most sacred sites, the church is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. Israel surrounded the church area but refused to storm the structure. Gunmen inside included wanted senior Hamas, Tzanim and Brigades terrorists reportedly involved in suicide bombings and shooting attacks. Over 200 nuns and priests were trapped in the Church after Israeli hostage negotiators failed to secure their release.
The siege ended after 39 days, when mediators agreed 13 senior terrorists would be deported to European countries, 26 would be transported to the Gaza Strip, and the remaining gunmen would be freed.
WND was the national leader in coverage of Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt, the Navy chaplain who said he would not eat until President Bush took action to allow him and other chaplains the freedom to pray and preach in uniform without diluting God to a one-size-fits all deity.
"If I pray in Jesus' name in public, I have to wear civilian clothes," Klingenschmitt told WND. They taught mandatory lectures there to all chaplains, that you cannot pray to your God, you have to pray to the civic god. The Muslim chaplain can't pray to Allah, a Jewish chaplain can't pray to Adonai, a Roman Catholic can't pray in the name of the Trinity, and I couldn't pray in Jesus' name in public. They only let us do that in private. If it's in public, they tell us to just pray to God and say, 'Amen.'"
Ultimately, after not eating food for 18 days in protest of the Navy's policy encouraging "inclusive" prayers at public events, Klingenschmitt received reluctant permission to wear his uniform and pray in Jesus' name outside the White House.
However, Klingenschmitt was court martialed after the event, where he appeared with Ten Commandments judge, Roy Moore. He was issued a letter of dismissal from the Navy in January 2007.
WND led the national news media with its round-the-clock coverage of trapped miners in West Virginia, as the story shifted from one of rejoicing to horror.
What was proclaimed across America as a miracle in Tallmansville, W.Va., with the announcement of 12 trapped miners found alive turned to shock and disgust with new information indicating that 12 miners had actually died, with just one man surviving the 41-hour ordeal.
"The initial report from the rescue team to the command center indicated multiple survivors," said Ben Hatfield, president International Coal Group. "That information spread like wildfire, because it had come from the command center. It quickly got out of control."
"We were devastated," Hatfield added. "It's beyond belief. Welcome to the worst day of my life."
"Everybody is stunned and sickened to their stomach. We feel like we've been lied to," one relative at the scene, Sam Lance, said. "I thought I was going to pass out. This is probably the most horrible thing that has happened to me in my lifetime."
"How could this be broadcast all over the country?" asked another. "To rip someone's heart out. It's awful."
While print newspapers screamed headlines that morning saying the miners were all alive, WND readers were kept aware through the night of the tragic end to the story.
WND was the first news organization to bring wide attention to the fact that vulgar rapper Kid Rock had been scheduled to perform at a youth event as part of President Bush's second inaugural.
"If this sex-crazed animal, whose favorite word is the F-word, is allowed to sing at Bush's inauguration this will send a clear message to pro-family Americans that the Republican Party has taken them for a ride and ditched them in the gutter," Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, told WND.
After the initial article, the Presidential Inauguration Committee backpedaled, saying the rapper was "not confirmed" to appear.
Ultimately, Kid Rock did not perform.
"He's not performing," a spokesman for the Presidential Inauguration Committee confirmed for WND.
WND first reported actress Jane Fonda's conversion to Christianity, a story subsequently picked up with attribution by virtually the rest of the establishment media, including Associated Press. The separation between media mogul Ted Turner – who once called Christianity a religion for losers – and Fonda, was prompted in part by her stunning embrace of "born-again" evangelical Christianity, sources close to the couple told WorldNetDaily.
Nearly five years later, Fonda told New York Post columnist Liz Smith that she regards the Bible as a metaphor, reads extra-biblical gospels, is still searching for a church and considers herself a "feminist Christian," distinguished from fundamentalists.
"I would do anything to protect the freedoms I enjoy: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly and freedom from fear," said Savage.
"I couldn't stop this book from being a best seller if I tried," said Joseph Farah, co-founder of WND Books.
A handgun carried by a bodyguard assigned to protect the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown "was lost and not recovered" from the wreckage of his plane, which crashed in Croatia in 1996, revealed a secret Commerce Department report, a copy of which was obtained by WND.
The internal security report was completed in March 1999 -- 15 months after an Air Force forensic pathologist disclosed that an unusual wound at the top of Brown's head could have been a bullet hole.
Jesse Jackson and other black leaders at the time called for an autopsy to find out if the hole was caused by a bullet.
The makers of Minute Maid orange juice strongly denied suggestions its TV ad campaign featuring Popeye the sailorman promoted a homosexual agenda.
"There's nothing hidden in our intent," company spokesman Dan Schafer told WND. "There's no hidden message to it."
The issue gained worldwide attention after a report in the Daily Star of London featured the headline: "Oh Buoy! Popeye's gone gay!"
"Beefy Bluto squeals with joy as he pushes muscle-bound Popeye back and forth on a swing in a children's playground," the report said. "Then the two tough guys lark about on a see-saw before heading off to the beach. Their new-found affection for each other is sealed when they get the words 'Buddies For Life' tattooed on their bulging arms."
WND exposed how Consumer Reports, the respected magazine that has advised Americans on everything from new car purchases to which electric can opener to buy, published a list of birth-control options that includes abortion, complete with a section describing how the procedure gets rid of a pregnant mother's "uterine contents."
While Democrat leaders were attempting to link Enron to the Bush administration, WorldNetDaily reported an earlier $100,000 donation from the controversial energy company to the Democratic National Committee and Clinton's re-election effort that came after a Commerce Department junket that Enron executive Ken Lay turned into a $3 billion deal.
Lay accompanied late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown on the weeklong January 1995 trip, receiving assistance from Mack McLarty, then-White House counselor, and President Clinton himself.
Just days before India gave it's final OK, Enron sent a check for $100,000 for the re-election offer – less than 20 percent of what the company would give in total.
Only two months before, Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, USMC, Commander of the Southern Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Panama Canal, during which he stated there was no threat from state-sponsored or "transnational" crime against Panama.
But the document, classified "SECRET//X1" and prepared four days after Wilhelm's testimony, said that the Chinese firm that acquired control of the Canal, "Hutchison Whampoa," is indeed considered a threat.
"Hutchison's containerized shipping facilities in the Panama Canal, as well as the Bahamas, could provide a conduit for illegal shipments of technology or prohibited items from the west to the PRC, or facilitate the movement of arms and other prohibited items into the Americas," warned the report.
WND reported that President-elect George W. Bush's choice to head the Labor Department, Elaine Chao, and her father had extensive personal ties to communist China's then-President Jiang Zemin – contact described as "regular" and "deep."
According to an Asian affairs expert who spoke on condition of anonymity, Chao allegedly had characterized as "racist" the findings of a May 1999 report on Chinese espionage during the Clinton administration, released by a select committee chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif.
"The real story here is that Ms. Chao's father – and most likely herself – has been a family friend of the leaders of communist China for practically all of her life," said WND's source.
Chao, who was confirmed by the Senate and still serves as Bush's secretary of labor, is the wife of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader.
A spokesman for Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont told WND the governor shared the outrage being expressed over a judge's decision to give a 60-day sentence to a child rapist who admitted abusing the young girl over a period of four years. His office had received more than 20,000 e-mails, phone calls and letters, most of them in protest.
At the sentencing, District Court Judge Edward Cashman told a packed courtroom made up mostly of people related to the victim: "The one message I want to get through is that anger doesn't solve anything. It just corrodes your soul."
The judge said that when he began 25 years ago, he handed down tough sentences but now believes "it accomplishes nothing of value."
"It doesn't make anything better; it costs us a lot of money; we create a lot of expectation, and we feed on anger," Cashman explained.
The judge said he imposed the light sentence because the man did not qualify for in-prison sex-offnder treatment. He therefore gave him a minimum of 60 days in jail and ordered him to complete the treatment when he got out or face a possible life sentence.
"What is equally troubling is that the judge no longer believes in punishment," said Douglas' spokesman. "The governor says that if a criminal court judge no longer believes in punishment, he shouldn't be on the bench."
Judge Edward Cashman remains on the bench today.
Bill O'Reilly's weekly syndicated WND column was the biggest seller in the business in 2001, reported Creators Syndicate President Rick Newcombe.
The O'Reilly column, owned in part by WND, was published by more than 100 newspapers, including those in major markets such as New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Orange County, Calif., Miami, Atlanta, Cleveland, Albany and New Haven.
"This launch, just over a year old, has to be one of the most successful in the history of newspaper syndication," said Newcombe. "And there's no question it is the most successful column in the nation over the last 12 months."
WorldNetDaily launched the O'Reilly column, "The No Spin Zone," in 2000. Very quickly, it was picked up for syndication by Creators in 2001 – only the second time in history a column was moved into newspaper syndication after appearing in only one Internet venue. The first was WND's column by David Limbaugh.
"The O'Reilly Factor," his Fox News Channel show, has since become the No. 1 cable news program in the country.
Mercer describes herself as "a wandering Jew" who has lived in Israel, South Africa, Canada and, now, the United States. The daughter of a rabbi, Ilana initially found herself on the left side of the political spectrum, but moved to become a libertarian.
In the wake of comments by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin that he wanted his city to be a "chocolate" city, he became humorously dubbed, "Mayor Chocolate Nagin, America's flavorite racist."
"We ask black people ... It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans – the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," the mayor said. "This city will be chocolate at the end of the day."
WND executive news editor Joe Kovacs asked, "What if the mayor of Miami, for instance, suggested his city become more vanilla? ...
"How about the novel concept of having the city filled with Americans, no matter what color or flavor they are? They could be chocolate, vanilla, coffee, salsa, teriyaki or tutti-fruity for that matter."
WND uncovered a security breach in Clinton's West Wing that exposed secret data to potential Internet hackers and foreign spies in 1998.
A national security adviser copied classified files onto a disk from an NSC computer in a secure area of the West Wing, then uploaded them onto a computer connected to an unsecured network in her Old Executive Office Building office.
A national security adviser copied classified files onto a disk from an NSC computer in a secure area of the West Wing, then uploaded them onto a computer connected to an unsecured network in her Old Executive Office Building office.
While the woman's computer was confiscated and her building security pass was taken, the Clinton appointee, was allowed to return to her job after going out on extended leave.
"She was supposed to be fired and wasn't," said a White House employee close to the investigation. "She went on maternity leave. Now she's back working at NSC."
National security experts said the White House security violation fit a pattern of sloppy handling of U.S. secrets throughout the government during the past eight years.
"But this latest breach lays the problem right at the West Wing and at Berger's door," said William C. Triplett, a former Reagan White House official, who noted that Berger was a lobbyist for China before joining the NSC.
Berger's door. In 2001, we didn't know how right he was.
Despite denials that the agency had any prior knowledge of the OKC bombing, a receipt obtained by WorldNetDaily puts the FBI's top counterterrorism agent in an OKC hotel nearly nine hours before a truck bomb nearly leveled the Alfred P. Murrah Building.
The Embassy Suites Hotel receipt of Danny Coulson, then-director of the FBI's Terrorist Task Force and founding commander of the bureau's Hostage Rescue Team was dated April 19, 1995, with a check-in time of "00:20" – military time for 12:20 a.m. Coulson claims that he was in Texas the morning of the attack.
The existence of the receipt and subsequent questions it raises surrounding the FBI's official denial of prior knowledge of the OKC bombing was first reported by J.D. Cash of the McCurtain (Oklahoma) Daily Gazette – a small-town paper that has been out in front of scores of OKC-related stories.
"Since the bombing, officials at the Department of Justice have repeatedly assured victims that the FBI had no prior knowledge of any plot to bomb the Murrah federal building," the paper said. However, "evidence of Coulson's clandestine trip fits squarely with a substantial body of details found in hundreds of pages of other official documents obtained [via Freedom of Information Act requests] by" the paper – "evidence revealing weeks of planning by an elite corps of drug and counterterrorism experts who were closely monitoring members of various far-right groups they considered religious extremists and threats to the safety and security of the nation."
The magic-comedy team of Penn & Teller caused a number of people attending a Las Vegas roast of a fellow magician to head for the doors.
Their skit, parodying the crucifixion of Jesus, included Teller, dressed as Christ on a full-size cross, and a midget dressed as an angel, who "performed a simulated sex act on the near-naked Teller." Penn, in a Roman gladiator costume, unveiled the scene by pulling away a "Shroud of Turin" that covered the cross.
According to Rick Neiswonger, a longtime magician and marketing executive, "the majority" of the 400 who attended the roast were offended.
"They (organizers) warned everybody that something offensive was going to happen, but my God, where do you draw the line? ... This was beyond bad taste," Neiswonger said.
Villa was unsuccessfully pursued for 11 months by Gen. John J. Pershing after the Mexican and his troops raided a small New Mexico border town in 1916.
"Like Pancho Villa, it looks like Osama bin Laden has outsmarted the U.S. military generals," Ernesto Cienfuegos wrote for the website, "The Voice of Aztlan."
"Both are revered by the common people of each respective community," he said. "Both are seen as Robin Hoods by the poor and oppressed. Both were construction contractors at one time in their lives. Francisco Villa was a general contractor on the construction of the railroad through Chihuahua's majestic Copper Canyon. Both Osama bin Laden and General Francisco Villa were indirectly fighting those whom they perceived to be lackeys of the United States.
"It certainly appears today, that Osama bin Laden is headed for the very same legendary and folk hero status in Islam."
NBC's "The Book of Daniel" may have launched to great controversy and hoopla.
But WND broke the story how the show ended with a whimper – pulled unceremoniously from NBC's Friday night schedule with no more of an announcement than an entry on an NBC blog by creator Jack Kenny.
As WND initially reported, "The Book of Daniel," written by a homosexual, was promoted as the only show on television in which Jesus appeared as a recurring character and the only network prime-time drama series with a regular male "gay" character, a 23-year-old Republican son. The main character, Daniel Webster, was a troubled, pill-popping Episcopal priest.
David "Gypsy" Smith, the multi-talented writer, animator, musician, voice talent, producer and director behind WorldNetDaily cartoons, produced his first CD, "Exit Stage 2000," which went on sale in Shop.WND.com.The cartoons were a smash hit with WND readers as well as TV networks such as NBC, MSNBC and Fox News, which aired the hilarious animated version of WND editor Joseph Farah reporting on the Butterfly Ballot fiasco during the 2000 election mess.
Other favorites included on the CD collection include Janet "Mary Poppins" Reno, the "Palm Beach Shuffle" and "Hannity & Butthead."
Hot on the heels of being rated in the top nine news sources on the Internet, WND announced the opening of its new book publishing division, WorldNetDaily Publishing. The new venture was created to edit and publish books primarily written by the popular Netpaper's writers, commentators and editors – while leaving the door open to other manuscripts as well.
These are just some of the familiar titles published by WND Books over the past seven years: David Kupelian's "The Marketing of Evil," Michael Savage's "The Savage Nation," Tom Tancredo's "In Mortal Danger," Diana Lynn's "Terri's Story," Jayna Davis' "The Third Terrorist," and many others.
"We believe there is a void in the traditional book publishing marketplace, just as surely as we recognize there was one in the news business prior to the arrival of WorldNetDaily," said WND's founder and editor Joseph Farah. "We plan to fill that void as proven content providers – and make a profit doing it."
In a case with ominous implications, an Italian judge heard arguments on whether or not a parish priest in that nation should stand trial for claiming Jesus of Nazareth actually existed.
Atheist Luigi Cascioli, who alleges Jesus never existed in his book, 'The Fable of Christ,' had brought charges against Rev. Enrico Righi for allegedly deceiving people into thinking Jesus was an actual historical figure.
"The point is not to establish whether Jesus existed or not, but if there is a question of possible fraud," said Cascioli's attorney, Mauro Fonzo, to reporters, according to the Associated Press.
Specifically, Cascioli says Righi has broken two Italian laws: the "abuse of popular belief'' – which amounts to intentionally deceiving someone – and "impersonation" – meaning one gains by giving a false name to someone.
Ultimately, Cascioli not only failed to establish a precedent that could have chilled practice of the Christian faith in the European Union, he failed to bring his case because the court refused to hear his case. Indeed, Cascioli was fined $1,900 by an appeals court in Rome for bringing a fraudulent suit – a decision the 73-year-old atheist called "an abuse of authority against every right of intellectual expression and liberty. I refuse to pay."
Roving foreign correspondent Anthony LoBaido reported from Copenhagen for the first time that the U.S. government was holding secret talks with Libya to get the country out of the business of weapons of mass destruction and reported that Saddam Hussein had shipped chemical weapons there.
Hassan Abdul Salaam, an Iraqi-Kurdish doctor, provided detailed information to WND on Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons programs and the Iraqi dictator's role as a supplier of WMD to Islamists in Sudan where they were used against Christians.
"I know I can't undo what I've done, except to tell the intelligence agencies and the media what Saddam is up to," Salaam explained. "Even if the Iraqi assassins hunt me down and kill me off like Hussein Kamal [another Iraqi defector who exposed Saddam's weapon's programs to the CIA and Mossad station chiefs in Amman, Jordan], I will have fulfilled my duty before both Allah and mankind."
Could you imagine Sen. Hillary Clinton as a star in a film about women's pre-menstrual syndrome?
"I'm so fascinated about this. I have so many friends who are hitting 40 and are flipping out," said Arquette. "I think it hasn't been talked about so I'll be interviewing a bunch of people about it. I want to interview movie stars and rock stars, people on the street and then I want to interview Hillary Clinton."
To WND's knowledge, the former first lady has not taken part in such a project.
WND broke the astonishing, exclusive story of how exactly one week before the U.S. was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry's ice cream kingdom, was begging for a real enemy of the U.S. to show up.
Cohen posted an "enemy wanted" ad on Sept. 4, 2001, hoping that a worthy adversary would soon make itself known to justify President Bush's defense budget. The ad read in part:
ENEMY WANTED. Serious enemy needed to justify Pentagon budget increase. Defense contractors desperate. Interested enemies send letter and photo or video (threatening, OK) to Enemy Search Committee, Priorities Campaign, 1350 Broadway, NY, NY, 10018. ... If you've got any killer ideas, please let me know.
WND documented how Christiane Amanpour, the chief international correspondent for CNN, injected her personal opinion about the Iraq war into the public domain, twice calling it a "disaster" on national television, saying the situation "just gets worse and worse."
During an appearance on the network's "Larry King Live" program, Amanpour stated, "Most of the Iraqi people are now losing hope that the promised reconstruction is going to happen and that the quality of their lives is going to increase. This is a big drama because hope is the only thing they have in the middle of this spiralling security disaster. And by any indication whether you take the number of journalists killed or wounded, whether you take the number of American soldiers killed or wounded, whether you take the number of Iraqi soldiers killed and wounded, contractors, people working there, it just gets worse and worse."