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.
An investigative "Cold Case Posse" launched in August 2011 by "America's toughest sheriff" – Joe Arpaio of Arizona's Maricopa County – concluded there is probable cause that the document released by the White House as President Obama's birth certificate is a computer-generated forgery.
The investigative team asked Arpaio to elevate the investigation to a criminal probe that will make available the resources of his Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Arpaio's news conference in Phoenix was the first live-streaming event ever for WND TV.
It was a reasonable question at a festive event – one Bill Clinton could have answered with charm or ignored with a shrug.
"When will you hold your next formal press conference," then WND Washington Bureau Chief Paul Sperry asked Clinton as the president greeted members of the media invited to the South Lawn of the White House for a picnic in their honor.
"I watched the blood rush to Clinton's gargantuan face as he launched into a tirade," reported Sperry. "I'll never forget the maniacal look in his bloodshot eyes. There was a moment, fleeting, where I sensed he wanted to try to take a swipe at me. I was getting full frontal Clinton. His volcanic temper, hidden so well from the public by his handlers, erupted less than 12 inches from my eyes."
Anyone wondering what the FBI would have done if they had known ahead of time of the plot to fly planes into buildings in the U.S. by Mohamed Atta and his 18 fellow terrorists may need look no further than what they did when two Americans reported the possible sighting of the al-Qaida operative identified as "the next Mohamed Atta" – Adnan el-Shukrijumah – in California.
The eyewitnesses, a husband and wife who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, said they encountered el-Shukrijumah and other potential al-Qaida operatives, including Aafia Siddiqui, in a small caf– near Lake Isabella in Kern County Sept. 7, 2005. They described him as small (approximately 5'4"), thin (about 130 pounds), and clean-shaven with a prominent nose, dark eyes and black hair. They noted that he appeared nervous and spoke English to his Middle Eastern companions without an accent.
Despite a $5 million reward for el-Shukrijumah – and a license plate number copied by the couple – neither the Kern County sheriff, the FBI nor Sen. Arlen Specter's office responded to the reported sighting.
On the eve of California's historic vote declaring "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," an employee of the San Luis Obispo County Tax Assessor's Office told several churches pro-Proposition 22 signs displayed on their property legally must come down.
"We all feel like a school teacher who can't talk about God," said Joe Bubar, pastor of Grace Bible Church.
But that was before Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute got involved.
"The intimidation has gone too far," said Dacus. "The Internal Revenue Code states that churches are not forbidden to participate in propositions, provided that less than five percent of their total financial and labor resources go into the process."
Confronted with the IRS ruling by WND, a spokeswoman for the assessor's office expressed second thoughts: "Well, if he's quoting the law ... look, we're not going to be auditing churches."
They couldn't have known it in 1937 when they generously took the pregnant woman into their home and talked her out of having an abortion, but an Iraqi Jewish family that now lives in Israel saved the life of the man who would one day fire Scud missiles into their new country – dictator Saddam Hussein.
It's one of those ironic twists of history, but the Jewish Iraqi exiles who bear the distinction of having saved Saddam's life don't like to talk about it. They don't want Jews blamed for Hussein and his regime.
"After it became public, the family got this angry response from some people saying they should have done something," said Amatzia Baram. "But it was ridiculous. We weren't talking about killing a dictator but a fetus."
A television producer tired of seeing conservatives portrayed as zealots and "boobs" helped create a new animated series featuring a journalist "passionate about the right-wing cause."
"This Just In" on Spike TV featured freelance columnist Brian Newport, tabbed as a Matt Drudge-like figure who "says what everybody's thinking" with "no filter."
The cartoon character notably won an award for a column titled "If Ann Coulter is a man, then I don't want to be straight!"
"The only people who think this guy is a boob are the people who are boobs on the other side of the equation," said head writer Steve Marmel.
The 60-second PSA titled "Kickoff" shows a match in progress before a buried mine on the playing field is detonated. The explosion appears to kill and injure some girls, sparking panic and chaos among parents and other children. Shrieks of horror are heard through much of the spot, and a father is shown cradling his daughter's lifeless body, moments after celebrating a goal she had scored.
It closes with a tag line reading: "If there were landmines here, would you stand for them anywhere? Help the U.N. eradicate landmines everywhere."
"I think it could be pretty upsetting to a child who plays soccer." Valeri Staab of KGO-TV in San Francisco said. "It's about the fears [of terrorism] children have today that they didn't have ten years ago."
Six days after WND reported how Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was caught nappin' on the job, WND editor Joseph Farah posted a column highlighting the incident which received scant coverage in the national media.
"Most Americans didn't see this picture," wrote Farah. "I'm quite sure they would have if the Supreme Court justice asleep at the switch were Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia.
"But it was Ruth Bader Snoozeburg catching 40 winks during a Supreme Court hearing last week. And she is a darling of the U.S. media. ...
"Frankly, America is safest from judicial tyranny when Snoozeburg is unconscious."
"One could say that Osama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown," Kaptur told the Toledo Blade.
Outrage from Republican politicos and Blade readers followed and Kaptur was forced to explain herself: "Terrorism in the name of revolution is not acceptable. Ever," she said. "My comments were intended to point out that what faces us is a rising revolution being felt across repressive regimes of the Arab and Islamic world. The American people understand the power of revolution. It is in that context that I referred to the American Revolution."
Jack Spencer, a policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, didn't buy it. "Clearly she is misguided," he said, "when there are so many wonderful analogies to bin Laden you can make, like Hitler or Stalin."
A student choral group that had performed "Heroes' Trilogy" – an arrangement of three songs: "America the Beautiful," "Prayer of the Children" and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." – before numerous political and religious groups, was surprised to discover the tunes' mention of God and prayer meant they wouldn't be allowed to sing at an event honoring Red Cross volunteers who helped at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 attacks.
First Act's rendition of "Declaration," a song that includes the opening lines from the Declaration of Independence, was also deemed inappropriate by a representative of the American Red Cross in Orange County, who called the Declaration "a political document that ... may offend" some.
"We need to remain a neutral organization," Lynn Howse, the group's public affairs director, told Fox News.
The oft-viewed grainy footage of what looks like a man in gorilla suit, captured in a Northern California forest in 1967, turned out to be just that – a man in a gorilla suit, not the legendary Bigfoot.
"It's time people knew it was a hoax," said conscience-stricken Bob Heironimus. "I've been burdened with this for 36 years, seeing the film clip on TV numerous times. Somebody's making lots of money off this, except for me. But that's not the issue – the issue is that it's time to finally let people know the truth."
Hieronimus reportedly agreed to don a gorilla suit and walk in front of the camera for an amateur documentary maker named Roger Patterson.
An associate of the filmmaker, now deceased, denied Heironimus' claim of a staged Sasquatch encounter. The mystery continues ...
Three young Alabama men arrested for a series of church arsons told authorities they set the fires for the fun of it – with no religious or political motivation – but some of their friends told a different and darker story.
"Let us defy the very morals of society instilled upon us by our parents, our relatives and of course Jesus," one of them wrote the previous summer.
Most Americans either believed President Clinton is guilty of the rape of Juanita Broaddrick in 1979, or said more information was needed to make a true judgment, but few believed Clinton's denial, according to a poll by Zogby International.
In the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent, Zogby questioned 908 likely voters and found those who made a decision about the alleged assault believe Broaddrick's allegations by a margin of 2-1.
In terms of numbers, 36.8 percent of all those questioned said that they were inclined to believe Broaddrick, while only 17.3 percent believed Clinton's denial.
Outspoken Scientologist Isaac Hayes, an Oscar-winning singer heard by millions in recent years as the "Chef" character on "South Park," quit the cartoon four months after an episode spoofing Scientology.
"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," the 63-year-old soul singer said. "Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored."
"South Park" co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply, saying, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology. ... He has no problem – and he's cashed plenty of checks – with our show making fun of Christians."
He said he and co-creator Trey Parker "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."
The size of the Post's losses were alarming – and puzzling.
WashingtonPost.com, which like other news sites bears no printing or delivery costs, at the same time boasted more traffic than any other netpaper, according to PCDataOnline, a website-traffic tracker that's viewed as one of several Nielsen-style ratings services for the Internet.
A former Vietnam Veteran Against the War comrade of John Kerry, who reportedly once proposed assassinating members of Congress, was offered a position on the Massachusetts Democrat's presidential-campaign staff, WND reported.
The plot was reported in Gerald Nicosia's 2001 book, "Home To War," that one of the key leaders of the organization, Scott Camil, "proposed the assassination of the most hard-core conservative members of Congress, as well as any other powerful, intractable opponents of the antiwar movement." The book reports on the Kansas City meeting at which Camil's plan to kill the Southern senatorial leadership, including John Stennis, Strom Thurmond and John Tower, was debated and then voted down.
Kerry claims he had left VVAW before that meeting but other participants have put him there at the debate.
Veteran CBS correspondent and "60 Minutes" curmudgeon Andy Rooney received 30,000 pieces of mail and e-mail – the biggest response by viewers since the program began in 1968 – after calling "The Passion of the Christ" filmmaker Mel Gibson a "wacko."
In his Feb. 22 monologue Rooney had described a satirical "conversation with God" that went like this:
"'Andrew, you have the eyes and ears of a lot of people. I wish you'd tell your viewers that both Pat Robertson and Mel Gibson strike me as wackos. I believe that's one of your current words. They're crazy as bedbugs, another earthly expression. I created bedbugs. I'll tell you, they're no crazier than people,' said God."
Unamused listeners let him know what they thought and Rooney shared their mail, including a letter calling him an "asinine, bottom-dwelling, numb-skulled, low-life, slimy, sickening, gutless, spineless, ignorant, pot-licking, cowardly pathetic little weasel."
Triple-X porn star – and former novelty candidate for California governor – Mary Carey complained that she was snubbed by Republican women at the GOP's annual United to Victory dinner but said "the guys in the National Republican Congressional Committee are very, very nice."
"I've gotten hit on by lots of drunk Republicans," she said after attending the event where President Bush spoke.
Asked by WND in 2005 about the propriety of the Republican Party collecting $5,000 from a pornographer and the example such an appearance set for the moral climate of the nation, the White House press secretary passed the question off to the committee.
When WND contacted the NRCC about the event, spokesman Carl Forti said, "They've paid their money. No matter what they do, the money is going to go to help elect Republicans to the House."
Eight months after the United to Victory dinner, Democrats defeated twenty-two Republican incumbents and won nine open Republican-held seats, enjoying their largest gain since the 1982 election.
On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein and his sons received a 48-hour notice from President Bush to leave Iraq or face "military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing."
"Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraq regime have failed again and again, because we are not dealing with peaceful men," Bush said.
An unmoved Saddam accused "pathetic" Bush of attempting "to achieve his evil targets without a fight through that declaration" and son Odai called Bush "unstable" and challenged him to "give up power in America with his family."
Alas, bravado has its limits. Within three days the U.S. invasion began and within four months Odai and Qusai Hussein were dead. By the end of 2006, Saddam had been captured, tried and hanged.
According to actor and comedian Richard Belzer, American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are too uneducated to be expressing support for the U.S. military mission since they're just "19 and 20-year-old kids who couldn't get a job" and "they don't read 20 newspapers a day."
Belzer, who's best known as Detective John Munch on NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit," was a frequent guest on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher."
"They don't read 20 newspapers a day," Belzer said. "They're under the threat of death every minute. They're not the best people to ask about the war because they're going to die any second."
Asked by a questioner following his speech on the war on terror at the City Club of Cleveland whether the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism were signs of the apocaplyse, Bush responded, "The answer is – I haven't really thought of it that way."
"I guess I'm more of a practical fellow. I vowed after September the 11th, that I would do everything I could to protect the American people."
The boy's mother, along with prosecutors and defense attorneys wanted to avoid public trial for the sake of her son.
At a news conference after the announcement, Lafave said she had a bipolar disorder. Her attorney indicated she was getting treatment.
"I have a lot of things in my past that have unfortunately become public," Lafave said.
A New Jersey judge in the case of a 43-year-old woman who abused a 13-year-old boy stated: "I don't see anything here that shows this young man has been psychologically damaged by her actions. And don't forget, this was mutual consent. Now certainly under the law, he is too young to legally consent, but that's what the law says. Some of the legislators should remember when they were that age. Maybe these ages have to be changed a little bit."
Terry Schiavo never had a chance and the neurologist her husband Michael chose to evaluate her prospects for recovery is one of the best examples of that.
Dr. Ronald Cranford was a member of the board of directors of the Choice in Dying Society, which promotes doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia. He was also a featured speaker at the 1992 national conference of the Hemlock Society. The group recently changed its name to End of Life Choices.
In 1997, Cranford wrote an opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune pushing euthanasia not only for those in persistent vegetative states but for the coming boom in Alzheimer's dementia the aging population presents.
"If we want our loved ones to live and die in dignity, we ought to think twice before suspending them in the last stage of irreversible dementia," said Cranford. "At it is, it seems that we're not thinking at all."
The old adage about the customer always being right got a boost when upset Christians convinced retail chain Urban Outfitters to stop stocking a controversial "dress-up Jesus" item that featured a magnetized figure of Christ on the cross, clad in underwear, with interchangeable outfits such as a devil costume, a skull T-shirt and a hula skirt.
In addition to dressing Jesus in the unusual outfits, the kit featured signs that read "Hang in baby!" and "TGIF" that can be placed on top of the cross.
"Urban Outfitters will no longer carry this item," said a spokesman. "We will continue to sell the inventory on hand, but have decided not to reorder the item."
The item's creator, Christian-turned-atheist Bob Smith, took the lost business in stride.
"I don't mind," he said. "I've been dealing with this for four years. You should see the hate mail I get."
Devout followers of the Catholic Church have made a soul-searching documentary called "Rape of the Soul" that suggests the sex-abuse scandal that has plagued the priesthood is rooted in the Church's prolonged exposure to sexual and satanic images that have been incorporated into its religious art.
"The deeper I dug, the more I discovered, not just in regard to contemporary art, but works dating back more than 500 years, from some well-known and respected artists. Sex and horror is the fuel that promotes the scandalous behavior in the Church. This is the answer why, and Church leaders don't have to look very far, because the problem is coming from within the Church itself," said Michael A. Calace, an Italian director, actor, writer and producer.
"Artists from DaVinci to Botticelli have embedded subliminal images into their art for centuries," said Calace. "In this case we found penises on crucifixes, anarchy symbols, swastikas, demonic faces and in modern works even the word 'sex' encrypted into the images. The works in question include modern artists' work currently on the covers of missalettes and hymnals that at this very moment sit in the pews of churches throughout the U.S. and on children's religious teaching aids."
Calace said, "'Rape of the Soul' was created to heal the many that have suffered from these uninvited violations."
WorldNetDaily was first to report on a former IRS special agent who determined his agency was illegal.
"The Internal Revenue Service is everything the so-called tax protesters said it was; non-responsive, unable to withstand scrutiny, tyrannical, and oblivious to the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution."
That's how Joseph Banister, a certified public accountant who was an investigator and gunslinger for the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS, now regards his former employer. His conclusion is based in part on a personal two-year investigation into the agency's history and purpose, an investigation he began somewhat reluctantly, never expecting he'd reach the conclusion he did.
The question of accuracy in the reporting of Operation Iraqi Freedom came to a head with a study showing Americans doubting the integrity of news reports, and at least one reporter blasting his own network for downplaying the success of allied forces.
WND learned the survey indicated a strong sense of distrust among viewers as well as a perceived "liberal" slant.
Among the preliminary findings:
Viewers harbor a disbelief about the integrity of news reports;
Network coverage of the war on Iraq is largely viewed as having a liberal bias; and
CBS' decision to pre-empt its daytime NCAA basketball tournament during the first day of the war was seen as a mistake.
WND reported how the Fieldsboro, N.J., borough council, made up of all Democrats, unanimously voted to ban commemorative yellow ribbons from public property, causing a huge uproar with residents looking to honor U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.
"I'm shocked and outraged," said resident Diane Johnson. "I can't believe the mayor would force me to take down ribbons put there in honor of American troops, fighting for our freedom in Iraq."
Johnson got a mayoral directive delivered by a township maintenance man: "Take down the ribbons, or I'll do it for you."
Mayor Edward "Buddy" Tyler defended his decision.
"Where would you draw a line if you started allowing the use of public property to exhibit whatever cause anyone wanted?" Tyler said. "Suppose someone wants to tie pink ribbons, or black flags, or a Confederate flag or a Nazi flag on public property? We certainly recommend that people should exhibit their support. Just do it on your own property, not on borough property."
While politicians debated the fate of some 12 million people residing in the U.S. illegally, the Mexica Movement, one of the organizers of the mass protest in Los Angeles, already decided it is the "non-indigenous," white, English-speaking U.S. citizens of European descent who have to leave what they call "our continent."
The pictures and captions tell the story.
"This is our continent, not yours!" exclaimed one banner.
"We are indigenous! The only owners of this continent!" said another.
"If you think I'm illegal because I'm a Mexican, learn the true history, because I'm in my homeland," read another sign.
"One of the more negative parts of the march was when American flags were passed out to make sure the marchers were looked on as part of 'America,'" said the group's commentary on the L.A. rally.
It seemed simple enough. Model student Derek Loutzenheiser was asked to participate in a classroom discussion about "school shootings and safety," so the 12-year-old who had been recommended to take the popular standardized pre-college performance test by his teachers thought his social studies teacher wanted his opinion.
She didn't. The young constitutional scholars statement that he would feel safer on campus if "some of the adults at the school were trained and allowed to carry firearms" got Derek put on a watch list for potentially violent students and his parents called to a meeting with the middle school's "Hazard and Risk Assessment Team."
When mom and dad showed up for the meeting armed with a tape recorder and announcing they had obtained legal counsel, things changed, said Derek's father. "My wife and I both saw a transformation from 'smugness' ... to looks of great concern on some of their faces," he said.