To: John Avlon, editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast
From: Joseph Farah, editor-in-chief of WND.com
If you published your fanciful, nasty screed about me and WND.com in the interests of evoking a personal response, you have succeeded.
If you think your name-calling harangue will help you sell any more copies of your new book than you did of its similarly named predecessor, good luck with that.
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However, in fairness, you did get a few things right: "The Internet is a force multiplier for Wingnuts, empowering them to reach far broader audiences faster than ever before," you write. "It is the best breeding ground for every imaginable conspiracy theory. It provides a national megaphone for what in earlier years might have been just a whisper campaign. It enables likeminded individuals to ignore their isolation and come together as an opinion army."
Look in the mirror: You're writing about what you do. Congratulations for the revealing self-portrait. You successfully used the Internet's force-multiplier for Wingnuts: Within minutes of arranging the posting on Salon of an attack piece excerpted from your new book (ranked at 310,530 at Amazon as of this writing), it spread like wildfire through the left Wingnut blogosphere. Your article is one big, delusional conspiracy theory, as even the deranged title betrays: "Where right-wing lies are born: The wingnut Web, WorldNetDaily and how conservative nonsense infects America." (Remind me to give you a lesson in headline-writing someday.)
Now on to the errors – and this may take a while.
- Yes, I did serve as the editor-in-chief of the Sacramento Union, and I did persuade Rush Limbaugh to write a daily column for the paper. But, as I told you in the perfunctory interview you conducted with me (Were you listening, John?), circulation did not decrease, it increased dramatically as the paper served as an alternative voice to the McClatchy flagship Sacramento Bee, a paper bequeathed by its founder to the specific and stated purpose of placing private corporations in the hands of the government (all, I have to assume, except McClatchy private property). The paper did fold – some two years after I left to pursue other interests, such as writing best-selling books and founding WorldNetDaily as a distinct alternative and the first independent source of news on the Internet. I do indeed have a mustache, for what it's worth. And I was a longtime newspaperman – something clearly you were not. I am not, as you suggest, "an outer-limits conservative activist." In fact, I am not an activist at all. Unlike you, I have never worked for a politician of either party. Nor will I ever. I actually love journalism – and always have. I do have strong opinions that you apparently don't like. I share them in my daily column, but my first love is and always has been news. At WND, we believe in labeling news and commentary – something you eschew at the Daily Beast. (Come to think about it, I didn't see a commentary label on your article at Salon, either.) Yet, you accuse WND of "blurring ... news and opinion." How is it blurred if it's clearly labeled?
- You claim I investigated "a conspiracy theory that longtime Clinton aide Vince Foster had not committed suicide but had been murdered with the White House's knowledge – a theory determined to be false by three official reports." Complete bunk. I have never said or written anything remotely along these lines. If you are referring to the work of Christopher Ruddy, now the owner of Newsmax.com, a direct competitor of WND, yes, my organization did sponsor his investigation into the strange death of Vincent Foster, but neither he nor I nor anyone else associated with me ever suggested he was murdered – with or without the White House's knowledge. And the fact that three official law-enforcement probes were necessary to address the questions raised by the reporting is a testament to the seriousness of those questions – many of which have never been answered.
- Your facts are wrong about the number of employees WND has. Why didn't you just ask? In fact, why didn't you ask about most of the lies you spewed? Is that "journalism"?
- You claim WND has repeatedly published a thoroughly discredited drifter's claim that "he took cocaine in 1999 with the then Illinois legislator [Obama] and participated in homosexual acts" with him. Yes we did report that claim – once – under the headline labeling it a "sleaze charge" and only after Larry Sinclair filed a high-profile civil rights lawsuit against Barack Obama's inner circle. (I guess your standards of journalism would not permit the reporting of such a lawsuit.) You also state WND "regurgitated bilge about Hillary Clinton's 'well-known bisexuality and her lesbian affair with her beautiful assistant.'" That was actually a phrase from a 2008 column written by a non-WND personality. By the way, one thing you didn't mention is that WND carries commentary from the extreme left to the extreme right and everything in between – something unique among Internet news and commentary sites. WND's archives contain hundreds of thousands of stories and columns from more than 17 years of publishing. Is this the best you can do in attempting to discredit WND?
- You write: "No wonder its primary advertiser appears to be a marketer of 'survival seeds' for your very own 'crisis garden' and a 'crisis cooker' to 'prepare hot meals when the power is off.' They are profiting off the paranoia they intentionally inflame in their readers." Please show me this advertiser, because it is not among the list of thousands that appear on WND.
- You write: "But the real growth industry for WorldNetDaily in 2009 was the enthusiastic advocacy of Birther claims that Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to be president." Let me straighten you out again. I know this must be complicated for you. It's called journalism. WND has never made the assertion that Obama was not born in the U.S. What we did, through countless investigative reports, was demonstrate that Obama had steadfastly refused to release his birth certificate as his opponent in the 2008 election did when his "natural born citizen" status was questioned – by Democrats, the New York Times, USA Today and many other mainstream news outlets. This after Obama had for years claimed to be from Kenya – when it was advantageous for him to do so. By the way, the only law-enforcement investigation to examine the document Obama was ultimately forced to release through our investigative efforts deemed it to be a bad forgery. Do we report controversies others refuse to report? I plead guilty to that charge. And we'll keep on doing it.
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What I'm left with is one big question: Where's the beef? What happened to the promise of exposing "where right-wing lies are born"? Where's the answer to the question of "how conservative nonsense infects America"? Is that all you've got?
Now let me tell you what WND is really all about.
Who broke the following stories?
- The mega-website Wikipedia was found to have hundreds of graphic homosexual images, and the FBI launched an investigation into child pornography on the ubiquitous online encyclopedia.
- The shocking background and opinions of Obama's "green-jobs" czar Van Jones, the first high-ranking member of the Obama administration to be forced to resign.
- Obama's plea for a "civilian national security force," which the then-presidential candidate asserted in a speech would be "just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded" as the half-trillion dollar Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force.
- The shocking corruption at banking giant HSBC that led to the largest fines ever imposed on a financial institution.
- The militarization and federalization of local and state police forces beginning more than 17 years ago.
- TSA screeners patting Americans down and combing through their belongings don't have federal law-enforcement training, may earn about as much as a McDonald's shift manager and are not required to possess a high-school diploma or GED. In fact, TSA has even hired agents who've been arrested for crimes such as theft, accepting bribes, aggravated felonious sexual assault, assault, trafficking child pornography, drug trafficking, drunken driving, impersonating a federal officer and even murder.
- The prosecutions and convictions of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who received 11- and 12-year sentences for slightly wounding a fleeing illegal alien drug smuggler in 2005 with a gunshot while in pursuit and in the line of duty. A federal prosecutor gave the drug smuggler full immunity to testify against the agents. The news reports led to President George W. Bush commuting the sentences of the agents.
- The mysterious case of Miriam Carey, the young, black dental hygienist, with baby in tow, who was gunned down in the streets of Washington in broad daylight by Capitol police.
I could continue with hundreds of investigative scoops and multi-part series over nearly two decades. But that's the heart and soul of WND and its independent mission.
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Speaking of the mission – here it is: "Our mission, as an independent news organization, is one of providing uncompromising journalism, seeking truth and justice, and revitalizing the role of the free press as a guardian of liberty. We remain faithful to the traditional and central role of a free press in a free society – as a light exposing wrongdoing, corruption and abuse of power. We also seek to stimulate a free and open debate about the great moral and political issues facing the world and to promote freedom and self-government by encouraging personal virtue and good character."
Here's what sets WND apart – and we don't think that's a bad thing:
- First and foremost, we stand for defending the traditional American principles of morality, life and pro-family values, the rule of law and economic freedom. The so-called "mainstream media" (MSM) continue to ignore these values. Since our founding in 1997, WND has been, and remains to this day, a fearless voice in espousing these views.
- Second, we strongly adhere to the Judeo-Christian values of America's founding, including those views expressed so eloquently in the United States Constitution. In particular, we value our freedom of speech and freedom of the press guaranteed to us by the First Amendment, as we constantly strive to report truthfully and passionately on the day's crucial issues. We believe that our approach in this regard has enabled us to amass a huge and loyal following as one of the most-read and influential news websites in the country.
Here is how we strive to live up to these values on a daily basis:
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- With seasoned reporters who dare to ask the questions no other news organization will ask, WND remains instrumental in forcing national debates on issues the MSM would rather ignore.
- We break the stories few will touch, thereby shining a light on issues that demand public debate (where the MSM would prefer to censor any discussion); this approach has been our hallmark since WND was formed.
- We remain a fiercely independent Internet news site committed to hard-hitting investigative reporting of corruption and wrongdoing wherever and whenever found, and especially government waste, fraud and abuse.
I think this is why millions of people turn to WND for their news, John. It's not conspiracy-mongering. It's called old-fashioned American journalism.
One last point, John, which illustrates the absurd irony of your attack on WND and those other "right wingers" pictured at the top of your article – Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Laura Ingraham. You see, it is we – who along with a few others comprising the "alternative media" – that were the only segment of the American press that got it right about Barack Obama from the get-go. Today he is widely seen as a failed president, but back in 2008 he was hailed as king and savior by the likes of those you consider responsible media. It was the "conservative, right-wing" press, as you would call it, that exposed Obama for what is now undeniable. We said his claims of being "transparent" and being a "pragmatic centrist" were nonsense, that his promises of being a unifier were cynical campaign rhetoric, that his "health-care reform" would be an unmitigated disaster for the country, that he would be a dangerously weak commander in chief. One of our reporters, Jerome Corsi, wrote the No. 1 New York Times best-seller "The Obama Nation," which was published well before the 2008 election. We at WND – and others in the part of the media you so gleefully scorn – were right, and you were wrong. There is barely a sentient being alive in America today that wouldn't agree: This nation would be far better off today had more people heeded WND back then, and fewer heeded the rest of the "mainstream media."
By the way, if you want to write a successful book, you might take some cues from WND Books, the first Internet content company to enter the book publishing world – and the one with a track record of producing the highest percentage of New York Times best-sellers of any publishing company in the world.
Media wishing to interview Joseph Farah, please contact [email protected].