Joseph Farah's Smear Machine

Joseph Farah's Smear Machine
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Earlier this week, I posted an item at Huffington Post and at ConWebWatch detailing undisclosed links between WorldNetDaily reporter Aaron Klein and "Jerusalem21," the Wikipedia user around whom Klein built an article complaining that critical information about Barack Obama was being removed from the Wikipedia page on Obama by editors.

WND editor Joseph Farah has responded by unleashing a vitriolic rant at me and anyone else who reported the story (Pandagon, Wired's Threat Level, Valleywag, even Australia's Sydney Morning Herald).

Endeavoring to smear me as a "fulltime anti-WND blogger" (as if that's a bad thing), Farah asserts that I "claim[ed] falsely that Klein himself was the Wikipedia user dubbed Jerusalem21. In fact, Klein's Jerusalem bureau research assistant is Jerusalem21. Oooooooh. Big scandal, right?"

First, Farah is lying; I never asserted that Klein was Jerusalem21. Here's what I wrote in my original post: "'Jerusalem21' is either Klein or someone close to him acting on his behalf, if not his direction." I merely presented the facts of the case -- which Farah does not contradict -- and offered the two most likely possible conclusions, one of which Klein and Farah have now admitted is correct.

Second, the "scandal" is not that Klein was the man behind Jerusalem21; it's that Klein and WND didn't follow sound journalistic practice by disclosing this to his readers. Instead, Klein left the false impression that he had no personal connection to Jerusalem21. If Klein had done proper disclosure about his relationship to Jerusalem21, this "scandal" would never have taken off like it did.

Third, if this is the non-scandal Farah claims it is, why did WND scrub all references to Jerusalem21 from Klein's articles after publication? As Threat Level pointed out, Klein's original story "was scrubbed clean of the name Jerusalem21, who's now referred to only as 'one Wikipedia user.'" (Here's a copy of the original.)

Fourth, Farah fails to address the other part of this "scandal" -- the utter hypocrisy of complaining about removal of negative information from Obama's Wikipedia page when Klein (or Jerusalem21) has been similarly quick to remove critical information from Klein's own Wikipedia page.

Nevertheless, Farah continues to hurl insults: He claims I was taking "libelous shots at Klein" (as noted above, a lie) and adding, "Normally no one pays too much attention to Krepel, recognizing him for what he is - an ideological crusader masquerading as a press watchdog, determined to expose the slightest break in the ranks of the Obama media amen chorus." This is Farah's M.O. -- denigrate, discredit and destroy his critics, even when he can't actually prove they got anything wrong.

And Farah whines, again: "What's odd about this tempest in a teapot is that even if what Krepel and company had written were true, that Klein himself had made the submissions on Wikipedia and reported on it, what is the big deal? What is the scandal? What would be wrong with doing first-hand research of this kind and reporting on it?"

Two things: lack of disclosure and significant alteration of the original articles after publication without alerting readers. What about that does Farah not understand? Has he been away from the real world of journalism so long that he no longer grasps such concepts? Does Farah have the guts to defend such egregious violations of journalistic ethics? We suspect not (not publicly, anyway).

If Farah has no problem dishing it out attacks on Obama and other people he doesn't like, he should be able to take it when criticism comes back his way. But as his history demonstrates, he can't.

Neither Farah nor Klein can point to a false claim I've made about this controversy (when they aren't making it up one, anyway). They seem to think belligerent bluster will throw me off their scent. In this case, bluster equals cowardice.

What are they afraid of? Why can't Farah admit that some (if not most) criticism of him and WND is legitimate? Why can't Klein have the same live-and-let-live philosophy on his own Wikipedia bio that he demands be done to Obama's bio?

Farah demonstrates even more cowardice by refusing to link to my original ConWebWatch item on Klein. That's not surprising -- Farah similarly deleted links to ConWebWatch in an op-ed I submitted to WND in response to a previous attack on me by Farah (in which he denigrated me as a "talent-challenged slug").

Farah then writes: "I tell you all this because, in my business, reputation and credibility constitute our lifeblood. And, I know from personal experience that when your reputation and credibility is being gang-raped like this - even by people with no reputation or credibility of their own - it causes real damage."

Well, guess what? I have a reputation and credibility to uphold as well. I research what I write about, I back up my claims, and I will defend myself against false and unfounded accusations like the ones Farah is spewing.

I stand by what I wrote about Klein's Wikipedia stories; I'm merely reporting what WND won't. Farah, meanwhile, has not only lied about what I've written, he has already demonstrated he doesn't trust his own reporter or his readers by surreptitiously scrubbing Klein's stories after publication.

So, which one of us has "no reputation or credibility of their own"?

(A version of this item was cross-posted at ConWebBlog.)

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