Newsmax has long been a booster of Bernard Kerik. When the former New York police chief was nominated by President Bush to be homeland security secretary in 2004, Newsmax was quick to accuse the "leftist media" of mounting "an unprecedented, full-scale attack" on Kerik by writing "journalistic hatchet jobs" about this "heroic cop" who "will do an outstanding job of protecting the homeland and thus reflect credit on the man who picked him, President Bush."
But as I detailed at the time, the mounting allegations against Kerik -- among them an affair with his book editor (and others), mishandling of taxpayers' money, links to a mob-controlled construction company, nanny problems, general thuggish behavior and even an outstanding warrant against him -- eventually forced Kerik to withdraw his nomination and Newsmax to back off.
But that was more than four years ago, which can only mean one thing: It's time for Newsmax to start rehabilitating Kerik's reputation.
The current effort began with a March 29 article, headlined "Bernard Kerik Wins Round in Court," touted how Kerik "won a victory in court last week when a judge threw out several of the charges in his federal indictment." But the article obfuscates on the number of counts dismissed and the number remaining. In fact, as the Associated Press reported, a judge "dismissed one count of the 15-count corruption and tax fraud indictment against Kerik" and "removed some elements of a second count."
An April 3 article by Jim Meyers cranked up the rehabilitation, calling Kerik a "highly decorated former New York City Police Commissioner" in the first paragraph. Meyers also writes that Kerik "was President George W. Bush's nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security before he withdrew his name from consideration," but fails to mention the charges he faces on, as the previous Newsmax article noted, "wire fraud, mail fraud, and making false statements." Nevertheless, Meyers approvingly repeated Kerik's assertion that "failure to renew the Patriot Act would place Americans in "serious jeopardy" and could lead to a 'catastrophic attack' in the U.S."
On April 23, Newsmax published a column by Kerik bashing members of Congress who support investigating allegations into alleged acts of torture conducted under the Bush administration because, among other things, it would "politically persecute President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others." Kerik's tagline on his column is laughably vague, stating on that he "retired as the 40th police commissioner of New York City and was in command of the NYPD on and after Sept. 11, 2001." No mention of his standing indictment on numerous charges of corruption and tax fraud.
But for Newsmax, an indicted felon (or, really, even a convicted felon) is perfectly qualified to speak as long as he's attacking Democrats.
A May 16 article claimed that Kerik "won another round" in court when a judge ruled that "charges that Kerik lied to the White House during his brief bid to be secretary of homeland security must be tried in Washington, D.C." Newsmax did not explain how this could be considered a "win" for Kerik since the purpose of dropping them was so they could be refiled in Washington, a venue hundreds of miles from New York.
Indeed, that's exactly what happened. And Newsmax tried to spin that away too. More on that later.
Meanwhile, a May 22 article again approvingly quoted Kerik, this time his claim that the arrest of four men in a plot to blow up a synagogue in New York proved that the Patriot Act works. The same day, Newsmax published another column by Kerik reliving his 9/11 experiences and attacking "those who attempt to make believe that the events of 9/11 never happened, criminalize the prior administration, or try their best to ignore the threats we face by radical Islam today." As with the previous Kerik column Newsmax published, nowhere is it mentioned that Kerik is under indictment on numerous charges of corruption and tax fraud.
After Kerik was re-indicted in Washington on the false-statement charges, Newsmax cranked up the whitewashing. A May 26 article by Dave Eberhart painted Kerik as a "9/11 hero" victimized by overzealous prosecutors who "appear to be indictment shopping," claiming that the Washington indictments were filed "after similar indictments had failed to stick in New York." Eberhart went on to assert that the dismissal "apparently angered the federal prosecutors who decided to open up a new indictment against Kerik in Washington, including charging him with crimes already dismissed by Judge [Stephen] Robinson."
But the charges dropped in New York by Robinson were done specifically so they could be filed in Washington. The judge essentially told prosecutors to do exactly what they did -- as Newsmax itself reported on May 16.
Eberhart also claimed that "the judge overseeing the case has dismissed key charges and questioned the handling of the case by the Justice Department's Southern District of New York office." But, as Newsmax did before, Eberhart makes things look better than they actually are by obfuscating the actual numbers involved. There's no specific mention of the 15 counts on which Kerik was originally indicted, of which one count and part of another had been dismissed. That still leaves 13-plus charges, including the ones dropped in New York and refiled in Washington.
Eberhart then asserted that "the unusual handling of Kerik's case by federal prosecutors has drawn parallels to the recent acquittal of Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. Stevens had been charged for not properly reporting renovations to his home residence." But contrary to the Stevens case, which was dismissed due to prosecutorial misconduct (not because he wasn't guilty), Eberhart has offered no evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the Kerik case beyond comments from Kerik's attorney, and he's not exactly objective on the issue.
Such a vociferous defense virtually guaranteed that Newsmax's rehabilitation of Kerik would continue. And so it did: Newsmax published a May 31 column by Kerik asserting that the U.S. should not use "touchy feely politics or depend on the United Nations" in dealing with North Korea -- despite Kerik having no demonstrated expertise in world politics -- followed by a June 7 column weighing in on President Obama's speech in Cairo -- even though Kerik has no demonstrated expertise in Middle East politics.
In between, Newsmax slipped in a a June 4 article that deviated from Newsmax style by fully and fairly describing the numerous charges against Kerik. Despite the Newsmax tagline at the end implying that it's an original Newsmax product, however, it's actually an Associated Press article -- which explains the fair and balanced tone.
Don't expect much more of that kind of honesty in the future, though -- Newsmax has an indicted felon to rehabilitate.
A version of this article appears at ConWebWatch.