Far-right website gains influence in Obama era
On April 12, the conservative Website WorldNetDaily published an expose on newly appointed White House “green czar” Van Jones that labeled the environmental activists “an admitted radical communist and black nationalist leader.”
Based on readily available online sources, including an alternative weekly paper in Oakland, California, Aaron Klein’s piece had a sensational title–”Will a ‘red’ help blacks go green?”–and a sensational spin. In the 2005 profile of Jones that Klein cited, reporter Eliza Strickland recalled Jones’s first year out of Yale Law School, working for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in the Bay Area, and how when he was “observing the first large rally since the lifting of the city’s state of emergency, he got swept up in mass arrests,” then came to sympathize with the black radicals and communists who’d been arrested with him, before leaving them behind to become an environmental activist. In Klein’s hands, the story took on a different, more sinister tone: “Jones said he first became radicalized in the wake of the 1992 Rodney King riots, during which time he was arrested.”
Klein’s story made some small waves online, but it wasn’t picked up by the mainstream media until July 23. That was when Glenn Beck first told his Fox News audience about Jones. “This is a guy who is a self-avowed communist,” said Beck, “and he is in the Obama administration … this guy wasn’t a radical, and then was arrested. He spent six months in jail, came out a communist.”
Beck took a shot at the “avowed communist” Jones again on July 28, again on Aug. 4, again on Aug. 11 (”this is a convicted felon, a guy who spent, I think, six months in prison after the Rodney King beating”), again on Aug. 13, and again on Aug. 21. During that period, a civil rights group called Color of Change launched a campaign to get advertisers to drop Beck. The host responded on August 25 with a week-long special series, “The New Republic: America’s Future,” in which Jones became exhibit A of the “radical leftists currently advising the president of the United States.” Back at WorldNetDaily, Klein wrote matter-of-factly that “Beck’s segments about Jones were based in part on WND’s reporting that Jones was as an admitted radical communist and black nationalist leader.”
The growing campaign against Jones — to date, Beck has warned his viewers about him on 14 episodes of his Fox News show — is a powerful example of the influence of a Website that’s very infrequently cited by name, even on the right. (Neither Klein nor Beck’s staff responded to TWI’s questions about the Jones stories.) But where other, more mainstream conservative sites cover partisan political battles and run dry op-eds by think tank experts, WND is all muckraking and rumor-chasing, all the time.
The 12-year-old Website, with 17 full-time editorial staffers, has a White House correspondent, Les Kinsolving, who is most often used by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs as a punchline. One staff reporter, Jerome Corsi, co-wrote the bestselling Swift Boat Veterans for Truth book “Unfit for Command,” but has been derided by other conservatives for what Politico called “outrageous assertions and fringe theories” about a plan to merge the United States with Mexico and Canada and a shadowy relationship between President Barack Obama and Kenyan Prime Minister Rail Odinga. And the site has relentlessly covered the conspiracy theories about Obama’s citizenship, with hundreds of articles, several petitions, a billboard campaign, and a $17.99 in-house documentary on the issue.
But WorldNetDaily’s Web traffic, revenue, and influence is no joke.
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