On August 4, WorldNetDaily published an article by executive news editor Joe Kovacs (reproduced here) asserting that newly minted Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, while serving as solicitor general, "has actually been playing a role for some time in the dispute over whether Obama is legally qualified to be in the White House," adding that "A simple search of the high court's own website reveals Kagan's name coming up at least nine times on dockets involving Obama eligibility issues."
One little problem: Not a shred of that is true.
As the urban legend-busters at Snopes detailed, none of the nine lawsuits Kovacs references have anything to do with "Obama eligibility issues." Even the one involving a group called "The Real Truth About Obama, Inc." is centered on an allegation that the Federal Election Commission "chilled its right to disseminate information about presidential candidate Senator Obama's position on abortion."
After the Snopes debunking, WND quickly backpedaled. Snopes added in an update: "Immediately after we published this article, WND scrubbed all reference to the original article without explanation. Three days later, WND replaced the original with an article on a completely different topic."
Indeed, the WND article is completely rewritten, focusing on the insignificant "Real Truth About Obama, Inc." case. It now begins with a correction (though it's not called that):
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described a series of cases for which Elena Kagan represented the government as eligibility cases. Those cases, in fact, were a series of unrelated disputes pending before the Supreme Court and the references have been removed from this report.
This is far from the first time that WND has so botched an article that everything it touched was tainted:
- In attempting to tie Al Gore to a "Hillbilly Mafia" during the 2000 presidential campaign, WND smeared a Tennessee auto dealer named Clark Jones, claiming he had, among other things, "been a 'subject' of a criminal investigation" and "was listed on law enforcement computers as a 'dope dealer.' " After fighting the libel lawsuit filed by Jones in response for seven years, WND abruptly agreed to an out-of-court settlement shortly before it was to go to trial, which included an statement saying that "no witness verifies the truth of what the witnesses are reported by authors to have stated" and that "no document has been discovered that provides any verification that the statements written were true."
- In 2005, WND retracted an article by reporter Aaron Klein that linked an Islamic charity to terrorism and suggested that it was fraudulently raising money to help nonexistent orphans. Like Kovacs, Klein remains on the WND payroll.
- Also in 2005, WND treated an April Fool's article claiming that Terri Schiavo's husband had sold the rights to his story for a TV movie as the real thing, working up a "news" article about it. WND deleted the article and wrote a follow-up apologizing for the error.
- In 2009, WND published an article claiming a bill approved by the House "would prohibit federal employees of the executive branch from being compelled to release any document unless a court makes a specified determination by a preponderance of evidence." In fact, the bill does the opposite -- it prohibits federal officials from demanding documents from journalists except under certain circumstances. WND made that one quietly disappear without explanation.
A news organization that gets this much stuff wrong on a regular basis really can't -- and shouldn't -- be trusted.