Horowitz's FrontPageMag.com yet to correct false Princeton assault story

››› ››› SIMON MALOY & MAX BLUMENTHAL

FrontPageMag.com, the "online magazine" of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, posted an excerpt from a New York Sun article published that day detailing allegations by a Princeton University student who claimed he had been assaulted because of his conservative views. However, while the Sun updated its story to report that Nava admitted to police that "he fabricated the assault," FrontPageMag.com has yet to acknowledge that the entire story was fabricated.

On December 17, FrontPageMag.com, the "online magazine" of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, posted an excerpt from a New York Sun article published that day detailing allegations by a Princeton University student who claimed he had been assaulted because of his conservative views. The Sun article reported that Francisco Nava, "leader of the Anscombe Society, a morally conservative student group that speaks out against same-sex marriage and pre-marital sex," claimed he was attacked by two men two days after he and other members of the Anscombe Society "received death threats via e-mail." Horowitz was quoted in the article saying: "It's a terrible incident, but it doesn't surprise me. ... The left has now become the hate group." The very same day, however, the Sun updated the story, reporting that Nava admitted to police that "he fabricated the assault, and that he sent e-mail death threats to himself, three other Princeton students, and a prominent conservative professor at Princeton." But FrontPageMag.com -- which promoted the article on its main page on December 17 as an "Academic Battleline[]" -- has yet to acknowledge that the entire story was fabricated. As of 6 p.m. ET, the excerpt from the original Sun article was still posted on FrontPageMag.com, with a link to the New York Sun article that includes the update, but with no reference to the update on FrontPageMag.com.

Horowitz, author of The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (Regnery, 2006), spearheads a purported watchdog effort to promote "academic freedom." As Media Matters for America documented, Horowitz's "academic freedom" campaign has been marked by self-contradiction, repetition of unsubstantiated and self-evidently false claims, and ad-hominem attacks. In October 2007, Horowitz launched "Islamofascism Awareness Week," a series of protests and speeches on college campuses intended "to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat." As Talking Points Memo blogger Josh Marshall noted, however, Horowitz appeared to offer yet another goal for Islamofascism Awareness Week: "I'm a prominent conservative but no one is inviting me to speak at their campuses. ... I had to create an event."

The Sun reported on December 17 (original article available via Nexis):

An outcry from students and faculty at Princeton University is rattling the campus here after a student who is leading a movement to instill conservative moral values among undergraduates was physically attacked Friday, beaten, and rendered unconscious in a rare incidence of violence within the Ivy League.

The incident is prompting an outcry from conservative students and faculty who say they feel singled out by the Princeton administration and the majority of the student body, who have remained silent in the face of what many say is a politically charged attack.

A politics major from Texas who is a junior, Francisco Nava, was assaulted about two miles from campus in Princeton Township by two black-clad men who pinned him against a wall and repeatedly bashed his head against the bricks, he told the student newspaper, the Daily Princetonian, in an interview.

Mr. Nava told the student paper that the two men told him to shut up. The assailants did not steal his wallet, credit cards, or cell phone, he said.

[...]

Some students yesterday said they the incident would not intimidate them into silence.

"An assault on those who express their opinion hurts all of us who might want to express their views. If you have a problem with what I say, then come and get me," a sophomore who is a member of the Princeton College Republicans, Wyatt Yankus, wrote on a blog, Princetontory.blogspot.com.

"It's a terrible incident, but it doesn't surprise me," a conservative author who has campaigned against a culture of left-wing conformity on college campuses, David Horowitz, said in an interview. "The left has now become the hate group."

A conservative professor at Harvard, Harvey Mansfield, said he is outraged. "I hope Princeton comes down on them like a ton of bricks, and by Princeton I mean either the university or the township or both," Mr. Mansfield said. "It should be easy for liberals to identify a case of intolerance; they're good at that."

In a December 17 post, FrontPageMag.com posted the first three paragraphs of the above article under the headline "Violence Rattles Princeton." The Sun, however, later updated its original report, posting the following to its website at 9:13 p.m. ET:

Princeton Student Admits to Staging Attack, Police Say

By Annie Karni

Staff Reporter of the Sun

December 17, 2007 updated 9:13 EST

A student at Princeton University who said he was beaten unconscious by two black-clad assailants Friday has said that he fabricated the assault, and that he sent e-mail death threats to himself, three other Princeton students, and a prominent conservative professor at Princeton, Robert George, police said today.

No charges have been filed against the student, Francisco Nava, pending further investigation, a spokesman for the Princeton Township Police said.

In an interview, Mr. George earlier described Mr. Nava's wounds as "severe," doubting that they could have been self-inflicted.

Over the weekend, Mr. Nava's jaw was badly swollen, his face was covered with cuts and abrasions, and the inside of his mouth was bleeding, Mr. George said after visiting Mr. Nava in the emergency room.

The Sun's original article includes the word "Update" below the byline, followed by a link labeled "Princeton Student Said to Have Staged Attack." The article now reports that Nava previously faked death threats:

But the disclosure today that Mr. Nava fabricated a death threat against himself and his roommate when he was a high school student at the Groton School, has some students questioning his account of the last week's attack as well as the series of death threats he said he received this semester after airing his morally conservative views.

In high school, Mr. Nava wrote a death threat using an anti-homosexual slur, the Web site Firstthings.com reported this morning. Mr. Nava's roommate at Groton was a founder of the Gay-Straight Alliance, according to the Web site.

"Evidently he did it once when he was a student at the Groton School," a professor of jurisprudence, Robert George, confirmed to The New York Sun. Several students at Princeton said yesterday that they did not want to pass any judgment on the situation without more information.

"Those of us who saw him at the emergency room find it difficult to believe he could have done this himself. The physical manifestations were too evident, too severe," Mr. George said. Mr. Nava earlier had told Mr. George about the incident at Groton, but denied that he sent the death threats at Princeton, or that he fabricated the attack, Mr. George said.

A screenshot of FrontPageMag.com from December 17 (Google cache link here) shows that the website had linked to the excerpt under the banner "Academic Battlelines":

Academic Battlelines

That link no longer appears on FrontPageMag.com's main page. The excerpt from the Sun article is still available on FrontPageMag.com, but gives no indication that the Sun story was based on a complete fabrication.

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