Media Madness

The next time you read one of The Wall Street Journal’s right-wing opinions, consider where they get their editorial writers.

Stephen Moore, the latest addition to the Journal’s editorial staff, is also the founder of the Free Enterprise Fund, a conservative political advocacy group that recently launched a series of television ads defending scandal-ridden House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

“The sharks are circling,” says one ad, showing an underwater view of an approaching fish with jaws at the ready. “The media, the liberals, they’re in a frenzy. Last year, they went after President Bush. . . . Now, they’re after Tom DeLay and the free-market values he defends.”

Moore’s group launched the ads last week in the Houston and on national cable television news channels. He is leaving the Free Enterprise Fund is the hands of Mallory Factor, a Texas banker and a “Ranger,” a title given to an elite class of fundraisers for President George W. Bush.

So much for a free and independent press.

Newsweek will tighten its policies on the use of unnamed sources following its red-faced retraction of the story that U.S. interrogators at Gitmo had flushed a copy of Koran down a toilet to get prisoners to talk.

“We got an important story wrong, and honor requires us to admit our mistake and redouble our efforts to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” writes Newsweek chairman and editor-in-chief Richard Smith in this week’s edition. “When information provided by a source wishing to remain anonymous is essential to a sensitive story – alleging misconduct or reflecting a highly contentious point of view, for example – we pledge a renewed effort to seek a second independent source or other corroborating evidence.”

Last week, Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker claimed the information came from “a knowledgeable U.S. government source,” and said that before the magazine published the item, writers Michael Isikoff and John Barry sought comment from two Defense Department officials. One declined to respond, and the other challenged another part of the story but did not dispute the Quran allegation, Whitaker added.

The White House claims the error led to riots in Afghanistan and cost lives, something the U.S. military leaders in the country refute.

But while President Bush claims an error in a small item published in Newsweek can cause riots and cost lives, he doesn’t think pictures of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in his underwear, splashed across front pages of newspapers, will be a problem.

“I don’t think a photo inspires murderers,” Bush said in an interview on Friday.

Publication of the photos has angered both Saddam loyalists in the Mideast and the American military which launched an investigation. The International Red Cross says the photos violate the Geneva Convention rules on treatment of prisoners of war.

“These people are motivated by a vision of the world that is backward and barbaric,” Bush told reporters in the Oval Office. “I think the insurgency is inspired by their desire to stop the march of freedom.”

When reporters asked White House press spokesman Trent Duffy if the photos should be published, he answered curtly: “That’s your job.”

Let’s see. A Bush administration official telling the press to do its job. Now that’s news.