The strange story of Joseph Farah and the conservative Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast has taken a bizarre turn, with the WorldNetDaily birther conspirator returning to the breakfast's list of distinguished guests and its organizer reportedly repudiating her repeated statements to Media Matters that she never intended to give Farah a leading role.
Rev. Merrie Turner, the top organizer for the January 21 event, told Media Matters on January 9 that Farah had been incorrectly listed as a program guest and she would seek to remove him.
"He was not invited to be involved," she said at that time in a phone interview. "He had permission to write an article about it and it's gone much further than that. That was the initial intent, I never met him before and I didn't know anything about his efforts."
Asked then if she would seek to keep Farah, who as CEO of WorldNetDaily has been the driving force behind conspiracies about President Obama's birth certificate, from being among the event's official speakers, Turner said, "Absolutely, this is not going to by any means be an event for anything being said negative about the president, that will not be allowed."
Turner also told Media Matters, "The fact that [Farah] actually ended up on some of the literature so far was not run by me, it was, it came through [keynote speaker] Mr. [Jonathan] Cahn, who is his friend. He is not on the speakers bureau... it was an error." Turner also claimed that she had never met Farah.
Since the Media Matters story ran, Turner has made no effort to contact Media Matters with any complaint about the report or any requests for corrections or clarifications about her comments.
On January 16, however, WorldNetDaily posted an article that questioned the story, claiming Turner was disavowing the comments she made to Media Matters.
The story quotes Turner as saying, in part:
"Recently a story originating with the organization Media Matters stated that Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily had been removed from the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast. This is false. The article also implied that Farah took it upon himself to invite himself as a distinguished [guest]. This, too, is false," she wrote.
"The misinformation resulted from a number of factors: a confusion over the exact status of guests combined with the fluidity of the program, erroneous assumptions, miscommunication, a train of questioning by Media Matters as to whether we would allow anyone to use the event as a platform to attack the president, my desire to clarify that the event was not about anyone doing so, and what appears to be the aim of Media Matters to attack and humiliate Joseph Farah."
She explained, "Joseph Farah was asked for his help regarding the event. He graciously gave it. He never invited himself to the event. Nor did he ever ask or expect anything in return. We affirm that the event is to pray for America at a critical time and juncture, for the American presidency and government. We also want to clearly state and affirm that it would be an honor to have Joseph Farah be part.
Farah has also returned to the website's list of distinguished guests.
Turner has a record of incendiary commentary that made it surprising that she would have renounced the birther leader. Nonetheless, she repeatedly did so in her interview with Media Matters.
Media Matters reached out to Turner several times, leaving two voice mail messages and two e-mail messages. On a third phone call, Turner answered, but hung up when asked to comment on the situation.
Other prayer breakfast guests being promoted as appearing at the event include U.S. House Chaplain Rev. Patrick Conroy, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and Pat Robertson, who interviewed Turner last week on his television program, The 700 Club.