In puff piece on Newsmax, quoted Dick Morris without noting he writes for Newsmax


A profile of Newsmax and its co-founder, Christopher Ruddy, quoted Dick Morris praising Newsmax without noting Morris' affiliation with the outlet. The profile also omitted key information on Ruddy, including his history of promoting unfounded conspiracy theories about the 1993 death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster.

In a March 6 article headlined "A Great Right Hope," profiling the conservative news outlet Newsmax and its co-founder Christopher Ruddy, writer Dirk Smillie quoted columnist and commentator Dick Morris praising Newsmax without noting Morris' affiliation with the outlet. Smillie identified Morris as a "former Clinton political strategist" and quoted his comment that Newsmax "is the most influential Republican-leaning media outlet in the country." But Smillie did not inform readers that Newsmax frequently publishes columns and "exclusive election analysis" by Morris on its website and in its magazine, and a 2007 press release listed Morris among its contributors. Further, Newsmax sells Morris' book Fleeced in its online store and has promoted the book by offering a free copy with the purchase of a one-year subscription to Newsmax magazine. Morris is also listed as a speaker during a planned Newsmax-sponsored Mediterranean cruise later this year.

(UPDATE: Following publication of this item, the article was updated to note that Morris' "column appears on the [Newsmax] site.")

In addition, Smillie wrote that Ruddy worked "as a journalist first at the New York Post, then as a national correspondent for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, owned by billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife" but did not note that Ruddy devoted a significant portion of his career -- including while working at the Tribune-Review -- to spreading discredited conspiracy theories about the 1993 death of Clinton administration deputy White House counsel Vince Foster. Numerous official investigations have conclusively established that Foster committed suicide.

In the March/April 1996 Columbia Journalism Review, contributing editor Trudy Lieberman reported:

That Christopher Ruddy would win the Western Journalism Center's first "Courage in Journalism Award," with its crystal trophy and $2,000 check, is hardly surprising. Ruddy is a free-lance writer for the Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Tribune-Review, whose oeuvre is the 1993 death of White House aide Vincent Foster. The Western Journalism Center, based in suburban Sacramento, bills itself in a biweekly newsletter as a "nonprofit tax-exempt corporation promoting independent investigative reporting" and "the only national news agency supporting a full-time probe of the mysterious death of White House deputy counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr." What this means, it seems, is that the Center mostly recycles stories written by Christopher Ruddy.

Ruddy was a reporter for the New York Post until the summer of 1994. A few months later he was hired by the Tribune-Review, which is owned and published by Richard Mellon Scaife, a Pittsburgh philanthropist well-known for funding right-wing causes and media watchdog organizations (see "Citizen Scaife," cjr, July/August 1981). At the Tribune-Review, Ruddy, who did not return calls to cjr, turns out frequent Foster stories, often on Sunday. The Western Journalism Center, too, has a strong connection to Scaife: last year a good chunk of its funding came from the Carthage Foundation, one of several foundations connected to him. Another large Center contributor is James Dale Davidson, who co-edits the newsletter Strategic Investment and is also chairman of the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative group whose research arm has received thousands of dollars from Scaife foundations.

One of the Center's major activities is trying to inject the dark view of Foster's death into mainstream reporting and thinking. Last year, to this end, the Center bought full-page ads in several major newspapers, including The New York Times, to showcase Ruddy's work and to offer for sale special Vince Foster reports, including a compilation of Ruddy's stories, titled "The Ruddy Investigation," for $12, and a forty-minute "riveting new video documentary" titled "Unanswered -- The Death of Vincent Foster," which Ruddy helped produce, and which goes for $35.

In an October 19, 1997, review of Ruddy's book The Strange Death of Vincent Foster: An Investigation, Michael Isikoff wrote:

Ruddy, of course, is the Inspector Clouseau of the Foster case -- a determined, if bumbling, former New York Post reporter who has virtually single-handedly spawned a cottage industry of conspiracy buffs dedicated to the proposition that a foul and monstrous cover-up surrounds the circumstances of Foster's death.

Financed by a cranky right-wing philanthropist, Richard Mellon Scaife, Ruddy's repeated bromides about the Foster case have been republished in newspaper ads across the country; his sheer persistence has led some casual observers to conclude he might be on to something. The Strange Death, published by The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, is endorsed as "serious and compelling" by former FBI Director William Sessions. In the New York Times Book Review, National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser chides political journalists for failing to pursue Ruddy's many "unanswered questions" about the case.

Don't worry, when it comes to how Foster died, there aren't any -- or none that matter. Ruddy's book -- and the entire movement he has helped create -- is utterly preposterous. Turgidly written and dense with 534 footnotes and seven appendixes, Ruddy's plodding book repeatedly confuses the evidence and chases after scores of imaginary holes in the official verdict -- without ever positing an alternative scenario that makes the least bit of sense.

From the March 6 article:

Christopher Ruddy wasn't invited to President Barack Obama's dinner with conservative columnists at George Will's Maryland home in early January. Maybe he should have been.


Says former Clinton political strategist Dick Morris: "Newsmax is the most influential Republican-leaning media outlet in the country." Why? It taps "what Republicans in the heartland are really thinking."

Raised in suburban Long Island, Ruddy earned a master's degree in public policy from the London School of Economics, signed on as a journalist first at the New York Post, then as a national correspondent for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, owned by billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife.

Propaganda/Noise Machine
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