9OYS Viewers' Voice
PAC of lies: ALIPAC redoubles its attacks on KGUN9 News
It all started over a single question asked of GOP contender Jesse Kelly
Update: after this posting went live on Friday, ALIPAC founder William Gheen posted a lengthy rebuttal containing some even more startling accusations against KGUN9. See the updated section below.
Notes by: Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director
This week KGUN9 News has been involved in a brawl with a group known as ALIPAC, which is short for the Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee. According to its website, ALIPAC staunchly opposes illegal immigration. Its platform page lists positions opposing any kind of amnesty for illegal aliens, opposing guest worker programs, and pushing for a decrease in legal immigration as well.
The flap began when KGUN9 tried to ask a question of GOP Congressional contender Jesse Kelly, given to us by a KGUN9 viewer. The viewer noted that some critics -- namely U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and the Anti-Defamation League -- have denounced ALIPAC on the grounds that it has ties with extremist groups, such as white supremacists.
That resulted first in an outraged reaction from the Kelly campaign, and then an even more incensed reaction from a William Gheen, who leads ALIPAC. KGUN9 gave Gheen his say, running a lengthy story quoting him at the top of Thursday's 5pm News. We also posted on our website Gheen's demand for retraction, along with our response. In his letter Gheen gives his side of the story and levels accusations against KGUN9 in more detail. These stories and documents are available in the "Related Articles" and "Related Documents" section at left.
Gheen's central theme is that the allegations against ALIPAC as referenced in the KGUN9 viewer's question were "lies" and that it was therefore unethical for KGUN9 News to present that question to Kelly.
However, if Gheen wants to censor or stifle political debate by forbidding questions referencing unproven statements uttered by politicians and activists, he has shown no willingness to apply that same standard to himself. Since the uproar began, Gheen has launched an amazing campaign of lies directed at KGUN9, via postings on KGUN9's Facebook page, on KGUN9.com and on his personal Facebook page.
Chief among them are the false statements claiming that KGUN9 never contacted Gheen regarding the allegations and never checked them out. Not true. KGUN9 explored the allegations when the issue first arose in 2010, and quoted Gheen in that story. Done. The criticisms of ALIPAC are not new. What's new is that the KGUN9 viewer was trying to get Kelly to do what he refused to do in 2010 - explain why he had sought and accepted that 2010 ALIPAC endorsement. The question is still very much current and relevant, given ALIPAC's renewed endorsement of Kelly issued last week.
Gheen has stated repeatedly that KGUN9 News has "lied" about ALIPAC in its news coverage. That is a lie. KGUN9's news coverage has been stone cold accurate. The allegations against ALIPAC were leveled by his enemies, not by KGUN9. Our stories have properly attributed the criticisms to their sources.
On his Facebook page, Gheen makes this statement, my personal favorite: "KGUN 9 is lying and trying to defame Mr. Kelly. It appears they are very afraid he is going to win and because they don't like his conservatism they are resorting to deceptive and unethical practices." He repeated that claim in a posting our Facebook page asserting that KGUN9 was trying to influence the outcome of the election.
Right. In fact, I had intended to post this open letter to Gheen earlier Friday, but I was detained longer than expected at my meeting of the Left Wing Media Conspiracy Group. (We meet every other Friday - contact me for details. Press credentials and secret handshake required.)
On our Facebook page Friday afternoon, Gheen posted a series of statements in his defense and claimed that these are things "KGUN 9 is refusing to tell you about." Another lie. As noted, on Thursday we devoted quite a bit of airtime to Gheen, letting him tell his side of the story in a report that ran twice the normal length for a TV story. That same afternoon, we posted on KGUN9.com his full demand for retraction, in which he laid out many of the same defense points that he now claims KGUN9 is "refusing to tell you about."
KGUN9 takes no sides in any political fight. But our Viewer Advocacy news philosophy requires us to hold the powerful accountable. That means asking questions that politicians sometimes might find uncomfortable. It's not an attempt to score points or embarrass anyone. It's an attempt to probe the issues for our viewers. That same Viewer Advocacy philosophy requires us, when publicly attacked by a newsmaker, to explain our coverage decisions. If we got it wrong, we'll admit it and then fix it as best we can. If we got it right and followed the values set forth in our Viewers' Bill of Rights, then we'll say so and defend ourselves -- and if attacked vigorously, we'll defend ourselves with equal vigor.
In that vein, below is an open letter to Gheen.
Mr. Gheen, KGUN9 News has not accused you of having any ties to any extremist groups. We have reported on those allegations, however, as have other news media. Yet you continue to insist that it is KGUN9, not your political enemies, making these accusations. It's one of many falsehoods you have been spreading lately about KGUN9. Perhaps you believe that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. It's certainly been done before.
Any judgments about the nature of your organization are not ours to make. We leave that up to our viewers. However, those viewers can easily check out for themselves what ALIPAC is all about, by going to your ALIPAC Facebook page, the link for which you thoughtfully posted on our page.
There viewers will find for their reading pleasure such fare as:
"ILLEGAL ALIEN INVADER GETS CAUGHT TRYING TO KIDNAP AND RAPE 67 YEAR OLD WOMAN"
"Is everyone aware of these increasing black mob attacks on whites across America in the last two months?"
"Illegal Immigrants Riot Inside Mississippi prison! Is this the spark that starts the illegal alien uprising or will that be a little further down the road for America?"
"That TRAITOR John McCain just came out on Fox Latino supporting Amnesty again and claiming that Mitt Romney has deceived us all and will push Amnesty too!"
"Illegal Alien Gets 40 Years for Raping 8 Year Old on Christmas Eve!"
"Mexican Mafia ordered illegal alien gangs to target blacks!"
Are headlines of that nature indicative of fair, accurate and clear-eyed reporting of a real national problem? Or do they amount to something else -- something that would rise to the level of sensationalistic, xenophobic race baiting, as some of your critics feel? Is this the kind of material to which neo-Nazis or white supremacists might gravitate or find attractive? And if even if it is, does that mean your organization is associated with such people, as some of your critics claim? After all, any movement can attract fringe elements. Unless you've reached out and made a request, it's true that you can't necessarily choose who endorses you, only whom you endorse. So should you be judged by the character of extreme elements, if any, with whom your message might resonate?
KGUN9 News makes no judgment about any of that. However, I will say that I must agree with you that your content is racially mixed.
Viewers can make up their own minds on those questions and others, plus the allegations and issues you have raised, including:
-- Are the accusations of extremism made against ALIPAC (by others, not KGUN9) appropriate?
-- Is it appropriate for politicians endorsed by your organization to be asked about their reaction to such an endorsement, in light of what your political opponents have said about you?
-- Is it inappropriate for a voter (and possible future constituent) to ask a question of a politician in the context of an interview in which the candidate has agreed to take such questions -- which, let the record reflect, was the specific cause of your diatribe and the campaign of lies you have launched against KGUN9? Or must constituents get their questions pre-cleared through some kind of official approval process?
-- You've indicated repeatedly that you believe it's unethical and inappropriate to mention a political statement or attack if the statement contains unproven allegations -- or, as you put it, "lies." When are you going to begin applying that rule to your own personal conduct?
If you do plan to adopt your own rule, we'd appreciate if you would do so retroactively, and issue a retraction and apology for the falsehoods you have leveled at KGUN9 News.
Final point -- in reference to the allegations against ALIPAC, you claimed in your Thursday interview with KGUN9 News that "No other news agency has carried that aspersion except for KGUN9." Viewers can make their own check of the veracity of that statement via a simple Google search, and we invite them to do so. Their findings should serve as a litmus test for the veracity of all of your other statements as well.
Sunday update: In response to this open letter, ALIPAC founder William Gheen posted a lengthy diatribe on the ALIPAC website and on KGUN9's Facebook page denouncing KGUN9 for liberalism, and making the startling claim that in relaying a single viewer's question about ALIPAC to GOP contender Jesse Kelly, KGUN9 is attacking "Blacks, Whites and Hispanics." Oh, it doesn't stop there -- he goes on to claim that we are killing people and have blood on our hands. (No, we're not making this up - read it for yourself). In addition, Gheen posted a message on ALIPAC's Facebook page asking his supporters to go to KGUN9's Facebook page in order to "correct" what he called an "attack from liberal illegal alien supporters at KGUN 9."
KGUN9's response to that is below. We anticipate that it will be the last one from us. Given the level of rationality and the brand of logic demonstrated by ALIPAC in its attacks, it does not seem likely than any future responses will be productive.
Mr. Gheen, thank you for your "rebuttal." Here's a hint for future debates: repeating a lie over and over again at increasingly higher volume does not serve to prove it. All it does is to make the gullible more apt to believe it, which I'm sure is your intent.
However, I really appreciate you posting your rant to our Facebook page, because in doing so you've added a high degree of entertainment value to it. So you think that by relaying a single viewer question to Jesse Kelly regarding ALIPAC's endorsement of him, KGUN9 is attacking "Blacks, Whites and Hispanics" now? That claim made me laugh so hard I think I hurt myself. But then you go on to claim that we are contributing to their deaths, for which you accuse me of now having blood on my hands, as you put it.
Nope, Mr. Gheen, I can't imagine why anyone would ever accuse you or ALIPAC of any kind of extremism.
By the way -- despite the fit the Kelly campaign pitched, and the frothing-at-the-mouth tantrums from you, not only has the campaign not answered the question that provoked these radical responses, but neither have you. So, on behalf of a KGUN9 viewer, let me pose it again here, closely paraphrasing the original wording of the viewer's question: Senator John McCain and the Anti-Defamation League have denounced ALIPAC for being backed by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. Why did Kelly seek and accept that endorsement in 2010? Should he accept ALIPAC's 2012 endorsement now?
As for your invitation for me to take Journalism 101 -- I quoted several of ALIPAC's lurid headlines and statements in my open letter (see above). I have my own opinion about whether those would pass muster in any Journalism 101 class I ever heard of, and also about whether, as a result, you have a standing to pass judgment on anyone else's journalism ethics. Viewers can make up their own minds about that. But I am curious: what does ALIPAC's decision to raise an alarm about alleged attacks by blacks on whites have to do with immigration policy? And as for your prediction of an impending "illegal alien uprising" -- didn't Charlie Manson say much the same kind of thing?
Nope, no extreme content here. Certainly nothing that might appeal to white supremacists and the like.
I also want to applaud you on your hypocrisy, which is nothing short of breathtaking. With the ALIPAC-posted headlines quoted above, you accuse KGUN9 News of fear mongering? Wow. Bravo. It takes guts and a high degree of self control to make a statement like that and keep a straight face while doing it.
Aside from the racially tinged allegations quoted above, you really say nothing new in your "rebuttal." But I particularly love your completely predictable attempts to discount KGUN9's journalism by branding us as "liberals" -- a label you tried to lay on us repeatedly last week and a word that you employed seven times in your latest online rant, and then for an eighth time in your latest Facebook posting. This is a classic tactic right out of the far-right political playbook: "If you're not with us, you're against us. And if you're against us, then obviously you must be a liberal."
Although this will simply bounce off of you and your followers, in the belief that at least some of those reading this might be interested in the truth, here it is: we are simply journalists. KGUN9 News asks probing questions of everybody. Asking a tough question of a conservative politician or right-wing political group is not an act of "liberalism" -- or at least, it didn't use to be, although you and your buddies are trying hard to change the public's perception. It's an act of journalism. Period.
The problem with branding journalists as the enemy and declaring that therefore they must be liberals is that the logic works in the opposite direction, too. What KGUN9 News and other mainstream journalists stand for is simply the open and the unrestricted pursuit of news and information, a process that is utterly necessary for a free and enlightened society to govern itself.
You and your media-slandering friends should try this logic on for size: If journalists are supporters, upholders and defenders of democracy, and you have declared us to be your enemy, what does that make you?