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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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McCain ‘border sheriff’ relying on wacky Webster?

Posted by James McPherson on July 22, 2010

Talk about the blind leading the blind. Or dumb and dumber. Paul Babeu, the Arizona sheriff most famous for posing as a “border sheriff” in John McCain’s goofy “complete the danged fence” ad, apparently gets his own information from… wait for it … Michael Webster.

Yes, that Michael Webster, the loony “investigative reporter” whom I’ve highlighted previously on this site. Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star, reports in a piece headlined that after Babeu claimed that a Mexican “drug cartel top officer” sat down with a reporter in an interview and threatened Babeu:

“We believe it was American vigilantes, and that the sheriff of Pinal County, where my two soldiers were killed, is covering this up, and we’re going to hold him, Sheriff Paul Babeu” — they said it right in the paper, this guy’s telling the reporter — “and we’re going to hold him personally responsible for this.”

Unlike the type of “journalist” played by Webster, Steller then decided to follow up:

That piqued my attention, of course, since the Arizona Daily Star is the only daily newspaper in Tucson, and I hadn’t noticed this interview. So I asked Tim Gaffney, Babeu’s spokesman, what Babeu was referring to. Gaffney pointed me to this piece by “investigative journalist” Michael Webster. Please read the piece, along with some of Webster’s other writings at U.S. Border Fire Report and Laguna Journal  and tell me if you would trust this source of information, especially if you were a sheriff.

A subhead on the search page for the article refers to Webster as “a self-described ‘investigative journalist’ with sympathies toward the militia movement.” That may make his articles ideal for regurgitation by various anti-immigration and conspiracy sites (a few examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here), but, as Steller suggests, hardly the kind of information you’d hope would be relied upon for any public officials with marginally more sense than Michele Bachmann.

And if he trusts Webster, I suppose this also means that Babeu, knowingly or unknowingly, is relying on outdated third-hand information from some secret “duck hunter.”

Incidentally, the reason I thought to check the Star (though I have family in Tucson and so read it on occasion, anyway), is because Steller has apparently come across one of my previous pieces on Webster and emailed me for contact info (not that it matters, because Webster apparently ignores attempts to reach him unless those attempts come from shadowy figures with drug war horror stories such as “duck hunter” or “HammerDown”  or “Juan” or “a self proclaimed Los Zetas drug cartel officer“).

In my response to Steller I pointed out Webster’s two websites and his some of his other writing, including three books–“one advertised with the line, ‘We, believe that fruit from the tree of life may be the lemon’ (the extra comma was already there), and one a ‘work of fiction’ promising, ‘The RedRoad is a journey through life learning to live in balance and harmony with Mother and if you walk soft and long you may teach others the walk of the RedRoad.'”

As I told Steller, I guess it’s when those red folks mixed with Spaniards that they became a problem. Of course the red men did an awful job with border security, which is why most of us are here with the likes of Babeu and Webster to protect us.

6 Responses to “McCain ‘border sheriff’ relying on wacky Webster?”

  1. Zeb said

    Hey McPherson. I’d trust anyone of those you lamely try to disparage…Webster, Babeau, Gaffney, Bachman, McCain (what, no Palin?)…than I would you. Why don’t you just get to what you liberals do best…scream “racism” and “it’s Bush’s fault”

  2. James McPherson said

    Zeb, one minor point: I’d never heard of Gaffney before today and know almost nothing about him; that was simply a quote from the the Arizona Daily Star.

    Beyond that, though, the depth of your argument leaves me at a loss for words in terms of a proper reply. But thanks for the comment.

  3. K said

    Babeu was able to persuade at least one major Arizona news department that Webster is a credible source. On July 17th, CBS’s Phoenix affiliate, KPHO, broadcast a report on its 6:30 news program on Babeu’s response to renewed press reports of neo-Nazi vigilantes in his county. (When this group first drew attention to itself a month earlier, Babeu, while discouraging their patrols, expressed “appreciation” for their support. The July, as press attention increased, he was prompted to adopt a sterner tone.) The KPHO reporter, Elias Johnson, who was under the false impression that Webster is “a columnist for the LA Times,” referred to his July 8 article (“Mexican Drug Cartel Soldiers Shot in Arizona Desert”). Both Babeu and Johnson treated Webster’s claims as true:

    Johnson: Recently a columnist for the LA Times claims he sat down with one of the cartel members who told him they believe a group of vigilantes killed two of its members over the Fourth of July.
    Babeu: But they attribute a vigilante group, much like this, to having killed their members of their cartel. And they believe that we’re a part of this, which clearly, uh, not only is, is false, it’s, it’s something that would never happen.”
    Johnson: During the interview, the cartel member specifically mentioned Sheriff Babeu.
    Babeu: “We’re gonna hold Sheriff Paul Babeu personally responsible for this.” I’ve never seen threats made publicly in our media, using our media to make threats south of the border to us.

    (In the text version of the report, Johnson identifies Webster by name.)

    In Arizona, the boundary between the legitimate press and the paranoid fantasist fringe is breaking down, in part because of mountebanks in public office.

  4. James McPherson said

    The news media have plenty of problems, but local television news certainly tends to be the worst. And having lived in Arizona, I know the politics are wacky. Thanks for the comment, K.

  5. […] craziness of “journalists” such as WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah, Floyd Brown and Michael Webster, and have previously talked about the sign-carrying racists and blogging “electronic […]

  6. […] Toughen immigration laws by promoting Arizona-style legislation, adopting the goofy idea of “self-deportation,” and completing “the dang fence. […]

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