The Grift of a Right-Wing, White House-Accredited Media Outlet Hits a Wall
It just goes to show how far you can get with a clean shave, a nice suit, and a pleasant demeanor.
Rick Wiles and his two sidekicks, Ed Szall and Doc Burkhart, had a pretty good thing going at TruNews, the antisemitic website and YouTube channel that demonizes Jews and Israel in a manner that puts them in league with Father Coughlin and Henry Ford.
In face-to-face interactions, the folks at TruNews successfully presented themselves as professional, sober-minded Christian journalists who didn’t have an unkind word to say about anyone.
But when their man-on-the-street interviews were done and it was time to speak directly into the camera and preach to viewers over the Internet, TruNews founder Rick Wiles trafficked in astonishingly hostile anti-Jewish invective. And when he was through bashing Jews, he’d beg for donations, call it a day, and presumably plan the next day’s filming with his two sidekicks.
That’s how it played out at the Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) conference that took place in the West Bank in May 2018. Bethlehem Bible College gave these men the run of the place, allowing the trio to interview school officials, record conference presentations, and splice CATC promotional videos into TruNews broadcasts. Wiles, who presented as an affable guy in face-to-face interactions, turned on the hate when speaking to his viewers between these segments, telling them that Israeli Jewish rabbis are “just like Judas … looking for a political savior who will rule a political kingdom on earth, a super race that will dominate the planet. That’s really what Zionism is all about.”
Wiles also declared that “Kabbalah is voodoo that Jews do,” and that “If Jesus himself walked the streets of Jerusalem again, they would crucify him again. They would crucify him. They would release Barabbas and they would crucify him. Nothing has changed.”
As it turns out, Wiles has been saying stuff like this for years, which you think would disqualify him from getting press credentials at a so-called Christian peacemaking conference organized by the Bethlehem Bible College. No matter how you slice it, the folks at Bethlehem Bible College and Christ at the Checkpoint used TruNews to reach thousands of viewers in the US — and in so doing, helped mainstream Rick Wiles’ Jew-bating. The school and CATC organizers need to explain how this happened. I’ve contacted the school’s US board of directors, and have gotten no response.
To be fair, the folks at Bethlehem Bible College were not the only ones who allowed TruNews into their midst. TruNews “reporter” Ed Szall got into the White House and asked a question of President Donald Trump during the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings and was again able to ask a question of the president at an economic forum in Japan.
It was a globe-trotting grift for the ages. The TruNews trio went to Switzerland to cover the World Economic Forum, to Russia to cover the Moscow Conference on International Security, and more recently, to London to cover a meeting of NATO.
TruNews’ on-the-scene reporting can be a bit dodgy, like the time it covered a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly from Times Square, which is about 10 blocks away from Turtle Bay. And its recent coverage of the NATO meeting looks like Ed Szall is broadcasting from the fifth-floor hallway in a hotel somewhere in the outskirts of London, far away from the NATO meeting.
Despite these indignities, it must have been fun while it lasted. But then Rick Wiles had to blow everything to smithereens when he said recently that the impeachment hearings were part of a “Jew Coup.” Right Wing Watch saw the video, posted it on their website, and waited for it to blow up, like it did once Elder of Ziyon and a number of other outlets, including The Algemeiner, got wind of it.
Then people started to ask a pretty reasonable question — how did Ed Szall get close enough to ask two questions of President Trump? The White House hasn’t given a lot of information, other than to say that TruNews is not credentialed to cover the White House. The folks at the White House Correspondents Association say Ed Szall was not a member.
But even if suggestions that TruNews is part of the White House Press Corps are overblown, on at least two occasions, a reporter from TruNews, which in any functioning civil society should be placed beyond a cordon sanitaire, was allowed to sit at the big kid’s table with the adults and ask the president a question.
How on earth did that happen?
Hopefully, in light of this most recent controversy, TruNews will never get into the White House again, and will get the scrutiny it deserves.
One obvious question is how much money TruNews has spent on its antisemitic globe-trotting. Here journalists will run into a brick wall, because TruNews founder Rick Wiles has declared that his network is not merely an Internet TV station, but a church, and as such, is under no obligation to even file documents with the IRS.
In a 2016 interview with his sidekick Doc Burkhart, Wiles declared, “Simply put, there is no entity called ‘TruNews.’ It is a ministry of Flowing Streams. Flowing Streams is a church. A church is automatically tax-exempt. I prefer the phrase ‘tax immune.’ Offerings to God belong to the Lord. They don’t pass through the IRS for tax exemption. An offering is off-limits to the IRS.”
Wiles even encouraged his fellow Christians to ignore the IRS altogether when forming churches. “If you are starting a new church,” he said, “do not file for 501c3 status. Just be a church.”
A church? Really? Someone needs to tell Rick Wiles that the Middle Ages are over. Blood libels of the kind that incited pogroms, expulsions, and mass murder of Jews for centuries are no longer fashionable.
If your “church” is based on stirring up fears of a “Jew Coup” and calling Jews “Judas,” it’s time to reexamine your faith.
Dexter Van Zile is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA). His opinions are his own.