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May 19, 2010

TV Station to CCF: Stop Misrepresenting Pulled HSUS Story

I’ve said it many times to rank-and-file supporters: the more you know about The HSUS, the more you’ll like us. When people find out about our effective action to help all animals, they are enthused and heartened. Cruelty is cruelty, and rational people want to see every bit of it stopped.

Our critics, on the other hand, don’t appreciate our aggressive work to confront cruelty. In response, they often resort to extreme and unsubstantiated claims about The HSUS. The worst among them are the professional con artists at the misnamed Center for Consumer Freedom, led by multimillionaire lobbyist Rick Berman. I’ve always felt that people who perpetrate or defend animal abuse won’t hesitate to lie about it.

WSB-TV letter to Richard Berman of the Center for Consumer FreedomThis week, Berman received a letter that must have ruined his day. William Hoffman, the general manager at WSB-TV in Atlanta, wrote to Berman and it was nothing but a stern rebuke.

A year ago, Amanda Rosseter, a careless reporter at WSB (and now no longer with the station), got hoodwinked by relying on CCF as the primary source in a story about The HSUS. It was a hatchet job, and we brought the deficiencies and glaring errors in the news piece to the station’s attention. Management did not rebroadcast it, published a correction, and permanently removed the story from its website.

Except for the WSB story, Berman and his minions haven't been able to interest mainstream media outlets in their fraudulent attack on The HSUS. Even after WSB disassociated itself from the broadcast and tried to kill it off, Berman and his people did their best to keep it alive, under the pretense that it was somehow legitimate reporting. For the past year, CCF milked the WSB story for all it could get, citing the station as a source of the misinformation about us when it was CCF that pitched and planted the falsehoods in the first place. Talk about trickery and circular, self-referential work by CCF.

In the end, the best CCF could do to extend the life of the discredited story was to find an Iranian Web platform that hosted an unauthorized and illegal bootlegged version.

WSB-TV told Berman that he was violating copyright laws by rebroadcasting the piece it had taken down from its own website. And the station scolded Berman and told him to stop misrepresenting The HSUS’s record. Station manager Hoffman wrote that “we [at WSB-TV] have had the opportunity to learn more about HSUS.” He noted, “we believe that you have misrepresented the Broadcast as supporting your contention that HSUS actively misleads the public in its advertising. WSB-TV has no evidence of that nor do we believe it to be true.” Hoffman also reminded Berman that “we immediately corrected an error in our original Broadcast regarding HSUS and Katrina relief efforts in our next news program.”

Berman and CCF have never relied entirely on the press corps to transmit their message. Credible media outlets almost never pick up his claptrap. He’s always banked on a scattering of paid advertisements to spread his misinformation. And he claims that the CCF website called HumaneWatch is some sort of charity watchdog site—but it’s actually just a gathering place for dogfighters, cockfighters, puppy millers, sealers, trophy hunters, factory farmers, furriers, keepers of exotic wildlife as pets, and zoophiles, among others.

It doesn’t say much for the integrity of our critics that they view Rick Berman as their leading light. Their faith in him, if it persists, will boomerang against them. Responsible people, including news outlets, corporate executives, and lawmakers, will always see through a scammer like Berman, just as WSB-TV did in the end.

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