Yesterday, the Washington Examiner reported that Arianna Huffington was extremely displeased with the White House Correspondents’ Association, the reason being that in its first year attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner the Huffington Post had requested three tables for its guests and only received one. Huffington was so sure she’d receive the requested tables that she had invited 14 “celebrity” guests. But the Huffington Post wasn’t the only news organization to ask for and not receive three tables; World Net Daily, the conservative website, also faced similar news, with two key differences: rather than receiving a single table, it was granted all of two seats, and the news org, which was founded long before HuffPo back in 1997, has attended several dinners in the past. Understandably, its editor, Joseph Farah, wasn’t happy. Today, several websites, including WND, reported that he is suing the association for $10 million.
I spoke to Farah on the phone about the incident and he explained that they had requested three tables to coincide with the publication of a biography of Lester Kinsolving, WND’s longtime White House correspondent. Unsurprisingly, given WND’s right-leaning status and Kinsolving’s affiliation with it, Farah is claiming ideological foul play on the association.
“There’s no question about it,” he said. “I think it’s a slight to both Les and WND. He’s treated like a pariah in the association. He’s treated like a pariah by his colleagues at every briefing. Half the time he’s standing there with his hand up, and the guy from the AP will just close down the briefing. He’s treated with disrespect by journalists. It’s really sad because it’s not uniform, or universal, that they disrespect elder statesmen of the press corp, because Helen Thomas is treated like a queen. She asks questions that are just as bizarre as Les, but because her ideological leaning is to the port side, she’s treated like a queen. And Les Kinsolving, who is not much of an ideologue, to be honest with you, but his association with World Net Daily pigeon holes him, and he’s treated with disrespect.”
According to Farah, a table at the dinner costs roughly $2,500, and WND sent three separate checks knowing there would be a chance that it wouldn’t get all three tables. He claimed that he had an WND staffer hand in the applications the very first day the association opened to them, and that the association, despite not giving WND an entire table, cashed one of the checks. “I’m a business man, and when I cash someone’s check, I deliver the service they want. I don’t say, ‘well you know what, I’m going to give you this other service. It’s not as good, but I’m going to cash your check, and here’s my idea of what you want and deserve.”
Farah said he would have felt less insulted if he’d received no tables rather than two seats, and he called on the association to have some objectivity on how they dole out tables (I have to admit, I kind of agree with him on this one). “What are the standards that you use? Does seniority have anything to do with it? Does longevity have anything to do with it? Does audience have anything to do with it? If you measure by any of those standards, you would assume World Net Daily passes the test, more than lots of other organizations that wouldn’t. What am I to conclude from that?”
The dinner takes place on May 1. Obviously, WND isn’t likely to collect $10 million before then, but I asked Farah what result he’d like to see from the lawsuit. He hoped for some kind of “temporary restraining order,” or for the association to grant them a table.
However, one thing is for certain: WND will not be using the two tickets that have been allocated to them. “I’ve told them kindly that I’m not interested in two tickets, and will not accept them, and so, you know, I don’t know what happens. They still have not returned our money.”