Accuracy in Media

Stories have appeared in the conservative press and on conservative radio that the attack on the Bush campaign ads for using 9/11 images is motivated by a group funded by John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz. The sensational story goes like this: funding for the September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the group critical of the ads, comes from the Tides Center, which comes from the Heinz foundations run by Kerry’s wife. None of this, however, establishes a direct link to Teresa Heinz or John Kerry.

David Potorti, co-director of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, says the group “has never received funding from the Howard Heinz Endowment, the Vira I. Heinz Endowment, Teresa Heinz Kerry or John Kerry. Peaceful Tomorrows has no connection with the Heinz or Kerry families through Tides Foundation, the Tides Center or any other entity.”

He says the Tides Center since July of 2002 has provided administrative and financial services that allow the staff and membership of Peaceful Tomorrows to focus on work related to their mission. He explains, “We raise money for our own work and we pay Tides Center 9% of those funds in exchange for vital services such as invoice payment, tax services, and insurance.”

The claim in one story that the group has “direct financial ties” to the Heinz Endowment and Teresa Heinz is, therefore, not true. Questions have been generated by an article by Tom Randall in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which points out that the Tides Center frequently serves as a conduit for money from left-wing special interests who want their roles and sponsorship kept secret. But there’s no evidence that Heinz did that through Tides on behalf of the 9/11 group. However, there are other more important factors to consider when evaluating the nature of Peaceful Tomorrows. First, by its own admission, it says it represents “more than 100” 9/11 family members. That’s a tiny minority of those directly affected by the tragedy that took 3,000 lives.

Number two, when the group was formed, back in February of 2002, it issued a release declaring that, “Peaceful Tomorrows members have asked that violent responses to the September 11 tragedies, such as the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan, not be done in their names and the names of their loved ones.” Hence, the organization opposed the U.S. war in Afghanistan, a policy that would have permitted the terrorists responsible for 9/11 to remain at large and free to plot more terrorist attacks. Last year, the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows issued a statement condemning “the illegal, immoral, and unjustified U.S.-led military action in Iraq.”

Journalists can sympathize with the suffering of members of this group but they have a responsibility to tell the truth about its extreme agenda. Typically, the media have referred to the organization as a “victims’ families group,” which is technically true but clearly not sufficient. The media have been somewhat better in noting that the Firefighters Union that has been critical of the Bush campaign ads has already endorsed Kerry for president. It clearly has a political motivation.

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