Prior to the War in Iraq, met with Iraqi government officials and publicly denounced American plans for invasion
Sponsored actor Sean Penn’s celebrated visit to Baghdad in 2002
Sponsored visits to Iraq by Democratic Congressmen Nick Rahall and former Democrat Senator James Abourezk
Founded in mid-1997, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit media clearinghouse based in the National Press Building in Washington, DC. A consortium of independent public-policy researchers, analysts and activists, the Institute claims that leftwing "voices are commonly excluded or drowned out by government or corporate-backed institutions." To address this perceived problem, IPA seeks to “increas[e] the reach and capacity of progressive and grassroots organizations (at no cost to them) to address public policy by getting them and their ideas into the mainstream media." This “outreach” takes the form of news releases that IPA distributes to approximately 7,000 journalists and television producers on a regular basis.
IPA also makes available a "roster of experts" from "academia, public-interest groups, and grassroots organizations" who provide journalists with "insights" that do not "ordinarily get through the various media filters."
IPA has an implicit symbiotic relationship with Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). When FAIR accuses a media entity of conservative bias, IPA rushes to offer far left "experts" and database information to provide "balance." IPA acts as a source of "objective" information that FAIR and other left-of-center groups can cite to bolster their arguments and credibility.
The founder and Executive Director of IPA is Norman Solomon, an ideological disciple of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci and a former executive of FAIR.
IPA’s President is Peggy Law, whois the Founding Director of the International Media Project and co-founder of the global public affairs radio program Making Contact.
A notable member of IPA's Board of Directors is Robert McChesney, who has authoredseveral books on media issues, is the former co-editor of the Marxist journal Monthly Review, and co-founded the "media reform" organization Free Press.
IPA's Associate Director is Cynthia Skow, a longtime activist and advocate on behalf of prisoners and their families.
IPA seeks to bar the free market from determining which media companies and productions will succeed or fail. “Any successful movement for basic progressive change will need to push big money off the windpipe of the First Amendment,” says Norman Solomon, adding that “freedom to speak must be accompanied by freedom to be heard” regardless of whether the speaker can successfully attract an audience in the marketplace of ideas. Similarly, Robert McChesney laments “the contradiction between a for-profit … corporate media system and the communication requirements of a democratic society,” advocating more government-funded media and extensive government control over private broadcasters.
Hostile not only to capitalism, IPA is also strongly opposed to American military involvement overseas. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Institute counseled against a military response by the United States, issuing a September 12, 2001 press release summarizing the positions of a number of IPA-affiliated "experts" who were available for media interviews. One of these declared that the events of 9/11 "hol[d] up a mirror to U.S. policy" that allegedly had caused "massive civilian suffering in Iraq," and expressed the hope that "along with the grief, we can … form deeper compassion and understanding." Another "expert" proclaimed, "This is not a 'war' that can be won by military means."
Prior to the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, IPA collaborated with Saddam Hussein's regime to organize "fact-finding" trips to Iraq for American political figures and entertainers. In September 2002, for example, the Institute sponsored a visit to Iraq by a delegation that included Democrat Congressmen Nick Rahall of West Virginia, former Democrat Senator James Abourezk of South Dakota, and IPA's own Norman Solomon. Their travels and activities were tightly controlled by the Iraqi government.
Rahall, who went to Baghdad despite widespread opposition to the trip in his home district, declared, "What I want to give here is peace a chance." Abourezk, for his part, did not blame Saddam Hussein for the Iraqi people's suffering, but rather the United States -- and he asserted that an American invasion of Iraq would constitute "a new and unprovoked war … in violation … of basic humane values." Norman Solomon described his delegation's meetings with Iraqi government officials as suffused with "some real warmth and shared desire to avert the looming specter of just a really horrific war." Moreover, he characterized the weapons inspectors who were in Iraq as American military spies, and charged that the U.S. was "determined to inflict a horrendous war." Baghdad exploited such comments in an effort to elicit sympathy for the Iraqi regime and to weaken American resolve.
Just before the Christmas season of 2002, IPA also sponsored a visit to Baghdad by the movie actor Sean Penn. According to Norman Solomon, "[Penn's] visit could inspire many Americans from various walks of life to explore how they can impede the momentum toward war, whether in Baghdad or at home in the United States." "If there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq," Penn said near the end of his tour, "the blood of Americans and Iraqis will be on our [Americans’] hands." The Iraqi News Agency exploited Penn's visit by reporting that the actor had "confirmed that Iraq is completely clear of weapons of mass destruction." Penn offered his "thanks to Norman Solomon and the Institute for Public Accuracy for facilitating my visit."
In late 2002 and early 2003, IPA’s press office worked to build public credibility for former socialist and Communist radical organizers who now sought to portray themselves as moderate leaders of a national groundswell against American military action in Iraq. One such individual was Nancy Lessin (a coordinator for the AFL-CIO and a member of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health), who had previously led successful corporate smear campaigns and legal battles that resulted in massive fines for area corporations. With the help of the IPA media machine, Lessin was reborn as the head of Military Families Speak Out. After an IPA media campaign disseminated Lessin’s name and contact information to newsrooms across the United States on January 17, 2003, Lessin and her organization became widely quoted in anti-war coverage in American newspapers and in publications abroad.
"IPA's press office," wrote investigative reporter Jean Pearce in March 2003 at FrontPageMag.com, "has become the central media clearinghouse for the peace movement, building credibility for former socialist and Communist radical organizers now striving to pass themselves off as moderate…."