The Los Angeles Times was flooded with phone calls today. When I tried to reach Editor Russ Stanton, it seemed his phone had been left off the hook; it went straight to voicemail. His phone number had been listed on an incalculable number of conservative blogs, and angry readers were calling to demand that the paper release a videotape it mentioned in an April article titled, “Friends of Palestinians See a Friend in Obama.”
The article described a 2003 farewell dinner for scholar Rashid Khalidi, an at times harsh critic of Israel. The evening carried a few verbal assaults on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and present for these protests was Khalidi’s friend, Barack Obama. The Times broke this story in April, but some folks have become convinced that because the paper refuses to release the video they must be covering up something (i.e. Obama drinking the blood of a Jewish child).
Yesterday the McCain campaign demanded the paper release the tape. Today John McCain, who likened an evening with Khalidi to a neo-Nazi rally, and Sarah Palin accused the Times of protecting Obama. Forget the fact that McCain once chaired an organization that gave $500,000 to Khalidi’s Center for Palestine Research and Studies. Meanwhile, the Internet has gone nuts.
The most ridiculous move has been the republishing, over and over, of a supposed scoop from the hitherto unknown Doug Ross, who claims to have been told from someone in the know just what Obama can be heard saying on the tape:
Saw a clip from the tape. Reason we can’t release it is because statements Obama said to rile audience up during toast. He congratulates Khalidi for his work saying “Israel has no God-given right to occupy Palestine” plus there’s been “genocide against the Palestinian people by Israelis.”
It would be really controversial if it got out. That’s why they will not even let a transcript get out.
If that was true it would be controversial—though anti-Zionist Jews agree with the first statement and Benny Morris with the latter. That is neither here nor there. The reality is this drama, like so many this year, play off the electorate’s most prejudicial fears.
After parroting Ross’ quotes, Little Green Footballs offered this:
“Caveat: I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this. However, it certainly would explain why the LA Times is suppressing the video.”
Talk about reaching a conclusion without establishing your premise.
I’m not saying the L.A. Times is being an exemplar of transparency here. I imagine the paper has its reasons; I just wish they explained it a bit more clearly—like why exactly they can’t release a transcript, which a spokeswoman told me there was no plan to do.