Ignoring its own reporting, NY Times did not point out falsehoods in Corsi's smear books on Obama, Kerry

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

The New York Times asserted that Jerome Corsi's recent book smearing Sen. Barack Obama "raises pointed questions about Mr. Obama's history of drug use, his 'extensive connections' to Islam and his relationships with Kenyan politicians, among other things -- allegations that Mr. Obama's campaign and others have widely disputed." However, the Times did not point out that The Obama Nation contains numerous falsehoods that have been widely discredited and denounced by the media.

In an October 7 article on author Jerome Corsi's detention in Kenya that day, New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman wrote that Corsi's recent book smearing Sen. Barack Obama, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality, "raises pointed questions about Mr. Obama's history of drug use, his 'extensive connections' to Islam and his relationships with Kenyan politicians, among other things -- allegations that Mr. Obama's campaign and others have widely disputed." However, the Times did not point out that The Obama Nation in fact contains numerous proven falsehoods -- not simply "widely disputed" allegations -- as Media Matters for America has documented and as the Times itself has noted.

The factual problems with Corsi's smear book are most recently evidenced by the author's publication in a September 7 "WorldNetDaily Exclusive" of 11 "corrections to the next printing of The Obama Nation." In an August 12 article by Jim Rutenberg and Julie Bosman, the Times itself pointed out that "[s]everal of the book's accusations, in fact, are unsubstantiated, misleading or inaccurate." The article continued:

For instance, Mr. Corsi writes that Mr. Obama had "yet to answer" whether he "stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely in college, or whether his drug usage extended to his law school days or beyond." "How about in the U.S. Senate?" Mr. Corsi asks.

But Mr. Obama, who admitted to occasional marijuana and cocaine use in his high school and early college years, wrote in his memoir that he had "stopped getting high" when he moved to New York in the early 1980s. And in 2003 The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., quoted him responding to a question of his drug use by saying, "I haven't done anything since I was 20 years old."

Indeed, one of Corsi's corrections addresses the "pointed question[] about Mr. Obama's history of drug use" that Gettleman reported and that Rutenberg and Bosman previously discredited:

6. Page 77 now reads: "Still Obama has yet to answer questions whether he ever dealt drugs, or if he stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely in college, or whether his drug use extended into his law school days or beyond." It will be corrected to read: "Obama told several reporters that he stopped taking drugs sometime during his college years."

Additionally, Gettleman wrote that "Mr. Corsi's attacks on Mr. Obama are similar to what Mr. Corsi did in 2004 when he co-authored a sharp-edged book about [Sen.] John Kerry ("Unfit for Command") that helped derail Senator Kerry's presidential bid." But Gettleman did not note that Corsi's earlier smear book, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, contains false and baseless attacks on Kerry's military service. Indeed, Rutenberg and Bosman noted in their August 12 article that Unfit for Command "included various accusations that were ultimately undermined by news reports pointing out the contradictions." Additionally, Susannah Meadows, who covered the Kerry campaign for Newsweek and reviewed the book for the Times, found that Unfit for Command "is totally unconvincing." She wrote in an October 10, 2004, review:

The problem is that John O'Neill, who is the driving force and public face of the book, is so curdled with hatred for Kerry that, as though he were an unreliable narrator in a Nabokov novel, you can't trust what he says.

[...]

While O'Neill's anger is real, his claims appear to be faulty. He wrongly asserts, for example, that Kerry branded him (and every other Vietnam veteran) a war criminal.

From Gettleman's October 7 New York Times article, "Kenya Detains U.S. Author Critical of Obama":

On Tuesday morning, Jerome R. Corsi was all set to bash Senator Barack Obama on his ancestral soil.

Mr. Corsi, a right-wing author who specializes in attack books, came to Kenya to publicize his newest work, "The Obama Nation," which raises pointed questions about Mr. Obama's history of drug use, his "extensive connections" to Islam and his relationships with Kenyan politicians, among other things -- allegations that Mr. Obama's campaign and others have widely disputed.

[...]

Mr. Corsi was looking forward to presenting evidence of close ties between Mr. Obama and [Kenyan Prime Minister Raila] Odinga, Mr. Corsi's aides said, and some suggested that this may have been what led Mr. Corsi to the door. Kenya's minister of immigration, for one, is a political ally of Mr. Odinga.

"I'm not going to name names," said Mr. [Peter] Mbae, the publicist [for Corsi in Kenya]. "But let's just say that a certain section of the government didn't want this press conference."

Mr. Corsi was also planning on visiting a relative of Mr. Obama who lives in a slum and giving him money, Mr. Mbae said.

Mr. Corsi's attacks on Mr. Obama are similar to what Mr. Corsi did in 2004 when he co-authored a sharp-edged book about John Kerry ("Unfit for Command") that helped derail Senator Kerry's presidential bid. By 8 p.m., Mr. Corsi was at the airport, waiting for a flight out of Kenya, Mr. Mbae said.

From Rutenberg and Bosman's August 12 article, "Book Attacking Obama Hopes to Repeat '04 Anti-Kerry Feat":

Almost exactly four years after that campaign began, Mr. Corsi has released a new attack book painting Senator Barack Obama, the Democrats' presumed presidential nominee, as a stealth radical liberal who has tried to cover up "extensive connections to Islam" -- Mr. Obama is Christian -- and questioning whether his admitted experimentation with drugs in high school and college ever ceased.

Significant parts of the book, whose subtitle is "Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," have already been challenged as misleading or false in the days since its debut on Aug. 1. Nonetheless, it is to make its first appearance on The New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction hardcovers this Sunday -- at No. 1.

[...]

In its timing, authorship and style of reporting, the book is strikingly reminiscent of the one Mr. Corsi wrote with John O'Neill about Mr. Kerry, "Unfit for Command," which included various accusations that were ultimately undermined by news reports pointing out the contradictions. (Some critics of Mr. Kerry quoted in the book had earlier praised his bravery in incidents they were now asserting he had fabricated; one had earned a medal for bravery in a gun battle he accused Mr. Kerry of concocting.)

[...]

Several of the book's accusations, in fact, are unsubstantiated, misleading or inaccurate.

For instance, Mr. Corsi writes that Mr. Obama had "yet to answer" whether he "stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely in college, or whether his drug usage extended to his law school days or beyond." "How about in the U.S. Senate?" Mr. Corsi asks.

But Mr. Obama, who admitted to occasional marijuana and cocaine use in his high school and early college years, wrote in his memoir that he had "stopped getting high" when he moved to New York in the early 1980s. And in 2003 The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., quoted him responding to a question of his drug use by saying, "I haven't done anything since I was 20 years old."

In an interview, Mr. Corsi said "self-reporting, by people who have used drugs, as to when they stopped is inherently unreliable."

From the October 10, 2004, book review by Meadows, " 'Unfit for Command': Hostile Fire":

If John Kerry loses the presidential election, ''Unfit for Command,'' by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi, will go down as a chief reason. The book -- a sort of companion piece to the political attack ads placed by O'Neill's group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- is a furious assault on Kerry's character and service in Vietnam. Navy records have discredited the book's claim that Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star and third Purple Heart -- though only after the sensation hijacked cable news for a month.

But for all the impact it's had on the race, the book itself is totally unconvincing. The problem is that John O'Neill, who is the driving force and public face of the book, is so curdled with hatred for Kerry that, as though he were an unreliable narrator in a Nabokov novel, you can't trust what he says. (His co-author, Jerome Corsi, an old friend of O'Neill's, has referred to Kerry on a conservative Web site as ''Commie Kerry.'') O'Neill, himself a Swift boat commander in Vietnam, resents Kerry for testifying before Congress in 1971 against the war. It's an understandable beef, one shared by many veterans, and it's clearly the root of the whole Swift boat controversy.

While O'Neill's anger is real, his claims appear to be faulty. He wrongly asserts, for example, that Kerry branded him (and every other Vietnam veteran) a war criminal. In fact, Kerry took pains not to make such a sweeping charge: in his testimony he cited an investigation during which 150 veterans described atrocities they themselves had witnessed or had committed. Though this part of Kerry's statement is quoted in the book, the distinction is lost on O'Neill and his co-author, who bring up the war crimes issue over 50 times.

[...]

But O'Neill and Corsi refuse to back down, even in the face of logic or history.

Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Person
John O'Neill, Jerome Corsi
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections, 2004 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.