OK. No Videotape. How About a Transcript?
The non-traditional news media has exploded in the last 24 hours over the L.A. Times’ refusal to provide specific information about what transpired at Barack Obama’s anti-Israeli friend’s going-away party in 2003. The L.A. Times had written a brief article about the event, portraying Mr. Obama in a positive light, as calming the Israeli-Palestinian tensions, but did not make the videotape itself available.
The L.A. Times provided the following explanation for refusing to release
“The Los Angeles Times did not publish the videotape because it was
provided to us by a confidential source, who did so on the condition
that we not release it . . . . The Times keeps its promises to
This explanation raises more questions than it answers:
1. Why doesn’t the L.A. Times issue a simple transcript of the event? They can do that without violating a request not to release the tape. Or . . .
2. Did the source place any other restrictions on the reporting of the contents of the tape, aside from the release of the tape itself? If not, the L.A. Times can release a transcript. (See, number 1, above.)
3. If the source did, in fact, restrict the L.A. Times’s reporting more, insisting that a transcript of all acts and words not be provided: Is it ethical for the L.A. Times to follow such an order, and report only some of the facts, distorting reality, at the direction of a source?
4. Why would a news source release a videotape of an event to a news agency to write a news article about that event, but want some facts of that event to remain private? (Did the source have “spinach in his teeth?”)
The L.A. Times’ rendering of the event is, on sum, pro-Obama, indicating that he was non-committal on his friend’s politics, and perhaps a moderating influence on Israeli-Palestinian tensions raised at the anti-Israeli activist’s party. Selective, incomplete source quoting is a serious issue under these circumstances.
The source has been reported likely to be Ali Abunimah, a Pro-Palestinian journalist who is himself a contributor to the L.A. Times.
The L.A. Times has a noted history of refusing to report on topics that reflect badly on prominent Democrats. An L.A. Times representative issued a memo requesting that bloggers not report the John Edwards affair in July.
At approximately 2:00pm today, the L.A. Times published an article admitting that it was free "to describe [the event] to readers" in detail under its arrangement with the source, but has not done so.
Blogger Doug Ross recently released incendiary quotes from an alleged
confidential source of his own at the L.A. Times:
"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."
On October 31st, Kelly McBride, Journalist and Ethics Group Leader for Poynter Online, reported that she had asked the L.A. Times for more information and was told to defer all questions about the matter until after the election results.
L.A. Times Staff Reporter, McCain Campaign Accuses L.A. Times of 'Suppressing' Obama Video, L.A. Times, October 29, 2008, currently available at:
D. Schlussel, XCLUSIVE: Ali Abunimah is Likely Source of Secreted Obama/Khalidi/Ayers Tape; LA Times' Wallsten Plagiarized Schlussel Back in April, Said Politico, Debbie Schlussel.com, October 29, 2008, currently available at:
P. Wallsten, Allies of Pallestinians See a Friend in Barrack Obama: They See Him Receptive Despite His Clear Support of Israel, L.A. Times, April 10, 2008, currently available at:
Wikipedia Article, Ali Abunimah, currently available at:
K. Roderick, Times Bloggers Told not to Mention Edwards Story, L.A. Observed, July 25, 2008, currently available at:
Modoreb, Obama-Khalidi Tape: Two Explosive Quotes Released by Blogger, October
29, 2008, Bloggernews.net, currently available at:
J. Rainey, McCain, Palin demand L.A. Times Release Obama Video, L.A. Times, October 30, 2008, currently available at:
K. McBride, Is The L.A. Times Protecting a Source or Practicing Partisan Journalism?, Poynter Online, October 31, 2008, currently available at: