McCain Campaign Presses L.A. Times on Khalidi

The Los Angeles Times is sitting on a video tape of a notorious farewell party for Barack Obama’s good friend Rashid Khalidi. Khalidi is a former spokesman (albeit perhaps an informal one) for Yaser Arafat’s PLO and a long-time apologist for terrorists who advocates a “one-state” solution for the Middle East, i.e., the eradication of Israel.

The L.A. Times has reported that Obama attended the party for his friend, as did Bill Ayers. The paper says it has a video of the event, and that Obama gave some kind of a talk. But it refuses to release the video, claiming–perhaps belatedly–that it promised its source to keep the video confidential.

Today both John McCain and Sarah Palin went after the Times:

“If there was a tape of John McCain in a neo-Nazi outfit, I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different,” McCain said in an interview with Hispanic radio stations.

Palin said the Times should win a Pulitzer Prize for “kowtowing.”

“It must be nice for a candidate to have major news organizations looking out for their best interests like that. Politicians would love to have a pet newspaper of their very own,” she said.

The Times’ claim that it can’t release the video because of a promise made to its source raises a number of questions. First, is there any support for the claim that such a promise was given? Is it documented in any way? Or is it something that a Times reporter made up just this week to protect Obama?

Second, why would the paper’s source have extracted such a commitment? The source evidently thought the event was newsworthy and wanted it reported upon. He or she gave the video to the Times. What sense would it make to give the paper the video so as to enable a news story to be written, but demand that the video itself remain secret? Perhaps the video would, in some fashion, compromise the identity of the source. But couldn’t footage of the speeches given by Obama and others be made public, while editing out any personal material that might identify the source? Or couldn’t an audio tape be made from the video? There is no way that an audio tape could give away the identity of the person who made the video.

Third, has the Times tried to persuade its source to allow the video to be made public, even in edited form as suggested above? I have seen no representation by the Times that it has made any such effort, even though it is routine for newspapers to pressure sources not to insist on pledges of confidentiality. In this case, the promise–even if we assume it was actually given–conveniently coincides with the political preferences of the Los Angeles Times.

Finally, as many others have noted, the Times was willing to abandon all known standards of journalism when it was a matter of smearing Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger with sensational but uncorroborated allegations on the eve of the 2003 recall election. The paper’s rationale at the time was that the public’s need to know the details of the scurrilous but irrelevant claims was so vast that it just had to publish them. So what has changed since 2003? Or are we just seeing the difference between how the Times treats Republicans and how it treats Democrats?

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