Elections '08 Los Angeles Times Media Presidential Race

The LA Times, Press Ethics, and the Desperation of John McCain


Okay, now McCain supporters have taken to threatening the LA Times.

Yeah, yeah. It’s a pretty mild threat: RELEASE THE RASHID KHALIDI VIDEO OR ELSE. (Or words to that effect.)

In this case, the or else just means a Thursday 10 AM picketing of the LA Times building at 1st and Spring Streets.

“Nothing less than our national security and that of Israel is potentially at stake,” reads the online flyer for the demonstration.

“Bring video cams. National media will want video.”


If you have somehow missed this democracy-threatening instance of information suppression on the part of the dastardly Los Angeles Times, here’s a quick summary from the Washington Post’s “The Trail”:

Sen. John McCain today compared the director of Columbia University’s Middle East Institute to a “neo-Nazi” and called on the Los Angeles Times to release a video of a 2003 banquet at which Sen. Barack Obama talked about the professor, Rashid Khalidi, a leading Palestinian American scholar and friend of Obama’s from Chicago.

“What if there was a tape with John McCain with a neo-Nazi outfit being held by some media outlet?” McCain asked in an interview with a Cuban radio station Wednesday morning. “I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different.”

It probably should be mentioned here that McCain has his own connection with Khalidi, according to ABC News’ Jake Tapper. It seems that McCain has chaired the International Republican Institute since 1993, which in 1998 and 1999 funded the Center for Palestine Research and Studies—an organization founded by the self-same Rashid Khalidi.

(According to tax documents for the 1998/99 fiscal year, the grant from the IRI to Khalidi’s org. totaled just under $448,873.)


But, hey, (cue Tina Turner) what’ve facts got to do with it.

The irony of the whole thing is that there was no media notice of the Khalid banquet that the video depicts, until the Times drew attention to the event in a story that ran in April.

For the record, I remember reading the story back then
and finding it a tad irritating for its slightly breathy exploration of Obama’s leanings, one way or the other, vis-a-vis Israel/Palestine.

But whatever. None of that is the point. The point is that an enterprising LA Times reporter named Peter Wallsten learned of the banquet in question and obtained a video of the thing in order to verify his facts. Wallsten was only given the video on the condition that the Times not release the thing. (I’m guessing the video had elements that would have given away the source’s identity.) Wallsten agreed to the conditions and, in his article, told of the video’s existance, and described what it showed.

Nothing unusual here. I’ve made my own such agreements to get documents and other crucial pieces of information.

That’s how it works: You do all that is humanly possible to get to the truth of any given story, and you don’t burn the sources who helped you get there. Ever.

Times editor Russ Stanton put it this way:

“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 sources.”

John McCain knows the rules of journalistic ethics as well as the Times does.

But I guess desperation makes one forgetful.

Oh, and by the way, do remember that all kinds of people were at that farewell banquet for Rashid Khalidi, so if something damning happened, surely someone else can attest to it.

But no one has.

Or as one LA Times editor said to me a little while ago, “We broke the story to begin with. Let people get their own sources, for crying out loud.”



  • What we’re seeing is a McPaliin campaign that’s increasingly in synch with Woody.

    Works for me. I can’t imagine a better face of the GOP for those of us who want to see their asses continue to get kicked and their devolution into utter irrelevance and marginality. The Agnewization of the Republican party is a brilliant strategy in the face of their impending defeat in November. I’m tempted to send money to the McCain campaign or the RNC to help get their message out…

  • The LAT is lying. It’s a coverup and a cop-out. Their original position is not the one that they are claiming now.

    Admit it. The press is so pro-Obama that they will join in the lies and schemes of the Democrats themselves. There goes the trust in the free press. It only hurts the Times and helps FOX.

    – – –

    reg: …campaign that’s increasingly in synch with Woody

    If they had started earlier exposing Obama and his agenda as have I, then McCain would be leading in all polls. The guy is a socialist and is a major mistake for our nation.

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