I haven’t yet blogged about the L.A. Times‘s refusal to release a videotape of Obama’s tribute to Rashid Khalidi, a radical advocate for Palestinian rights, at a dinner held in Khalidi’s honor.
Reporter Peter Wallsten’s April 2008 story described some disturbing anti-Israel sentiments expressed at the dinner:
“During the dinner a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, “then you will never see a day of peace.”
One speaker likened “Zionist settlers on the West Bank” to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been “blinded by ideology.”
The tape has gained new relevance lately, in part due to a request for the release of the video (which was denied), and in part due to revelations of close ties between Bill Ayers and Khalidi. Some people wondered whether Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn were at the dinner and appeared in the video. In addition, Gateway Pundit contacted reporter Peter Wallsten about whether the tape would be released, and Wallsten said no, and added that he didn’t know if Ayers had been at the dinner.
Conservative critics say that a videotape of Obama at such a radical event would harm his candidacy, and if the paper won’t release the tape, it must be political.
When I first saw this story, I immediately thought two things:
- The L.A. Times is the paper that broke this story. If they were intent on burying the story, why publish it?
- Maybe there are issues relating to the confidentiality of a source.
The thing that made me more and more suspicious, however, is that the paper wouldn’t explain what was going on. The newspaper seemed to take the Arrogant Big Media Position that it simply wasn’t going to release the tape, and that’s the end of it, and they didn’t need to explain why.
It hasn’t worked out that way, and the controversy has grown larger and larger. The McCain camp is now demanding the release of the tape.
Today the newspaper is publishing an article on the controversy. The article doesn’t say word one about Bill Ayers, but it does finally give us an explanation for the decision, straight from editor Russ Stanton:
“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,” said the newspaper’s editor, Russ Stanton. “The Times keeps its promises to sources.”
That seems reasonable. So why didn’t the paper just say this up front?
Instead, up until today, the paper has given various other responses. Ben Smith of Politico reported yesterday:
L.A. Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan wouldn’t discuss the decision not to release the tape in detail.
“When we reported on the tape six months ago, that was our full report,” she said, and asked, “Does Politico release unpublished information?”
Smith says the answer is yes. Meanwhile, according to Charles Johnson yesterday:
Brit Hume opened his Fox News show with this story today, and reported that the Times is now saying “No comment.”
The Los Angeles Times is supposed to be an organization whose mission is to disseminate relevant truths. Why was it ever saying “no comment” in response to legitimate questions about its refusal to disseminate a seemingly relevant videotape?
I think that, with Stanton’s response, we’re at the end of the story. Journalists do need to keep promises to sources. Am I wrong? I don’t think I am.
They really ought to pull it out again, however, and tell us if Ayers and Dohrn were there.
Y’all didn’t promise the source not to do that, did you?