In a bit of a surprise, New York Times reporters Jeremy Peters and Jim Rutenberg filed a longish article on a recently unearthed Obama video from 2007 showing the president in a fiery, racially charged mode and praising his anti-American pastor Jeremiah Wright, a video downplayed or ignored by most of the mainstream media: "Race at Issue for Obama As Right Revives '07 Talk."
Less surprising was the snotty text box: "New fodder for a favorite topic in conservative circles." And the reporters took care to trace the tape's provenance down the conservative media food chain.
In the summer of 2007, his campaign for the White House well under way, Senator Barack Obama waded into the minefield of racial politics and accused President George W. Bush of sitting idly by as a “quiet riot” simmered in black communities.
The news created a stir. NBC News featured it on its “Nightly News” broadcast. The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune wrote about it, and it was mentioned in a New York Times Op-Ed column. The conservative writer and pundit Tucker Carlson devoted an entire segment to it on his MSNBC program.
Then the speech largely faded away -- until last month, when someone calling himself “Sore Throwt” started e-mailing conservative activists and news media outlets claiming to have a bombshell video that would jolt the presidential election.
On Tuesday, the eve of the first presidential debate between Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney, Mr. Carlson’s current venture, The Daily Caller, a Web site started with financial help from the conservative donor Foster Friess, put the video back in circulation.
And its report brought to the forefront a wave of questions that have long been favorite topics in conservative circles: about Mr. Obama’s views on race; his associations with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.; and whether the mainstream media was willfully ignoring embarrassing episodes from Mr. Obama’s past.
The video of Mr. Obama’s 2007 remarks shows him saying complimentary things about Mr. Wright, questioning whether race was a reason that federal aid was slow to reach New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and speaking in a more distinctly African-American cadence than he normally uses in public addresses. By Wednesday morning, it had mushroomed into a lead story on the network news programs, a dominant theme of cable news coverage and a developing story online.
The Times outlined the conservative food chain.
Mr. Carlson and the editors of his Web site, which was founded with $3.5 million in seed money from Mr. Friess, who was a leading backer of Rick Santorum’s “super PAC,” immediately saw the relevance of the tape to their conservative audience. To them, what Mr. Obama said in the video was a perfect confluence of all their complaints about the way the mainstream media has covered Mr. Obama: credulously and insufficiently.
The Drudge Report picked up word of the news before it broke, alerting readers on Tuesday afternoon that a major scoop was coming. “The Accent ... The Anger ... The Accusations,” the headline teased.
After Mr. Carlson posted the article on his Web site, timed for the prime-time Fox News programming lineup, he appeared on the Sean Hannity program on Fox to explain what he had found. More than three million people tuned in, a substantially larger audience than usual. There was the president, speaking in a way that he usually does not in public, telling a black audience, a group of clergy members at Hampton University in Virginia, that the government did not care about them.