For years, the New York Times has praised misleading books from liberal authors attacking President Bush and the war in Iraq: Tomes by Michael Moore, Seymour Hersh, Kitty Kelley, Richard Clarke, Jane Mayer, and Ron Suskind (who has also reported for the paper) -- too many to mention. Yet when a wildly successful book appears that attacks the Times's favored candidate, Democrat nominee Barack Obama, the paper unloads a front-page pushback against the "unsubstantiated, misleading...inaccurate" book.
From Wednesday's front page story by reporters Jim Rutenberg and Julie Bosman, "Book Attacking Obama Hopes To Repeat '04 Anti-Kerry Feat":
In the summer of 2004 the conservative gadfly Jerome R. Corsi shot to the top of the best-seller lists as co-author of "Unfit for Command," the book attacking Senator John Kerry's record on a Vietnam War Swift boat that began the larger damaging campaign against Mr. Kerry's war credentials as he sought the presidency.
Almost exactly four years after that campaign began, Mr. Corsi has released a new attack book painting Senator Barack Obama, the Democrats' presumed presidential nominee, as a stealth radical liberal who has tried to cover up "extensive connections to Islam" -- Mr. Obama is Christian -- and questioning whether his admitted experimentation with drugs in high school and college ever ceased.
Significant parts of the book, whose subtitle is "Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," have already been challenged as misleading or false in the days since its debut on Aug. 1. Nonetheless, it is to make its first appearance on The New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction hardcovers this Sunday -- at No. 1.
In its timing, authorship and style of reporting, the book is strikingly reminiscent of the one Mr. Corsi wrote with John O'Neill about Mr. Kerry, "Unfit for Command," which included various accusations that were ultimately undermined by news reports pointing out the contradictions. (Some critics of Mr. Kerry quoted in the book had earlier praised his bravery in incidents they were now asserting he had fabricated; one had earned a medal for bravery in a gun battle he accused Mr. Kerry of concocting.)
Rutenberg took his critical cues from the liberal site Media Matters:
Web sites on the left have begun poring over Mr. Corsi's latest book. Media Matters, which is run by David Brock, a former right-wing journalist who wrote a classic of the attack genre, "The Real Anita Hill," has been particularly aggressive in fact-checking the book, and its press releases on inaccuracies in the book have gotten some attention on cable television.
Several of the book's accusations, in fact, are unsubstantiated, misleading or inaccurate.
Rutenberg noted contradictions between Corsi and Obama regarding whether Obama has said he has stopped using drugs, and suggests Corsi wrongly relied on a Newsmax report stating Obama had attended a Jeremiah Wright sermon in which the radical preacher said particularly inflammatory things -- a day when Obama was in Florida.
Whatever the weakness of Corsi's arguments, the Times certainly never deployed such aggressive fact-checking to the vast majority of anti-Bush screeds that have come over the transom - indeed, the paper has tended to greet them with open arms and blessed them with favorable notices both in its regular Arts pages and in the influential Sunday Book Review. If the Times does lower itself to review the Corsi book, expect the review to take several weeks to appear and for it to be brazenly hostile.
This isn't a new pattern: In the month before the 2004 election, the Times gave "Unfit for Command," the famous book by Corsi and John O'Neill outlining the case against Kerry by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a 100% negative review, while at the same time praised "The Family," a trashy Kitty Kelley biography of the Bush political dynasty.