The website Ancestry.com is trying to build an appealing Obama tale...and promote business to its website, and The Washington Post and other pro-Obama media are biting like hungry fish. Washington Post reporter Krissah Thompson was thrilled: "President Obama’s extraordinary family story gained a new layer this week as a team of genealogists found evidence that he is most likely a descendant of one of the first documented African slaves in this country."
Underline "most likely." They didn't find actual proof. "The company says it can't establish a definitive link because of gaps in family history....The Ancestry.com findings make for a tantalizing tale that wasn't uncommon in early colonial Virginia, and the team probably got it right, [Elizabeth Shown] Mills said. 'They did the best job possible,' said Mills, who reviewed the findings at Ancestry.com's request." But tantalized pro-Obama media often skipped over the "didn't prove it" part:
-- "Obama related to America's first slave" -- USA Today
-- "Surprising link found in Obama's family tree" -- CBS News
-- "Obama's maternal ties to slavery" -- Politico
-- "President Obama related to country's first enslaved man" -- Yahoo News
Journalists love mottos like "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." But these outlets don't seem to care that this story cannot be proven. Journalists who actually care about evidence would at least use "genealogists claim" in the headline. Web surfers today could easily gain the false impression there is no missing link in this genealogical chain.
The White House had no comment -- perhaps they're afraid it's just too much like Elizabeth Warren, that Obama's white mother has a "tantalizing tale" of a non-Caucasian background if you look hard enough. Notice the "first slave" part is also in doubt -- Punch is "thought to be" the first American slave, reported the Post. Thompson quoted the Post's own pro-Obama expert, author David Maraniss, who was also fascinated and tantalized by this story line:
The revelation about a possible connection “through his ‘white’ ancestors to one of the first Africans enslaved in the colonies is fascinating,” said David Maraniss, an associate editor at The Washington Post and an Obama biographer. [Aren't the quote marks around "white" just precious?]
“Most of us are related when you go back far enough, of course, but this family story has a deeper symbolism,” Maraniss said in an e-mail. “Obama has said that his existence has meaning only if it represents the commonality of the human experience, and this genealogical link only reinforces that notion.”