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A portion of the Forbes magazine cover featuring Dinesh D’Souza’s article on President Obama. [Source: Forbes magazine / PBS]In a cover story for Forbes magazine, conservative author and pundit Dinesh D’Souza claims that President Obama is using the Oval Office to pursue Kenyan anti-colonial policies once advocated by his father, Barack Obama Sr., a Harvard-trained economist and Luo tribesman from Kenya. D’Souza has a long history of race-baiting and using inflammatory rhetoric (see March 15, 1982, October 1982, October 4, 1990, and June 5, 2004). [Forbes, 9/27/2010] The story is loosely based on D’Souza’s upcoming book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage. [Washington Post, 9/16/2010] It is dated September 27, 2010, but is published on the Internet two weeks earlier. After tarring Obama as “the most antibusiness president in a generation, perhaps in American history” and a strong advocate of expanding the federal government into all aspects of America’s commercial existence, D’Souza turns to his perception of Obama’s “strange” foreign policy. He cites several instances of Obama’s stated intention to reach out to Muslims across the globe, calling these initiatives “anomal[ies],” and proposes an explanation: Obama does not hold to the American dream, in any form, but instead hews to what D’Souza characterizes as the “Kenyan” dreams of his father, who D’Souza says was a champion of anticolonialism. The elder Obama advocated that native Kenyans “control the economic means of growth” in their country, D’Souza quotes him as writing in 1965, and also wrote, “We need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now.” Obama, D’Souza writes, is following his father’s policies in his governance. “It may seem incredible to suggest that the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. is espoused by his son, the president of the United States,” D’Souza writes. “That is what I am saying. From a very young age and through his formative years, Obama learned to see America as a force for global domination and destruction. He came to view America’s military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation. He adopted his father’s position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder. Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America. In his worldview, profits are a measure of how effectively you have ripped off the rest of society, and America’s power in the world is a measure of how selfishly it consumes the globe’s resources and how ruthlessly it bullies and dominates the rest of the planet. For Obama, the solutions are simple. He must work to wring the neocolonialism out of America and the West. And here is where our anticolonial understanding of Obama really takes off, because it provides a vital key to explaining not only his major policy actions but also the little details that no other theory can adequately account for.” D’Souza cites Obama’s support for offshore oil drilling in Brazil, his support for repealing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, and his refusal to consider nationalizing American financial or health care institutions as “evidence” that he intends “to decolonize these institutions, [to bring] them under the government’s leash.” D’Souza goes even farther, accusing Obama of idolizing the 9/11 terrorists as anticolonial heroes whose acts were justified by their ideology; D’Souza cites Obama’s support for the building of a Muslim community center several blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, and his support for the release of one of the Lockerbie bombers on medical grounds, as “evidence” of his favoring of Islamist terrorists. Finally, D’Souza cites the statements of one of Obama’s grandfather’s wives, Sarah Obama, and Obama’s own writings about weeping at his father’s grave in Kenya as conclusive evidence of Obama’s secret anticolonial ideology. “Obama takes on his father’s struggle, not by recovering his body but by embracing his cause,” D’Souza writes. “He decides that where Obama Sr. failed, he will succeed. Obama Sr.‘s hatred of the colonial system becomes Obama Jr.‘s hatred; his botched attempt to set the world right defines his son’s objective. Through a kind of sacramental rite at the family tomb, the father’s struggle becomes the son’s birthright.” D’Souza calls colonialism a “dead issue,” and terms Obama “the last anticolonial.” [Forbes, 9/27/2010] Many conservatives have long accused Obama of being un-American because of his Kenyan ancestry (see February 25, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, October 8-10, 2008, June 25, 2009, June 29, 2009, and August 11, 2009). D’Souza’s article will be lambasted by a wide swath of media figures (see September 12, 2010 and After) and will be shown to be riddled with factual errors (see September 16, 2010). It will be praised by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is widely believed to be pursuing the 2012 Republican presidential nomination (see September 12, 2010 and After). [Media Matters, 9/12/2010]
Kathleen Parker, a conservative columnist who is highly critical of the Forbes article depicting President Obama as a ‘Kenyan sympathizer.’ [Source: Crooks and Liars]Forbes Magazine encounters a firestorm of criticism due to its publication of a cover story alleging President Obama is driven by “anti-colonial” sentiments garnered from his Kenyan father (see September 12, 2010). The story was written by Dinesh D’Souza, a prominent conservative author and pundit, and has been praised and reiterated by conservative politician Newt Gingrich (see September 12, 2010 and After).
White House: 'New Low' for Forbes - White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says of the article: “It’s a stunning thing, to see a publication you would see in a dentist’s office, so lacking in truth and fact. I think it represents a new low.” He asks, “Did they not fact-check this at all, or did they fact-check it and just willfully ignore it?” In response, the magazine releases a statement saying: “Dinesh D’Souza’s cover story was presented as an analysis of how the president thinks. No facts are in contention. Forbes stands by the story.” D’Souza says that his article is based on a “psychological theory,” but insists, “the idea that Obama has roots that are foreign is not an allegation, it’s a statement of fact.” Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz notes that Obama’s father abandoned his family when Obama was two years old, and Obama only saw his father once more after that. Gibbs says that D’Souza’s article is another illustration of the fact that there is “no limit to innuendo” against the president. Forbes, he says, “left the facts on the cutting-room floor.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2010]
Columbia Journalism Review: 'Singularly Disgusting' and 'Racist' - The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) calls the D’Souza article “a fact-twisting, error-laden piece of paranoia” and “the worst kind of smear journalism—a singularly disgusting work.” Reviewer Ryan Chittum writes: “Forbes for some reason gives Dinesh D’Souza the cover and lots of space to froth about the notion popular in the right-wing fever swamps that Obama is an ‘other’; that he doesn’t think like ‘an American,’ that his actions benefit foreigners rather than Amurricans. It’s too kind to call this innuendo. It’s far too overt for that.… This is loathsome stuff. And, again, it’s the cover story of one of the three big mainstream financial magazines.” Chittum continues: “The veneer of respectability, if you can call it that, that D’Souza and Forbes put on this noxious near-McCarthyite junk is that Obama is an ‘anticolonialist.’ It’s thin gruel. And, hey—I’m an anticolonialist, too. And so were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the rest of the gang.” He concludes, “Forbes has shamed itself with this one.” [Columbia Journalism Review, 9/13/2010] D’Souza responds to the CJR review by accusing Chittum of being one of what he calls the “confirmed Obamorons, who are only satisfied with hosannas and genuflections before the Anoin[t]ed One.” Chittum responds with a more detailed dissection of the lies, errors, and misinformation in the article, and concludes: “D’Souza denies in his blog post that the piece is racist, but of course it is. Indeed, it’s racist at its rotten core. That’s the whole point. You can’t write stuff like ‘Incredibly, the US is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s,’ and credibly assert that it’s not racist.… That Forbes gave the cover of its mainstream magazine to this piece will be a black mark on its reputation for a long, long time.” [Columbia Journalism Review, 9/16/2010]
Washington Post Columnist: 'Big Gob of Gibberish' - Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson calls D’Souza’s article “a big gob of gibberish,” reading like something written by “one of those conspiracy theorists who believe the CIA is controlling our brain waves.” The article “makes assertion after assertion that is plainly, demonstrably unsupported,” he continues. [Washington Post, 9/14/2010]
Post Columnist: 'There's Nothing Here of Any Benefit' - Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker says that D’Souza has “jump[ed] the shark” with his article, and asks sarcastically: “What’s next? Obama is an extraterrestrial pod deposited on Planet Earth to occupy a human shell and get elected leader of the free world so that he can lull the population into complacent dependency in advance of a full invasion of body snatchers?” She labels the article a “Republican revenge fantasy” and concludes: “It’s time to move on, gentlemen. There’s nothing here of any benefit, whatsoever.” [Washington Post, 9/15/2010]
Media Matters: 'Completely Ridiculous' - The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters calls D’Souza’s arguments “completely ridiculous… an impressive combination of factual distortions and twisted logic.” [Media Matters, 9/12/2010] Author Eric Boehlert, a Media Matters contributor, asks if Forbes believes so strongly in the story as to give it the cover, why won’t the magazine defend it? He writes: “I think the Obama cover story has done extraordinary damage to the Forbes brand. But I’d actually respect the magazine if someone—anyone—on staff in a position of power had the courage to come forward and be held accountable for, or even try to argue on behalf of, the D’Souza train wreck.” [Media Matters, 9/16/2010]
Entity Tags: Howard Kurtz, Eric Boehlert, Barack Obama, Dinesh D’Souza, Forbes magazine, Eugene Robinson, Ryan Chittum, Kathleen Parker, Media Matters, Columbia Journalism Review, Robert Gibbs, Newt Gingrich
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Shikha Dalmia. [Source: Hip Hop Republican (.com)]Forbes columnist Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at the conservative Reason Foundation, lambasts a recent article in Forbes by conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, in which D’Souza claimed President Obama is secretly driven by a pro-Kenyan, anti-colonial world view (see September 12, 2010). Dalmia writes with some sardonicism, “Writers these days are supposed to cultivate a niche, and D’Souza seems to have homesteaded the intellectual goofiness spot all for himself.” Even most right-wing pundits, Dalmia observes, have refused to countenance D’Souza’s tract, with the notable exception of Fox News’s Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich (see September 12, 2010 and After). She briefly recounts some of the many factual errors, misrepresentations, and outright lies that fill D’Souza’s article (see September 16, 2010), and then takes issue with one of D’Souza’s central theses: that Obama is trying to help poorer countries at the expense of the American economy. Dalmia writes: “If Obama were seriously motivated by a moral desire to protect poor countries from being ruined by excessive American consumption then his biggest priority would be to rein in this consumption. But that is the exact opposite of what he has done since assuming office. His entire economic agenda is one big and desperate attempt to boost American consumption. He propped up financial institutions and increased government oversight of them not to use them as a tool for some future global redistribution—or ‘decolonization’—as D’Souza bizarrely suggests, but for far more mundane purposes: making easy credit available for American businesses to grow their way out of the recession. Likewise, the notorious cash-for-clunkers program was nothing if not a scheme to stimulate auto consumption. And ObamaCare’s individual mandate practically forces Americans to consume more health care. All of this seems more in line with Keynesian stimulation—rather than Kenyan anti-colonialism.… D’Souza’s thesis is so obviously flawed that one has to wonder what caused him to propose it. Accusing Obama of Keynesiasm or socialism or crony-capitalism—as the rest of us Obama critics are doing—is damning enough. Why does D’Souza need to go further?” Dalmia concludes by pointing out that D’Souza seems to obsess over the polygamy among the Kenyan members of Obama’s family. In what Dalmia calls D’Souza’s “repeated… gratuitous digs” at the practice, she asks, “What is the point of this except to remind Americans that Obama is a Muslim—the most dreaded of ‘others’?” Dalmia concludes: “Ultimately, D’Souza’s rumination reveals less about how Obama thinks and more about how D’Souza thinks. It shows not that Obama is motivated by malice toward America, but D’Souza is motivated by malice toward Obama. How pathetic.” [Forbes, 9/17/2010]
Forbes Magazine, after weathering weeks of intense criticism for its recent cover story by conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza alleging that President Obama is driven by “Kenyan anticolonialism” (see September 12, 2010 and September 12, 2010 and After), agrees to an unusual post-publication fact-checking process to see if, as many have alleged, many of D’Souza’s allegations are erroneous (see September 16, 2010). The agreement was reached after Forbes’s Washington bureau chief met with White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, though Forbes spokeswoman Monie Begley says the decision to fact-check the article was made because of the “general clamor in the news media” and not because of White House pressure. [New York Times, 9/24/2010] During the meeting, Gibbs asked the bureau chief if the magazine bothered to fact-check D’Souza’s article. [Media Matters, 9/25/2010] Forbes has already issued one minor correction to the article on its Web site, noting that D’Souza had “slightly misquoted” President Obama in a speech he’d made about the Gulf oil spill; D’Souza claimed that Obama did not focus on “cleanup strategies,” but Forbes now acknowledges that “Obama’s speech did discuss concrete measures to investigate the oil spill and bring it under control.” D’Souza’s article was drawn from an upcoming book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage, to be published by conservative publishing house Regnery on October 4; Regnery publicist Kathleen Sweetapple says in a statement, “[T]here are a couple of minor errors that are completely inconsequential; what the critics are fuming about are not factual errors but disagreements of interpretation.” Forbes staffers contact the Export-Import Bank to check D’Souza’s claim that the Obama administration had directly supported the bank’s decision to lend $2 billion to Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil company, for offshore drilling. D’Souza wrote that Obama supported the deal “not so oil ends up in the US. He is funding Brazilian exploration so that the oil can stay in Brazil.” Observers have noted that Obama had no say in the bank’s decision, and all five of the bank’s board of directors are Bush-era appointees. As part of the bank’s response, senior vice president Kevin Varney posts a comment on D’Souza’s blog highly critical of the author’s decision not to contact the bank before publishing the article. “I received a call yesterday from Nathan Verdi, a fact checker at Forbes, who was calling to fact check your article after it was published,” Varney writes. ”(Is this how journalism works now?)” Varney tells a New York Times reporter that the Petrobras loan “was begun in 2008 with career staffers and approved in 2009 by five Bush-appointed board members.” Deals such as this one, Varney continues, do not usually rise to the level of presidential awareness. For D’Souza to cite the deal as evidence of “an anticolonial, Kenyan ideology” on Obama’s part is “preposterous, it’s false, and it’s wrong.” [New York Times, 9/24/2010]
Entity Tags: Monie Begley, Export-Import Bank, Dinesh D’Souza, Barack Obama, Forbes magazine, Kevin Varney, Petrobras, Robert Gibbs, Nathan Verdi, Kathleen Sweetapple, Regnery Publishing
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Graphic of Frank VanderSloot, appearing on Fox News. [Source: Fox News Insider]Salon’s Glenn Greenwald reports that Idaho billionaire Frank VanderSloot, the CEO of Melaleuca, Inc. and a prominent donor for the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney (R-MA), apparently objects to media reports about his financial and corporate practices, issuing threats against those who report on him and his company. VanderSloot is the national finance co-chair of the Romney campaign and a longtime Republican donor. Like Romney, he is a devout Mormon and an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Accusations of Wrongdoing - VanderSloot and Melaleuca have donated at least $1 million to the “independent” super PAC supporting Romney, Restore Our Future (ROF—see June 23, 2011). Melaleuca, which manufactures and distributes dietary supplements and cleaning products, was described by Forbes magazine in 2004 as “a pyramid selling organization” comparable to Amway and Herbalife. Melaleuca has been sanctioned by Michigan regulatory agencies, and agreed to refrain from “engag[ing] in the marketing and promotion of an illegal pyramid” in that state. It entered into a separate agreement with the Idaho attorney general’s office after that office found that some Melaleuca executives had broken Idaho law. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accused Melaleuca of deceiving customers about its supplements.
Threats of Lawsuits - VanderSloot counters media reports of Melaleuca’s alleged wrongdoing with what Greenwald calls “chronic bullying threats to bring patently frivolous lawsuits against his political critics—magazines, journalists, and bloggers—that makes him particularly pernicious and worthy of more attention.” His threats have forced Forbes, Mother Jones, and a gay blogger in Idaho to remove material that was critical of his political and business practices, though Mother Jones reposted its article after revisions were made. Greenwald reports: “He has been using this abusive tactic in Idaho for years: suppressing legitimate political speech by threatening or even commencing lawsuits against even the most obscure critics (he has even sued local bloggers for ‘copyright infringement’ after they published a threatening letter sent by his lawyers, and demanded the public outing of some bloggers’ identities). This tactic almost always succeeds in silencing its targets, because even journalists and their employers who have done nothing wrong are afraid of the potentially ruinous costs they will incur when sued by a litigious billionaire.” Greenwald reports that VanderSloot’s tactics have had a chilling effect on Idaho journalists and bloggers, who routinely refuse to write critically about VanderSloot’s fundraising for conservative causes. And now that VanderSloot is a senior official in the Romney campaign, Greenwald writes, he is expanding his tactics beyond Idaho. “To allow this scheme to continue—whereby billionaires can use their bottomless wealth to intimidate ordinary citizens and media outlets out of writing about them—is to permit the wealthiest in America to thuggishly shield themselves from legitimate criticism and scrutiny,” he writes. “It’s almost impossible to imagine any more thuggish attempts to intimidate people from speaking out and criticizing VanderSloot,” he adds. “The effect, if not the intent, of these frivolous threats, pure and simple, is to intimidate those who cannot afford to defend themselves from criticizing the very public, politicized acts of Frank VanderSloot and his company. That’s why one no longer can even read most of the criticisms that prompted these warnings.”
Anti-Gay Activism - Greenwald writes that VanderSloot has a history of anti-gay activism, citing his funding of a billboard campaign that condemned Idaho Public Television for showing a documentary that reported on the effects of addressing lesbian and gay issues inside elementary classrooms. Though the documentary reported that working with such issues in an age-appropriate fashion was generally positive, VanderSloot accused IPT of promoting a threat to children, saying, “[I]f this isn’t stopped… little lives are going to be damaged permanently.” His wife Belinda donated $100,000 to California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 campaign in 2008. And when the Idaho Falls Post Register reported on a pedophile preying on local Boy Scouts, a Mormon bishop’s alleged complicity in the matter, and the network of pedophiles that was behind the original allegations, VanderSloot attacked the newspaper and the principal reporter, Peter Zuckerman. (The six-part series won the Scripps Howard Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment.) VanderSloot bought full-page ads in the Post Register attacking the story and outing Zuckerman as “a homosexual,” a fact that Zuckerman had not advertised since moving to Idaho years before. VanderSloot’s ads asked if Zuckerman’s sexual orientation made him hostile to the Boy Scouts and the Mormon Church. The damage to Zuckerman’s professional and personal life was severe, including physical threats and his longtime partner being fired from his job. [Salon, 2/17/2012]
Response - VanderSloot responds in a subsequent interview with local Idaho reporter Marissa Bodnar. After the Greenwald report, MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow devotes a segment to VanderSloot based largely on Greenwald’s article. According to VanderSloot, Greenwald “quotes what others have wrongfully said about us and then taunts us to do something about the fact that he repeats it.” Idaho independent journalist and blogger Jody May-Chang, who has also been threatened with lawsuits by VanderSloot’s lawyers, says in response: “Mr. VanderSloot is a public political figure. They’re fair game… especially when you’re talking about behaviors and actions and things done in public light that are well known.” VanderSloot denies harboring an anti-gay agenda, saying, “I have never spoken out against gays or against gay rights,” though Bodnar notes, “[S]ome said money speaks louder than words.” VanderSloot admitted to contributing money to a group that challenged a pro-gay marriage documentary aired on Idaho public television in 1999; May-Chang says, “I’m not sure how anyone else could not characterize those as anti-gay.” For his part, VanderSloot says, “I believe that gay people should have the same freedoms and rights as any other individual.” His main objection to the Idaho Public Television program about addressing gay issues in schools, he says, was that it was being aired during prime time, “when it would attract the most children,” and the use of tax dollars to fund the program. He contends that his status as a “billionaire” is “greatly exaggerated,” and though he owns a controlling interest in Melaleuca, he is not “cash-rich.” He defends his attacks on the Idaho Falls Post Register, saying that he deplores the pedophiles who were preying on children but found the story to be “unfair” in its coverage. He was merely defending people who had been unfairly portrayed as being involved in the affair, he says, and notes that he “would use a much different approach were this to happen again.” He denies outing Zuckerman as a gay man, claiming that Zuckerman’s sexual orientation was public knowledge, and saying that contrary to Greenwald’s reporting, he defended Zuckerman in the Post Register advertisements. He denies that Melaleuca’s business model is anything like those used by Amway or Herbalife, and says Melaleuca does not employ a “pyramid scheme” to make its profits. VanderSloot says Melaleuca “will continue to use whatever legal means are available to us to defend the truth and to request corrections where false allegations have been made.” He is strongly critical of Greenwald’s article, and accuses Greenwald of deliberately repeating “the original false allegations” against him and Melaleuca. He concludes: “We can disagree on issues and argue those issues in honest and open debate. You can count on us to not smear or attack the messenger. We will defend their right to disagree. But we do ask even those who disagree with us to tell the truth about who we are and what we do. We will continue to ask that of people. That is not going to change.” [KIFI Local News 8, 3/1/2012]
Entity Tags: Idaho Public Television, Idaho Falls Post Register, Frank VanderSloot, Forbes magazine, Food and Drug Administration, Willard Mitt Romney, Restore Our Future, Rachel Maddow, Peter Zuckerman, Melaleuca, Inc., Mitt Romney presidential campaign (2012), Marissa Bodnar, Jody May-Chang, Mother Jones, Glenn Greenwald
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
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