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Profile: William Ayers

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Milt Rosenburg.Milt Rosenburg. [Source: WGN Radio]Chicago radio host Milt Rosenburg, a staunch conservative and opponent of presidential candidate Barack Obama, interviews conservative writer Stanley Kurtz. Kurtz is the writer who falsely accused Obama of having deep, suspicious ties to former Weather Underground leader William Ayers, whom Kurtz and Rosenberg label a left-wing terrorist. Rosenberg’s radio interview with Kurtz propels the Ayers-Obama story through the conservative media, and culminates in accusations from vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (R-AK) that Obama was “palling around with terrorists” (see October 4-5, 2008). [Playboy, 2/27/2009]

Entity Tags: Sarah Palin, Milt Rosenburg, William Ayers, Barack Obama, Stanley Kurtz

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections

Cover of ‘The Obama Nation’Cover of ‘The Obama Nation’ [Source: Threshold / FactCheck (.org)]Dr. Jerome Corsi, a conservative author and blogger who was deeply involved in the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign to besmirch presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA), publishes a book, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality. The title is a play on the word ‘abomination.’ In his book, Corsi, who writes for the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily and blogs at the extremist Free Republic, attacks Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in a fashion similar to that used against Kerry—combining fact, hyperbole, speculation, and outright falsehoods in an attempt to demean and disparage Obama’s character and professional career. The publisher, Threshold (a division of Simon and Schuster devoted to publishing conservative political works), calls the book “[s]crupolously sourced” and “[m]eticulously researched and documented…” Among other allegations, Corsi accuses Obama of growing up under the influence of Communist, socialist, and radical Islamic mentors; of deep and secretive affiliations with ‘60s radicals William Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn; of espousing what he calls “black liberation theology” through his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright; connections to socialists and radical Islamists in Kenya, his father’s home country; deep and criminal ties to Chicago real-estate mogul Tony Rezko; and an intent to, if elected president, implement what Corsi calls “far-left” domestic and foreign policies. [Simon and Schuster, 8/1/2008; New York Times, 8/12/2008; St. Petersburg Times, 8/20/2008] The book debuts as number one on the New York Times bestseller list, propelled by large bulk sales (large buys by particular organizations designed to artificially elevate sales figures) and an intensive marketing campaign carried out on conservative talk radio shows. “The goal is to defeat Obama,” Corsi says. “I don’t want Obama to be in office.” [New York Times, 8/12/2008]
Allegations Roundly Debunked - Unfortunately for Corsi, his allegations do not stand up to scrutiny. FactCheck.org, a non-partisan “‘consumer advocate’ for voters” site run by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, finds that Corsi’s book “is a mishmash of unsupported conjecture, half-truths, logical fallacies and outright falsehoods.” It “is not a reliable source of facts about Obama.” FactCheck notes: “Corsi cites opinion columns and unsourced, anonymous blogs as if they were evidence of factual claims. Where he does cite legitimate news sources, he frequently distorts the facts. In some cases, Corsi simply ignores readily accessible information when it conflicts with his arguments.” The organization notes that Threshold’s chief editor, Republican operative Mary Matalin, said the book was not political, but rather “a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that.” FactCheck responds: “The prominent display of Corsi’s academic title (he holds a Ph.D. in political science) seems clearly calculated to convey academic rigor. But as a scholarly work, The Obama Nation does not measure up. We judge it to be what a hack journalist might call a ‘paste-up job,’ gluing together snippets from here and there without much regard for their truthfulness or accuracy.” [FactCheck (.org), 2008; FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008] The St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact finds, “Taken as a whole, the book’s primary argument is that Obama is a likely communist sympathizer with ties to Islam who has skillfully hidden his true agenda as he ruthlessly pursues elected office,” an argument that the organization concludes is wholly unsupported by Corsi’s arguments and sources. [St. Petersburg Times, 8/1/2008] And an Associated Press article finds the book a “collect[ion of] false rumors and distortions [designed] to portray Obama as a sort of secret radical who can’t be trusted.” [Associated Press, 8/16/2008]
Unreliable Sources - As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Corsi’s sources are often unreliable: for example, his allegation that Obama’s father divorced his mother according to “Islamic sharia law” is based on a single and unverifiable post made by an anonymous blogger. [Media Matters, 8/4/2008] FactCheck notes that although Corsi points to his over 600 endnotes as proof of his “rigorous” sourcing, many of those endnotes refer to obscure, unverifiable Internet postings, blog posts, and opinion columns. Four of Corsi’s sources refer to his own work. “Where Corsi does cite news sources,” the site says, “he sometimes presents only those that are consistent with his case while ignoring evidence that doesn’t fit the picture he paints.” [FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008]
Demonstrably False Claims - Some of Corsi’s claims are completely false: his statement that Obama did not dedicate his 2004 memoir, Dreams from My Father, to his parents or grandparents is easily debunked merely by reading the book’s introduction, in which Obama wrote, “It is to my family, though—my mother, my grandparents, my siblings, stretched across oceans and continents—that I owe the deepest gratitude and to whom I dedicated this book.” [Media Matters, 8/4/2008; St. Petersburg Times, 8/20/2008] Corsi also claims, falsely, that Obama holds dual citizenship in the US and Kenya, though the Kenyan Constitution specifically prohibits dual citizenship. [FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008] Corsi goes on to claim that Obama has long rejected his white family members from his mother’s side, including his grandparents in Hawaii who raised him for much of his childhood. This is part of Corsi’s argument about Obama’s secret embrace of the so-called “radical black rage” teachings of American activist Malcolm X. According to Corsi’s reading of Obama’s memoir: “His race, he self-determines, is African-American. In making that determination, he rejects everyone white, including his mother and his grandparents. We do not have to speculate about this. Obama tells this to us outright; his words are direct, defying us to miss his meaning.” But PolitiFact calls this “a significant misreading of Obama’s memoir,” and notes that Corsi ignores a large amount of evidence that points to Obama’s continued close relationship with his white family members throughout his life. PolitiFact concludes, “To conclude that Obama rejects everyone white, including his mother and his grandparents, Corsi has to significantly read against the memoir’s stated meaning. We find factual evidence also contradicts this statement, indicating that Obama maintained lifelong relations with his white relatives.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/1/2008]
Insinuations and Leading Questions - Many of Corsi’s allegations are based on little more than questions and insinuations: for example, Corsi insinuates that Obama may not have stopped using marijuana and cocaine, as he admitted to doing during his high school years. Corsi writes: “Still, Obama has yet to answer questions whether he ever dealt drugs, or if he stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely in college, or whether his drug usage extended into his law school days or beyond. Did Obama ever use drugs in his days as a community organizer in Chicago, or when he was a state senator from Illinois? How about in the US Senate? If Obama quit using drugs, the public inquiry certain to occur in a general election campaign for the presidency will most certainly aim at the when, how and why…?” According to Media Matters, Obama wrote in his book Dreams from My Father that he stopped using drugs shortly after beginning college. [Media Matters, 8/4/2008] FactCheck notes: “Corsi… slyly insinuates—without offering any evidence—that Obama might have ‘dealt drugs’ in addition to using them. And he falsely claims that Obama has ‘yet to answer’ whether he continued using drugs during his law school days or afterward.… In fact, Obama has answered that question twice, including once in the autobiography that Corsi reviews in his book.”
Guilt by Association - Corsi alleges that Obama has links to Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga, and claims that Obama is somehow linked to the violence surrounding the 2007 Kenyan presidential election. He bases his claim on a single visit by Obama and his wife, Michelle, to Kenya, where they publicly took AIDS tests to demonstrate the tests’ safety. In the testing process, Obama spoke briefly to the crowd. Odinga was on stage while Obama spoke. Corsi construes the speech as an Obama endorsement of Odinga, and, as FactCheck writes, “[h]e goes on to attribute all the violence in Kenya to an elaborate Odinga plot.” Corsi ignores the fact that during that trip, Obama also met with the other Kenyan presidential candidate, Mwai Kibaki, and with opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta. Human Rights Watch blamed the violence following the election on both Odinga and Kibaki and their followers. FactCheck notes that Corsi uses the logical fallacy of “guilt by association” to fill Chapters 3 through 7. [FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008]
Misquoting Other Sources - Media Matters finds that Corsi sometimes misquotes and rewrites source material, as when he attributed a claim concerning Obama’s supposedly untoward business relationship with Rezko to articles in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Boston Globe, and Salon (.com) that made none of the claims Corsi attributes to them. Corsi also misquoted the conservative Web site NewsMax when he used one of its articles to falsely claim that Obama had been present at Chicago’s Trinity United Church during Reverend Wright’s denunciation of America’s “white arrogance.” (Obama was actually in Miami during Wright’s sermon.) [Media Matters, 8/4/2008] Corsi uses a man he calls one of Obama’s “closest” childhood friends, Indonesian Zulfan Adi, to back his assertion that Obama was once a practicing Muslim. However, Corsi does not report that Adi later retracted his claims about Obama’s religious practices, and admitted to knowing Obama for only a few months. Corsi also ignores a Chicago Tribune story that contains interviews with “dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends [who] show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia,” and other media reports that have conclusively proven Obama was never a Muslim (see January 22-24, 2008).
Ignoring the Obvious - Corsi repeatedly claims that Obama is a master speaker who bedazzles crowds with soaring flights of rhetoric, but never actually gives any specifics of what he intends to do as president. He writes: “At the end of every rhetorically uplifting speech Obama gives about the future of hope, millions of listeners are still left pondering, ‘Now what exactly did he say?’ If the politician is the message, as [campaign manager David] Axelrod and Obama have proclaimed, they can’t forever avoid telling us what precisely that message is.” But FactCheck notes that “Obama’s Web site is packed with details of what he proposes to do if elected. He lays out descriptions of his policy proposals, including tax cuts for most families and increases for those making more than $250,000 per year; a $150 billion, 10-year program to develop alternative energy sources and more efficient vehicles; a proposal to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and another to create a public health insurance plan for those whose employers don’t offer health coverage. Whether or not one agrees with them, Obama has indeed presented detailed plans for dozens of policies. It’s hard to see how anyone writing a book on Obama could fail to acknowledge their existence.”
Conspiracy Theorist, 'Bigot,' and Veteran Liar - FactCheck notes: “Corsi is a renowned conspiracy theorist who says that [President] George Bush is attempting to create a North American Union… and that there is evidence that the World Trade Center may have collapsed [after the 9/11 attacks] because it was seeded with explosives. More recently, Corsi claimed that Obama released a fake birth certificate. We’ve debunked that twice now. [M]any of the themes in The Obama Nation are reworked versions of bogus chain e-mail smears.” [FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008] In August 2004, Media Matters found that Corsi routinely embraced both extremist opinions and personal invective. Corsi called Islam “a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion.” Of Catholicism, he wrote, “Boy buggering in both Islam and Catholicism is okay with the Pope as long as it isn’t reported by the liberal press.” Of Muslims themselves, he wrote, “RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters—it all goes together.” And of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), he wrote: “Anybody ask why HELLary couldn’t keep BJ Bill [former President Clinton] satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?” [Media Matters, 8/6/2004] (Corsi posted these comments on the Free Republic under the moniker “jrlc,” and identified himself as “jrlc” on March 19, 2004.) [Free Republic, 3/18/2004; Jerome Corsi, 8/7/2004] An Obama campaign spokesman calls Corsi “a discredited, fringe bigot.” [Associated Press, 8/16/2008] FactCheck concludes, “In Corsi’s case, we judge that both his reputation and his latest book fall short when measured by the standards of good scholarship, or even of mediocre journalism.” [FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008] PolitiFact concludes: “A reader might think that because the book is printed by a mainstream publishing house it is well-researched and credible. On the contrary—we find The Obama Nation to be an unreliable document for factual information about Barack Obama.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/20/2008]

Entity Tags: Mwai Kibaki, NewsMax, Salon (.com), Raila Odinga, Simon and Schuster, Trinity United Church of Christ, Tony Rezko, Michelle Obama, St. Petersburg Times, Zulfan Adi, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ayers, Media Matters, Hillary Clinton, Malcolm X, Boston Globe, Bernadette Dohrn, Barack Obama, Associated Press, Annenberg Public Policy Center, Chicago Sun-Times, Mary Matalin, Chicago Tribune, FactCheck (.org), John Kerry, Jerome Corsi, David Axelrod, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, Free Republic, WorldNetDaily, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections

A Web graphic accusing presidential candidate Barack Obama of beginning his political career in the home of college professor William Ayers.A Web graphic accusing presidential candidate Barack Obama of beginning his political career in the home of college professor William Ayers. [Source: Kickin and Screamin (.com)]Republican vice-presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) accuses Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) of “palling around with terrorists” who intend to attack American targets. Palin, telling audiences in Colorado and California that it is “time to take the gloves off,” says Obama has ties to the 1960s-era radical group Weather Underground through an acquaintance, University of Illinois at Chicago professor William Ayers. Obama, Palin says, “is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.” The Weather Underground was once labeled a domestic terrorist group by the FBI. Ayers served on a board with Obama and held a fundraiser for Obama’s Senate run in 1995. Obama has condemned Ayers’s connections with the Weather Underground, and most media organizations have discounted any ties between the two men. The Weather Underground has been defunct for decades. Palin says she is not attempting to “pick a fight” with Obama, but is telling campaign audiences about Obama and Ayers because “it was there in the New York Times… and they are hardly ever wrong.” Ayers, she says, “was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and US Capitol.’ Wow. These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes.… This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. If we can be that beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy and can live in a country that would allow intolerance in the equal rights that again our military men and women fight for and die for for all of us.” Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan condemns Palin’s remarks, and cites a list of media outlets that have debunked the so-called Obama-Ayers connection. “Governor Palin’s comments, while offensive, are not surprising, given the McCain campaign’s statement this morning that they would be launching Swiftboat-like attacks in hopes of deflecting attention from the nation’s economic ills,” Sevugan writes. He also notes that the New York Times is one of the media outlets that debunked the connection, stating, “In fact, the very newspaper story Governor Palin cited in hurling her shameless attack made clear that Senator Obama is not close to Bill Ayers, much less ‘pals,’ and that he has strongly condemned the despicable acts Ayers committed 40 years ago, when Obama was eight.” The Obama campaign calls the attempt by the McCain-Palin campaign to link Obama to Ayers part of a campaign of “dishonest, dishonorable assaults against Barack Obama.” [Christian Science Monitor, 10/5/2008]

Entity Tags: William Ayers, Barack Obama, Hari Sevugan, Sarah Palin, Weather Underground

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections, US Domestic Terrorism

Chris Baker.Chris Baker. [Source: The Vigil]As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Chris Baker calls Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama a “little b_tch” for reacting to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s accusation that Obama was “palling around” with accused domestic terrorist William Ayers. Baker says: “[T]his little b_tch needs to stand up for himself. Sorry, I can’t stand this. You want to be the president of the United States, and you won’t even stand up to a smoking-hot chick from Alaska? How is he gonna stand up to the world’s terrorists?… I mean, this—this guy—this guy is—he’s a—he’s a wimp is what he is.… This wuss-bag needs to stand up for himself and answer the questions about his relationship with Bill Ayers and other terrorists and terrorist sympathizers.” Baker cites two articles from the Associated Press and New York Times, but fails to note that both articles debunk Palin’s claim that Obama had anything but a peripheral connection to Ayers. And Baker fails to reveal that the Obama campaign had responded two days before to the Palin assertions. [Media Matters, 10/7/2008]

Entity Tags: Chris Baker, Associated Press, Barack Obama, New York Times, Sarah Palin, William Ayers, Media Matters

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections

Presidential candidate John McCain takes the microphone from a woman who says opponent Barack Obama is ‘an Arab.’Presidential candidate John McCain takes the microphone from a woman who says opponent Barack Obama is ‘an Arab.’ [Source: Associated Press / Truthdig (.com)]Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Republican candidate for president, draws boos and catcalls from his own supporters when he defends opponent Barack Obama (D-IL) from charges that he is an Arab. Obama has been accused of being Arabic, Muslim, and not a US citizen by opponents (see October 1, 2007, April 18, 2008, July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, and October 8-10, 2008). At a town hall in Minnesota, McCain takes questions from selected members of the audience; in recent days, spurred by accusations from McCain and his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), that Obama is a close ally of “terrorist” William Ayers (see October 4-5, 2008), McCain rallies have been marked by screams and cries of “Terrorist!” and “Traitor!” hurled against Obama. According to McClatchy reporters, at a rally in New Mexico earlier in the week, McCain “visibly winced” when he heard one supporter call Obama a “terrorist,” but said nothing in response. In today’s town hall, supporters pressure McCain to attack Obama even more fiercely. Instead, when one supporter tells McCain he fears the prospect of raising his young son in a nation led by Obama, McCain replies, “I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States.” The comment draws boos and groans from the crowd. McCain continues: “If you want a fight, we will fight. But we will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments.… I don’t mean that has to reduce your ferocity, I just mean to say you have to be respectful.” Later in the town hall, an elderly woman tells McCain: “I don’t trust Obama.… He’s an Arab.” McCain shakes his head during her comment, then takes the microphone from her and says: “No, ma’am. He’s a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.” Obama and his supporters have acknowledged that the rhetoric in the final weeks of the campaign is likely to get even more heated. He tells crowds in Ohio, “We know what’s coming, we know what they’re going to do.” In recent rallies, McCain has stepped back from the more heated rhetoric, refusing to talk about Ayers and instead calling Obama a “Chicago politician.” Palin, however, has continued the attacks on Obama via the Ayers association. Recent McCain-Palin television ads asking, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” have been taken by some as insinuating that Obama may be a Muslim. Obama has been a practicing Christian for decades (see January 6-11, 2008). Former Governor William Milliken (R-MI) has said, “I’m disappointed in the tenor and the personal attacks on the part of the McCain campaign.” [McClatchy, 10/10/2008; Los Angeles Times, 10/11/2008] The next day, Obama thanks McCain. “I want to acknowledge that Senator McCain tried to tone down the rhetoric yesterday, and I appreciated his reminder that we can disagree while still being respectful of each other,” he tells a crowd in Philadelphia. Referencing McCain’s military service, he says McCain “has served this country with honor and he deserves our thanks for that.” He then returns to his standard campaign broadsides against McCain’s economic proposals. [Wall Street Journal, 10/11/2008]

Entity Tags: William Ayers, Sarah Palin, William Milliken, Barack Obama, John McCain

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections

Chicago resident Andy Martin, who has been accusing Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) of being a secret Muslim since 2004, abruptly shifts his story. Now, Martin claims, Obama is not the child of a Muslim father, Barack Obama Sr., as documents have clearly and repeatedly shown (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, and August 21, 2008), but the child of Frank Marshall Davis, an African-American activist who was suspected in the 1950s of having ties to Communist organizations. Martin’s accusations, though never supported by fact, have garnered a great deal of coverage in some corners of the Internet. Martin now tells a CNN reporter that Obama’s “father was Frank Marshall Davis.” He gives no proof, and implies he has nothing more than a gut feeling. Davis was a black poet and political activist who moved to Hawaii in 1948. He wrote for a newspaper which the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) accused of being a Communist front. Right-wing Web sites have been claiming since 2007 that Davis was not only a Communist Party member but also the mentor to Obama in his teen years who he refers to in his autobiography as “Frank.” Martin’s most recent burst of prominence was an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News broadcast, where he said that “Obama’s role as a community organizer [in Chicago] was a political staging ground perpetuated by the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers.” Martin also told Hannity that Obama “probably had met William Ayers in New York, and was coming here to lay the foundations for what he thought would be some sort of political movement.” An Obama presidency, Martin predicted, would lead to “a socialist revolution, which attempts to essentially freeze out anybody who’s not part of this radical ideology.” Martin readily admits that his current assertion about Obama’s parentage refutes his four-year-old claims that Obama is a Muslim. He calls himself “an honest writer and an honest researcher.… I’m known as a person who strives for the truth.” The fault is Obama’s, he says, because he “hasn’t told the truth to the American people.” [Raw Story, 10/27/2008] In a wide-ranging article about the “birther” controversy, Salon columnist Alex Koppelman will later note that Martin was denied an Illinois law license on the grounds that he was mentally unfit to practice law. [Salon, 12/5/2008]

Entity Tags: William Ayers, Anthony Robert Martin-Trigona, Alex Koppelman, Barack Obama, House Un-American Activities Committee, Barack Obama, Sr, Sean Hannity, Frank Marshall Davis

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Secret Service officials blame the inflammatory campaign rhetoric of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (R-AK) for an upsurge in death threats against president-elect Barack Obama (D-IL) in the final weeks of the presidential campaign. During the campaign, Palin accused Obama of consorting with terrorists, citing his association with 1960s antiwar radical William Ayers (see October 4-5, 2008). According to the Secret Service, “The attacks provoked a near lynch mob atmosphere at her rallies, with supporters yelling ‘terrorist’ and ‘kill him’ until the McCain campaign ordered her to tone down the rhetoric” (see October 15, 2008). The Secret Service says it has evidence that some white supremacists may have used Palin’s words as encouragement to issue credible and specific death threats. During the campaign, Obama’s wife Michelle, upset by one such report, asked her friend and campaign adviser Valerie Jarrett, “Why would they try to make people hate us?” A report by security and intelligence analysts Stratfor, coinciding with the Secret Service’s announcement, warns that Obama remains a high-risk target for racist assassins. The report finds: “Two plots to assassinate Obama were broken up during the campaign season and several more remain under investigation. We would expect federal authorities to uncover many more plots to attack the president that have been hatched by white supremacist ideologues.” McCain campaign aides blame Palin for engaging in heated rhetorical attacks on Obama, including direct accusations of him being un-American, without the knowledge or approval of McCain. Palin has retorted that these campaign aides are “jerks” who took her words “out of context,” saying: “I consider [their criticisms] cowardly. It’s not true. That’s cruel, it’s mean-spirited, it’s immature, it’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks if they came away taking things out of context and then tried to spread something on national news that’s not fair and not right.” Palin claims she was victimized by sexist reporters and news commentators during the campaign. [Daily Telegraph, 11/8/2008]

Entity Tags: Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, John McCain presidential campaign (2008), William Ayers, Valerie Jarrett, Stratfor, US Secret Service, Sarah Palin

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Mark Ames.Mark Ames. [Source: Guardian]CNBC’s Rick Santelli has become something of a superstar among conservative media pundits and others exasperated by the Obama economic bailouts, after engaging in a purportedly impromptu “rant” during an on-air broadcast (see February 19, 2009). Investigative reporters Mark Ames and Yasha Levine discover that Santelli’s rant may have been a pre-planned incident timed to coincide with the launch of a so-called “tea party movement” predicated on opposing the Obama administration and supporting conservative and Republican ideas and agendas. In the hours and days following Santelli’s appearance on CNBC, the authors write, “[a] nationwide ‘tea party’ grassroots Internet protest movement has sprung up seemingly spontaneously, all inspired by Santelli, with rallies planned today in cities from coast to coast to protest against Obama’s economic policies.”
Connections to the Koch Family - Ames and Levine write that Santelli’s CNBC “rant” was “a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a ‘Chicago Tea Party’ was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest right-wing oligarch clans this country has ever produced.” Ames and Levine are referring to the Koch family, headed by Fred Koch (see 1940 and After), the billionaire co-founder of the extremist John Birch Society (see March 10, 1961 and December 2011) and whose sons are heavy donors to right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups such as the Cato Institute (see 1977-Present) and FreedomWorks (see 1984 and After).
ChicagoTeaParty.com - On the air, Santelli said, “We’re thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July, all you capitalists who want to come down to Lake Michigan, I’m gonna start organizing.” Within minutes, Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report had posted headlines about the “tea party” rant on his Web site. Within hours, a new Web site, chicagoteaparty.com, had appeared, featuring a YouTube video of Santelli’s rant and calling itself the official home of the Chicago Tea Party. The domain name had been registered months before by right-wing media figure Zack Christenson (see August 2008), but had remained dormant until after Santelli spoke on CNBC. Ames and Levine note that Christenson bought the domain around the same time that Milt Rosenburg, the Chicago talk show host whom Christenson produces, began attempting to link then-presidential candidate Barack Obama with “left-wing terrorist” William Ayers (see August 2008). Ames and Levine write: “That Rosenberg’s producer owns the ‘chicagoteaparty.com’ site is already weird—but what’s even stranger is that he first bought the domain last August, right around the time of Rosenburg’s launch of the ‘Obama is a terrorist’ campaign. It’s as if they held this ‘Chicago tea party’ campaign in reserve, like a sleeper-site. Which is exactly what it was.”
The Sam Adams Alliance - The ChicagoTeaParty.com Web site, Ames and Levine report, is part of a larger network of conservative Web sites set up over the last few months under the auspices of the “Sam Adams Alliance” (SAA), an organization linked to the Koch family and to FreedomWorks, a public relations group funded by Koch and headed by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey (see April 14, 2009). The SAA is a Chicago-area libertarian/conservative group named for Samuel Adams, who led the Boston Tea Party protest in 1773. [Playboy, 2/27/2009] In 2008, the New York Times described the SAA as having “started an ambitious project this year to encourage right-leaning activists and bloggers to get online and focus on local and state issues.” [New York Times, 7/19/2008]
OfficialChicagoTeaParty.com - Another Web site, officialchicagoteaparty.com, went live on February 19 as well. That site is registered to Eric Odom, a Republican specializing in faux-grassroots PR campaigns sometimes called “astroturf” (see April 15, 2009). Odom has worked with Koch Industries, a large oil and natural gas corporation and the source of the Koch family fortune, in supporting offshore oil-drilling legislation. Odom was, until January 2009, the “new media coordinator” for the Sam Adams Alliance. Upon his departure, the SAA removed Odom’s name from its Web site. The SAA also removed any mention of Koch’s funding, or any other connections between Koch and the organization, from its site. Two of the SAA’s board members, Eric O’Keefe and Joseph Lehman, are tied both to Koch and to FreedomWorks.
FreedomWorks - In the hours after Santelli’s rant, FreedomWorks posted a large photo of Santelli on its Web site’s front page with the caption: “Are you with Rick? We are. Click here to learn more.”
Other Sites - In the hours after Santelli’s rant, other Web sites such as Right.org, promoting a tea party support group that purports to be a citizen-launched organization “created by a few friends who were outraged by the bailouts” and headed by “Evan and Duncan,” and numerous pro-tea party Facebook pages, were launched. Right.org is sponsoring a $27,000 prize for an “anti-bailout video competition.” Ames and Levine ask: “Who are Evan and Duncan? Do they even really exist?”
No Connections on the Surface - Ames and Levine note that the numerous Web sites and Facebook pages have remarkable similarities in language and appearance, “as if they were part of a multi-pronged advertising campaign planned out by a professional PR company. Yet, on the surface, they pretended to have no connection. The various sites set up their own Twitter feeds and Facebook pages dedicated to the Chicago Tea Party movement. And all of them linked to one another, using it as evidence that a decentralized, viral movement was already afoot. It wasn’t about partisanship; it was about real emotions coming straight from real people.”
Santelli and the Tea Party Organizers - Ames and Levine ask why Santelli, and CNBC, would “risk their credibility, such as it is, as journalists dispensing financial information in order to act as PR fronts for a partisan campaign.” Santelli’s contract with CNBC is about to expire, they note. Until the “tea party” rant, Santelli was an obscure financial commentator with few prospects. Now, though, he is a “hero” of the right. As another Chicago tea party organization, the Daily Bail, wrote on its site: “Rick, this message is to you. You are a true American hero and there are no words to describe what you did today except your own. Headquartered nearby, we will be helping the organization in whatever way possible.” Ames and Levine speculate that Santelli may have been brought into the fold by one of his CNBC colleagues, Lawrence Kudlow, who himself has strong connections to FreedomWorks. [Playboy, 2/27/2009] Steve Megremis of the Daily Bail will call Ames and Levine’s allegations about his Web site’s involvement “categorically untrue,” writing: “It’s unfortunate because I believe that the article did some great investigative work and then at the end they threw me under the bus for no apparent reason. Apparently, the authors just assumed we were part of this conspiracy because of my own personal excitement about the prospect of a mid-summer tea party.” Megremis will post a response on his site, but the response will soon disappear. [Barry Ritholtz, 2/28/2009]
Playboy Removes Article - By March 2, Playboy will remove the Ames and Levine article from its Web site. No explanation is offered. The article will instead become available on a Web site called “The Exiled,” which bills itself as an “alternative” press outlet. [Jeffrey Feldman, 3/2/2009]

Entity Tags: Rick Santelli, William Ayers, Playboy, Sam Adams Alliance, Yasha Levine, The Exiled, Steve Megremis, Zack Christenson, Obama administration, Milt Rosenburg, Right.org, Mark Ames, Dick Armey, CNBC, Cato Institute, Eric O’Keefe, Chicago Tea Party, Eric Odom, FreedomWorks, Lawrence Kudlow, Joseph Lehman, Matt Drudge, John Birch Society, Fred Koch

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

The cover of Klein and Elliott’s ‘The Manchurian President.’The cover of Klein and Elliott’s ‘The Manchurian President.’ [Source: Borders (.com)]The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters finds a number of dubious or outright false claims in a recent book by Aaron Klein entitled The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists, and Other Anti-American Extremists. Klein is a reporter for the conservative news blog WorldNetDaily, which has taken a lead role in accusing President Obama of not being an American citizen (see December 5, 2008, May 28, 2009, and August 1-4, 2009). Among other disproven claims, Klein writes that “terrorist” William Ayers (see October 4-5, 2008) was the “ghostwriter” of Obama’s 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father; Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga is Obama’s cousin (using the false relationship to try to link Obama with Odinga, whom Klein calls a “traitor” to Kenya); Obama supports “involuntary birth-control measures,” which Klein describes as “compulsory, government-mandated ‘green abortions’ [to] control population growth and prevent ecological disasters”; and Obama sought and received support from the socialist New Party in the early stages of his political career. Klein also attempts to portray the church that Obama attended as a child, the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, as a “staging ground” for his supposed “antiwar activism” and “socialism”; claims a number of ties between Obama and Communist “black activists”; and makes other claims. Klein also attempts to argue that “Obama may not be eligible to serve as president.” After admitting that there is “no convincing evidence that Obama was born in Kenya, nor that his birthplace was any place other than Hawaii, his declared state of birth,” Klein claims that because Obama’s father was not a US citizen, there should have been “Congressional debate about whether Obama is eligible under the United States Constitution to serve as president,” focusing on the legal definition of the constitutional requirement that the president be a “natural born citizen.” Klein ignores most accepted legal opinions on the subject, instead focusing on a 1758 treatise called The Law of Nations and an obscure Supreme Court decision, Minor v. Happersett. Both the treatise and the Court decision have been routinely cited by “birther” lawyers attempting to challenge Obama’s citizenship, Media Matters notes. [Media Matters, 5/7/2010] Reviews of the book are mixed. David Horowitz’s far-right publication Front Page Magazine calls the book a “meticulously documented piece of outstanding investigative research” that “blow[s] the lid off the dome of silence surrounding the Obama administration.” Klein and co-author Brenda J. Elliot “reveal surreptitious ties to radical leftists of all stripes,” the review states. [Front Page Magazine, 6/16/2010] Terry Krepel, the progressive founder of ConWebWatch, calls Klein’s entire book an exercise in “guilt by association,” using as one of several examples Obama’s attendance at the Honolulu church: Obama was a young boy at the time; the group that Ayers was a part of, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), had splintered two years before Obama began attending church services; and Klein never shows any proof that what he calls “Ayers’s ideology” made it into the Sunday school curriculum. The book is entirely “dishonest,” Krepel concludes. [Huffington Post, 5/9/2010]

Entity Tags: WorldNetDaily, William Ayers, Terry Krepel, Students for a Democratic Society, Raila Odinga, Barack Obama, Aaron Klein, Front Page Magazine, Media Matters, New Party, First Unitarian Church of Honolulu

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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