John McCain's latest crusade against the elite media targets the Los Angeles Times, which is refusing to release a videotape that the Republican presidential candidate says could show Democratic rival Barack Obama making pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel statements.
At issue is a 2003 banquet honoring Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University and a leading, though controversial Palestinian scholar. The Times reported about Obama attending the banquet in a story in April about him dealing with Middle East politics in Chicago. At the event, Obama talked of his personal friendship with Khalidi and his wife, saying that his many talks with the couple, had been "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases."
The Times reported that while some speakers expressed anger at Israel and US policy, Obama spoke about finding common ground. Obama's views on the Middle East have been much dissected during the campaign; he has declared repeatedly and forcefully that he would defend Israel as president.
Today, McCain suggested -- without offering proof -- that William Ayers, the leader of a radical group that bombed government building during the early 1970s and two decades later served on education reform boards with Obama, attended the same event.
“We should know about their relationship including, apparently, information that is held by The Los Angeles Times concerning an event that Mr. Ayers attended with a PLO spokesman,’’ McCain said on Radio Mambi WAQI. “The Los Angeles Times refuses to make that videotape public. I’m not in the business about talking about media bias, but what if there was a tape with John McCain with a neo-Nazi outfit being held by some media outlet. I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different.’’
McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, chimed in at an Ohio rally, "If there's a Pulitzer prize category for excellence in kowtowing, the L.A. Times wins."
The Times issued a statement on Tuesday about its decision: "The Los Angeles Times did not publish the videotape because it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it," said the newspaper's editor, Russ Stanton. "The Times keeps its promises to sources."
The newsroom and editorial boards are separate; the Times endorsed Obama earlier this month, the first time in its history that it has backed a Democrat for president.
UPDATE: Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor dismissed the issue as a "recycled, manufactured controversy" meant to distract voters.
"Barack Obama has been clear and consistent on his support for Israel, and has been clear that Rashid Khalidi is not an adviser to him or his campaign and that he does not share Khalidi's views," Vietor told the Associated Press.
The AP also reports that an organization headed by McCain gave at least $448,000 to a group that Khalidi helped start 15 years ago, the Center for Palestine Research and Studies.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.