John McCain's campaign is demanding that the Los Angeles Times release a video of a party for a prominent Palestinian activist that Barack Obama attended in 2003.
The Times described the going-away party for former University of Chicago professor, and Obama friend, Rashid Khalidi, in a story in April. The story reported that Palestinians thought they might have a friend in Obama because of his friendships in that community, despite the fact that his positions have never been particularly pro-Palestinian.
"A major news organization is intentionally suppressing information that could provide a clearer link between Barack Obama and Rashid Khalidi," said McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb, citing Obama's friendship with Khalidi, who is now a professor at Columbia University.
He said the video could, among other things, show how Obama responded to a poem recited at the party accusing Israel of "terrorism" and warning of consequences for U.S. support for Israel, which Goldfarb described as "hate speech."
"The election is one week away, and it's unfortunate that the press so obviously favors Barack Obama that this campaign must publicly request that the Los Angeles Times do its job — make information public," he said.
The campaign hadn't previously demanded the video, though conservative bloggers have, and neither other reporters nor McCain's researchers have been able to dig up a copy.
Khalidi is a controversial figure, reviled by pro-Israel activists, though not a marginal one. A former professor at the University of Chicago, he's now Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia, and respected by many in academia. He's been criticized most for saying that Palestinians have a right to resist Israeli occupation and has been described as a former P.L.O. spokesman, a label he has denied.
The paper hasn't explained its unwillingness to release the video, and Peter Wallsten, who found the tape and wrote about it, declined to discuss it with me last night. He forwarded an e-mail that the paper has sent readers who have complained as conservative blogs raise the issue.
"Over six months ago the Los Angeles Times published a detailed account of the events shown on the videotape. The Times is not suppressing anything. Just the opposite — the L.A. Times brought the matter to light," wrote the readers' representative, Jamie Gold.
L.A. Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan wouldn't discuss the decision not to release the tape in detail.
"When we reported on the tape six months ago, that was our full report," she said, and asked, "Does Politico release unpublished information?"
The answer to that question is yes — Politico and most news outlets constantly make available videos and documents, after describing them in part, which is why the Times' decision not to release the video is puzzling. My instinct, and many reporters', is to share as much source material as possible.
Critics have suggested that the Times is witholding the video for political reasons, but there are other possibilities: competitive reasons, or simply out of tradition. In the mechanics of reporting, there's another possibility as well. The video may have been given to the paper on the condition it not be released, or releasing it could compromise its source.
But the Times hasn't explained the move, and the McCain campaign is turning up the heat on a story that, whether or not the tape is released, is a reminder that some of Obama's Hyde Park friends stand well to the left of his stated positions.