John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, today accused the Los Angeles Times of withholding a videotape of an event that he asserted was attended by both Barack Obama and 1960s-era radical Bill Ayers. The campaign has repeatedly argued that Obama has not been straight about their relationship.
The videotape, described in an April L.A. Times story, was of a 2003 banquet honoring Rashid Khalidi, a leading Palestinian activist and scholar. At the dinner, Obama spoke of their friendship and how much he had learned from him.
On Tuesday, a McCain spokesman first called on the newspaper to release the videotape, saying it would shed light on the relationship between Obama and Khalidi. Today, McCain repeated the call in an interview with a Cuban radio station, accusing the newspaper of bias and asserting that Ayers was at the event as well—a point that has not been reported anywhere. Palin made the same points from the stump.
The newspaper said it had promised the source who provided the video that it would not publish it.
McCain accused the Times of covering up the information.
"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," he told WAQI, also known as Radio Mambi. "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."
In Bowling Green, Ohio, Palin issued a blistering attack on the newspaper, the latest charge of media bias from the McCain campaign.
"Maybe some politicians would love to have a pet newspaper of their very own," she said. "In this case we have a newspaper willing to throw aside even the public's right to know in order to protect a candidate that its own editorial board has endorsed. And if there's a Pulitzer Prize category for excelling in kowtowing, then the LA Times, you're winning. But it's not too late, and if there is an ounce of credibility there, if the newspaper wants to keep that shred of credibility, let alone its dignity, than I say the public has a right to know. Let's go to the videotape, LA Times."
In a story published today, the newspaper said it did not publish the tape itself because it was provided by a confidential source on condition that it not be released. "The Times keeps its promises to sources," said the newspaper's editor, Russ Stanton.
Jamie Gold, the newspaper's readers' representative, said in a statement: "More than 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."
McCain also used the matter to bring back his charges about Obama's relationship with Ayers, which Obama has said is casual. "It's not that Barack Obama was 8 years old when Mr. Ayers was committing acts of terror," McCain said. "It's all about the long relationship on foundations…launching his political career in Mr. Ayers's living room."
It was not clear whether Ayers was actually at the dinner. Asked for evidence that he was, McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb pointed to a 2005 New York Sun story that mentioned that Ayers had offered a testimonial to Khalidi that was included in a book created for the farewell event, held to mark his departure from Chicago to take a job in New York, where he is a professor at Columbia University.
Asked whether that story really shows that Ayers was at the dinner, Goldfarb said: "We want to know what happened at the dinner–you all need to report the answers."