The release of the hidden camera Mitt Romney video this week is reminding some conservative bloggers of a talked-about story four years ago, and they're now asking if and when another potentially explosive videotape will see the light of day.
Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit writes:
Say, where's that Obama/Khalidi tape? Why won't the L.A.Times release it? Oh, who am I kidding? They won't release it because it would make Obama look terrible. What other reason can there be?
The Daily Caller writes:
Speaking of secret tapes, remember Rashid Khalidi? The LA Times hopes you don't.
Daily Pundit writes:
So sure, I want to hear the "misssing" two minutes of the incomplete video. But you know what I'd really like to see? The video of Obama praising Rashid Khalidi to the skies currently being suppressed by the hack propagandists at the Los Angeles Times.
And the pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon writes:
By the way, since Romney's leaked remarks are so newsworthy, when are we ever going to see the videotape of Obama's 2003 remarks at the dinner honoring Rashid Khalidi? Why is one off-the-record video leaked and the other one purposefully buried by the media? What is the line between good journalism and partisanship?
Here at TheBlaze we thought those were good questions too, so we contacted the Los Angeles Times to find out if their position – refusing since 2008 to publish the Obama/Khalidi video – has changed on the matter.
First, some background. In April 2008, as the presidential campaign was getting underway, Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times published a story describing the going-away party for Professor Rashid Khalidi, a devoted advocate to the Palestinian cause and a harsh critic of Israel, who was on his way to a position at Columbia University. Khalidi was also a past spokesman for the PLO. The dinner occurred in 2003, when Barack Obama was then an Illinois state senator. Wallsten wrote:
A special tribute came from Khalidi's friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi's wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.
His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table," but around "this entire world."
The Times reported that while in Chicago, Obama had attended events where anger at Israel and American Mideast policy "was freely expressed," including at the Khalidi farewell party where a Palestinian American read a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism against the Palestinians. Another speaker compared Jewish settlers to Osama bin Laden, both said to be "blinded by ideology."
By contrast, the Times wrote, "Obama adopted a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground."
Khalidi's going-away party in 2003 was recorded, a copy of which was obtained by the Times — which, despite calls from then GOP rival presidential candidate Sen. John McCain and other conservatives, has never agreed to release the tape. The Times said then that it was given the video on condition it not be shown to anyone else and kept that promise.
American Thinker columnist Daren Jonescu writes:
How noble of them. The Romney video was "secret," as the mainstream media proudly and titillatingly describes it, in the sense of having been acquired through questionable or illegal methods. The Obama-Khalidi video is "secret" because the mainstream media does not want to release it.
Then, the story resurfaced in April this year after the Los Angeles Times decided to publish incendiary photos of U.S. servicemen posing with the body parts of Afghan suicide bombers. Why did the paper's editors decide to publish those photos – which had been photographed two years before (not a breaking news event) – and not the Obama video which was also a number of years old?
The Times offered this explanation for publishing the Afghan photos to readers:
"We considered this very carefully," [Editor Davan] Maharaj said. "At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions. We have a particular duty to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan. On balance, in this case, we felt that the public interest here was served by publishing a limited, but representative sample of these photos, along with a story explaining the circumstances under which they were taken."
This summer, Breitbart offered a $50,000 reward to whoever can provide a verifiable, complete recording of the 2003 Khalidi farewell dinner. In its reward offer, Breitbart.com wrote that without the tape there was no way to verify reporter Wallsten's claim that Obama did indeed take a different tone than the more stridently-worded pro-Palestinian attendees. Breitbart.com wrote in July:
Then-reporter Peter Wallsten (now with the Wall Street Journal) noted that the event was one of many signs that had encouraged Palestinian-Americans to believe "that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say."
[Update: On Thursday, Breitbart announced it was doubling the reward, to $100,000.]
On Wednesday TheBlaze contacted Nancy Sullivan, vice president of communications for the Los Angeles Times, via e-mail. We asked her if in light of the emergence this week of the Romney tape that shows the candidate expressing his opinions on the Arab-Israeli peace process, would the LA Times consider making public the Khalidi party tape.
We also asked how the paper wished to respond to those who suggest the paper is being inconsistent in the images it chooses to publish – on the one hand releasing inflammatory images of US soldiers posing with body parts in Afghanistan and on the other hand withholding the recording of Obama.
If the paper's position on the 2003 Obama tape has not changed, we asked, why does it continue to refuse to release the tape, rather than allow the public to make its own informed decisions based on the impartial information it is able to provide.
This is her answer:
In April 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported first, and in explicit detail about the dinner event and the tape of it. More than six months later, just days before the November 2008 election, the McCain Campaign demanded the public release of the tape. As we stated then, The Times did not publish the videotape because it was provided for review by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not publish the tape itself. The Times keeps its promises to sources and nothing has changed in that regard.
The Afghanistan images you refer to were provided to The Times with permission for their publication.
Therefore, there was no inconsistency in our handling of these two dissimilar situations, and we have received no questions or inquiries — apart from yours — suggesting otherwise.
So there you have it. The tape stays hidden, until any enterprising journalists, GOP researchers or anonymous sources come up with the goods. The parallel with Mother Jones' Romney tape is interesting: both cases have the power to reveal the candidates' true opinion on the Arab-Israeli conflict when their guards are low, in a non-public setting.
To reveal or not to reveal the tape sounds a lot like the editorial dilemma that faced the LA Times' editor in the Afghan photo case. As he said then, the paper's job is to report "vigorously and impartially" and to publish information that helps the public make "informed decisions." And what more impactful decision do citizens make than choosing for whom to vote? To vigorously report or to keep a promise to a source? A dilemma indeed.
This story has been updated to include the higher reward amount Breitbart announced.