Monday, August 18, 2008

Corsi May Face Libel Suit Over False Claims Made in Anti-Obama Book

Obama's Presidential Campaign Fights Back Against 'The Obama Nation' with Rebuttal Book and Web Site, But Swift-Boat Author's Principal Claims Are So Patently False That Obama Likely Has Grounds to Take Him to Court

Unfit for Publication

Dueling Books: At left, the cover of Jerome Corsi's anti-Obama volume -- whose title is a play on the derogatory word "abomination." At right, the Obama campaign's response book, a point-by-point rebuttal of Corsi's charges whose own title is a play on a previous Corsi book four years ago that slammed John Kerry. Because the most incendiary of Corsi's accusations were quickly exposed by book reviewers and other fact-checkers as outright falsehoods, Corsi could face legal action by Obama for libel and defamation. (Corsi book cover courtesy Threshold Books; Obama book cover courtesy Obama for America)

(Revised and updated 6:45 PM EDT Tuesday, August 19, 2008)


By Skeeter Sanders

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama -- already making history as the first African American presidential nominee of a major American political party -- may make history again in a way he'd rather not like to make it: As the first presidential candidate to take an author to court, The 'Skeeter Bites Report has learned.

Jerome Corsi's newly-published book, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality, is filled with accusations and innuendo against the Illinois senator that were long ago proven false -- constituting a "reckless disregard for the truth" and grounds for the Illinois senator to sue Corsi for libel and defamation, according to a source close to the Obama campaign.

Corsi -- who made a name for himself four years ago when he co-authored an innuendo-filled book against 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's military service -- candidly admits he wrote his newest tome with the explicit aim of ensuring Obama's defeat in November.

The Obama Nation -- the title is an obvious play on the word "abomination" -- already has rocketed to the top of The New York Times' best-seller list for hardcover non-fiction. But the Obama campaign says the volume is nothing but pure fiction -- and malicious fiction, at that.

Chief among Corsi's accusations: That Obama was raised -- and is still -- a Muslim and has ties to radical Islamic extremists; that he still secretly uses illegal drugs despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary; and that by attending a "radical black church" in Chicago, he secretly has a "black rage" against white people.

In fact, Obama is a Christian, who has been a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago -- a predominantly black congregation in a mainline Christian denomination -- for more than 20 years. And the only thing even remotely "radical" about his church is its controversial, now-retired pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Corsi's claim that Obama has ties to Islamic extremists is belied by the fact that Obama is a staunch defender of Israel -- and has even been resoundingly denounced by al-Qaida and its supporters as being, among other things, "an 'Iranian agent' secretly sent to take over the United States and fight a war against Sunni Muslims," according to Evan Kohlmann, an NBC News terrorism analyst who operates an anti-terrorism Web site.

Corsi Claim of Obama Drug Abuse Based on Discredited Source

Corsi even goes so far as to claim -- without a single scintilla of proof -- that Obama is currently an abuser of illegal drugs. In an interview with the AP, Corsi defended raising the issue of Obama's alleged drug use. "I don't need more [proof]," he said. "I'm putting this question forward. I'm putting the evidence forward. Voters can make up their own minds."

But it's a claim based on allegations made by a Minnesota man published in the supermarket tabloid Globe and its sister tabloid National Enquirer in March -- allegations that have since been discredited by this blogger and by others -- that he had a gay sexual encounter with the Illinois senator in 1999 and that Obama "smoked crack cocaine in front of him."

The man who made the allegations, Larry Sinclair -- a convicted felon who's spent time in prison in Florida and Colorado for credit card theft, forgery and check fraud, according to court records -- did not produce any evidence to back up his claims and twice flunked a lie-detector test.

Sinclair was even arrested by Washington, D.C. police in June on an outstanding warrant in Colorado after he held a bizarre press conference with reporters at the National Press Club to air his accusations against Obama.

Obama acknowledged in his autobiography -- and again this past Saturday during a candidates' forum on politics and faith in California hosted by Rick Warren, a prominent evangelical minister -- that he used marijuana and cocaine while he was a teenager living in his native Hawaii ("It was the greatest moral failing of my life," he admitted), but quit using illicit drugs completely when he started college in 1979 and hasn't touched them since.

Unlike Kerry in 'o4, Obama Campaign Fires Back Fast -- and Hard

In sharp contrast to Kerry's failure to respond to Corsi's previous book, Unfit for Command, in which he attacked the Massachusetts senator's military service record in Vietnam, the Obama campaign struck back swiftly last week with a hard-hitting, 40-page rebuttal book -- aptly titled Unfit for Publication -- and with a blistering counterattack posted on a special Web site it established specifically to fight off rumors and innuendo against the candidate.

"Jerome Corsi is a discredited liar who is peddling another piece of garbage to continue the Bush-Cheney politics he helped perpetuate four years ago," Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor told the Associated Press. "His is just one of what will likely be many more lie-filled books rushed to print this election cycle, which are cobbled together from debunked Internet sources to make money and advance a partisan agenda. We will respond to these smears forcefully with all means at our disposal."

But the most forceful response of all may be made in a courtroom, as Obama is considering taking legal action against Corsi, according to a source close to the Obama campaign who spoke to The 'Skeeter Bites Report on condition of anonymity.

The Obama Nation "goes far beyond a political hatchet job by containing statements that Corsi knows are untrue and doesn't have a shred of evidence to back them up," the source said. "That constitutes a reckless disregard for the truth, which -- combined with Corsi's avowed aim to destroy Obama's election prospects -- in my opinion meets the legal definition of libel."

Reckless Disregard for Truth Would be Easy for Obama to Prove. . .

If the Illinois senator were to sue Corsi for libel, it's unlikely that he'll have difficulty proving a reckless disregard for the truth. Book reviewers have slammed Corsi's tome as riddled with factual inaccuracies as well as outright falsehoods.

For example, Corsi claims that Obama was raised as a Muslim -- receiving extensive Islamic religious education as a boy in Indonesia. In Dreams from My Father -- which was first published in 1995 -- Obama acknowledged that "I'd spent two years at a Muslim school, [and] two years at a Catholic school. In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Koranic studies. In the Catholic school, when it came time to pray, I'd pretend to close my eyes, then peek around the room.

"Nothing happened. No angels descended. Just a parched old nun and 30 brown children, muttering words," Obama wrote. "Sometimes the nun would catch me, and her stern look would force my lids back shut. But that didn't change how I felt inside."

Those are hardly the words of a devout Muslim -- or a devout Catholic, for that matter.

However, Obama's Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro -- second husband of Obama's mother, Ann Dunham -- was a Muslim, as was Obama's Kenyan father (who, according to the senator in The Audacity of Hope, later became an atheist). But Soetoro was "not religious" and "never went to prayer services except for big communal events," according to Obama's half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng.

Indonesia, with more than 220 million people, is the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, but, like Turkey, it is a secular republic, whose constitution guarantees freedom of religion -- although the government officially recognizes only six religions: Islam, Protestant Christianity, Roman Catholic Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

. . .But the Tough Part Would be Proving 'Actual Malice'

Because Obama is a public official -- a sitting United States senator -- he would also be required to prove in any libel lawsuit that Corsi wrote his book with a clearly malicious intent. That's much more difficult to prove, even though Corsi has stated publicly that he wrote The Obama Nation with the clear intent of ensuring the soon-to-be Democratic nominee's defeat in the November election.

It's a high standard that the U.S. Supreme Court set more than 40 years ago in New York Times v. Sullivan, a landmark 1964 ruling that public officials must prove actual malice in order to win a case of libel and defamation.

The Sullivan decision was hailed as an important First Amendment victory for news organizations when they report on the actions of public officials. Whether Corsi's intent behind his anti-Obama book meets the "actual malice" standard set by Sullivan is up to a jury to decide, should Obama move forward with a lawsuit.

One Possible Motive for 'Malice' -- Racial Animus

Corsi -- a darling of right-wing extremists who derogatorily refers to Arabs in one Internet posting as "ragheads" -- also dwells extensively on the white, Kansas-born Dunham's two interracial marriages to Obama's black father and later to his Asian stepfather ("A second man of color to be [Dunham's] mate," he writes).

In fact, Corsi has been making the rounds of white-supremacist Internet media outlets to promote his book, including the "Political Cesspool" online radio show of the "white nationalist" group, Stormfront, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors right-wing extremist groups, and the radio show's own Web site.

The Obama campaign calls Corsi's description of Obama's multiracial family as one of many examples of Corsi's "offensive language" in the book. This blogger -- whose own family is multiracial -- calls it something else: It's racist poison, pure and simple. Only a racist would have a problem with anyone having a multiracial family.

Which goes back to the legal question, in the event of a libel suit, of whether Corsi had a malicious intent in writing The Obama Nation, especially given its obviously derogatory title. One has to wonder whether Corsi would have written so venomously of Obama's family background -- and about the senator himself -- if Obama was white.

Corsi Has Long History of Incendiary Remarks -- Even Against Bush

Corsi has a long history or making off-the-wall allegations and incendiary insults against political figures, without a shred of evidence to back him up. A staff reporter for the right-wing news site, World Net Daily, Corsi co-authored his 2004 attack on Kerry with the arch-conservative Vietnam veterans group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Corsi is not above using highly derogatory labels in his Web postings to describe people he doesn't like. He's branded former President Bill Clinton an "anti-American Communist;" Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as a "bulldyke" lesbian; former Clinton aide-turned-syndicated columnist Susan Estrich as "Susan Estrogen;" "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric as "Little Katie Communist;" the late Pope John Paul II as "senile and unconcerned about sexual molestation of boys;" and all Muslims as "Satan worshippers."

Even President Bush and Vice President Cheney have been targets of Corsi's wrath, with the right-wing author accusing the Bush administration of conspiring to create a "North American Union," according to The New York Times, doing away with the United States as a sovereign nation and replacing the U.S. dollar with the amero -- a currency similar to the eruo.

The Times also reports that Corsi's anti-Obama book "appears to have distracted him from another [book] project he was planning [to release] in January: [an expose of] what he calls the government’s inadequate explanations about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center."

Interestingly, The Obama Nation was published by Threshold Books, a new Simon & Schuster imprint that is run by Mary Matalin, a top Republican strategist and media personality. Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS Corporation.

Meanwhile, the conservative-leaning Fox News Channel has been heavily promoting Corsi's book on its prime-time talk shows, including "Hannity & Colmes." The show's lead co-host, Sean Hannity, falsely claimed in an April 28 broadcast that the Illinois senator was all but endorsed by an official of the Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Army Officers Debunk Claim Obama Snubbed GIs

Meanwhile, in a related development, the New York Daily News reported that claims in a malicious e-mail that Obama snubbed American GIs in Afghanistan during his overseas tour last month were disputed by several U.S. Army officers.

The e-mail was traced to a Utah Army National Guard intelligence officer at the Bagram Airfield who claimed the Democratic presidential nominee-elect "blew off" the soldiers to play a round of basketball for a publicity photo.

But Army commanders, angered by the e-mail, hotly denied the allegation. "These comments are inappropriate and factually incorrect," Lieutenant Colonel Rumi Nelson-Green, the Bagram Airbase spokesman, told the newspaper.

Soldiers from Obama's home state of Illinois were invited to meet him, but his arrival was kept secret for security reasons, Nelson-Green said. "We were a bit delayed ... as he took time to shake hands, speak to troops and pose for photographs."

E-mails and telephone calls by the Daily News to the officer who made the charges and to his wife were not returned, the newspaper said.

# # #

Volume III, Number 45
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


Sphere: Related Content