Middle East studies in the News
McCain Slams LA Times for Double Standard in Withholding Obama-Khalidi Tape [on Rashid Khalidi]
John McCain slammed The Los Angeles Times Wednesday for refusing to release a videotape that the newspaper's editors say shows Barack Obama praising a Chicago professor who served as a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization when it was a U.S.-designated terror group.
Speaking to a Florida radio station, the Republican presidential candidate suggested a double standard in reporting by the newspaper.
The Times says it is standing by its promise not to show the tape, which it got from a source. The newspaper also has not provided a transcript of the 2003 farewell party for University of Chicago professor Rashid Khalidi. Among others in attendance were former Weather Underground founders William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
"Apparently this is a tape with a dinner that Mr. Ayers, the former, and now still, unrepentant terrorist, who was at, and also the, one of the leading spokespersons for the PLO. Now, why that should not be made public is beyond me," McCain told La Kalle radio.
"I guarantee you, if there was a tape with me and Sarah Palin and some neo-Nazi or one of those, you think that that tape wouldn't be made public? Of course, Americans need to know, particularly about Ayers, and also about the PLO. So hopefully there will be enough pressure on the L.A. Times that it'll come out, but its really unfortunate that we have to go through this," McCain continued.
The LA Times told FOXNews.com that it won't reveal how it obtained the tape of Khalidi's farewell party, nor will the newspaper release it. Spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan said the paper is not interested in revisiting the story. "As far as we're concerned, the story speaks for itself," she said.
The newspaper reported Tuesday evening in a story on its Web site that the tape was from a confidential source.
"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," the Times' editor, Russ Stanton, said. "The Times keeps its promises to sources."
Asked about the party and his relationship with Obama, Khalidi refused Wednesday to discuss the matter.
"I am not speaking to the press at this time, and do not speak to Fox in any case, as I just wrote one of your colleagues," Khalidi wrote in an e-mail statement to FOXNews.com.
The L.A. Times first reported on the relationship between Obama and Khalidi in April.
In the article, it quoted Obama at Khalidi's going-away party, calling Khalidi his "friend and frequent dinner companion." At the time, Obama reminisced about dinners at the home of Khalidi and his wife Mona, who were leaving Chicago and heading to New York for Khalidi's new job at Columbia University.
The dinner talks 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 wrote, quoting Obama on the purported videotape.
The article went on to describe how Obama offered new hope to Palestinian Americans for a new U.S. policy on the Middle East and mentioned that one guest at the party compared "Zionist settlers on the West Bank" to Usama bin Laden because both had been "blinded by ideology."
The original article pointed out that the party, in which Khalidi encouraged guests to support Obama's run for the U.S. Senate, was videotaped and a copy had been obtained by The Times. It did not mention that the Times reporter and editors had vowed not to show the tape to anyone.
Sullivan said she would not give details of what else may be on the tape, adding that anyone interested in the video should read the newspaper's report, which was its final account.
"This is a story that we reported on six months ago, so any suggestion that we're suppressing the tape is absurd -- we're the ones that brought the existence of the tape to light," Sullivan said.
Khalidi, who from 1976 to1982 was reportedly a director of the official Palestinian press agency, WAFA, which was operating in exile from Beirut with the PLO, is currently the Edwards Said professor of Arab Studies at Columbia.
When Columbia hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a guest speaker last year, Khalidi told The New York Times after the appearance that he was "embarrassed" that university president Lee Bollinger wasn't nicer to the head of the Islamic Republic during his visit.
A pro-Palestinian activist, Khalidi has been a fierce critic of American foreign policy and of Israel, which he has accused of establishing an "apartheid system" of government. The PLO advocate helped facilitate negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the early '90s, but he has denied he was ever an employee of the group, contradicting accounts in The New York Times and Washington Times.
The L.A. Times article in April noted that Khalidi was a professor at the University of Beirut at the time he was a mouthpiece for the PLO.
Obama in recent months has distanced himself from the man the Times says he once called a friend. "He is not one of my advisers. He's not one of my foreign policy people," Obama said at a campaign event in May. "He is a respected scholar, although he vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israel's policy."
The Los Angeles Times endorsed Obama for president on Oct. 19.
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