ABC Reporter's Book Review: Obama's 'Unreliable' Retelling of His Own Life Story; Network Skips

According to ABC's Jon Karl, Barack Obama's retelling of his own life in Dreams Of My Father has been exposed as "unreliable." On June 16 in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, the correspondent reviewed David Maraniss' new book, a 641 page tome that "raises questions about the carefully crafted story that Mr. Obama has told about himself." However, Karl and ABC have yet to interview or highlight Mr. Maraniss on the network.

Jack Welch, the former head of General Electric (which owned NBC), proclaimed that the revelations are so damaging, "the Romney campaign should just print this [book review] up" and use it as advertising. Welch made the declaration on Wednesday's Squawk Box on CNBC. He called the story "the most important article possible for the Romney campaign to take to the public."

In his book review, Karl explained:

"Barack Obama: The Story" is a careful, thorough account in which the author treats his subject with sympathy but not reverence. The result is an admiring portrait, to be sure, but some of the details that Mr. Maraniss discovers raise questions about the carefully crafted story that Mr. Obama has told about himself.


For Mr. Obama's early years, much of what the world knows up to this point comes from his "Dreams From My Father," published years before he ran for political office. Mr. Maraniss finds the book to be an unreliable guide to what actually happened in Mr. Obama's early life. The book, he says, "falls into the realm of literature and memoir, not history and autobiography." This is not a complete surprise: In the book's introduction, the author acknowledges taking liberties—changing names and chronology and compressing multiple people into single characters for the sake of narrative flow and dramatic effect.

Consider Mr. Obama's own description of his time working at Business International and those meetings with "Japanese financiers" and "German bond traders" and that reflection in the elevator mirrors of himself wearing a suit and tie. In reality, Mr. Maraniss finds out, Mr. Obama worked out of a tiny office barely large enough to fit a desk, dressed casually and didn't have meetings with financiers or bond traders. "The part about seeing his reflection in the elevator doors?" recalled one supervisor. "There were not reflections there. . . . He was not in this high, talk-to-Swiss-bankers kind of role. He was in the back rooms checking things on the phone." 

The full WSJ book review can be found here.

Maraniss appeared on the June 18 Today and discussed how the President didn't dispute the debunking of certain claims:

MARANISS: Well, he's a writer himself. When I first interviewed him, he said, "David, your introduction," I let him read, "is interesting, but you called my book fiction." And I said, "No, Mr. President, I complimented it, I called it literature." There's a big difference between memoir and biography. And it wasn't that I was trying to fact check everything that he wrote in his biography, but I just wanted to get the story right. So he didn't – he didn't really fight with me about it, but it was an interesting conversation. 

If ABC's own reporters are doing book reviews, shouldn't the network be covering the story?

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2012 Presidential Campaigns & Elections ABC Jonathan Karl David Maraniss Barack Obama
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