On Wednesday night’s "Larry King Live," CNN interviewed conservative author Jerome Corsi on his new book "The Obama Nation," but Larry King made him sit next to Paul Waldman of the left-wing group Media Matters, who questioned Corsi like he was co-host and continuously badgered him as a liar. King asked Waldman softballs: "Paul, you denounced the book as unfit for publication. Meaning?" King set the tone at the top of the show: "Tonight, is Barack Obama being swiftboated? The man who wrote that book on John Kerry now makes some incredible and even false claims about the current Democratic candidate."
This could be seen as progress, since neither Corsi nor his co-author John O’Neill appeared on "Larry King Live" in 2004. But what does it say about CNN’s confidence in King as an interviewer or CNN’s sensitivity to liberal partisans that Media Matters has to be brought on to badger the interviewee?
King began by drawing out Corsi’s admission that he wants Barack Obama to lose: "Mr. Corsi, did you say -- did you tell The New York Times the purpose of the book is to defeat Obama? Corsi said yes. King underlined it, again: "Did you -- as a good investigative reporter, did you approach this objectively or not?"
King then brought on Media Matters, and even announced their own glowing description of themselves: "In Washington is Paul Waldman, senior fellow at Media Matters for America. Media Matters describes itself as ‘A progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation in the United States media.’"
You might think that in the context he had just questioned Obama, King could have noted that Waldman was the co-author of a new book called "Free Ride: John McCain and the Media." He might have asked if that book was written with the intention of defeating McCain. But King just tossed a softball question: "Paul, you denounced the book as unfit for publication. Meaning?"
Waldman denounced Corsi (and John O’Neill) as the most flagrant of liars: "Four years ago, Mr. Corsi wrote -- co-wrote a book called Unfit For Command that was part of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against John Kerry. Every single objective observer that looked at that came to the conclusion that it was just riddled with falsehoods and distortions and unbelievable claims. Now, four years later, he has come out with another book that is also riddled with distortions and falsehoods. So the question is, why on earth would anyone listen to what he has to say about Barack Obama?"
King didn’t ask Waldman to define "every single objective obsever," and most people wouldn’t suggest that being attacked by Keith Olbermann or Dan Rather is proof of dispproval from "objective" observers. Liberal newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post certainly leaped into questioning the book’s claims, but what often happened was they would suggest that no one could definitely prove what really happened with John Kerry and Vietnam: that no one could prove he wrote his own medal reports, or no one could prove there was a firefight or not on a particular date. If that was the case, it wasn’t a victory for Kerry, who had been touting his combat heroism – with lots of liberal-media enthusiasm -- throughout the election cycle.
Waldman, devoted to fighting "conservative misinformation," quickly betrayed the attitude that if information comes from a conservative source, it’s inherently false. "He talks about how many footnotes he has and how many sources he has. Well, if you actually look at them, there are dozens and dozens of citations to right-wing Web sites and blogs. One of the people that he cites as a quote-unquote source is a man named Andy Martin, who is an anti- Semitic right-wing blogger who once called a judge a dirty Jew and filed so many frivolous lawsuits that he's now no longer allowed to file lawsuits. So my question to Mr. Corsi is, since you cite Andy Martin multiple times as a source, are there any other anti-Semitic right-wing bloggers that you also use as sources or is he the only one?"
The far-left Nation magazine identified Martin as the original source of Obama-is-a-Muslim rumors. Alan Colmes also quickly picked up the Martin question on FNC’s Hannity & Colmes.
Corsi protested the question, that he had many sources, but King insisted, "Well, respond to the question about Mr. Martin." Corsi replied: "Well, I quote -- I can remember one quip I quote from him -- and it's just a quip, which is -- where he basically is saying if Obama will lie about his background and his family, he'll lie about anything. And this was in reference to the way Obama presents his father in the autobiography, which I write about extension extensively."
What followed was a lot of badgering crosstalk where Corsi couldn't get his thoughts out, and where Waldman was so persistent in trying to talk over Corsi that King would feel pressed to say "let him answer."
Throughout the Corsi vs. Waldman interview, King routinely ran clips of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama defending themselves, and also ran official Obama campaign statements: "I have a comment from the Obama campaign. The Obama campaign has not made public comment on "The Obama Nation" book. A spokesman, Tommy Vietor, did have this to say to "The New York Times": "This book is nothing but a series of lies that were long ago discredited, written by an individual who was discredited after he wrote a similar book to help George Bush and Dick Cheney get reelected four years ago."
King came back from a commercial break and really lowered the boom on Corsi about controversial religious statements he made in 2003 and 2004 (these are also being highlighted in a Democratic Party "Get Out the Truth About Jerome Corsi" campaign):
KING: By the way, point of information. John Kerry, whom Corsi attacked in 2004, has launched a Web site, Truth Fights Back, to counter charges against Obama. Kerry says: "You have to fight back against those who try to smear you." Now, Jerome, in your books, you frequently make points about people using their own words. You, in the past -- in 2003, you blogged that "boy-buggering in both Islam and Catholicism is OK with the pope as long as it isn't reported by the liberal press." In 2004, you described Muslim...
CORSI: And, Larry, these are all...
KING: ...as "worthless, dangerous, satanic." You called Pope John Paul II senile. Now you can say you're OK, now, but if you meant that then, we have a right to question you then, as you question Mrs. Obama at Princeton.
CORSI: Well, Larry, you should also report all the apologies for those comments. And I've clearly stated...
KING: Yes, but you still -- I mean...
CORSI: I stated they were not written to express my true views. They were intentionally written to be antagonistic or aggressive or provocative. The Catholic Church, I'm a good member. I was born and raised in the Catholic Church. I'm a member in good standing of the Catholic Church. I have supported Islam. After I wrote "Atomic Iran," I walked 200 miles with the Islamic Iranian expatriates for freedom in their country, created two mutual funds for the state of Israel, went -- with the blessing of B'Nai Brith and my 25 years in financial services. You can't take a few quips that I've wrote that I've apologized for -- that should not have been written -- and I have not done again -- to be representative of my beliefs and writing.
King then turned to Waldman and tossed a real hardball: "Paul, are you disappointed, the fact that Simon and Schuster, a division of Simon and Schuster publishes this book, and that Mary Matalin, the former chief aide to Dick Cheney, is the -- it's her imprint?" Waldman replied: "Right. Well, that's how we have to understand this. That imprint is run by Mary Matalin, who was Dick Cheney's aide, a longtime GOP operative. And once Mr. Corsi's book came out, of course, it fit right into the conservative promotion machine."
When Simon & Schuster publishes left-wing hatchet jobs (or Hillary Clinton's implausible "gulping for air" memoirs) on its regular imprint, no one in the liberal media wonders about the publisher’s political motives or biases.
Despite the fact that Corsi told King he would be supporting Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin for president and not John McCain, King mysteriously tried to put Corsi on the McCain campaign staff: "All right. Jerome, Senator McCain -- he did it on this program -- promised that he -- this would be an issue-oriented campaign, no personalities driven, there will be open discussions among both. Are you going against that concept?" King then followed up by again asking Corsi to repeat himself that he’ll be supporting the Constitution Party.
After the Corsi vs. Waldman interview, King turned to liberal talk-show host Ed Schultz and Republican consultant Andrea Tantaros. Schultz said the Corsi book wouldn’t "touch Obama’s camp at all." Tantaros unloaded on Media Matters:
"You know, I would strongly encourage Republicans not to use it. I think going after someone's religion is the lowest form of politics. I really do. I don't think you're going to see the McCain campaign use it at all. But I do have to say something. It was interesting to have a representative from Media Matters. Just because you have a website called Media Matters doesn't mean there's slime up on your site. Media Matters is a left wing smear machine. They are notorious for taking things out of context. And I'll point out the last 30 minutes, he wasn't even able to refute anything that Jerome said. I really wish they would have gotten to the meat of the points that Jerome was making."