Like professional wrestlers, politics is in part about posturing and creating drama. Every political campaign has its share of mudslinging and colourful insults. Yet still, there is something out of the ordinary about the virulence of the attacks on Barack Obama. It’s one thing to accuse a man of being corrupt or dishonest, but rhetorical violence moves to another level of intensity if you say he’s a secret Muslim terrorist or a camouflaged radical bent on destroying America.
Where do the slimy rumours about Obama come from?
Over at the New York Times, Jim Rutenberg does an excellent job unraveling at least one strand of the smear campaign. Rutenberg focuses on the role played by Andy Martin, a man who was given an hour on Fox news to spread some unchallenged lies. As it turns out Martin has quite a remarkable past:
But an appearance in a documentary-style program on the Fox News Channel watched by three million people last week thrust the man, Andy Martin, and his past into the foreground. The Fox program allowed Mr. Martin to assert falsely and without challenge that Mr. Obama had once trained to overthrow the government.
An examination of legal documents and election filings, and interviews with those from Mr. Martin’s past, revealed a man with a history of scintillating if not always factual claims, who has left a trail of animosity – including anti-Jewish comments — among political leaders, lawyers and judges in three states over the course of more than 30 years.
In his original press release Mr. Martin wrote that he was personally “a strong supporter of the Muslim community.” But, he wrote of Mr. Obama, “It may well be that his concealment is meant to endanger Israel,” and, “His Muslim religion would obviously raise serious questions in many Jewish circles.”
Yet in various court cases, Mr. Martin had impugned Jews.
A motion he filed in a 1983 bankruptcy case called the overseeing judge “a crooked, slimy Jew who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race.”
In another motion, filed in 1983, Mr. Martin wrote, “I am able to understand how the Holocaust took place, and with every passing day feel less and less sorry that it did.”
There is not much more to add to Rutenberg’s report except maybe this: even by the low standards of Fox News, giving Martin a forum to air his ideas was an amazing dereliction of journalistic duty. I would ask my conservative friends, some of who are fans of Fox, to ponder the news channel’s relationship with Martin and consider if there is a more disreputable media outlet in North America.