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How the Media Spiked Suttongate
© Jack Cashill
This past Saturday witnessed the passing of 89 year-old Percy Sutton, a former Manhattan Borough President and, in his day, the most powerful black politician in New York.
Although all the major media have reported his death, usually in some detail, none have made any mention of Sutton’s most recent and inconvenient brush with the news, what might profitably be called “Suttongate.”
How Suttongate came to be spiked, when it had the potential to undo the Obama candidacy in September 2008, is a story worth relating.
The story begins on March 25, 2008 when Sutton was interviewed by Dominic Carter on his local NY1 TV show.
When asked about Obama, Sutton answered, "I was introduced to him by a friend.” Sutton named the friend as “Dr. Khalid al-Mansour,” whom he described as "the principal adviser to one of the world's richest men."
The rich man in question was Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal. More on him shortly.
As Sutton related, al-Mansour asked him in 1988 to "please write a letter in support of [Obama] ... a young man that has applied to Harvard."
Mansour reportedly knew that Sutton had friends at Harvard, and Sutton claims to have gladly written a letter in Obama’s support.
There would be nothing terribly controversial about any of this were Mansour the kind of person a presidential candidate ought to pal around with.
Al-Mansour is no such person. Born “Donald Warden,” al-Mansour is an anti-Semitic, anti-white whack job attorney who has claimed, among other things, that America is plotting a “second genocide” in order to “remove 15 million Black people, considered disposable, of no relevance, value or benefit to the American society.”
That much said, al-Mansour is influential beyond all good sense. He has sat on any number of corporate boards, including the Saudi African Bank and Chicago-based LaGray Chemical Co., and in 1995 he organized a Clinton White House tribute to the President of Ghana along with the late Michael Jackson.
Although 88 years of age at the time of his NY1 interview, Sutton spoke clearly and lucidly about al-Mansour, and what he said made perfect sense.
When the interview surfaced on YouTube in late August 2008, the major media did their level best to ignore it. The conservative blogosphere, however, pursued the story aggressively.
Already burdened by his relationships with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, Obama could ill afford to be associated with still another crackpot radical, especially one whose early influence made Obama seem to be the perfect “Mansourian Candidate.”
With the major media remaining discreetly above the fray, the left’s political “watchdogs” went to work. On September 4, 2008—a week after I reported this story in WND—Politico’s Ben Smith fired back.
Sutton’s story, Smith reported, “seems off in at least one key detail.” The “detail” was that Obama, through spokesman Ben LaBolt, claimed not to know al-Mansour.
What Smith failed to report is that, unless forced to, no presidential candidate in his right mind would acknowledge the sponsorship of a man Smith described as a “Black Panther turned Muslim businessman.”
As to the incriminating letter, LaBolt told Smith no such letter was ever written, but then added the loaded qualifier, “to our knowledge.” This meant, of course, that if the letter did show up, Obama could act surprised.
Smith then contacted al-Mansour, who had to this point “avoided directly contradicting the story out of respect for Sutton.” When pressed by Smith, however, he too reportedly denied knowing Obama or requesting a letter from Sutton.
If that were not enough, two days later Smith cited a “spokesman for Sutton's family,” named Kevin Wardally, who had sent an email to Smith claiming that Sutton “misspoke in describing certain details and events.”
This email was enough for Smith “to put the story to rest for good.” As Smith explained, “there's absolutely no other evidence for the story, and much that contradicts it.”
The evidence in the story’s favor was a videotaped interview with the well-spoken patriarch of black New York politics. The evidence against it was the denial of the man’s credibility by two self-interested spokesmen that no one had ever heard of.
Still. Smith’s cursory investigation was cover enough for the major media to snooze and for the progressive blogs to attack.
By September 8. Media Matters--David Brock’s alleged watchdog site--was ripping anyone who was giving any credence to what Sutton had said.
Media Matters , whose primary function seems to be Democratic damage control, set its sights most keenly on Investors Business Daily. Its revealing headline screamed, “IBD editorial advanced disputed claim that ‘radical extremist’ assisted Obama's law-school application.”
Other left wing blogs picked up on Smith’s story and amplified its message. DemocraticUnderground.com, for instance, headlined its article, “Conservatives Attempt to Tie Obama to Black Panther Leader Fizzles.”
That the major media avoided the story altogether doomed it to irrelevance. That was a shame. Two weeks later, respected investigative reporter Ken Timmerman showed just how shaky was Smith’s reporting.
When Timmerman contacted the Sutton family and Sutton’s personal assistant, they would refute nothing Percy Sutton had said. In fact, they did not even know who “spokesman” Wardally was.
Wardally would claim that he was retained by one of Sutton’s nephews, but that nephew had apparently fallen out of favor with the elder Sutton.
Moreover, al-Mansour would tell Timmerman that he did, in fact, know Obama but that he “was never going to be in that situation,” referring to the embarrassing position in which the Reverend Wright had put Obama.
The major media’s avoidance was understandable for ideological reasons. Harder to explain was the timidity and/or sloth of the respectable New York/ Washington conservative media, which also avoided the story.
FOX News, at least, had an excuse for steering clear. Three years earlier, al-Waleed bin Talal, the Saudi billionaire al-Mansour advises, had bought 5.46 percent of voting shares in News Corp., its parent company.
At News Corp., I suspect, one does not need two-thirds of the votes to sustain a veto.
Editor's note: For a more complete account of this phenomenon, read Jack Cashill's amazing book, "Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture.
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