Note to aspiring authors: Dystel & Goderich Literary Management may be Barack Obama’s literary agency, but they’re really bad at editing and fact-checking. At least Miriam Goderich is.
Breitbart posted photos yesterday of a promotional booklet published in 1991 by Barack Obama’s then-literary agency, Acton & Dystel. The booklet includes a short biographical sketch of Obama, which says that he was “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”
You’re undoubtedly aware of the brouhaha stirred up by Breitbart about the erroneous statement in a client list Acton & Dystel published in 1991 (for circulation within the publishing industry only) that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. This was nothing more than a fact checking error by me — an agency assistant at the time. There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii. I hope you can communicate to your readers that this was a simple mistake and nothing more.
Problem is, nobody–not Obama, not Goderich, not anyone–fixed the mistake . . . for 16 years! According to Breitbart, that was through at least three different versions of Dystel’s website, and four editions of Obama’s autobiography. This means dozens of people would have reviewed the copy over the years.
In addition to photos of the original 1991 booklet, Breitbart also has screen shots, here, of the bio clip on the Dystel website in 1998 (the text has been revised but the birthplace remains the same), and on the Dystel & Goderich website in 2005 (text updated to show that Obama is a U.S. senator, birthplace the same), and again in 2007 (text revised yet again, birthplace remains the same).
The White House didn’t respond to media requests for a comment, and most of the mainstream media ignored the story. The rest reported Breitbart’s post, accepted Goderich’s explanation and moved on. ABC’s article is typical.
If that’s the best you can do, you need to stop patting yourselves on the back for being the Guardians of our Liberty.
Here’s the deal: Either Obama was born in Kenya or he wasn’t. If he were, of course, he couldn’t be president. But let’s assume he wasn’t. There are a couple of problems with that.
For one thing, the President is a liar.
It defies belief to think that in sixteen years, Obama never once read the bio blurb his literary agent was circulating. In fact, Edward J. Acton, the other half of Acton & Dystel, told Breitbart that Obama was “probably” asked to approve the text. But apparently Obama-the-aspiring-author was trying to fashion a more exotic literary persona than just Barry from Chicago.
Another indication that Obama knew what the blurb said is that it changed when he launched his presidential bid in 2007. Remember, in ’91, ’98, ’05 and again on April 3, 2007, it said Obama was born in Kenya. But by April 21st, 2007, the bio had been changed to say he was born in Hawaii.
For another thing, the Guardians of our Liberty can’t investigate their way out of a wet paper bag.
It was a simple mistake, says Goderich. Maybe so. But so far nobody in the mainstream media has asked Goderich the obvious question: Where did she get the idea that a writer the blurb describes as an “African-American” was born in, of all places, Kenya? The vast majority of African Americans are born, of course, in America. Who told Goderich that this young Harvard grad had been born in Kenya?
It’s the obvious question to ask. But the media seems entirely uninterested in asking it.
And then there’s the media four years ago: You know, the ones who put presidential candidates under a microscope, who go through their pasts with a fine-tooth comb. Why did nobody run across this back in 2008, when Obama was running for president? It would have been easy enough to find. The bio was still being used in 2007, and would have been available online to anyone doing a quick check of the candidate’s current literary agent. As the U.K. Telegraph’s Tim Stanley says:
Whatever you think of Breitbart.com’s punishing vetting process, it has exposed just how little work the mainstream media did in investigating candidate Obama back in 2008. Not all of Team Breitbart’s revelations have been election-deciders, but they have often been stuff that a simple Google would have uncovered. If they revealed tomorrow that he’d had his own cross-dressing-themed sitcom on primetime TV in the 1980s, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Neither would I, Professor Stanley. Neither would I.