The Breitbart.com/BuzzFeed Scoop Wasn't Actually a Scoop

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 8 2012 4:26 PM

The Breitbart.com/BuzzFeed Scoop Wasn't Actually a Scoop

A reader reminds me that Derrick Bell was a source for David Remnick's 2010 biography of Barack Obama, The Bridge, researched and reported long before Breitbart.com got onto the Bell beat. Google Books allows us to read -- again, from two years ago -- an account of the speech Obama gave, full of praise for Bell.

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Remnick's book was somewhat ironically-received by conservatives. I think it was Steve Sailer, the author of the evocatively titled Barack Obama: America's Half-Blood Prince, who noted that Remnick's sources were full of praise for Obama's promise, less able to praise the things he achieved. But we're evading the point. The point of #VetThePrez is about the rest of the media: They didn't "vet" Barack Obama as closely as they should have. They didn't comb his record for radical ties. They didn't recognize radical ties when they saw them. The undertone of all this: It's not fair that conservatives lost to this guy. The media put points on the board.

There's an offshoot of this argument that might be harmed by a new, competing biography of Obama. David Maraniss has finished his book on Obama's life before Harvard, titled Barack Obama: The Story. Maraniss tracked down sources who knew (and at least one case, dated) the young future president. This cuts against a popular meme, which I've heard on talk radio like this: We don't know anything about Obama's life. No one who went to college remembers seeing him there.

That's a fruitless quasi-conspiracy theory. The other, BreitBartian point about the media is partly true. But it's not that the "MSM" ignored Obama's ties. It's that it didn't treat them as scandalous, or understand how they could be.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.