Obama Girlfriend Trutherism

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 2 2012 1:13 PM

Obama Girlfriend Trutherism

Dylan Byers is a solid media reporter, but this is one of the most ill-informed pieces of Drudge bait to come down the transom in a while.

One of the more mysterious characters from President Obama's 1995 autobiography Dreams From My Father is the so-called 'New York girlfriend.' Obama never referred to her by name, or even by psuedonym, but he describes her appearance, her voice, and her mannerisms in specific detail. But Obama has now told biographer David Maraniss that the 'New York girlfriend' was actually a composite character, based off of multiple girlfriends he had both in New York City and in Chicago.

It appears on Drudge in this low-key fashion:

Screen shot 2012-05-02 at 1.04.00 PM

Obama lied! Except -- wait, hang on, anyone who reads Dreams From My Father starts with this disclaimer.

For the sake of compression, some of the characters that appear are composites of people I’ve known, and some events appear out of precise chronology. With the exception of my family and a handful of public figures, the names of most characters have been changed for the sake of their privacy.

This has been known for years. Obama's memoir has stymied reporters because characters who might have some insights appear in composite form. The most famous of them, up to now, was a guy named "Ray," who gets all of Dreams's "angry black dude" lines. Is it kosher for a future president to write like this and then be cagey about who was who? Interesting discussion! But in 2012, you can't "admit" something you told book-buyers in 1995.

It's a typical, disappointing way for the Maraniss book (which is fantastic) to hit the MSM. The endlessly repeated conspiracist's criticism of Obama is that 1) nobody knows anything about his early life and 2) the media never tried to find out. The birther industry is full of half-reported anecdotes or "facts" like the old chestnut about Pakistan having a travel ban that would have prevented Obama from going there -- unless he wasn't American! (There was no travel ban.) Maraniss reports out an insane number of details from Dunham and Obama family history. The public reaction: A frantic search for something else to be conspiracy-minded about.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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