Fox vs. Fox (and McCain)

For the past day or so, Fox News and the McCain campaign have been pushing the whole LA Times-Rashid Khalidi videotape story. In case you've missed it, the Times apparently has a videotape of Obama saying nice things about Khalidi, a former U. of Chicago professor who now teaches at Columbia, at a 2003 shindig. The Times has already written about Obama's relationship to Khalidi, a Palestinian-American who's been harshly critical of Israel. But according to the McCain camp, the Times's refusal to make the tape public A) suggests still more liberal media bias and B) calls Obama's support of Israel into question.

Somewhat surprisingly, however, Fox News deputy managing editor Bill Sammon has come to the LA Times's defense. Writes Sammon:

I’m no cheerleader for The Los Angeles Times and I’d like to see their videotape of Barack Obama praising a PLO activist as much as the next guy, but as far as I can tell, the newspaper is on firm journalistic ground in refusing to make the tape public.

To me, it’s pretty simple. Reporter Peter Wallsten made an agreement with a source to refrain from publicly disclosing the tape. Unless that source lets Wallsten off the hook, the reporter is journalistically bound to abide by the agreement, regardless of how much heat his newspaper takes from pundits on TV.

Indeed, Wallsten has little choice in the matter. If he were to cave in to mounting public demands for the tape, no self-respecting source would ever give him another shred of information. Nor should they.

Sammon's post was prominently displayed on the front of last night, and was there when I started writing this post a few minutes ago. Now it's gone, however. Maybe someone at Fox decided they didn't want Sammon undercutting one of McCain's (and Fox's) closing arguments; maybe it disappeared for other reasons. Either way, Sammon deserves credit for weighing in as he did.

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