In the annals of literary atrocity, few political biographies in recent years have ranked as low as Edward Klein’s The Truth About Hillary, a thinly sourced, seemingly fabricated book-length screed that inspired revulsion even among people who dislike the Clintons. The most memorable review of that book appeared in the New York Post, where John Podhoretz described it as “one of the most sordid volumes I’ve ever waded through.” (Sadly, the Post appears to have taken down Podhoretz’s column, possibly the best essay he ever wrote.)
Like many other conservatives, Podhoretz was particularly revolted by Klein’s invention of a “rape” perpetrated by Bill Clinton on his “lesbian” wife to impregnate her, which he attributed to a pair of anonymous sources.
Now this same author has resurfaced with a similarly dubious biography of Barack and Michelle Obama, titled The Amateur and replete with sensational charges designed to entice the dimmest Obama-hating boobs into bookstores. Klein’s most recent book was a “novel,” promoted as veiled fact, that regurgitated favorite far-right myths about the president in the “birther” vein.
That Klein would disgrace himself yet again is hardly shocking, given the long bibliography of junk journalism under his byline. What is more troubling is to see new organs that have expressed deep skepticism about Klein– notably including the New York Post – are nevertheless promoting his Obama book, along with the usual suspects at the Drudge Report, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, and Fox News. It is possible that the 2012 campaign is scraping bottom early, or it may be a sign of desperation that portends even worse.
The distinguishing characteristic of Klein’s pseudo-journalism is the way his “explosive revelations” evaporate almost instantly upon examination – and how often he repeats false allegations copied from secondary sources without bothering to check them, even when a simple search would alert him that they have been disproved. Such was the pattern in his patchwork Hillary book, which reproduced misspelled names of key Clinton aides that had appeared in earlier books, and even faked quotes by lifting selected sections and omitting phrases that contradicted Klein’s theories.
When the Hillary book appeared, I challenged Klein to defend his tawdry work on the Al Franken Show on Air America Radio. As you can see here, as well as here and here, his responses were unimpressive.
In the Obama book, Klein interviews Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the controversial Chicago minister whose anti-American tirades and ethnic prejudices badly embarrassed the Obama campaign four years ago.He quotes the embittered Wright, who seems determined to damage the president for renouncing him in 2008, claiming that someone connected to the Obama campaign tried to buy his silence back then. Wright says he received an email forwarded from a person close to Obama with an offer of $150,000 under the table. But where is the email? Wright doesn’t produce it, and according to the excerpt published by the New York Post, Klein (typically) evidently didn’t demand any proof before echoing Wright’s accusation.
Another tale publicized by the Post, Fox, and Drudge recounts a supposed meeting at the Clintons’ home in suburban New York, where Bill is quoted sneering that Obama is an “amateur” and demanding that Hillary run against him in 2012. Actually, both Clintons have gone far out of their way to demonstrate loyalty to him, as an Obama spokesman noted in debunking Klein’s claims. Clinton press aide Matt McKenna succinctly stated the record, calling the author “a known liar” making allegations, again, that are “totally and completely false.” The swift boating of the President, 2012, is now officially launched.