09/15/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Needs to Be Asked If He'll "Repudiate and Denounce" Jerome Corsi

The media made a major issue out of insisting that Barack Obama reject Louis Farrakhan's endorsement - an endorsement he never sought from a person he had consistently criticized. When moderators brought the topic up yet again during a debate, Hillary Clinton pointedly demanded that Obama formally "repudiate and denounce" Farrakhan. (He did.)

Enter Jerome Corsi. He, not unlike Farrakhan, exists on the political fringe. Corsi has a history of making highly bigoted and offensive comments. He's the professional liar who co-wrote the "Swift Boat Veterans" book Unfit For Command (although he's not a veteran himself). He has spread 9/11 conspiracy theories, and he believes that George W. Bush has a "secret plan" to "erase the USA." Exactly how will Mr. Bush dismantle our nation? According to Corsi, he plans to lure us into a "North American Union" which will "erase our borders with Mexico and Canada." (Blame Canada!)

Corsi's inflammatory hatchet job on Obama has just been being published by Mary Matalin - who, in an ongoing arc of moral decline, has now apparently added "smear merchant" to her resumé. But, despite the fact that he says he's retracted his most inflammatory statements, Corsi's scheduled to appear on an avowedly "pro-White" radio show whose host has stated that "interracial sex is white genocide."

What was McCain's reaction when a journalist asked him today about Corsi's book? As CNN reports:

"Gotta keep your sense of humor," McCain responded, before his aides shuttled reporters away.

That's not good enough. This is a candidate whose family was smeared by these tactics in 2000, and who had the decency to condemn the "Swift Boat Veterans" in 2004. (Was that just because his own self-interest wasn't involved? Let's hope not.)

Journalists need to understand that it's more reasonable to press McCain about Corsi than it was to ask Obama about Farrakhan. Corsi and the GOP are closely linked. Corsi worked with the Swiftboaters, a group funded by GOP contributors who were part of Bush's Texas inner circle (1). And his new book is being published by a longtime Republican political operative - one who had no previous publishing experience before launching Simon & Schuster's conservative "Threshold" subsidiary in 2005.

(In fact, Corsi's book is the imprint's first real best seller - although it's been helped in that effort by the Right's longtime practice of bulk-buying certain books to spike ratings. Without this practice - which is yet another example of "affirmative action for conservatives" - the book would have gone the way of Threshold's other efforts, like "The Christmas Sweater" by Glenn Beck.)

Question for the press: Since you hounded Obama over Farrakhan, will you continue to press McCain to disavow Jerome Corsi? Since Corsi's book has been extensively refuted (most recently by the Obama team itself), McCain should be asked to specifically state whether he believes the book to be true or false. No equivocation, evasion, or cute quips: Does he think the book is true or false?

The keeps telling us of Senator McCain's core decency and "maverick" personality. I hope they're right, and this is a good way to find out. Given their treatment of Barack Obama, they have the obligation to keep putting the question to him until he answers: Will he "repudiate and denounce" Jerome Corsi and disavow his book?

If they don't, some prominent Democratic leader should insist that they ask it. That Democrat should be somebody with a high profile who can give this issue visibility - someone with the determination and grit to follow through forcefully and make sure the question gets asked. I know just the right person for the job:

Hillary Clinton.

UPDATE: This piece was revised to incorporate today's "sense of humor" quote from McCain.

UPDATE 2: McCain's campaign now says he didn't hear the question. Maybe the publicity for being flippant about a smear job got a reaction. It's either that or they're telling the truth, in which case he answers questions without knowing what they are. Not a good habit for a President ...

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it's the latter. OK - Now all we need regarding that question is ... an answer.

(1) From this well-documented Wikipedia entry:

"According to information released by the IRS on February 22, 2005, more than half of the group's reported contributions came from just three sources, all prominent Texas Republican donors: Houston builder Bob J. Perry, a longtime supporter of George W. Bush, donated $4.45 million, Harold Simmons' Contrans donated $3 million, and T. Boone Pickens, Jr. donated $2 million. Other major contributors included Bush fundraiser Carl Lindner ($300,000), Robert Lindner ($260,000), GOP contributor Aubrey McClendon ($250,000), George Matthews Jr. ($250,000), and Crow Holdings ($100,000)."

RJ Eskow blogs at:

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