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A book with “Obama” in the title that prompted outrage when its author was chosen to moderate last fall’s vice-presidential debate was launched with a Washington party the same day Barack Obama was inaugurated.
As WND reported, Gwen Ifill of the PBS program “Washington Week” moderated the Oct. 2 debate amid concerns her book, “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” gave her a financial stake in the election’s outcome.
“If Barack Obama is not elected, by Jan. 20, 2009, the ‘Age of Obama’ will be over,” former U.S.
Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., said at the time. “She definitely has a vested interest in Obama being elected.
“There’s not a lot of demand out there for books about the ‘Age of Mondale’ or the ‘Age of Kerry,'” he quipped.
Ifill didn’t respond to WND’s requests for comment. But she admitted to the Associated Press that she
did not tell the organizer of the debate between Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joseph Biden, the Commission on Presidential Debates, about the book.
Ifill disregarded any concerns.
“I’ve got a pretty long track record covering politics and news, so I’m not particularly worried that one-day
blog chatter is going to destroy my reputation,” she told AP.
Participants in a forum on the Washington Post’s website clearly believed there was a conflict that should be
“Ifill has a personal financial interest in seeing Obama win the election,” said one contributor. “She sells
more books if he wins. It is absolutely crazy that she is the moderator. This is a blatant conflict of interest.
This is unethical journalism at its finest.”
Said another, “Simple and unbiased. Ifill writes a book. The title has the word ‘Obama’ on the book. It will
be for sale soon. She profits if Obama wins the presidency on the sale of her new book. … She can
influence the debate … and she should bow [out].”
Mediabistro.com’s fishbowl DC reported yesterday: “Washington’s journo set head to the home of David Bradley for the event honoring Ifill and her book, ‘The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.'”
The report quoted Ifill boasting, “People don’t believe that timing is everything, but timing is everything.”
Ifill dismissed critics who “thought they knew what was in the book before it was even out.”
“I knew that the truth will out. I knew I would survive it and I did,” she said, according to the report.
On the website’s forum page, one participate said, “So, she lied to American (sic) when she told so (sic) the book was not a book about Obama.”
Another responded, “Thank goodness she is an unbiased member of the media.”
Yet another added, “That is why the PBS is such a wonderful organization – completely unbiased. I saw the interview with Ifill when she said there was no bias in her reporting. And I believed her because people like Ifill … always tell the truth…..”
Ifill previously had faced criticism for not treating candidates of both major parties the same.
During a vice-presidential candidate debate she moderated in 2004 – when Democrat John Edwards attacked Republican Dick Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton – the vice president said, “I can respond, Gwen, but it’s going to take more than 30 seconds.”
“Well, that’s all you’ve got,” she told Cheney.
Ifill told the Associated Press Democrats were delighted with her answer, because they “thought I was being snippy to Cheney.” She explained that wasn’t her intent.
But she also was cited in complaints PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler said he received after Palin delivered her nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in August.
Some viewers complained of a “dismissive” look by Ifill during her report on Palin’s speech. According to Getler, some also said she wore a look of “disgust” while reporting on the Republican candidate.
At that time she said, “I assume there will always be critics and just shut out the noise. It is surprisingly easy.”
A clip of Ifill’s coverage of Palin can be seen here:
PBS viewer Brian Meyers of Granby, Conn., said he was “appalled” by Ifill’s commentary directly following Palin’s convention speech.
“Her attitude was dismissive and the look on her face was one of disgust,” Meyers said. “Clearly, she was agitated by what most critics view as a well-delivered speech. It is quite obvious that Ms. Ifill supports Obama as she struggled to say anything redemptive about Gov. Palin’s performance.”
Juan Williams, a senior correspondent with National Public Radio, came to Ifill’s defense, calling her a “terrific journalist.” But he said appearances can cause difficulties.
“She spent a lot of time with Obama. She praises him in the book,” he said. “The book’s success [is] invested in Obama. … Suddenly everyone’s going to be saying Gwen Ifill is somewhat biased against Gov. Palin.”
In the Amazon.com promotion for her book, Ifill is described as “drawing on interviews with power brokers,” such as Obama and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
In an online video promoting her book, she is enthusiastic about “taking the story of Barack Obama and extending it.”
It focuses on four people, “one of them Barack Obama of course,” she said.