In late March 2008, on a local New York City show called “Inside City Hall,” the venerable African-American entrepreneur and politico, Percy Sutton, told host Dominic Carter how he was asked to help smooth Barack Obama’s admission into Harvard Law School 20 years earlier.
The octogenarian Sutton calmly and lucidly explained that he had been “introduced to [Obama] by a friend.” The friend’s name was Dr. Khalid al-Mansour, and the introduction had taken place about 20 years prior.
Sutton described al-Mansour as “the principal adviser to one of the world’s richest men.” The billionaire in question was Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.
Given the game-changing nature of this revelation when it surfaced in late August 2008, the Obama camp and its allies in the media, particularly Politico and Media Matters, shifted into overdrive to kill the story. Through a series of denials, lies and slanders about Sutton’s mental health, they succeeded.
The story, however, has come back to life. The elusive al-Mansour was a guest Sept. 19 on the BlogTalkRadio show “The National and International Roundtable.”
In his introduction, the host openly acknowledged that al-Mansour “made news in 2008 when it was revealed that he had been a patron of President Barack Obama and had recommended him for admission to Harvard Law School.”
The host went on to describe al-Mansour as “co-founder of the International law firm of al-Waleed, al-Talal and al-Mansour and special adviser to Saudi Arabian prince, his royal highness Prince Al Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulazziz.”
This meshed completely with what Sutton had said in 2008. According to Sutton, al-Mansour had asked him to “please write a letter in support of [Obama] … a young man that has applied to Harvard.” Sutton had friends at Harvard and gladly did so.
Although Sutton did not specify a date, this would likely have been in 1988 when the 26-year-old Obama was applying to Harvard Law School.
Khalid al-Mansour was a piece of work. Although impressively well connected, the Texan-born attorney and black separatist had not met the paranoid racial fantasy unworthy of his energy.
Several of his speeches can still be seen on YouTube. In one, “A Little on the History of Jews,” he lectures the world’s Jews: “God gave you nothing. The children from Poland and Russia were promised nothing. But they are stealing the land the same as the Christians stole the lands from the Indians in America.”
For the record, bin Talal was the very same Saudi who had offered New York $10 million to help the city rebuild after 9/11, but who had his gift refused by Mayor Rudy Guiliani. In September 2001, Giuliani was in no mood to hear even a billionaire blame America for inciting the attacks with its pro-Israel stance, no matter how deep his pockets.
For deeper background into why bin Talal might have been helping Obama, read Frank Miele’s excellent piece in the unlikely Daily Interlake of Kalispell, Mont.
Ben Smith, then of Politico, took the lead in killing the story. Shortly after the story broke, Smith ran the disclaimer that “Barack Obama’s campaign is flatly denying a story told by former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton.”
The Obama camp, in fact, denied that Obama even knew al-Mansour. Smith then talked to al-Mansour. At first, al-Mansour avoided contradicting Sutton’s story out of respect for Sutton, “a dear friend.” When pressed, however, al-Mansour disowned Sutton’s story.
“The scenario as it related to me did not happen,” he reportedly told Smith.
A self-appointed “spokesman for Sutton’s family” by the name of Kevin Wardally put the penultimate nails in this story’s coffin with an email to Smith that read in part: “As best as our family and the Chairman’s closest friends can tell, Mr. Sutton, now 86 years of age, misspoke in describing certain details and events in that television interview.”
For Smith, even though Wardally had gotten Sutton’s age wrong by two years, this emailed slander was proof enough that Sutton’s highly specific claim was manufactured. Media Matters, meanwhile, scolded those conservative bloggers that did not accept the various denials at face value.
Independent journalist Ken Timmerman, now running for Congress in Maryland, followed up with Wardally. Unconvincingly, Wardally claimed that a nephew of the elder Sutton had retained his services.
Sutton’s son and daughter, however, told Timmerman that no one in their family even knew who Kevin Wardally was, let alone authorized him to speak on behalf of the family.
When Timmerman contacted al-Mansour, he repeatedly declined to comment on what Sutton had said and, contrary to the line from the Obama camp, claimed to know Obama personally.
With Hillary out of the race, no newsroom in America felt compelled to follow up on Timmerman’s research. At the time this story was gelling, in early September 2008, the media were doing all their digging in Alaskan dumpsters. The 89-year-old Sutton died in December 2009.
The Obama media will try to ignore this new revelation or, if not, kill it. Their best argument now is that al-Mansour was not on the air when his introduction was read. That is true enough.
Yet from the casual tone of the introduction, the listener senses that within black nationalist circles, the story Sutton told is believed to be true. If so, it should absolutely matter that a Saudi billionaire and his black nationalist cohorts have been promoting Obama from the beginning.
Ben Smith is now editor of Buzzfeed. If he ever wants to be taken seriously as a journalist, the onus is on him to follow up. If he wants to throw his peers a bone, he can report that bin Talal owns 7 percent of News Corp., the parent company of Fox News.