Bio, Degradable

Two different “wrong info in the bio” scandals have popped up in the past few weeks.

In one, Yahoo’s Chief Executive Officer Scott Thompson was revealed to something in his biography/CV that was not true. He claimed a qualification pertinent to his job (that he had a computer science degree) — and this was shown to be false.  After several days of silence, then an attempt to mollify critics by saying that he never personally wrote the bio, pundits continued to pile on: “How could he possibly have not read his own bio? He allowed it to stand for years; he’s responsible for it.”

This issue became so large in the media that it was features in radio news every hour. Ultimately, Scott Thompson was fired as Yahoo’s CEO. That was a week ago. More recently, another bio with apparently false information inserted to puff up a person’s background turned up. Wikipedia puts it this way:

The claims [that Barack Obama was born in Kenya] have been promoted by a number of fringe theorists and political opponents, often referred to as “birthers

Amusingly, this makes Barack Obama one of the “fringe theorists and political opponents” — since he either made this claim or allowed it to be made about him. Barack Obama’s bio, dated from 1991 and put out by the publicists who represented him in a book deal, states that he was “He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister.”

Interestingly, the fact of pointing this out (accompanied by statements that this does not mean that Obama was actually born in Kenya) was pounced upon by the far Left as a “mistake” — by birthers. Their coverage of this issue has been, according to MediaBistro, “hilarious.”

When confronted with this 1991 booklet, Obama’s defenders got a partner at the literary agency to say it was all a mistake:

“This was nothing more than a fact-checking error by me — an agency assistant at the time,” Miriam Goderich, who worked for the literary agency Acton & Dystel, told Yahoo News. “There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii.”

This is certainly an interesting claim. Let’s accept it as true, and see where it leads:

  • It would mean that Ms. Goderich heard this surprising information, committing it to print for their expensive agency brochure, and never once contacted Obama to see if it was true.
  • It would mean that she obtained this information from somewhere else, and had reason to believe that source.
  • It would mean that at least one other source out there had, in 1991 or before, information that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Who was that?
  • And those other source(s) of that data — what, exactly, caused them to believe that? Who exactly did they get it from?
  • It would also mean that no one else — no one from Harvard or anywhere else in his increasingly famous circle of friends ever contacted the agency to correct it, or at least get them to ask.
  • And Barack Obama, who literally dined out on his relationship with this publicist (getting a reported $100,000 advance for his book), never once looked at his biography, in sixteen-plus years.

Far more likely, it seems to me, is that Barack Obama decided to play up his Kenyan heritage for the purposes of self-promotion, but obviously had to play it down later as it interfered with his run for the Presidency.  The 1991 booklet’s statement of Obama’s Kenyan birth was corrected on the agency’s website in April 2007, several weeks after Obama launched his campaign. Mark Steyn comments amusingly on the doings.

President Obama shows a continuing propensity to say whatever he feels is useful at the moment, without much regard to its accuracy. Many examples have been pointed out, from his contradictory statements about raising taxes and raising debt ceilings to, well, a pretty impressive list on websites like this one. Two that I personally investigated years ago loom large in my mind. First, his claims of distance from terrorist and now anti-American professor William Ayers, describing him as “just some guy from the neighborhood” — and hiding the fact that Obama’s campaign headquarters during his run for Senator were in William Ayers’ personal office (Obama’s letterhead used Ayers’ address) and that Obama was responsible for funneling a great deal of money to Ayers’ radical school propaganda plans.

The second concerns his mother: His blatantly false claims about his mother’s illness were shown to be wrong, but now he’s making those claims again. This was the fellow who refused to help his mother (he was making $150k per year in Chicago at the time) and refused to visit her because she was white. Obama was spending time with his mentor Jeremiah Wright, and had (as he admits in his book) a fierce antipathy toward white people, which ultimately included his own family.

Presumably, Obama is past his resentment of white people. I’d hope so. But he is clearly not past his disdain for the truth, and that shows his character to be, well, degradable. And it shows that Barack Obama can lay claim to being the original birther conspiracist.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle