Written by Cliff Kincaid
August 4, 2008
By Cliff Kincaid
The influential Associated Press (AP) wire service has belatedly run a story about Barack Obama's Marxist mentor without mentioning the smoking-gun evidence that the mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, was a Communist Party member. The dishonest story, which represents damage control for the Obama campaign, was written by AP writer Sudhin Thanawala.
Under the innocuous headline, "Writer offered a young Barack Obama advice on life," the story calls Davis, a member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) when it faithfully echoed the Stalinist line, merely a "left-leaning black journalist and poet" known for "leftist politics" and someone who might be accused by some of having "allegedly anti-American views."
Davis was not a "journalist" in any real sense of the term. He was a propagandist and racial agitator for the CPUSA. He was also a recruiter for the communist cause.
The slanted AP story features quotes only from supporters or friends of Davis and Obama. But those picked to defend Davis are themselves interesting.
Ah Quon McElrath, identified as merely "a friend" of Davis's and quoted by AP, was actually an organizer for the communist-controlled International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The ILWU was led by Davis's friend and associate, secret CPUSA member Harry Bridges. Davis wrote for a newspaper, the Honolulu Record, which was controlled by the CPUSA and subsidized by the ILWU.
McElrath is quoted by AP as saying, "You could get a lot of strength from a person like Frank who had suffered all the discrimination...that a black man goes through in America."
Davis went to Hawaii in 1948 after consulting with Bridges and Paul Robeson, another secret CPUSA member. He was a mentor to Obama during the years 1975-1979 and died in 1987.
Obama supporter Dr. Kathryn Takara is quoted in the AP piece as saying that "Frank was part of a group of black vanguard intellectuals." Takara was the associate producer of a program about Davis that, like the AP story, ignored his CPUSA affiliation. So while she knows a lot about Davis, she seems blind to the evidence of Davis's service to the communist cause.
In fact, Davis was a hard-core but secret CPUSA member with a history of involvement in CPUSA fronts who was so much of a Stalinist that he opposed U.S. participation in World War II during the Hitler-Stalin Pact, but then supported U.S. involvement after Nazi Germany invaded Soviet Russia.
Strangely, the AP article quotes John Edgar Tidwell, a University of Kansas professor who edited Davis's books, as declining by e-mail an interview request because Davis has allegedly become the victim of a "McCarthy-era strategy of smear tactics and condemnation by association." Tidwell knows that Davis was a secret CPUSA member and cites evidence in one of his books, including from one of Davis's private letters, to prove it. Davis refused to deny his CPUSA membership as late as 1956, when a congressional inquiry had named him as a member of the communist underground.
So "McCarthyism" has become telling the truth about communists? Why has Tidwell taken such a low-profile during the presidential campaign when he should have so much to offer about Davis-and possibly Obama? Why the silent treatment?
The Big Question
Not surprisingly, AP leaves many major questions unanswered. The wire service notes that Frank Marshall Davis is referred to in Obama's book Dreams From My Father "only as Frank."
But why? What does Obama have to say about this curious omission? Could it have something to do with the fact that, by the time Obama wrote his book, he knew that Davis was a Communist? And that he deliberately covered this up? Or did he know it earlier?
This is the key question: What did Obama know and when did he know it?
Why didn't AP ask this question? Was it afraid of the answer? Or did the campaign not want to comment?
There are more questions: Other than what was reported in Obama's book, and by Davis's friends and associates, what was the nature of the relationship between the two of them? Did Davis ever try to recruit Obama into the communist cause? Did Obama leave this out of his book, too?
AP does note that Davis was "an important influence" on Obama but doesn‘t mention Davis‘s communist views and how he took the Stalinist line before, during, and after World War II.
AP even uses the term "mentor," noting that Obama "struggled to find mentors in his search for a black identity." But the failure to mention that Davis was a Communist means that AP deliberately ignored the newsworthy significance of the relationship.
Davis "published several volumes of poetry," AP said, failing to note that they include poems praising the Soviet Red Army and mocking Christian missionaries.
AP quotes John Edgar Tidwell in a book as saying about Davis, "He made his vision into a beacon, a light shedding understanding and enlightenment on the problems that denied people, regardless of race, national origin or economic status, their constitutional rights."
But AP doesn't quote Tidwell as confirming that Davis was a Communist, a member of a political party funded and controlled by Moscow. And AP doesn't note the evidence that Davis and his comrades tried to take over the NAACP in order to transform its Honolulu branch into a front for the Stalinist line.
What's more, AP doesn't note that Davis accused prominent black author Richard Wright of "treason" for breaking with and exposing the CPUSA.
"In spite of his writings," AP says, "Davis scholars dismiss the idea that he was anti-American."
Why not tell us what was in those writings? Like the private letter in the possession of Davis scholar Tidwell in which Davis tries to recruit a prominent poet to the CPUSA.
Which of course raises the disturbing questions that must be asked:
- Did Davis recruit Obama?
- Was Obama, like Davis, Bridges and Robeson, ever a secret CPUSA member?
- Could Obama's possible secret relationship with the CPUSA help explain why the first person ever to publicly mention that "Frank" was Frank Marshall Davis, and that he had a relationship with Obama, was Gerald Horne, a writer for a CPUSA publication?
Interestingly, Horne made this disclosure or boast at a reception for the CPUSA archives at Tamiment Library at New York University. The interesting title of his talk was, "Rethinking the History and Future of the Communist Party."
Horne referred to "Frank Marshall Davis, who was certainly in the orbit of the CP-if not a member..." Of course, we know he was a member.
So how and why was Horne in a position to disclose this blockbuster information about Davis and Obama? Did he have inside information?
Two things are clear: All of Davis's personal papers should be immediately released in the name of the public's right to know. And Davis's FBI file, also in the possession of Tidwell, should be released as well (AIM has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the same file).
These are questions that must be answered because, other than Obama's recent Berlin speech, where do we find any solid evidence of his opposition to the communist philosophy?
Coming more than five months after AIM ran its first story exposing Davis's influence over Obama, there is no excuse for AP's blatant dishonesty. It seems to represent another example of what Andrew Walden of the Hawaii Free Press has referred to as a campaign to create a CPUSA-free version of Hawaii history.
It is noteworthy that the AP writer, Sudhin Thanawala, who is based in Honolulu, wrote a previous story about Obama's upbringing which began, "Growing up as a young man of mixed race, Barack Obama benefited from the spirit of tolerance that defined Hawaii's racial climate." Nothing about the CPUSA, which was a major influence in Hawaii, was in that story, either. This piece quoted Takara as well.
Some supporters of Davis and Obama, including Davis's self-proclaimed son, have been waging a vigorous defense of Davis, even on Obama's official website, and this pressure could have gotten to AP. But this alleged son, Mark Davis, has no credibility, having written erroneously that his father was not a CPUSA member and not Obama‘s mentor.
If the AP wire service were doing its job, it should have broken this story, rather than running something five months later trying to distort and obscure the truth.
AIM is urging its supporters to monitor where this dishonest AP story is appearing and protest to the appropriate editors that it deliberately ignores the truth about Davis‘s communist affiliations, which were documented in numerous congressional hearings and reports in addition to Tidwell-edited books. These editors can ask AP to correct the record and publish the truth.
Obama Campaign Influence?
The blatant fraud and deception in the AP story may reflect thinking at the highest levels of the Obama campaign that, if the complete truth about the Obama-Davis relationship were made known, the candidate would be sunk. They must understand that Obama's baggage would prevent him from getting a security clearance in the U.S. Government (none is required for a presidential candidate).
After all, they must be asking themselves, what American in his or her right mind would vote for a candidate who took "advice about race and college" -to quote AP-from a Communist pawn of Moscow?
Viewed in a national security context, the Frank Marshall Davis scandal is far more serious than Obama and his wife and children hearing Jeremiah Wright's anti-American and anti-white sermons. Indeed, the Davis influence on Obama may help explain why Obama would attend Wright's church, take his children there, and be receptive to his message for many years. It also may explain why Obama would admittedly attend socialist conferences and pick Marxist professors as friends in college before launching his political career in the home of communist terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
But if you didn't know that Davis was a Communist, this pattern of associations with unsavory characters cannot be traced back to Obama's formative high-school years.
So the AP story looks like an attempt to put the best possible face on something that could fatally wound Obama and leave him in the position this November of being perceived as a fringe McGovern-style candidate without McGovern's legislative credentials and war record.
Depths of Dishonesty
Let me explain how dishonest this AP story is.
AP called my public relations representative shortly after I held a May 22 briefing through America's Survival, Inc., releasing two reports that featured extensive documentation about Obama‘s communist connections. One, by Herbert Romerstein and myself, examined Davis and his influence on Obama in Hawaii. The other examined Obama's communist and socialist connections in Chicago. This material was provided to the AP reporter and I personally followed up, offering any additional information which might be needed.
I didn't hear back.
Now I know why. The reporter all along was carefully planning a piece designed to whitewash Davis and try to save Obama's campaign from the biggest scandal of all-his association with an identified communist.
Who or what is the reporter scared of? Or is the reporter just blatantly dishonest? Whatever the motive, this is more evidence of a notorious pro-Obama media bias that we must quickly act to overcome.
Indeed, the AP story has to be understood in the context of media support for Obama becoming a major issue of the campaign. It should be remembered that Obama's campaign strategist, David Axelrod, is a former Chicago Tribune reporter, and Obama's press spokesperson is Linda Douglass, formerly of CBS News, ABC News, and the National Journal.
Was the AP's Thanawala performing a free service for the campaign? Whatever the case, the story is itself a scandal and another low point for journalism. It also provides an opportunity for the truth to come out-about Obama and his lapdog press corps.
*AP's main number in New York is: 1-212-621-1500. AP is run by a board of directors and its managing director for U.S. news is Michael Oreskes, a former New York Times journalist. The AP executive editor is Kathleen Carroll.