In the interest of full disclosure, it should be known that I am still skeptical of the story put forth a few days ago by African Press International which cited an interview supposedly had with Michelle Obama, wife of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and very possibly the next First Lady of the United States. I was skeptical for a number of reasons and still am, even in the wake of continued assertions by those at African Press International that they are in possession of an audiotape supporting their questioned material and will release the evidence in due time.
This afternoon, I sent an e-mail to Chief Editor Korir over at API. I wanted to ensure him that the questions I had about his credibility had little to do with API itself or his work there, but rather the nature of the Internet and Internet blogs as a whole.
When I first broke the story about Philip Berg’s lawsuit against Barack Obama back in August, nobody believed it. They wanted a docket number, they wanted a PDF copy, all just to know that a case was actually indeed filed. They wanted to know that it was for real. I understood that, because if even the American mainstream media outlets have such credibility problems, what kind of credibility could some legal writer and part-time law student have to fairly present this issue?
That, in part, is why I have tried to be as objective and fair as possible with regard to the Berg case. That, in part, is why I felt compelled to disassemble Berg’s perjury claim and to do my best to report, to you, both sides of the procedural aspects of the suit. I expected the credibility problems, because I know the nature of the beast which is the American media.
Chief Editor Korir did not.
Now, I still maintain that I cannot, in this case, follow Ronald Reagan’s “trust, but verify” mantra absent the same kind of evidence which would be expected of me, or any other part-time quasi-journalist across the vast expanse of the Internet. However, I wanted Mr. Korir to know that any questions I had about his credibility on this issue were based upon the nature of the beast and not him, personally.
In the interest of full disclosure, therefore, here is the e-mail I sent this afternoon:
FROM: Jeff Schreiber
TO: African Press International
DATE: Fri, Oct 17, 2008 at 1:58 PM
SUBJECT: Clearing the Air
Chief Editor Korir,
I fear we may have gotten off on the wrong foot and, while I cannot say whether it will matter to you, I’d like to explain for a moment where I was coming from.
First, it was absolutely wrong of me to question your command of the English language. I have known more than a few Kenyans in my time–one of which was actually the son of a former dignitary (a good one)–and each and every one has proven to be honest, gracious, intelligent and well-meaning. I should not have assumed you otherwise, and for that I apologize.
Second, while I am still skeptical of the veracity of the statements purportedly provided to you by Michelle Obama, that skepticism is rooted more in the credibility problems in the American media than any credibility issues on your end. Mr. Korir, like my own Web site, your African Press International is a largely unknown entity, and I expect that people would be equally as shocked if I had suddenly received a telephone call from Mrs. Obama and reported on the conversation. The difference, I guess, is that I would have expected the outcry, the hurtful statements, the legal ramifications because I am somewhat familiar with how things work on this side of the Atlantic. You did not, and I expect you are reeling.
Furthermore, for making any overtly personal statements questioning your credibility, I am sorry. While in this case I cannot follow the words of former President Ronald Reagan, whose mantra was “trust, then verify,” please rest assured that my lack of trust has more to do with the wide-ranging availability of unverifiable information on the entire Internet than the information specifically available at African Press International. We ALL have a credibility gap to overcome.
Finally, I’ve read, over the past few days, various accounts about your political status in Norway. To the extent that those accounts are true, I hope that this recent media outcry–to which I have admittedly contributed–has not put undue pressure, political and otherwise, on yourself and your family. I, too, have received some unsavory correspondence because of the stories and issues I’ve pursued on my Web site, and know that it is never easy — especially when family is concerned.
So, Mr. Korir, I hope you know where I’m coming from, and understand that I wish you well in your continued endeavors at African Press International and beyond.
Listen, I’d like to think that I’m a fairly decent guy. Certainly not out to hurt anybody. Certainly not out to be a “hatchet man.” When I started America’s Right at the beginning of this year, I did so because I had an interest in the fair and full disclosure of the truth, and how that disclosure as it stood today affected the treatment and spread of the conservative message and conservative values.
I’ve tried to keep that underlying idea and those underlying ideals in mind with the way I present the news and the facts as I perceive them. In reporting on the Berg v. Obama lawsuit, I am not out to hurt Barack Obama but rather am purely and unequivocally interested in the truth. Of course, as a conservative–with increasingly libertarian leanings it seems–I do not want him elected to the White House, something I feel as though I articulated fairly well in Eligibility Goes Beyond Citizenship, but that doesn’t mean that I am prepared to depart from fact in order to advance my own principles.
And that, my friends, runs to the heart of this African Press International matter. Just as I, despite my intentions and ideals, have a credibility gap to overcome, so does Chief Editor Korir. It isn’t his fault. In the piece in question, I saw what looked to me like a character assassination, and jumped all over it — and I would expect the same thing if I had made similar statements here.
I do think that Mr. Korir should release an audiotape should he have one, and I do think that his credibility depends upon it. That, however, has less to do with Mr. Korir as it does with the nature of the media, the Internet and the times as a whole.
The truth, as always, is paramount. People, however, are human. Regardless of whether he has presented facts truthfully or not, Mr. Korir is under a tremendous amount of pressure. I personally put much of that pressure on him, and while I feel as though the paramount need for truth demanded that level of scrutiny, I wanted him to know that it was by no means personal.
As an aside, I plan on writing something tonight about the status of Phil Berg’s lawsuit against Barack Obama. Yes, it is taking a while and, yes, the judge is well within his discretion, but people want answers.
Now, while I am not qualified to give such answers, I can leave myself open to embarrassment by posting some 100 percent pure conjecture. And, unless I come to my senses between now and whenever I’m able to sit down and write, that’s what you’ll get — a few not-so-educated guesses.
In the meantime, Berg’s suit has received a little press coverage from The Bulletin, right here in Philadelphia:
So, check it out, and please don’t expect anything ground-breaking tonight. I’m only a little more than half-way through attending law school at night and have yet to take a course which deals with getting inside the head of a District Court judge.
UPDATE: I passed out in front of one of my casebooks for school. 2:30am now — the earliest I’ve been to bed all week. I’ll get to the conjecture at some point tomorrow, with any luck. Sorry!