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Conservative Blogs Duped in Panetta Controversy

In a frantic search for the obscure and hidden left-wing connections of members of the new Obama Administration, some leading conservative blogs and websites have made an embarrassing error by claiming without evidence that Leon Panetta, the former Clinton chief of staff and incoming CIA director, has a radical daughter named Linda who associates with Hugo Chavez and other Latin American revolutionaries.

One conservative site identified Linda Panetta as “an avowed Marxist, anti-American, anti-military leftist” and said that Leon Panetta would have to explain his daughter’s activities.

But reached by telephone in Philadelphia, Linda Panetta told Accuracy in Media that while she admires Leon Panetta and that there may be a distant family connection somewhere, he is not her father and that she has never even met him. “Not only am I not his daughter but unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of meeting this man who has done amazing work in his lifetime,” she said. “He and my father may have been second cousins,” she acknowledged, but under no circumstances is he her father.

Despite charges or information to the contrary, she has never claimed to be his daughter. She explained, “God rest my Dad’s soul. He was an incredible individual as well. I would never in my lifetime claim to be anybody’s daughter but my father’s.”

Official biographies [1] of Panetta say that he has three sons but no daughter.

The real scandal involving Panetta is that he claims to be a practicing Roman Catholic but openly dissents from Church teaching on the inalienable right to life from conception to natural death. He is one of several faux Catholics of this nature [2] chosen by Obama for his administration.

Linda Panetta is not Leon Panetta’s daughter but is a photojournalist whose work appears on the optical realities [3] website. She covers conflicts in Latin America, the Middle East, and other areas. She is also involved with the leftist group known as the School of the Americas Watch [4].

Assuming she was Leon Panetta’s daughter, one conservative blog [5] declared, “If the adult daughter of a CIA Director-designate hangs out with sworn enemies of the United States, it’s a matter for the United States Senate to probe aggressively. And so the Senate really has to ask some very pointed questions about Linda Panetta, daughter of President-Elect Obama’s pick to lead the CIA, and her ties to Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega and Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.” A photo was posted of Linda Panetta in the arms of Chavez and in the company of Ortega.

“This says a few things about CIA Director-designate Leon Panetta,” said another conservative blog.

The controversy demonstrates that conservative blogs can be duped or misled when they want to believe something sensational about the other side. The error, which demonstrates the need for higher journalistic standards in the conservative blogosphere, is already being exploited in an effort to discredit conservative sources of information about the Obama Administration.

It would be a tragedy if a mistake of this kind distracts from the available evidence of the revolutionary vision [6] and agenda of the Obama Administration, which AIM has been documenting.  

It’s not exactly clear where the claim about the alleged Panetta family connection came from. No specific source for the information is identified on the conservative blogs and websites. It may be the case that the name “Panetta” seemed so unique to some right-wing bloggers that they came to the conclusion that she had to be his daughter. Plus, some of those claiming Linda to be Leon Panetta’s daughter have been reliable sources of information on radical and left-wing movements in the past.   

A detailed search by AIM discovered an obscure link to a an Internet message that Linda Panetta was appearing at a college in 2007 and that she was Leon Panetta’s daughter. This is apparently what Linda Panetta had in mind when she told AIM that the bogus issue had come up a while back when she spoke to a college audience. “I don’t know where they came up with that. I guess somewhere on the Internet it got posted,” she said.

The misinformation became a vicious circle. One blog cited other mentions of the alleged connection as if additional stories constituted confirmation.

But reacting to revelations that Panetta’s bio had no reference to a daughter, one post on a conservative website declared, “The Obama camp is hastily trying to cover this up, pretending that Panetta doesn’t have a daughter. But the truth will come out! They won’t get away with this for long. We need to keep getting this story out so that more people hear about it before they further cover their tracks.”

But even if Leon Panetta had a left-wing daughter or son, it’s difficult to believe this would be the kind of thing that would be covered up to this extent. After all, why should Panetta―or any parent, for that matter―be held responsible for the views or activities of a child.

It appears that none of the conservative sites going forward with the information ever bothered to read Leon Panetta’s official biography to see if it listed a daughter by the name of Linda. It also appears that none of them made an effort to reach Linda Panetta by telephone or email. However, her email address and telephone number are both freely available on Internet sites.

However, a post of this information [7] on the Free Republic website did include the words “unconfirmed” and “unsubstantiated” in the headline.

Linda Panetta said that she was not familiar with the recent spate of stories about her alleged connection to Leon Panetta. While she may be regarded as being politically liberal, she denied that she is a radical or revolutionary of any sort. She acknowledged that she is the one in the picture with Chavez and Ortega. Indeed, the picture is from her own website.

She asserted, “I’ve met Hugo Chavez. I’ve met Daniel Ortega. I had lunch with Bolivian President Evo Morales. But I’ve also met with the defense minister of Guatemala who is right-wing. And I’ve met with a lot of right-wing politicians as well. That’s what I do. I meet on both sides of the issue to try to determine the truth and present it in the best way as a photojournalist and a human right activist I’m able to.”

She said she voted for Ronald Reagan as president but after the Iran-Contra affair went to Central America to “learn the truth.” She obviously became disenchanted with U.S. foreign policy.

The Iran-Contra affair is the name given to the controversy over President Reagan’s policy of supporting anti-communist freedom fighters in Nicaragua, known as “Contras.”

The policy was ultimately successful, in that it forced the Communist Sandinistas then in power to hold free elections, which they lost. Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, however, has returned to power as the president of Nicaragua.

At the time, Reagan National Security Council staff member Oliver North coordinated aid to the resistance while trying to free American hostages in the Middle East. These two operations produced the “Iran-Contra affair” when it was disclosed that proceeds from arms sales to Iran, for the purpose of freeing the hostages, were diverted to the Contras. The Congress investigated and an Independent Counsel prosecuted some officials. However, convictions against North were overturned and Reagan said he was not aware of the details of how the arms deals had been arranged and handled.