Accuracy in Media

Author David Maraniss complained on CNN that conservatives have pounced on his new book Barack Obama: A Story as proof that the President had lied about his past in his memoir.

Maraniss was a guest on CNN’s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien.

I’m glad that you sort of mention in the beginning the buzz about the book challenging his memoir. That’s not the point of my book. I’m not writing it as a fact checker. I’m writing it as a historian. Other  people for ideological reasons are pouncing on that part of what my book is, but in fact I’m trying to tell the truth. A memoir is far different from rigorous factual biography. It’s not as though I’m trying to say, aha, I got you, at each point, I’m just trying to present the way I really found it, which in many cases was different from what he presented.

But of course Maraniss knows that biographies are supposed to be a detailed history of a person’s life, which requires fact checking to make sure it is accurate. Maraniss is correct that he wrote the Obama biography as a historian, but he is wrong to try and separate Obama’s history from the facts that comprise that history.

Maraniss defended the inaccuracies in Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, by telling the CNN panel that Obama wrote that book almost entirely shaped through a lens of race, which led to some “distortions.”

I’ll have to remember that the next time someone gets caught in a lie, it was really only a distortion.

When quizzed by Will Cain as to whether or not memoirs should be considered fiction or non-fiction, Maraniss replied that Obama wrote the book when he was in his 30s, before he was running for president, and that Obama had no idea that people like Maraniss would be coming along later to try to tell the real story.

In other words, Obama thought it was okay to “distort” the truth because his story was so compelling that no one would attempt to verify its accuracy? If so, he was right to a certain extent — until now, the mainstream media have shown little interest in exposing the truth about Obama’s background.

Maraniss may have just helped ensure that Obama’s dream of a second term in office may go up in smoke.

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