Remnick Disses Andersen for Using Unnamed Sources

Jack Cashill
A friend alerted me that David Remnick, the author of new Obama bio, The Bridge, was holding forth on WGN radio in Chicago.  Feeling mischievous, I phoned in, and they took my call.

My central question to Remnick was this: why had he totally ignored Christopher Andersen's book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage.  Andersen, a mainstream biographer, had confirmed my thesis that Bill Ayers had helped Barack Obama write Dreams From My Father through solid, boots-on-the-ground reporting.  

The host, Milt Rosenberg, allowed me to describe what Andersen had written.  As I related, in a lengthy and detailed section on the Obama's financial struggles in the early 1990s, Andersen tells of how at the urging of Michelle, a hopelessly blocked Obama brought to friend and neighbor Bill Ayers some taped oral histories, his partial manuscript and a trunk load of notes and asked for help.  The result was Dreams, a book Obama could not have written on his own.

Remnick blew Andersen off despite the fact that Andersen is the respected mainstream author of 28 books, including best-sellers on the Clintons, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Caroline Kennedy.  The reason why: Andersen relied on two unnamed sources.   When I reminded Remnick that he too used unnamed sources -- he acknowledges as much in his book -- the conversation grew a wee bit testy.

The discussion grew testier still when Remnick lumped Rush Limbaugh and me together as racists for daring to challenge Obama's literary skills.  When I asked Remnick why he called me a racist, he responded by telling me why he thought Limbaugh was a racist.  Yeah, right, and Andersen used unnamed sources.

The encounter was more heated than I had intended.  Although I do a fair share of media training, I confess to having violated just about every one of my own rules.  In the future, I will have to caution my clients-and myself -- against the aggravating effects of industrial-strength condescension.  My apologies to the gracious Mr. Rosenberg.
A friend alerted me that David Remnick, the author of new Obama bio, The Bridge, was holding forth on WGN radio in Chicago.  Feeling mischievous, I phoned in, and they took my call.

My central question to Remnick was this: why had he totally ignored Christopher Andersen's book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage.  Andersen, a mainstream biographer, had confirmed my thesis that Bill Ayers had helped Barack Obama write Dreams From My Father through solid, boots-on-the-ground reporting.  

The host, Milt Rosenberg, allowed me to describe what Andersen had written.  As I related, in a lengthy and detailed section on the Obama's financial struggles in the early 1990s, Andersen tells of how at the urging of Michelle, a hopelessly blocked Obama brought to friend and neighbor Bill Ayers some taped oral histories, his partial manuscript and a trunk load of notes and asked for help.  The result was Dreams, a book Obama could not have written on his own.

Remnick blew Andersen off despite the fact that Andersen is the respected mainstream author of 28 books, including best-sellers on the Clintons, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Caroline Kennedy.  The reason why: Andersen relied on two unnamed sources.   When I reminded Remnick that he too used unnamed sources -- he acknowledges as much in his book -- the conversation grew a wee bit testy.

The discussion grew testier still when Remnick lumped Rush Limbaugh and me together as racists for daring to challenge Obama's literary skills.  When I asked Remnick why he called me a racist, he responded by telling me why he thought Limbaugh was a racist.  Yeah, right, and Andersen used unnamed sources.

The encounter was more heated than I had intended.  Although I do a fair share of media training, I confess to having violated just about every one of my own rules.  In the future, I will have to caution my clients-and myself -- against the aggravating effects of industrial-strength condescension.  My apologies to the gracious Mr. Rosenberg.