Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin accused the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday of protecting Barack Obama by withholding a videotape of the Democrat attending a 2003 party for Palestinian-American academic Rashid Khalidi, who McCain called a former spokesman of the Palestinian Liberation
Khalidi, a professor of Middle East Studies at Columbia University and a longtime friend of Obama's, has made divisive statements regarding Israel in the past.
On Wednesday, McCain said 1960s radical Bill Ayers had attended the same party in 2003. McCain and Palin have criticized Obama for his ties to Ayers and questioned what the videotape of the party might show.
"Among other things, Israel was described there as the perpetrator of terrorism rather than the victim," Palin said at a rally in Ohio. "What we don't know is how Barack Obama responded to these slurs on a country that he professes to support."
In a story published in April, the Times said Obama spoke out at the event on the need for common ground on the Israel-Palestinian issue. "More than six months ago the Los Angeles Times published a detailed account of the events shown on the videotape," Jamie Gold, the newspaper's reader's representative, said in a statement. "The Times is not suppressing anything. Just the opposite - the LA Times brought the matter to light."
McCain and Palin cited the paper's position as evidence of media bias. The Times has endorsed Obama's candidacy.
"If there was a tape of John McCain in a neo-Nazi outfit, I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different," McCain said in an interview with Hispanic radio stations.
Palin said the Times should win a Pulitzer Prize for "kowtowing."
"It must be nice for a candidate to have major news organizations looking out for their best interests like that. Politicians would love to have a pet newspaper of their very own," she said.
'Manufactured controversy'Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor dismissed McCain and Palin's complaints as a "recycled, manufactured controversy" meant to distract voters.
"Barack Obama has been clear and consistent on his support for Israel, and has been clear that Rashid Khalidi is not an adviser to him or his campaign and that he does not share Khalidi's views," Vietor said.
Khalidi taught at the University of Chicago until 2003. Obama and his wife, Michelle, often socialized with Khalidi and his wife, Mona, and the Khalidis hosted a political fundraiser for Obama in 2000.
The Woods Fund charity gave money to the Arab-American Action Network, run by Mona Khalidi, while Obama served on the charity's board. Ayers also served on the board.
McCain also has ties to Khalidi through a group that Khalidi helped found 15 years ago. The Center for Palestine Research and Studies has received more than $800,000 from an organization that McCain chairs.
The Center for Palestine Research and Studies conducted regular public opinion surveys in the West Bank and Gaza with financial support from various foundations and from the International Republican Institute, McCain's organization for promoting democracy around the world.
Under McCain's leadership, the IRI gave at least $838,494 to Khalidi's group in 1988 and 1999, according to the IRI's tax returns.