posted at 12:15 pm on July 13, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Which Obama speech would Mort Zuckerman have written? Perhaps the one that committed Obama to corn ethanol subsidies? Maybe the one where Obama insisted that his multi-trillion-dollar agenda wouldn’t result in tax increases on the middle class? It’s hard to see why the Editor in Chief of US News & World Report and the owner/publisher of the New York Daily News would want to add this to his resumé, especially given Obama’s declining polls. Still, here he is with Neil Cavuto, insisting that he ghost-wrote one of the One’s addresses from Mount Barackopolis (via Ed Driscoll):
This creates a very interesting ethical question about the role of the media in politics. Should the publisher of a newspaper and the editor of a magazine pinch-hit as speechwriters for political candidates? If Zuckerman actually did this, did it influence his coverage of the campaign, or at the very least, of the speech? As David Thompson notes in Ed Driscoll’s comments section, no one would blink if The New Republic’s owner Marty Peretz had done something like this, as TNR is an explicitly pro-liberal magazine with a point of view. Zuckerman owns and/or runs two publications with more pretense of objectivity, which makes this much more troublesome.
On the other hand, Zuckerman may be, er, exaggerating, if the White House response is to be believed:
Among those with reason to be puzzled, a White House source tells me, were Obama’s speechwriters, Jon Favreau and Ben Rhodes. Neither “has ever met or spoken to Mort Zuckerman” and the two have “been closely involved in every speech the President has given since 2005,” said the official.
Zuckerman has met President Obama a few times and no doubt encountered other Administration officials, and he could well have suggested a theme to the president or another aide. But the question of what he “helped write” remains a bit of a mystery.
It seems a little fantastic that the mogul of two significant media enterprises transformed himself into an ink-stained wretch on behalf of Barack Obama. If he did, though, he would occupy first place in the gallery of fools from the captains of industry who bought into Obama’s populism and didn’t realize until now (as Zuckerman argued on Cavuto) that Obama would not be anti-business. Worse, he’d be one of the worst of the useful idiots who sold it to us, which not only makes his ethics suspect but also his judgment.