By: Cliff Kincaid | Accuracy in Media
A Special Report from the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism
The lack of coverage in 2008 of the embarrassing facts in Barack Obama’s background, especially his deep personal relationship with a Communist by the name of Frank Marshall Davis, stands as a sensational example of how dishonest the national media can be when they are determined to elect somebody. If Obama’s opponent, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), had been linked to a Nazi or a Klansman, the press would have jumped on the story, with endless follow-ups. But the story of Obama’s Communist mentor was suppressed by a journalist for The Washington Post who had all the essential details and could have broken the story wide open.
We now know why the potential blockbuster story about Obama’s Communist mentor was deliberately ignored by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist David Maraniss. He had personal and political conflicts that prevented him from telling the truth about Obama to the American people. Simply put, his parents were Communists, just like Davis.
Maraniss, in other words, was a red-diaper baby.
The shocking truth can finally be told. His parents, Elliott and Mary Maraniss, along with Davis, were members of the same international conspiracy which had groomed Obama for the presidency, in order to hasten the decline and destruction of the United States.
Looking back, we can now see how the truth about Obama’s communist ties could have led to embarrassing disclosures about the family of Maraniss. If Obama had a Communist mentor, and that was newsworthy, what about the fact that Maraniss had two Communist parents? Clearly, he didn’t want that to get out. We understand the motivation behind the cover-up. But having a father and mother involved in the Communist Party should not have stopped Maraniss from telling the truth about a presidential candidate’s Communist connections. He was supposed to be a journalist with ultimate loyalty to the truth.
One thing we do know: Maraniss, the author of biographies about two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, didn’t want to talk about it then and doesn’t want to talk about it now.
The Cover-Up Begins
The controversial Communist connections help explain why, when Maraniss wrote a piece, “Though Obama Had to Leave to Find Himself, It Is Hawaii That Made His Rise Possible,” in the August 22, 2008, edition of the Post, the name of Frank Marshall Davis was completely left out.
Ironically, the story focused on Obama’s life and upbringing in Hawaii, where he met Davis, and where Davis exercised considerable influence over Obama’s growing-up years. By some accounts, Davis functioned as Obama’s mentor for seven or eight years. But Maraniss ignored Davis altogether. It seemed mystifying at the time.
Secret Reds and Fake Names
His father, Elliott Maraniss, was not only a Communist but an unprofessional and dishonest journalist. In addition to membership in a political party financed at the time by Moscow, the book, Dark Days in the Newsroom, reveals that Elliott Maraniss was accused of writing under a pseudonym for a newspaper published by the Communist Party and that this had led to his firing by the Detroit Times, one of several papers he would write for during his career. Eventually he would write for the Capital Times, a “progressive” voice in Wisconsin.
The explosive charges came from Bereniece Baldwin, a Detroit housewife who had infiltrated the Michigan Communist Party for nine years. Her testimony was given in February of 1952 when she discussed how the party operated in “underground cells” with secret leaders.
The evidence showed that Elliott Maraniss used the name “Oscar Williams” when writing for a publication called the Michigan Worker, described as a Michigan edition of the Communist Party’s Daily Worker. Testimony also showed that he was so secretive that he demanded to be known as “Ace,” rather than his real name, even by other Communists he worked with personally.
Edward Alwood, the journalism professor who wrote Dark Days in the Newsroom, told AIM that “I haven’t looked back in my notes but my memory is that I could not reach David Maraniss when I wrote the book. I recall sending emails. I am not aware that he has addressed his father’s past.” He said he was curious about what Maraniss remembered.
He added that when his book came out, he was interviewed on an NPR station and suggested that “they include David Maraniss as a guest with me.” But nothing came of it. “I vaguely recall the producer as saying that Maraniss declined,” he said.
It was a topic he may not have wanted to talk about. After all, his father had disgraced the family.
Elliott Maraniss was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities during a series of hearings in the 1950s, but refused to answer any questions about his Communist activities. It was a stand that led the local newspaper union, the Newspaper Guild, to withdraw support for him.
In short, Elliott Maraniss had embarrassed the journalism profession, just like his son did in 2008 when covering up for Obama.
Cover-ups seem to run in the family.
A Time for Truth
This issue may seem dated, but it is still newsworthy in 2016, not only because it’s important to set the record straight, but because Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s support in the media rivals that of Obama eight years ago. Indeed, many of the same media players who were determined to elect Obama now seem to want Hillary in the White House.
If they will cover up for Obama, to the extent of completely suppressing a damaging scandal and relationship, what will they do for Hillary? What are they suppressing? Does it have to do with her ideology, her associates, her sexuality, her health?
In Obama’s case, it was the communism.
Reds in the Bed
The eyewitness testimony against Maraniss and others from FBI informant Bereniece Baldwin was regarded as extremely reliable. The purpose of the hearings was to expose secret Communist Party penetration of labor unions such as the Newspaper Guild, which is still a major force in American journalism and represents 25,000 journalists and other media workers in digital and traditional news organizations. At the time, the Newspaper Guild was anti-communist and was trying to purge the union of members loyal to Moscow.
Elliott Maraniss refused to answer any questions about party membership, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. This was a standard technique used by members of the Communist Party to try to throw investigators off the trail of party members active in communist networks that could include Soviet spies and espionage agents.
His attorney was the notorious George W. Crockett, a future Democratic member of Congress from Michigan who never publicly admitted membership in the Communist Party USA. But he did associate with various CPUSA fronts and represented numerous members of the party in legal proceedings.
No Right to Know
Commenting on the new developments regarding Maraniss and his Communist parents—in connection with his whitewashing of Obama’s communist background just before the 2008 election—analyst Trevor Loudon told AIM that Maraniss “betrayed his duty to the American public.”
Loudon had played a major role, along with AIM, in bringing the story of the Obama-Davis relationship to the attention of the American people in 2008. However, the liberal media were determined to elect Obama, in the same way they are now determined to elect Hillary Clinton as president. So they would dismiss the work of Loudon and ourselves as “conspiracy theories.” We see the same kind of treatment accorded to those raising questions about the health of Hillary Clinton in the current campaign.
Maraniss was right in the middle of this journalistic cover-up and scandal. He ignored the Davis role in Obama’s life at a crucial time in the campaign, when the truth could have made a difference. The public had a right to know, a right to the truth. Maraniss disagreed.
The Obama campaign must have been appreciative. In 2015, former Obama campaign chief strategist David Axelrod would join David Maraniss for a friendly discussion of politics and public service, at an event co-sponsored by the Capital Times. Later, Maraniss would also agree to a podcast interview with Axelrod on his “Axe Files” show.
It turns out that Axelrod’s parents were also leftists with communist connections.
Elliott Maraniss’s membership in the Communist Party is briefly discussed in Dark Days in the Newsroom, the 2007 book about the “radicalized” press corps and their battles with anti-communist legislators during the 1950s such as Senator Joseph McCarthy. It reports the evidence that he used a fake name to write for the party paper and that his own union would not back him after he took the Fifth.
The Congressional hearings on communist activities in Michigan, especially the Detroit area, included numerous references to the parents of David Maraniss, based on the testimony of FBI informant Bereniece Baldwin. She discussed the secret involvement of Elliott and Mary Maraniss in Communist Party clubs.
The question now is whether these communists influenced their own son in a particular ideological direction that would affect his journalism years later, and how deep his own involvement in the Marxist movement may go.
In reviewing the new information and facts in this story, we could find no indication that David Maraniss has ever publicly spoken about his parents’ involvement in a subversive movement that was financed from abroad through Moscow. He did not respond to our emails asking about the communist activities of his parents.
He did say in one interview, “My parents, Elliott and Mary Maraniss, were enormous influences in my writing. Both were professionals, my father as a newspaperman, my mother as a book editor.”
This was an obvious whitewash of their service to the communist cause.
At the time they were both identified as Communists, the media took the investigations very seriously, with the Detroit Free Press running a banner headline, “List of Persons Identified as Reds in Detroit,” in the December 28, 1952 issue. Elliott Maraniss was also identified by his alias of “Ace.” Names of people who had quit the party were stricken from the list.
A family connection to a foreign-funded political party that had a role through Frank Marshall Davis in grooming then-Senator and now President Barack Obama makes the subject one of intense interest and extremely newsworthy. After all, alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign has been raised repeatedly by the media in regard to whether the Moscow regime favors one candidate over another. Usually, the media say that Moscow favors Trump. But Mrs. Clinton presided over the failed Russian reset with Moscow, and her State Department approved a Russian uranium deal.
If this is a valid topic now, then why wasn’t the Frank Marshall Davis influence over Obama made into a big issue in 2008? Since Davis was a member of a Russian-funded Communist Party and a suspected Soviet espionage agent, his influence over Obama could have been seen as a major national security issue. In fact, Mrs. Clinton’s aide, Sidney Blumenthal, had raised the issue at the time. In a May 9, 2008 column in The Huffington Post, Peter Dreier, the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College in California, complained that Blumenthal had “circulated an article taken from the fervently hard-right AIM website” that was entitled, “Obama’s Communist Mentor.” This was, of course, the column about Obama’s relationship with Communist Party operative Frank Marshall Davis that we had published in February of 2008. The column was completely accurate, but Dreier tried his best to play down the revelations.
David Maraniss was in a position to confirm these revelations and provide more details. He did not. He apparently didn’t see communism as a problem.
Did an agent of Moscow influence President Obama? Why did Obama biographer David Maraniss ignore this issue in 2008 when the truth was relevant to the decision of the electorate?
Like Father, Like Son
Interestingly, in 2014, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalismannounced the creation of a graduate student scholarship fund in honor of father and son, David and Elliott Maraniss, indicating that David still holds his father in high esteem. We would like to know whether that admiration includes support for his parents’ Communist activities, such as the use of a fake name to secretly write for a Communist paper.
The announcement made no mention of his father’s involvement in the Communist Party, saying only that Elliott Maraniss had worked as a reporter and editor at the Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. An obituary of Elliott Maraniss in the Capital Times said nothing about it, either.
Perhaps the truth is just too embarrassing to David Maraniss. His friends and associates may not want to mention the Communist connection because it would embarrass him. He may think the truth would make readers suspicious of his ability to be objective when writing about left-wing Democratic politicians. Whatever the case, a journalist who has concealed family connections that might compromise his work must be held accountable. His cover-up may have elected Obama.
Liberal Democrat Aids Cover-Up
Speaking of left-wing Democratic politicians, when Elliott Maraniss died in 2004, then-Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) paid tribute to him by saying his work “invariably served the cause of justice.” He said that, “As an editor [of the Capital Times], he was known for being a mentor, for spotting talented new reporters, and for caring deeply about his staff.” Feingold added that “His leadership and integrity in the newsroom were legendary, and it was on those qualities, as well as his journalistic skills, that he built his outstanding career.”
In fact, the book, Dark Days in the Newsroom, which is sympathetic to so-called victims of McCarthyism, acknowledges that Maraniss suspected that the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, an anti-communist group, was involved in withdrawing the support of the Guild for him when he refused to testify truthfully about his Communist membership and activities.
The Association of Catholic Trade Unionists (ACTU) promoted organized labor whilefighting communist influence in American unions.
Clearly, there was a battle underway in the Newspaper Guild between communists and non-communists, with Maraniss on the communist side. In fact, he had been secretly aiding the communists, using fake names, perhaps as part of a more sophisticated clandestine network.
Unwittingly perhaps, in praising Elliott Maraniss, Feingold was coming down on the side of journalistic deceivers who had used the media as a weapon against the Free World.
“His passing is a great loss for all those who knew him, and for everyone who understands the powerful contributions that journalists can make when they are fiercely committed to the truth, and to the cause of justice,” said Feingold, who is a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2016.
But telling the truth was definitely not his profession. He was at the service of the Communist Party. And so was Frank Marshall Davis, Obama’s mentor.
In a 2015 article in the Wisconsin State Journal about the Maraniss family, the son David is quoted as saying that “he would accompany his father to the Capital Times newsroom where Elliott served as editor in the late ’70s and early ’80s.” David Maraniss referred to “books and classical music all over our house,” but nothing remotely controversial.
In his book on Vietnam, They Marched Into Sunlight, Maraniss mentioned that his father had been an editor at the Capital Times, and that “I had begun my journalism career there covering high school football games and writing movie reviews.”
It’s possible that his father didn’t involve him in his Communist controversies in the 1950s. But that is no excuse for remaining silent on the secret activities of Elliott Maraniss more than 50 years later.
A Liberal Media Powerhouse
Maraniss’s career would grow in power and influence over the years, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for national reporting on Bill Clinton and then writing a biography of him.
The next liberal he would glorify in print was Obama. But before publishing a book on Obama in 2012, Maraniss was already on the story in 2008 of how a largely unknown one-term senator from Illinois could become the Democratic presidential candidate. It was a story that cried out for investigative journalism.
Recall that Obama had ridiculed the charge of being a “hard-core academic Marxist,” which was made by his colorful and outspoken 2004 U.S. Senate opponent, Republican Alan Keyes. The relationship with Davis could have shed light on whether Obama was telling the truth or whether Keyes was on the right track.
But when Maraniss wrote his 10,000-word piece on Barack Obama on August 22, 2008, less than three months before the election, there was no mention of Frank Marshall Davis. Those familiar with the mounting evidence of the Davis influence on Obama fully expected Maraniss to provide more facts and details. Coming from a liberal journalist with obviously good sources in the Obama camp, such a story would have been a blockbuster, perhaps another winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
Remember that Maraniss was already a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who, presumably, could dig out the ultimate truth about a candidate. Instead, the story that Maraniss produced didn’t utter a peep about Davis.
After publication of his August 2008 article, we were shocked to discover this gaping hole in his account of Obama’s years in Hawaii, and asked Maraniss for comment. He told us that he had concluded that even Obama had “hyped out of all proportion” Davis’s influence over him! Maraniss insisted that Davis “did not play a role in really shaping Obama.”
This seemed mighty strange, even absurd. It contradicted not only our own research, but the work of other liberal journalists who had verified Obama’s personal relationship with Davis. There was debate about the extent of Davis’s influence, and how many years they had been involved in a father-son type of relationship, but not about the important role Davis had played in mentoring the future president.
To Maraniss, however, Davis was a nobody. It was a convenient omission when communist connections to Obama were already surfacing and causing concern in the electorate.
When his book on Obama came out in 2012, there was some information on Davis, but not much. Maraniss talked about how he had been “under surveillance by the Honolulu branch of the FBI because of his past associations with the Communist Party.” In fact, Davis was under surveillance at the time because of his then-current involvement with the party and his listing on the FBI Security Index. On page 305, Maraniss returned to the idea that Obama had been “enhancing” the Davis role in his life in the book Dreams from My Father. On page 317, Davis was labeled “the black poet” and on page 363 “the aging black poet.” On pages 383-84, Maraniss discussed how an Obama poem entitled “Pop” referred to Davis, not Obama’s grandfather. This revelation, if true, raises suspicions that Davis was, in fact, Obama’s real father, as maintained by Joel Gilbert’s controversial film, Dreams from My Real Father.
The Mysterious “Frank”
We commented at the time that Maraniss was covering up even more than the deceitful Obama campaign. Under pressure to come clean regarding the Obama-Davis relationship, the campaign had reluctantly admitted that the mysterious “Frank” from Obama’s book Dreams from My Father was indeed Frank Marshall Davis. This “Frank” had given Obama advice on race relations, telling him that blacks had reason to hate, and had dismissed the Christian faith as “another White New Hope.”
The fact that “Frank” was Davis had been admitted by historian Gerald Horne in 2007, when he gave a speech on the history and future of the Communist Party. The speech was located by Trevor Loudon, a blogger then living in New Zealand and now in the United States. He subsequently wrote, Barack Obama and the Enemies Within, and is now set to release a film called “The Enemies Within” based on his follow-up book about Marxist penetration of the U.S. Congress.
Who was Frank Marshall Davis? Loudon had the facts, some of them gleaned from Gerald Horne’s speech. He dug up many others. But it appeared that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of Washington Post/Watergate fame were asleep on the job. Or perhaps they thought their colleague David Maraniss would handle it.
We commented in 2013, “There was plenty of time for the major media to ‘vet’ Obama. But they were not interested. And that includes Bob Woodward and his Washington Post colleagues.”
Maraniss certainly had to know that the story of Obama’s debt to a top Communist in Hawaii was a blockbuster. But that explains why it had to be suppressed. It was just too damaging.
AIM Tells the Truth
As a result of contacts between Trevor Loudon and this writer, the facts about Davis and Obama were becoming more widely known in the United States. Accuracy in Media’s detailed piece, “Obama’s Communist Mentor,” had appeared earlier in the year, on February 18, 2008, and follow-up columns went into more detail. AIM had confirmed “Frank” was Davis through sources in Hawaii. However, even the Drudge Report refused to take paid advertising about the story, calling it too controversial.
The Obama campaign laughably insisted that Davis was just a civil rights activist. That was a line picked up by many of Obama’s defenders in the liberal press. It was a flat-out lie.
Maraniss had to know better. He had sources in Hawaii as well. So the decision by Maraniss to completely ignore Davis in a 10,000-word piece can be seen as pro-Obama media bias to an unprecedented extreme. It was dishonest.
If he had been honest, he would have acknowledged Davis’s membership in the Communist Party and his close relationship with Obama. But that would have raised more questions about Obama’s communist connections not only in Hawaii, but in Chicago, where communist terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn had raised money for his political career.
Remember that, in 2008, as the campaign was moving forward, the evidence was already mounting that Obama was a security risk with controversial associates disloyal to the United States.
It would only get worse. It was confirmed before the November election that Davis was a suspected Soviet espionage agent and that he was on the FBI’s security index, a designation reserved for the most dangerous communists and subversives. The Davis FBI file, released to the public and the press in August of 2008, was over 600 pages. The liberal media, including the Post, would continue their cover-up.
The relationship with Davis became even more newsworthy when evidence emerged that he was a pedophile and pornographer. Like previous revelations, however, this information was also considered too terrible for the liberal press to disclose.
Reds Out of the Beds
With his status as a red diaper baby confirmed, we can now understand why Maraniss decided to cover-up this important information. He had to know, based on his experience with his own parents, that Obama’s relationship with Davis could become a national issue and controversy. In fact, in combination with the facts about Obama’s relationship with radical Rev. Jeremiah Wright and communist terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the link to a key member of the Communist Party in Hawaii could have posed enormous problems for the Democratic presidential nominee. It could have derailed his race for the White House.
So Maraniss decided that it was better to cover the whole thing up. That a Pulitzer Prize-winner would engage in such a cover-up is a horrible black mark on the history of journalism and of the Post in particular. After all, the Post had not shown any reticence in its campaign to bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon, a Republican, in the so-called Watergate scandal. The paper is still known for its Watergate coverage.
Why Were They Afraid?
Dr. Paul Kengor, a professor at Grove City College and author of a book about Davis, entitled, The Communist, was also surprised when he saw that the 10,000-word Maraniss article about Obama in 2008 had completely ignored Davis. Alluding to the fact that Maraniss had written a biography of Obama, Kengor wrote, “…not only does Barack Obama need continued vetting, but so do his biographers.”
Indeed, that vetting is now being done and the investigation discloses that Maraniss had personal and political motives to conceal the disturbing truth about Obama. His own family connections to the international communist movement compromised his ability to report the truth.
Kengor said at the time that it was obvious that Maraniss was “afraid” to address the issue of Obama’s political radicalism, “and particularly a young Obama’s obvious interest in communism in the late 1970s and early 1980s, precisely when he knew Frank Marshall Davis.”
In his book on Davis, Kengor addressed the fact that another liberal journalist, David Remnick, had admitted that Obama and Davis had a close relationship, but that it was “certainly of no great ideological importance.” Kengor commented, “He likely had to steer clear of Frank’s Soviet loyalties for fear of infuriating his liberal colleagues and tarnishing his liberal credentials by being labeled a McCarthyite who hurt Barack Obama.”
Now we know why Maraniss was afraid of telling the truth. It wasn’t just because, like Remnick, that he may have been scared of raising the communist issue regarding Obama. It was a calculated decision, based on his own relationship with his parents and the Communist Party, not to inform the public about Obama’s debt to Davis and links to an international communist network.
Maraniss had to know that, with his background, experience, and status as a top reporter at one of the major papers in the United States, publishing the communist charges in the Post would have had repercussions throughout the media and would be devastating to Obama and his campaign. He decided a cover-up was the right way to go.
So he came up with the excuse that Davis’s influence had been exaggerated way out of proportion, even by Obama himself. It was absurd. But it was also his way of failing to confront the ugly truth about his own parents.
After getting fired by the Detroit Times, notes Edward Alwood, Elliott Maraniss managed to “salvage” his journalism career and “worked at several left-wing newspapers,” eventually joining the Capital Times. Alwood added, “At his request his 2004 obituary made no mention of his clash with HUAC [House Committee on Un-American Activities].”
How’s that for a cover-up? Did he do this to protect his own reputation? Or was it done to protect the reputation of his up-and-coming journalist son David Maraniss?
Whatever the case, the damage was done by Maraniss’s refusal to cover the substantial evidence of a close and deep relationship between Davis and Obama before the 2008 election.
As we put the cover-up from eight years ago in perspective, and reflect on the conduct of the media in the current campaign, blogger Trevor Loudon has called on Maraniss to provide a full accounting of his extreme negligence, or more likely malfeasance, to the American public.
If the media have any regard for their own credibility with the public, it’s the least they should do.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.View the complete archives from Cliff Kincaid.