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Aaron Klein's Guilt-By-Association Smears: A Case Study

The WorldNetDaily reporter wants you to believe that a respected scholar who has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom is a radical Muslim who's working to undermine America.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/22/2011

Guilt by association is the stock-in-trade of WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein, as ConWebWatch has documented. Since that's what WorldNetDaily is paying him to do despite his shoddy reporting methods being repeatedly exposed, it's no surprise that he goes back to that well often.

Let's examine Klein's treatment , typical of his modus operandi, of one of his targets: Vartan Gregorian, the head of the Carnegie Corporation whom President Obama appointed in 2009 to the board of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships.

In a June 23, 2010, article, Klein declared that Gregorian was "closely tied to the Muslim leaders behind a proposed controversial Islamic cultural center to be built near the site of the 9/11 attacks." How so? Klein's primary piece of evidence is that Gregorian is on the board of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The museum, according to Klein, is "reportedly working" with the American Society for Muslim Advancement, "whose leaders are behind the mosque, to ensure the future museum will represent the voices of American Muslims."

That's "closely tied"? Really?

Here's a list of some of the other people Klein apparently believes are "closely tied" to the " ‘Ground Zero' imam" through their similar involvement with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum:

  • Michael Bloomberg
  • George Pataki
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • All four living former presidents
  • 9/11 widow Debra Burlingame
  • Billy Crystal
  • Robert De Niro

Does Klein really believe that Republican politicians, actors, former presidents, and the sister of a 9/11 victim who works with Liz Cheney are part of some massive Muslim-promoting conspiracy? It would appear so.

But Klein wasn't done. He went on to suggest that Gregorian is some sort of Islamic extremist by highlighting an attack on his 2003 book, "Islam: A Mosaic, Not A Monolith":

According to a book review by the Middle East Forum, Gregorian's book "establishes the Islamist goal of world domination."

A chapter of the book, "Islamism: Liberation Politics," quotes Ayatollah Khomenei: "Islam does not conquer. Islam wants all countries to become Muslim, of themselves." Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, is quoting stating it "is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet."

Gregorian himself recommends for Muslims a system he calls "theo-democracy," which he defines as "a divine democratic government" that, according to the book review, "would have a limited popular sovereignty under the suzerainty of Allah."

First, the Middle East Forum is a right-wing group headed by activist Daniel Pipes -- who has tried to spread the falsehood that Obama is a Muslim and seems to like the idea of imprisoning ethnic groups for their alleged danger to national security -- so the site's review of Gregorian's book is hardly objective. Klein and the review falsely portray Gregorian's quoting of Khomenei and al-Banna as his endorsement of what they said; in fact, Gregorian is merely recounting the history of the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, respectively. Neither Klein nor the Middle East Quarterly note that Gregorian goes on to note that despite the Muslim Brotherhood's denial of involvement with terrorism and subversion, it has been repeatedly linked to terrorist acts. Also, the term "theo-democracy" is not Gregorian's word, as Klein and the review suggest; he is quoting what one Muslim "traditional political theorist" advocated.

The Middle East Forum's negative attack on Gregorian's book appears to be an anomaly. No less than former Wall Street Journal publisher Karen Elliott House -- who won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on the Middle East -- placed it at the top of her list of books that are "essential to understanding Islam," calling it "the perfect primer" on the subject.

Finally, the entire idea that Gregorian is some sort of Islamist extremist, as Klein suggests, is utterly ludicrous. Before heading the Carnegie Corporation, Gregorian was president of Brown University and president of the New York Public Library -- not exactly extremist organizations (except perhaps to people like Klein). And in 2004, President Bush awarded Gregorian the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Here's what Bush said about him:

The life of Dr. Vartan Gregorian began in Iran, in a town called Tabriz. As a boy, he loved books, and was blessed with a wonderful grandmother who encouraged him and inspires him still. His great gift has been to share his love of learning with others, as President of Brown University, President of the New York Public Library, and now as President of the Carnegie Corporation. Along the way, Dr. Gregorian has won the loyal friendship of many students and colleagues, and he has received more than 50 honorary degrees. And today the nation honors one of our most respected academic leaders.

The fact that Klein would try to denigrate such a universally respected scholar as an extremist shows just how desperate and hate-driven he is to attack anyone even remotely connected to Obama. The transparent guilt-by-association smear failed in Klein's anti-Obama attack book (in which he laughably claimed he did not believe in guilt by association), and it fails here.

But that was only the beginning. Klein trotted out another guilt-by-association smear in a June 27 article: "Gregorian served on the selection committee of the Annenberg Foundation, which funded Ayers' Chicago Annenberg Challenge with a $49.2 million, 2-to-1 matching challenge grant over five years."

That's it. That's the substance of it.

But that statement appeared in the fifth paragraph of Klein's article. Because Klein isn't satisfied by substance, what you read before you come across that statement is inaccurate and unsubstantiated innuendo:

A scholar and charity head appointed to President Obama's White House Fellowships Commission served as a point man in granting $49.2 million in startup capital to an education-reform project founded by Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers and chaired by Obama.

Documentation shows the White House fellow, Vartan Gregorian, was central in Ayers' recruitment of Obama to serve as the first chairman of the project, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge -- a job in which Obama worked closely on a regular basis with Ayers.

Obama also later touted his job at the project as qualifying him to run for public office, as WND previously reported.

The main claim Klein makes -- that Ayers recruited Obama to head the CAC -- is unsubstantiated. The New York Times reported that, "according to several people involved," Ayers "played no role" in choosing Obama. Klein offered no evidence to contradict that.

Because that central claim is dubious, Klein's secondary claim -- that Gregorian was "central" to Obama being appointed to the CAC -- is even more dubious. Klein's evidence here is a letter in which Gregorian, as head of Annenberg's selection committee, asked Ayers to "compose the governing board" of the Challenge's collaborative project with "people who reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of Chicago." As a result, Klein wrote, "Ayers and other founding Challenge members then recruited Obama to serve as the project chairman." But Klein offers no evidence that Obama was specifically mentioned by Gregorian, nor does he offer evidence that the CAC was specifically looking for a black man or other minority to lead it.

Which brings us to where it gets really dumb. The underlying implication of Klein's article is that Obama appointed Gregorian to the board of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships in gratitude for Gregorian funding the CAC and, thus, helping to pad Obama's resume. This implication was made explicit in the front-page promo for Klein's article, which asked, "Ayers-Obama link: Is this the payoff?"

Because nothing screams "payoff" more than an appointment to a minor government board.

If this is Klein's idea of a "payoff," what does he think President Bush awarding Gregorian the Presidential Medal of Freedom is? We don't know, because Klein failed to mention in either article that Gregorian has received it.

Oh, and Klein pads out his article by repeating the lame and baseless smears of his original attack on Gregorian, thus compounding the lameness.

Klein went dormant in his attacks on Gregorian for several months, then resurfaced in a March 31 article to hurl a even more specious guilt-by-association attack: Gregorian served on an advisory board in 2001 that developed the "Responsibility to Protect" policy invoked by Obama to launch military action against Libya.

That's it. That's all Klein has.

Klein's goal here was to tie Gregorian to George Soros; his headline read, "White House fellow founded Soros-funded military scheme." (Gregorian is not a White House fellow; he is one of 28 members of the board that governs the fellowships, along with such non-radicals as Tom Brokaw and Gen. Wesley Clark.) the It was one of many, many Soros-obsessed articles Klein has churned out in the past several months.

Having exhausted that line of attack rather quickly, Klein spent the rest of his article rehashing old smears, such as his claim that "WND previously reported documentation shows Gregorian was central in the recruitment of Obama in 1995 to serve as the first chairman of an education project, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge." In fact, as we documented, Klein's "documentation" is specious -- just a single letter asking CAC founder Bill Ayers to "compose the governing board" of the Challenge's collaborative project with "people who reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of Chicago."

Klein then claimed that "Ayers and other founding Challenge members then recruited Obama to serve as the project chairman." Again, more credible sources have reported that Ayers had nothing to do with the recruitment of Obama.

Klein's repeated attacks on Gregorian -- similar in their dishonesty and lack of substance to Klein's attacks on Elena Kagan in a futile effort to keep her from being named to the Supreme Court -- appear to be more than coincidence; they seem personal. What did Gregorian do to Klein that is apparently motivating this campaign of guilt-by-association revenge?

Klein's reporting is becoming an illustration of the law of diminishing returns -- fewer and people take him seriously. This was most recently apparent in his slavish regurgitation of foreigner Trevor Loudon's attempts to smear CIA chief Leon Panetta as having communist ties. Working in parallel with Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid, Klein cranked out four articles pushing the supposed connection in the week before the Senate was to vote on Panetta's nomination to be defense secretary.

The result? The Senate unanimously confirmed Panetta for the job.

The world, it seems -- well, the world outside of WND's fringe echo chamber-slash-fever swamp -- is simply not interested in anything Klein has to say.

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