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 a Palestinian-American professor and critic of Israel.
The paper said it had written about the event in April and would not release the tape because of a promise made to the source who provided it.
McCain and Palin called Rashid Khalidi a former spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization, a characterization that Khalidi has denied in the past. Both candidates said guests at the party made critical comments about Israel.
Khalidi is a professor of Middle East Studies at Columbia University and a longtime friend of Obama's. Khalidi has publicly criticized Israel, but he and Obama have both said they hold very different opinions on Israeli issues.
The Times is owned by Sam Zell, 67, a billionaire real estate investor and owner of the Chicago Cubs whose Jewish parents fled Poland for America weeks before the Nazi invasion. Describing Zell as “Jewish as you can get” when he purchased the newspaper in 2007, the Jewish Chronicle speculated that the new publisher’s penchant for Israeli and Jewish causes, to which he makes large contributions, might also be reflected in the paper’s editorial pages.
An msnbc.com check of Federal Election Commission records kept online at OpenSecrets.org shows that of the $100,000-plus in campaign contributions that Zell has made in his own name since 2004, about 70 percent have gone to Republican candidates and causes. And while he gave $2,300 each to both McCain and Obama last year, the more recent donation went to the Republican.
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.
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. Obama has said during the campaign that his commitment to Israel's security is "nonnegotiable."
"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 L.A. 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.
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.
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.
Ayers was a founder of the radical group the Weather Underground, which set off bombs at the Capitol and the Pentagon in protest of the Vietnam War nearly 40 years ago. McCain has criticized Obama for having had a friendly relationship with Ayers, with whom Obama worked on two community organizations several years ago, and for downplaying their ties.
Obama has noted that he was a child when Ayers, now a university professor, was with the Weather Underground. The Democratic candidate has condemned Ayers' radical past and violent activities.
Msnbc.com's Mike Stuckey contributed to this report.