The co-author of the new book “Game Change” faced a few backhanded compliments when he joined Stephen Colbert Wednesday night. John Heilemann’s book has been called “royal court gossip” by bloggers like Glenn Greenwald. Colbert seemed to be playing off those beliefs when he praised the book because it was “not bogged down with sources or attributions.”
The book, co-authored by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, is most known for exposing comments Sen. Harry Reid made about then candidate Barack Obama. Reid said that people would vote for Obama because he was “light-skinned” and had no “negro dialect.”
Huffington Post blogger Jason Linkins calls “Game Change” a “soulless and dishonest work” for its use of anonymous sources.
More perplexing “ground rules” were offered on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, where Heilemann said they had told sources “that [they wouldn't] identify any of our sources as the sources of the material.” However, he added, “we said to them all very clearly that if they put themselves in scenes of the book, if they were uttering dialogue to people in the book in part of a scene, that we would identify them as the utterer of those words.”
I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work! At what point does someone speaking on background suddenly transform into someone who’s actively placing themselves inside a scene in an as-yet-unwritten book? And in this case, there’s no evidence Reid ever said these words to anyone else, so the scene is actually the off-the-record interview itself! It’s too charitable to simply call this shady.
But Stephen Colbert doesn’t care about the book’s sourcing. “It’s as factually accurate as I need it to be because it is a hell of a read,” said Colbert. “That being said, I have have not read it.”
This video is from Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, broadcast Jan. 13, 2010.