JTA’s Eric Fingerhut reports that after EMET’s participation in a campaign to promote the anti-Muslim documentary, Obsession, was uncovered by Inter-Press Service, and CAIR filed an FEC complaint against the project, EMET backed away as fast as its little feet would carry it. Frankly, it makes EMET and its director look quite foolish. Before I quote from the story, you should know that Clarion Fund has created a vehicle to promote Obsession called the Obsession Project:
[EMET] had agreed to write a policy paper and lead an educational outreach effort subsequent to the distribution of 28 million DVDs of the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” The DVD distribution was funded and arranged by the Clarion Fund, and EMET was not involved with that portion of the project.
EMET founder and president Sarah Stern initially told JTA on Friday that she had been taken advantage of by the group and had never spoken with Ari Morgenstern, who was quoted in press reports as speaking for EMET and the Obsession Project.
But the communications strategists for the Project, Baron Communications LLC and 30 Point Strategies, shared e-mails and phone records that showed Stern had at least four telephone conversations earlier in the week with Morgenstern. In addition, they produced an e-mail from Sept. 22 which showed Stern approving of a press release and other materials announcing EMET’s participation. Another e-mail a day later from Stern included a lengthy note backing the project’s mission and the sign-off “Soldier On!”
Stern now does acknowledge having spoken to Morgenstern and approving involvement with the project, but now says she “made a mistake” in not getting approval from EMET’s board before agreeing to became a partner.
PR flacks are supposed to be loyal to their clients, but the Obsession Project’s publicists have dumped on poor Sarah Stern like an overflowing toilet. They really have the goods on her and gave Fingerhut a great story.
What is truly bizarre about this report is that Fingerhut claims EMET was not involved with the controversial DVD distribution, yet IPS reported earlier:
…While the initial press reports about the mass distribution focused on the Clarion Fund’s financing role, it was Endowment for Middle East Truth that organised and oversaw the distribution, EMET’s spokesman, Ari Morgenstern, told IPS.
Unfortunately, Fingerhut’s report does not address this very important discrepancy or refer to the earlier IPS story. So my question is: why would Ari Morgenstern say EMET was funding the distribution and Stern deny this? Who, if anyone, is telling the truth? And an even more important question: who is the specific fatcat funding this sucker? Neither EMET nor Clarion on their own have the kind of funding to do this. The money comes directly from a private source. But who is it? I’d also like to know who is paying for the promotional work being done on behalf of the Obsession Project.
Fingerhut has unfortunately allowed an overly narrowly framed comment to enter into his reporting about the CAIR FEC complaint:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations asked the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 23 to investigate the distribution of the DVDs and whether it was intended to influence the election — even though the film includes no partisan political content.
Fingerhut here neglects important aspects of this case. That Clarion specifically endorsed McCain on its Radical Islam website. That the promotional packaging accompanying the DVD mailer specifically called on viewers to consider the message of the film when making their November election choice. That sending 28 million copies of the film to voters in swing states WAS a partisan political act. CAIR complained to the FEC not about the film per se, but rather about the film’s distribution in the context of a presidential election. This distinction seems to have escaped Fingerhut.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.