Alert: Obama Plumber Story is Myth

A story has been posted tonight on Real Barack Obama authored by John Batchelor. It alleges the existence of a Plumbers Unit inside the Obama campaign that is aimed at blocking public access to the records of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) at the University of Illinois and Brown University.

The story relies heavily on inaccurate and made up quotes from me. I never provided Real Barack Obama these quotes, I never spoke to John Batchelor for a story to be written for Real Barack Obama, I did not even know he was writing a piece for that website and I turned down an interview with him for the right wing magazine Human Events. (The email I sent to Batchelor is copied below.)

I have asked Batchelor to pull the story and remove the quotes and to only quote clearly and directly from Global Labor so that it is clear that I was not, in fact, interviewed by him.

Frankly, I do not want to be associated with the troglodyte politics of the far right, even when we might agree on a narrow issue such as the public’s right of access to public documents. Human Events, the home of intellectual giants like Robert Novak and Anne Coulter, is about as troglodyte as one gets in American politics.

Perhaps it is their narrow and reactionary view of the world that makes it so hard for them to understand the role of people like Bill Ayers in American politics and to have to turn to the left to understand what is going on around them.

In any case, despite my explicit written statement that I would not be interviewed, that did not stop Batchelor from making up quotes and attributing them to me and taking some accurate information from the blog – such as some bits and pieces related to the story about the effort of one individual who is not a part of the Obama campaign as far as I know, Ken Rolling, to suppress the CAC records – and spinning that into a story that posits the existence of an actual Plumbers’ Unit inside the Obama campaign.

Rolling was the former Woods Fund staffer, hired by Ayers and Obama to be the Executive Director of the CAC in 1995, a position he held until 2002. The documents of the CAC were handed over to the University of Illinois then for public research. When a conservative journalist tried to access them last month the University stopped him, at the request of Rolling. Rolling, however, had no legal standing to make that request and the University re-released the documents.

For the record, while I have speculated, tongue in cheek, that Rolling may be involved in activity vaguely akin to the actual Nixon White House Plumbers (who engaged in break ins at the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic Party in 1972), there is no evidence that there is such a group in the Obama campaign. (I have now removed those references since it appears the right does not know how to take a joke.)

I apologize to my readers who may be misled by this silly stunt by Batchelor. Global Labor tries to stick to the facts. We do try to pose theories when we think the facts, even if incomplete, warrant that. In this case wishful thinking by a conspiracy theorist on the far right has distorted our hard work.

I doubt that Rolling contacted the University without someone there contacting him about the interest of National Review in the CAC material. And it is certainly logical to inquire whether it was Bill Ayers. But that is only an inquiry. I certainly hope that this is not the case and that there is an innocent explanation for the University of Illinois’ temporary denial of access to the CAC records. As for Brown University, I have asked them for an explanation for their refusal to respond to my inquiries earlier this summer and until I learn differently will assume that it was equally innocent.

Email sent to John Batchelor in reply to request for interview with Human Events:


Once again after careful thought I come inevitably to the conclusion that there is little more I can contribute beyond what is on my blog. Of course you are free to quote from it but I do not want to be interviewed by Human Events.

Thank you again for your interest in my work.


Steve Diamond