These are good times for Jerome Corsi. Already notorious for his factually challenged book-length takedown of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, "Unfit For Command," the sixty-one year old Corsi has another hit on his hands. His new book, "Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality" has made Corsi a hot commodity again on the right-wing radio circuit and the bane of the Obama campaign-- and catapulted to the top slot on the New York Times bestseller list. With his newfound notoriety, Bringing his pathographic anti-Obama narrative to hundreds of thousands of readers--and millions on radio and TV--just as he did with Kerry, Corsi has become the court bard of the conservative movement. "The goal is to defeat Obama," Corsi told the New York Times. "I don't want Obama to be in office."
How did this racist, conspiratorial crank become the GOP's anti-Obama point man?
As I reported for The Nation, Corsi's success represents the apotheosis of a long, strange trip from the farther shores of the right into the national spotlight. During George W. Bush's first term, Corsi was a little-known financial services marketing specialist. In 1995, according to the Boston Globe, he coaxed 20 people into a shadowy investment venture in Poland that ultimately lost them a total of $1.2 million. "It ruined my career in the brokerage business, and it was a sad story for a lot of people," said Bradley Amundson, one of those enlisted into Corsi's bungled scheme. The FBI opened an investigation but never filed any charges.
Corsi had dabbled off-and-on on the fringes of conservative backlash politics for nearly three decades. In his spare time, which he appeared to have lots of, he busied himself at his computer, firing off opinions on the far-right website Free Republic, marked by their sexual and racial obsessions.
In a comment typical of the dozens he posted under the handle "jrlc," Corsi wrote, "Anybody ask why HELLary couldn't keep BJ Bill satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?" In another, he ranted, "Isn't the Democratic Party the official SODOMIZER PROTECTION ASSOCIATION of AMERICA -- oh, I forgot, it was just an accident that Clintoon's [sic] first act in office was to promote 'gays in the military.' RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters -- it all goes together."
Then, with the assistance of his former college debate partner, the Vietnam veteran John O'Neil, he composed "Unfit For Command," suddenly vaulting into bestsellerdom. Surrounded by media buzz of talk radio and Fox News, Corsi no longer plied the seamy troll-zones of the right-wing blogosphere. Overnight, he had become a conservative folk hero. But as Bush's popularity waned during his second term, Corsi's star dimmed. He tried to reignite it by co-authoring a book with "prophecy expert" Michael Evans, "Showdown with Nuclear Iran," calling on the US and Israel to attack Iran "before it's too late," and another, "Black Gold Stranglehold," claiming to expose the Big Lie that will "enslave" Americans: "the belief that oil is a fossil fuel and a finite resource." Corsi's conspiracy theories consolidated his cult status, but he did not revive the brightness of his Swiftboating campaign. As another presidential election approached, however, Corsi followed his well-trod path back to renown.
In early 2007, Corsi huddled with an old friend, Howard Phillips, a veteran conservative operative who had attempted to organize the anti-government militia movement into a cohesive political bloc during the 1990s. Corsi emerged from their discussion convinced of his destiny. He would declare his campaign for the presidential nomination of the ultra-right Constitution Party, enthusiastically embrace the party's call for a complete halt on immigration, banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and upholding its official platform that the "U.S. Constitution established a Republic under God, rather than a democracy." With this momentous announcement, Corsi hoped to cast himself as the last, best hope to save America from the godless globalist duocracy conspiring to merge the United States, Mexico, and Canada into a "North American Union." (His latest flop, published in 2007, was a screed entitled, "The Late Great USA: The Coming Merger with Mexico and Canada.")
In July 2007, Corsi spoke before the Texas Constitution Party. At the time, he remained focused on foiling the ambitions of Hillary and Bill Clinton. "I don't want Bill Clinton anywhere near the White House," Corsi proclaimed. "We had enough serial rape going on when he was president." But Corsi didn't want a Republican in the White House either, especially not Senator John McCain. The war-scarred McCain, Corsi wrote in a column for the far-right webzine WorldNetDaily, is a possible jihadist dupe who "has enjoyed strong support...from a Muslim terrorist group with ties to criminal drug networks and Al-Qaida." Even George W. Bush was now treasonous. "Bush," he told the Texas Constitution Party, "is post-America and post-God," a figure so indebted to foreign interests that he had allowed "communist China" to "run its gunboats up the Mississippi." In Corsi's mind, both parties were fronts for the money-masters, the Trilateralists, the plotters of Bohemian Grove -- the "elitists who want to destroy the nation-state."
"They don't want to offend anybody. They don't want to offend Mexico. They don't want to offend God," he railed, accidentally inverting what he meant to say. "They take God out of my money. I think we ought to offend Mexico! I think we ought to offend the sexual abusers! I think we ought to respect God."
Corsi's audience went wild with applause, cheering almost as loudly as they did when he recounted a self-congratulatory tale of hanging up on a telemarketer because he was from India. Despite the mounting enthusiasm for his candidacy, Corsi unaccountably withdrew from the race just days after his Texas address. He promptly endorsed Chuck Baldwin, a theocratic Baptist pastor who had left the Republican Party in 2000 to protest what he viewed as Bush's extreme liberalism. Bush, according to Baldwin, was "in bed with homosexuals" (or "sodomites" as he likes to call them) and had gone soft on abortion providers, whom Baldwin believed should be marched en masse to the gallows.
"Chuck [Baldwin], I know personally. He's a man of God," Corsi told the Constitution Party's national convention in May. "He believes in the Constitution and he believes in the United States of America."
Baldwin also believes that "moneychangers" of a certain Chosen People are "Destroying America - and Christians Don't See It." That is the title of a commentary he wrote in February of 2008. In it, he wrote: "The moneychangers of Jesus' day were the equivalent of the international bankers of our day. With the consent and approbation of the Jewish leaders, these bankers set up shop in the Temple. Their purpose was to exchange whatever currency the Jewish worshipper brought with him or her into Jewish currency, which would then be used to purchase whatever sacrifice the worshipper required." For proof, Baldwin cited the investigations of his associate, "Dr. Jerry Corsi," who had bravely "exposed the moneychangers who are the driving force behind the burgeoning North American Union."
Backed by Corsi, Baldwin seized the Constitution Party's nomination this May. Then he unfurled a bold new agenda, calling for "an independent investigative committee to analyze" whether the attacks of 9-11 were an inside government job. Corsi, for his part, shared Baldwin's skepticism. "The government's explanation of the jet fuel fire is not a sufficient explanation," Corsi said in January on the radio show hosted by Alex Jones, a fellow Baldwin supporter who promotes himself as "the grandfather of what has come to be known as the 9/11 Truth Movement."
"With people like you starting to question 9-11 with the science," Jones marveled, "boy that's really gonna..."
"That's what rattles the cage," said Corsi in a self-satisfied tone.
In late 2007, with Obama in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Corsi gleaned a new opportunity to "rattle the cage." He punched out a proposal for an anti-Obama attack book, "Obama Nation," and floated it to right-wing publishers. Mary Matalin, the longtime Republican consultant and former senior adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, was hunting for titles for her three-year-old publishing imprint, Threshold, a conservative division of Simon and Schuster. When Corsi's proposal landed on her desk, she was thrilled.
Matalin promptly signed Corsi to a lucrative deal, positioning "Obama Nation" as Threshold's premier release of the summer season. In anticipation of heavy sales, Matalin ordered the printing of 475,000 copies. When the book was released in early August, conservative foundations and think tanks ensured its early success with a massive bulk buy, propelling it to number one on the New York Times bestseller list.
Like "Unfit For Command," which wrongly claimed that Kerry had falsified combat reports in order to earn medals in Vietnam, "Obama Nation" was larded with crackpot smears cobbled together from assorted right-wing blog posts. Corsi asserted, for example, that Obama had "extensive connections to Islam," that he may have snorted cocaine in the Senate, and that he has staffed his campaign with card-carrying communists (including the former youth politics reporter at The Nation, Sam Graham-Felsen, an official Obama blogger and self-described progressive Democrat).
But even as Media Matters for America documented an extensive litany of falsehoods and misrepresentations in "Obama Nation," and a nearly unanimous chorus of reviewers panned the book - "poisonous crap," according to Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein -- the Obama campaign could not afford to repeat Kerry's fatal mistake of ignoring Corsi and leaving the debunking to the press. On August 14, the Obama campaign released a http://www.politico.com/static/PPM104_080814_unfit_cover.html">41-page "investigative report on the lies in Jerome Corsi's 'Obama Nation,'" entitled, "Unfit For Publication." While the booklet systematically undermined the credibility of Corsi's writing, it also underlined the pivotal role Corsi played in the Republican attack machine.
Thrown on the defensive by the revelation of Corsi's myriad factual errors, Matalin rushed to her author's defense. "Obama Nation," she told the New York Times, "was not designed to be, and does not set out to be, a political book. Instead, it is "a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that." Following Matalin's lead, the conservative movement rallied to Corsi's side. Rush Limbaugh hailed Obama Nation as a "pretty damn good" book; Fox News host Sean Hannity hosted Corsi twice on his top-rated Hannity and Colmes, asking him during his second appearance whether Obama was ever a drug dealer. Meanwhile, the National Review's Mark Levin assailed the media for "wanting to know about anything [Corsi] has ever said or written and his associations." Even John McCain refused to condemn Corsi's work. When asked by a reporter about "Obama Nation," McCain responded simply, "Gotta keep your sense of humor."
Though the conservative movement's most influential media personalities clamoring for interviews, Corsi still found time to visit the fringe figures that had promoted his conspiratorial tracts during his lean years between campaigns. On August 4, Corsi reunited with Alex Jones, the 9-11 "Truther," to claim that Obama "really" was a Muslim. "We should not have anybody as president who -- both their parents aren't Americans," Jones barked. "Bottom line, that's always been the way it is." Two weeks later, Corsi scheduled a spot on something called "James Edwards' Political Cesspool," a show he had already appeared on in July.
Who is James Edwards? A 28-year-old self-described "white nationalist," he has leveraged sponsorship from neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial groups to become America's most popular white supremacist radio host. On his website, Edwards has boasted of his friendship with neo-Nazi activist David Duke, and written "slavery is the greatest thing that ever happened to" African-Americans. He also warned "Hollywood promotes white genocide." For Edwards, Corsi's anti-Obama attacks were only a slight detour from the racialist ranting his show usually entertains.
However, when the Southern Poverty Law Center and Media Matters reported on Corsi's planned appearance on Edwards' show, Corsi quietly withdrew, claiming through his publicist that "travel plans have changed." Bigger venues, in any case, await him. Once again, he's a star -- the crank acclaimed by conservatives as the greatest investigative journalist of the day.