In February, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked on taking action against right-wing filmmaker Joel Gilbert for failing to disclose how much he spent manufacturing and mailing what he claimed was millions of DVD copies of his anti-Obama documentary "Dreams From My Real Father" to voters in several swing states before the 2012 presidential election, meaning that no action against him would take place. An FEC general counsel's report declared that Gilbert's film qualified as a legitimate media action and was not an independent political expenditure subject to financial disclosure.
Despite winning his case, Gilbert knew exactly what to do to capitalize on it: run to the right-wing media and cry persecution.
WorldNetDaily's Jerome Corsi -- a longtime promoter of Gilbert who really should know better, given how he repeated a separate Gilbert claim about Obama's wedding ring that was so wrong even Corsi's fellow birthers felt obliged to debunk it -- was more than happy to oblige Gilbert's persecution complex, and he played it up accordingly:
The Federal Election Commission complaint against the free distribution of his 2012 anti-Obama film was a "dangerous development" threatening free speech, filmmaker Joel Gilbert told WND after the three Democrats on the six-member panel were prevented from punishing him.
In a case spotlighting regulation of conservative media, the three Democrats on the FEC alleged Gilbert violated reporting rules when he mailed out DVDs of his movie, "Dreams from My Real Father: A Story of Reds and Deception," during the 2012 election campaign.
"This is a dangerous development; free speech is literally hanging in the balance," Gilbert said of the Democrats' attempt to punish him. "It's a harbinger of the intolerant suppression of First Amendment rights we should fear if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders should win the White House."
Gilbert said the punishments could have included heavy fines, restrictions on his speech and even referral to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.
He predicted a "dire future" for conservatives if a Democrat wins the White House this fall.
"If the make-up of the Federal Election Commission is changed because a Democrat wins the presidency and appoints one more Democrat than Republican to the commission, we face a dire future in which only political speech favorable to far-left agenda will be tolerated in America," Gilbert said.
"All conservative opinion, whether expressed in documentary films, shown on television or the Internet, or broadcast over radio may be subject to criminal penalties," he said.
The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard joined in with a piece that also dutifully repeated Gilbert's persecution narrative. Bedard's article was reprinted on the Fox News website.
Actually, the only real "punishment" Gilbert might have faced was having to disclose how much he spent to promote his film and possibly where that money came from, and having to pay any fines for not filing the paperwork originally. And it's clear Gilbert wants to keep that information a secret.
Also, the last time we checked, falsehoods are not protected by the First Amendment, and those are found in abundance in "Dreams From My Real Father."
The headline claim of Gilbert's film is that Barack Obama's real father is, in Corsi's words, "the late Communist Party USA propagandist Frank Marshall Davis." That's an argument so fallacious that even the far-right website American Thinker shot that down, dismissing Gilbert as a "hoaxster."
Gilbert also asserted in the film that Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, posed in nude photos taken by Davis and published in erotic magazines of the time. Attorney Loren Collins (who filed the FEC complaint against Gilbert) demonstrated that the photos Gilbert claimed were of Dunham could not possibly have been her.
Gilbert clearly knows this claim is false because as Collins debunked it, Gilbert adjusted the promotion of his film to paper over the falsehood.
As far as I know, Gilbert has never publicly denied the falsehoods in his film. In one response to the FEC investigation, his lawyers complained that Collins questioned the film's accuracy but do not defend the film.
Gilbert is nobody's definition of a journalist -- he's a charlatan and a propagandist. As Collins has also noted, Gilbert made other so-called documentaries -- claiming, among other things, that Paul McCartney is dead and Elvis is alive -- that he once promoted as legitimate, serious efforts but now calls "mockumentaries." That seems to be the path "Dreams From My Real Father" is headed.
Curiously, Gilbert or his financial backers were able to marshal some high-powered legal help to battle the FEC. Gilbert's original response to the complaint was submitted by Cleta Mitchell, a conservative activist and election law specialist. Another response was submited by Eric Lycan, whose record includes serving as counsel for Mitch McConnell's last re-election campaign and is current treasurer for a pro-Ted Cruz super PAC. We doubt that the legal assistance of Mitchell and Lycan does not come cheap.
Interesting that a purported documentarian claiming to work independently of any political campaign was able to come up with such heavy hitters in the mainstream conservative movement to defend him.
Of course, if I was financing such a sleazy and lie-filled propaganda piece like "Dreams From My Real Father," I'd be paying big money to keep people from finding that out as well.