“The worst kind of smear journalism—a singularly disgusting work.”—Columbia Journalism Review on his past work.
Right-wing author Dinesh D’Souza has recently released “2016: Obama’s America,” a movie that falsely smears President Obama as having a hidden agenda bent on realizing “anti-colonial” ambitions. A self-proclaimed expert on the President, D’Souza bases the film around his own past works, which were previously described as “the worst kind of smear journalism,” and riddled with “lazy” errors. The result is what Variety calls a “cavalcade of conspiracy theories, psycho-politico conjectures and incendiary labeling” and what the L.A. Times labels a “badly disguised and overly long attack ad.” A look at D’Souza’s record is a look at a history of demonstrably false and ridiculous claims about the President, and “2016” is no exception. In fact, admitting President Obama was born in the U.S. is what Bloomberg calls “as close to moderation as this nutty film gets.”
“2016” promises to show viewers what they “don’t know” about President Obama, but instead reveals what Newsday called a “ranter” peddling conspiracy theories. In place of an actual documentary, D’Souza employs “pseudo-scholarly leaps of logic” to invent an imaginary character who has inherited “anti-colonial,” “Third World” views from his father—whom he last saw when he was 10 years old. The first third of the movie is dedicated to D’Souza’s own life story, baselessly claiming his supposedly similar background gives him a special insight into the President’s thinking.
But the similarities end there. It’s true, for example, that they both spent time overseas as children, and that they both had the privilege of receiving Ivy League educations. But while President Obama’s time as head of the Harvard Law Review won praise for his balanced and even-handed approach, D’Souza helped found a student newspaper infamous for ugly attacks on students and teachers. And while D’Souza is happy to invent claims and ideas from a book the President wrote two decades ago, the offensive and repugnant views in his own past books—which include blaming the “cultural left” for the September 11th attacks and promoting insulting stereotypes—receive little mention.
The rest of the movie similarly strays from reality. D’Souza attacks President Obama’s work to reduce nuclear stockpiles, despite its strong bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans, including President Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of State. D’Souza dismisses President Obama’s call for a world without nuclear weapons as a “dreamy idea,” while ignoring that it was President Reagan himself who repeatedly called for “the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.” He even appears to suggest President Obama held views because a onetime friend of his late father did, yet another reason why the AP found the movie’s premise “not plausible” and “almost entirely subjective.”
D’Souza’s “2016” draws largely from his 2010 book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” and related columns, writings that have also been extensively mocked and lambasted by commentators of all partisan stripes. Columbia Journalism Review described it as “the worst kind of smear journalism—a singularly disgusting work.” Conservative blogger and professor of theology R.R. Reno slammed D’Souza’s argument, which insinuates that President Obama is not a true American because he is “captive to the ideology of [Kenyan] Luo tribesman from the ‘50s,” as “both unwarranted and misguided.”
That his writings and film are based on lies should not come as a surprise to anyone given D’Souza’s long history of attempting to add a veneer of intellectual respectability to fringe theories, conspiratorial fear-mongering, and flat-out falsehoods. For example:
D’Souza falsely asserted that President Obama funded $2 billion in Brazilian oil exploration even though numerous fact checkers and reporters have noted that President Obama had “nothing to do with the loan.”
D’Souza falsely charged that President Obama backed Scotland’s release of the Lockerbie bomber only weeks after the Obama administration had put out a statement opposing Scotland’s decision to return Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Libya and sent a letter to the Scottish government raising the administration’s strong objection.
D’Souza even claimed that President Obama passed the bank bailouts when the facts clearly show that it was President Bush who signed the Troubled Asset Relief Program into law in October 2008.
It should say enough about D’Souza’s credibility that a movie catering to the Tea Party attacks someone for allegedly “anti-colonial” views. His attempts to hide his lies behind a pseudo-scholarly presentation and glossy production values cannot withstand basic scrutiny. The facts show that “2016: Obama’s America” is nothing more than an insidious attempt to dishonestly smear the President by giving intellectual cover to the worst in subterranean conspiracy theories and false, partisan attacks.