Mort Zuckerman clarifies Obama speechwriter claim

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Well, did a major press patriarch pen a big speech for the president of the United States in secret? The answer is somewhere between sort of and kind of — with a little “maybe” thrown in.

In 24 hours, dozens of press accounts parsed Mortimer B. Zuckerman’s jaunty claim that he had written a speech for President Obama, made to Fox News on Monday night and picked up within minutes by RealClearPolitics.com and billed shortly thereafter as a “bombshell” by the Drudge Report.

Journalists rushed to confirm the New York Daily News publisher’s claim, quickly suggesting it had been an ironic and clandestine collaboration, perhaps, between conservative media mogul and the White House.

The din grew.

Politico conferred with two of Mr. Obama’s speechwriters on the feasibility of it all, and they both shrugged. The analysts and pundits chimed in, questioning the validity of the claim, not to mention its timing. Mr. Zuckerman has been particularly critical of Mr. Obama in recent days, calling him “hostile” towards business.

The brief clip between Mr. Zuckerman and Fox News host Neil Cavuto quickly migrated to YouTube.

But Mr. Zuckerman is, at heart, a newsman, as well as a mogul — and stepped forward by Tuesday afternoon with a clarification, posted, his office told The Washington TImes, right there at the U.S. News and World Report web site, where Mr. Zuckerman is also publisher.

“Over the years I have been asked by various public officials, including those in Washington, for my perspectives and views on numerous issues. These conversations have always been considered confidential,” he said. “My point in noting during a recent television interview that I had once ‘helped’ contribute to one of Barack Obama’s campaign speeches was to reflect the fact that my recent criticisms of the president came from someone who had been supportive of him, who had voted for him, and whose newspaper endorsed him. I continue to hope for his and the country’s success.”

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