October 30th, 2008
05:34 PM ET
14 years ago

Fact check: Does group McCain chairs have link to Columbia professor Khalidi?

The Statement
The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, on Wednesday, October 29, responded to Republican opponent Sen. John McCain criticism of Obama's relationship with Rashid Khalidi, an Arab studies professor at Columbia University, by suggesting that McCain also had a link to Khalidi. It said, "John McCain should answer why, under his own chairmanship, the International Republican Institute repeatedly funded an organization Khalidi founded, the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, over the course of many years."

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The Facts
McCain and vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin have raised the issue of Barack Obama's relationship with Khalidi, a scholar who has been critical of Israel and U.S. foreign policy. Palin, on October 29 in Ohio, described him as a "radical professor from the neighborhood who spent a lot of time with Barack Obama going back several years." She also called him a "political ally" of Obama.

Obama knows Khalidi from their days in Chicago, but his campaign says he "has been clear and consistent on his support for Israel, and has been clear that Rashid Khalidi is not an adviser to him or his campaign and that he does not share Khalidi's views."

Since 1993, McCain has been chairman of the International Republican Institute - a nonprofit and nonpartisan group that helps promote democratic practices and institutions across the globe.

The IRI, in an October 29 press release, said it "gave grants" to the Center for Palestinian Research and Studies for polling in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza. The IRI said its "relationship with CPRS ended in 2000, and we understand that it no longer exists."

"We understand that Rashid Khalidi was one of the many founders of CPRS, and we understand that he was for some (unclear) amount of time a board member," the IRI said.

A defunct CPRS Web site lists Khalidi was one of the seven people who founded the group in March 1993. CPRS described itself as "an independent academic research and policy analysis institution."

"Because CPRS is independent of political factions, it is in a unique position of being able to serve as a forum for meetings of Palestinian and international researchers from various political backgrounds and ideologies in a free academic and professional atmosphere," the group said.

Michael Goldfarb, a McCain spokesman, told CNN on October 29 that "John McCain has never met Rashid Khalidi, while Barack Obama has acknowledged a close friendship with him."

The Verdict: True. There was a relationship in the 1990s between the IRI, chaired by McCain, and the CPRS, co-founded by Khalidi, which received IRI funding.

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