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Obama's letter with homosexual musings first surfaced in 2018 but media didn't cover it: Author

'When a paperback comes out, you know, nobody's expecting to go back to it again and neither myself nor HarperCollins put out a press release saying, 'hey, look at this, this is new,'" says author Garrow, about the 2018 paperback version of his 2017 Obama bio

Published: August 16, 2023 6:15am

Updated: August 16, 2023 10:33am

David Garrow, author of "Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama," told Just the News that a 1982 letter former President Obama wrote to an ex-girlfriend that contained Obama's homosexual musings was published in the 2018 paperback version of his 2017 book but the media didn't pick it up until now.

Garrow blamed the lack of coverage on HarperCollins, his publisher, for not putting out a press release to promote the paperback version. The book was a New York Times bestseller, but according to Garrow, the media did not revisit the book's second publication because no press release alerted them. He had mentioned the letter in a recent interview with The Tablet and some mainstream media outlets subsequently reported on it. A search of The New York Times archive shows no coverage about the newly-disclosed letter in the 2018 book. 

"When the hardback of 'Rising Star' came out, I mean, it got reviewed and made the New York Times bestseller list. You know, the Washington Post named it one of the 10 best books of 2017," he said on Monday.

"But when a paperback comes out, you know, nobody's expecting to go back to it again and neither myself nor HarperCollins put out a press release saying, 'hey, look at this, this is new,' because, I mean, while it's notable in a certain way, I don't think it's tremendously scandalous because as I understand humanity the vast majority of people have fantasy lives," he added, referring to Obama's musings about his own sexuality in letters written by Obama.

Alex McNair, who had dated Obama between 1979 and 1982, showed Garrow letters that Obama sent her in the 1980s while he was working on "Rising Star." He said McNail redacted an entire paragraph from one letter, saying "she didn't want me to read it while Barack was president because it's about homosexuality." It wasn't until the letters were sold to Emory University when he was able to figure out what that section actually said.

"'Rising Star' was published in May of 2017 and then sometime that fall Alex let me know that she had sold the letters, the originals of the letters, to Emory University, and Emory put out a press release and there were stories about the letters, both in the Atlanta paper and in the New York Times. But the stories made no mention of this, you know, up till then, the secret paragraph, and Emory wouldn't let people make copies or images of the letters," Garrow said.

"So I asked one of my oldest friends who has been a professor at Emory for 45 years or so now, I asked him to go into the archive and find that letter and he literally copied down the previously withheld paragraph by hand pencil and paper and then emailed me the text of it," he added.

In one of the letters to McNair, Obama wrote: “In regard to homosexuality, I must say that I believe this is an attempt to remove oneself from the present, a refusal perhaps to perpetuate the endless farce of earthly life. You see, I make love to men daily, but in the imagination. My mind is androgynous to a great extent and I hope to make it more so until I can think in terms of people, not women as opposed to men. But, in returning to the body, I see that I have been made a man, and physically in life, I choose to accept that contingency.”

Garrow was asked why he thinks the mainstream press didn't scrutinize these letters and that earlier period of Obama's life when he was running for president in 2008 and 2012.

"People got so fixated on both Jeremiah [Wright] and Bill Ayers and then, you know, birtherism, and that distracted them from a lot more important aspects of Barack's earlier life," he said. "Back in 2007, 2008, reporters covering Obama were not that actively curious about his pre-political life, in part, because the Obama campaign sold them the story that "Dreams from My Father", his 1995 memoir, was his life story."

Garrow, who won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for biography, emphasized that Obama's 1995 memoir was not an "accurate account" of his early years.

"But that's how I first got started on this in 2008, when I first read that book, because you realize almost immediately that it's, you know, not an accurate account because there are these composite characters, most people have pseudonyms," he said.

Just the News asked Garrow if he could disclose the contents of the paragraphs before and after the homosexual reference in the 1982 letter Obama wrote. In response, Garrow said his friend, Emory University professor Harvey Klehr, wasn't allowed to take a photo of the entire letter and only transcribed the redacted portion. 

"I didn't ask him to, you know, copy down the entire page," he said. 

Garrow explained that the handwritten letters McNair wrote to Obama are not contained in Emory's collection but he suspects that the former president still has them.

"Now, that's a really good question, because I think Barack no doubt has held on to stuff," Garrow said.

He mentioned that one of his off the record conversations with Obama in the Oval Office led him to believe he still has much of his own writing from the 1980s.

"Indeed, I can say this: For the first time, I went to see Barack in the Oval. He had, the only thing on the big presidential desk was a stack, maybe about five to six inches tall, of all his handwritten journals, from back in the 1980s. I mean, it was publicly known, you know, that he was a guy that kept journals," he said. "And he sort of had them there as a way of telling me, 'I'm not gonna let you see these,' just a sort of way of toying with me a bit."

Garrow was asked if he plans to do more digging into the background of the Obamas, given that former First Lady Michelle Obama is often floated as a potential future candidate for public office.

"I don't and I don't think there's, I mean, number one, I bet you $1,000 Michelle Obama is never going to be a candidate for anything. I mean, she's, I think, consistently made that crystal clear," he said.

Garrow also said he expects the Obamas to make some appearances for President Biden in the 2024 election cycle but not much more.

"I think the Obamas appear to be 100% happy with, you know, not doing a whole lot of anything other than hanging out in Martha's Vineyard," he said.

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