Back in early June, when Hillary Clinton was still clinging to a desperate hope of being the Democratic nominee, a bizarre rumor started to spread around the blogosphere. Many sites (including this one) reported the possible existence of a video of Michelle Obama making disparaging comments about white people. In one version of this rumor, she is quoted as saying in a furious rant:

Whitey cut folks off medicaid.
Whitey let New Orleans drown.
Whitey did nothing about Jena.
Whitey put us in Iraq for no reason.

This Michelle Obama rumor evolved over time. The video was expected to be released around the time of the Democratic National Convention. When August passed without incident, the rumor changed so that the video was supposed to be released in October. Apparently, Rudy Giuliani had the video in his possession and would only release it at the request of McCain’s campaign.

Now, we are just a few days from Election Day, and still no one has seen the Whitey Video. What happened?

As reported by Michelle Malkin here and Joseph Cannon here, the rumor was spread predominantly by one man, Larry Johnson, a fervent supporter of Hillary Clinton and a former CIA operative. Anyone who goes on his website can see that he hates Barack Obama and crossed party lines to support John McCain after Clinton suspended her campaign.

As a former CIA operative, he seems to know how to spread information. Several high-ranking Democratic party officials stated publicly in June that they believed the video existed. The video was even mentioned in passing on Fox News. The rumor got so widespread that Obama included a rebuttal in his Fight the Smears website.

Mr. Johnson disavows himself of responsibility. Now, as reported by Joe Cannon here, Mr. Johnson claims that Rudy Giuliani did not release the video because the McCain campaign decided it would not be politically advantageous.

Mr. Johnson says on his website that he never actually claimed that the video existed, a statement that is technically true. He was only reporting what other people told him, not claiming anything about the video himself. From his website:

None of my three main sources on who told me about the existence of a video recording of Michelle Obama making disparaging comments about white folks have backed off. Two of these sources are Democrats and are journalists. They were not trying to sabotage the Obama campaign. They were passing on something they believed to be true.

The argument is, “I didn’t claim anything. I was just repeating what I heard.”

The Whitey Video rumor shows us that in the Internet Age, an individual can create a rumor that takes on a life of its own. I think “Whitey Video” will enter our political discourse in the future. When we hear an unsubstantiated personal attack in future campaigns, many of us will say, “Is this just another Whitey Video?”