David Corn (born February 20, 1959) is an American political journalist and author and the chief of the Washington bureau for Mother Jones. He has been Washington editor for The Nation and appeared regularly on FOX News, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and BloggingHeads.tv opposite James Pinkerton or other media personalities.
In February 2013, he was named winner of the 2012 George Polk Award in journalism in the political reporting category for his video and reporting of the "47 percent story," Republican nominee Mitt Romney's videoed meeting with donors during the 2012 presidential campaign.
As an author, Corn's output includes nonfiction and fiction and generally deals with government and politics. Corn has also been a book reviewer. On one occasion, he criticized his own organization when Nation Books published the translation of a controversial French book on Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks. Forbidden Truth: US-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden, by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, suggests that the attacks resulted from a breakdown in talks between the Taliban and the United States to run an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. Corn argued that publishing "contrived conspiracy theories" undermined the ability to expose actual governmental misbehavior.
Corn was raised in a Jewish family in White Plains, New York. He attended Brown University where he majored in history and worked for The Brown Daily Herald. After his junior year, he interned at The Nation where he accepted a job as editorial assistant instead of returning to finish his degree. He earned his remaining credits at Columbia University and received a B.A. from Brown University in 1982. He joined Mother Jones in 2007.
Corn's first book was a 1994 biography of longtime Central Intelligence Agency official Ted Shackley, which received mixed reviews. The book used Shackley's climb through the CIA bureaucracy to illustrate how the Agency worked and to follow some of its Cold War-era covert operations. In the Washington Post, Roger Warner called it "an impressive feat of research"; but, in the New York Times, Joseph Finder claimed Corn was seriously distorting history to blame Shackley for a series of CIA failings.
Corn moved on to fiction with a contribution to Unusual Suspects (1996), a paperback collection of crime stories published as a fundraiser to combat world hunger. His first novel, Deep Background, was a conspiracy thriller about the assassination of a president at a White House press conference and the ensuing investigation. Reviews praised Corn's mastery of the political atmosphere and characters, although they split on whether this was a virtue or, coming at the conclusion of the Clinton years, already all-too-familiar territory.
With the arrival of George W. Bush, Corn became a harsh critic of the President. His next book, The Lies of George W. Bush, charged that Bush had systematically "mugged the truth" as a political strategy; and he found fault with the media for failing to report this effectively. The book also broke with journalistic practice for its explicit charge of lying, a word usually avoided as editorializing.
In particular, Corn criticized many of the arguments offered to justify the 2003 Invasion of Iraq; and he challenged New York Times columnist William Safire for claiming links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. In Hubris, written with Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, Corn analyzed the Bush administration's drive toward the invasion.
Corn was personally involved in the early coverage of the controversy over leaks to the media of the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame. After Robert Novak revealed Plame's identity in his July 14, 2003, column, Corn was the first to report, three days later, that Plame had been working covertly; and he raised the possibility that the leak of her identity violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
Novak, for his part, disputed that Plame had been a covert operative at the time her identity was revealed. He also objected to the negative portrayal of himself in Hubris, for which he blamed Corn more than Isikoff. He said of Corn, "Nobody was more responsible for bloating this episode." Novak felt that Corn was too close with former ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband and a key figure in criticism of the administration's arguments for invasion.
However, in early 2007, an unclassified summary of Valerie Plame's employment history at the CIA was disclosed for the first time in a court filing and confirms that Plame was indeed a covert operative at the time her name was made public by Novak.
In announcing Corn's being awarded the George Polk Award for 2012, the sponsors wrote:
David Corn of Mother Jones will receive the George Polk Award for Political Reporting for a story that rocked the nation and perhaps cost Mitt Romney the Presidential election. Through persistent digging and careful negotiation with a source, Corn secured a full recording of Romney at a $50,000-a-plate Florida fundraiser declaring that 47 percent of Americans — those who back president Obama — are “victims” who are “dependent upon government” and “pay no income tax.” Corn worked for weeks to obtain the recording, but it was his years of high-impact journalism that helped lead him to the source of the recording. Furthermore, it was Corn’s extensive previous reporting on Romney that convinced the source to trust him with its release.