Debunking Fox

January 23rd, 2007

Wow. Very rarely does the media go for actually defending a Democratic candidate rather than joining en masse to repeat the smear. Usually the media just gloms on to a lie like this and then goes silent when the truth is made clear.

This time it is a rumor that Barack Obama attended an Islamic Madrassa school, like those in Pakistan, which teach hardcore Islamic hatred of Christianity and the West. The rumor was released by a right-wing site (owned by the Washington Times), which in a double-whammy claimed that the rumor came directly from Hillary Clinton, despite naming no names and producing no documents to back that up. Fox News immediately jumped all over the story, gleefully broadcasting what amounted to a huge smear on both front-running Democratic candidates, and the deepest right-wing elements of the media and blogosphere began their swarm.

As for the Hillary part of the smear, is standing by its story, saying that they had direct contact with “researchers connected to Senator Clinton” who said that:

“Ms. Clinton regards Mr. Obama as her most formidable opponent and the biggest obstacle to the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential nomination. They said Ms. Clinton has been angered by Mr. Obama’s efforts to tap her supporters for donations.”

When you consider this, it comes across as the biggest load of crap ever heard. One of the things about Clinton is that she is a savvy political operator, and her campaign doesn’t make completely idiotic newbie mistakes. So for her own researchers to go to a right-wing organization, and to say, “hey, tell everyone that Hillary hates Obama and wants to trash him!” is so stupidly and transparently a lie as to be laughable.

This is where organizations like CNN usually chime in with the popular smear, ignoring little details like the one I just mentioned and foregoing things like investigating the truth first. In a turnabout from their usual routine, however, CNN is now savaging the rumor, calling it, accurately for once, a right-wing smear. Wolf Blitzer is even making a big deal about it, saying that “CNN did what any responsible news organization should do,” which is investigate the claim. Yeah, as if that’s what they have always done. Instead, this time, they actually went to Indonesia, discovered that the school was not a madrassa but instead a normal school where Christianity was taught side-by-side with Islam (but only once a week for both), and that there’s nothing subversive or dangerous about anything there–nor was there ever. But CNN didn’t stop there, they also went to lengths to show where the smear was coming from; Blitzer repeatedly mentioned Fox and “right-wing” news organizations and blogs as being responsible for spreading the story, and pointed out the connection between the conservative Washington Times and the web site that began the rumor.

Well, better late than never.

Categories: GOP & The Election, Media & Reviews Tags: by
  1. K. Engels
    January 23rd, 2007 at 10:18 | #1

    The school was very much a madrassa. Madrassa is nothing more than the word for ANY school in the Arabic language and other languages influenced by Arabic because of the spread of Islam. The western news in general, and Fox specifically, are most of the time playing the ‘omg foreign word, must be something dangerous’ game with the audiences.

  2. Luis
    January 23rd, 2007 at 15:57 | #2

    Well, actually, I did not intentionally equate a standard “Madrassa” to the extremist fundamentalist type of schools, and actually neither did the original article on that right-wing web site. When I first mentioned the word, I noted Madrassas “like those in Pakistan” to refer, perhaps imprecisely, to the extremist/Wahhabi versions–though my second mention does accidentally refer to just “madrassa” alone. (And the first mention probably should not have put the adjectival phrase in commas.) Sorry for the error.

    However, the article, while making the distinction as well, plays with the idea that Obama may have gone to the extremist version, and Fox galloped off with that. This was not so much a play on words than sheer speculation used to deliver a political smear.

  3. Tim Kane
    January 23rd, 2007 at 18:39 | #3

    I think the claim is that the school and he and his kin were wahabist was the most damaging of all.

    There’s no clear evidence of where these attacks are comming from. Hilary does has links to Fox, she has a personal friendship with Murdock, she benefits from a smear of Obama more directly than any Republican. I wouldn’t put anything past her. Politics is a contact sport. She knows that and is married to one of the better politicians of our time.

    Finally, one has to ask; So what? Maybe its time to flash Bush’s picture with the Saudi’s arm in arm, hand in hand. Saudi Arabia is the only entrenched Wahabist state in the world – the heart of Islamic radicalism. Then ask the question: If Bush had intended to ruin the United States, could he have done any worse than he has?

    If Bush had been a manchurian wahabist sitting on the American throne, would he have done much different than he has?

    It always appears to me that Bush couldn’t do any worse than he has had he intended to. He let this country be attacked despite repeated warnings. He blew 500 billion dollars for no strategic gain in Iraq, and three thousand American lives, tens of thousands maimed and wounded, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s killed – one wonders how many more Iraqi’s have been wounded. In the mean time Bush let an entire city sink into the abyss, while American’s suffered and died, even while he played guitar in California – all knowingly and keeping a hospital supply ship off shore without orders to help- even though it could produce 200,000 gallons or more of fresh water a day. He’s lost or is currently losing two wars against third world nations that are a fraction of the size of the US.

    If we are going to fret about Obama’s alledged tie to Islam, lets talk about Bush’s real ties to Islam and the price that we have paid for it as a result.

    As for myself, I am hoping Obama and Clinton cancell each other out and then Wesley Clark sneak through.

  4. K. Engels
    January 24th, 2007 at 07:12 | #4

    I was commenting more on the smear Obama stories as a whole than on your individual write up in particular. I’ve listened to more than a few talking heads on local news shows claiming that madrassa=terror school (when a Christian Sunday school in the Arab world is also a madrassa), Hussein can only mean that Obama was named after Saddam (when he was named after his father, Senator Obama is a Jr., and his father is certainly old enough to not have been named after Saddam Hussein At-Takriti), etc.

    Perhaps the only, albeit minor, critique I could have of your post is the use of the phrase Madrassa school. Which is the same thing as saying gakko school, or xuexiao school.

    I’d also like to take the opportunity to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I stumbled across it a while back and it has become one of the few personal blogs that I check on a semi-regular basis.

  5. Luis
    January 24th, 2007 at 10:05 | #5

    K.: You’re right, of course. I did use the word poorly, sloppy on my part. And about the right-wing smear job on Obama–you know that they would just love to have everyone think “Osama” whern they hear “Obama.” They can’t smear his record, they can’t get him on any scandals, so they have settled on the whole let’s-smear-him-as-a-Muslim-terrorist idea. Which is so stupid you’d think it would be impossible, but just watch–they are masters at this particular game.

  6. Luis
    January 24th, 2007 at 10:24 | #6

    Tim: I think the idea that the story originated with Hillary is just inconceivable. Sure, she knows rough politics, and sure, she’d love to see Obama fall. But the way this came out is just not the way she would do it. This rumor came out in a way that smeared her just as badly as it smeared Obama; it would look extremely bad for Hillary to come out of the gate saying that she hated and feared Obama, that she had put researchers onto ferreting out scandals in his past, and that she was even peripherally involved in spreading rumors about him, even if those rumors were not pathetically false.

    That’s why this particular rumor is virtually guaranteed fake–to have the story linked to her, so openly, is obviously damaging. This is not the kind of mistake that happens from time to time in politics in almost any campaign. You don’t have Hillary hiring smear researchers and then ‘by accident’ they go to a right-wing newspaper (not associated with Murdoch, BTW) and say, “Hey, we’re from Hillary’s camp. She hired us to find dirt on Obama, and here it is. Tell everyone that Hillary is pissed at Obama for going after her money and she’s afraid he might damage her.” That just doesn’t ring true.

    Not that HIllary wouldn’t in fact hire such people or try to spread such rumors–it’s just that she wouldn’t do it in a way that shoots herself in the foot so clearly. One would imagine that she would instead have someone drop the info anonymously, without any traceable connection to her, and that she would do it with a small or generic news outlet, not one that people would automatically discount because of their politics.

    Instead, this rumor reeks of right-wing dirty tricks. Whether the web site that published the story was complicit or were duped by people making false claims of affiliation is a different question, but if you look at the story and who it harms, it becomes pretty clear that it is aimed squarely at the Democratic front-runners–Obama and Hillary both. Add to that the consideration that it lines up perfectly with the mainstream conservative smear campaigns against Obama (Islamic extremist) and Hillary (political uber-bitch), and it seems almost certain that the whole story is a right-wing fabrication, and not from the Clinton camp.

    I could be wrong. This could be a reverse-whammy hit by Hillary, who hopespeople will not believe it’s from her because it is so transparent. But I think that’s asking for too much, besides which too many people will believe that it’s from her. I just don’t see how this would be more profitable for her than the more surreptitious manner of leaking that I outlined above.

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