The Free Republic/Matt Drudge connection

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Just a final comment on the pointless 'controversy' last week about a deceiving image of Barack Obama at the G8 summit last week; an innocent image Drudge posted while suggesting Obama had been leering at an underage girl.

As Media Matters reported, the image was first spotted online at the right-wing fever swamp site, Free Republic, which first gained national attention in the 1990's for its unhinged hatred of all-things Clinton, and which recently has played host to an assassination fantasy of Barack Obama and where commenters* denounced his young daughter as a "street whore." Within minutes of being posted at Free Republic, Drudge picked up the G8 photo and 'serious' journalists then quickly treated it as a news event.

My parting thought is that this is not the first time we've seen this sort of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance coordination between the Free Republic, Drudge and the Beltway press. Last year during the Democratic primary season, Drudge posted a photo of Obama dressed in African garb. The shot was taken years earlier when the young senator had visited Africa.

Drudge, in one of his patterned fictitious 'exclusives,' claimed that staffers for Sen. Hillary Clinton had been emailing the image around. Zero proof was ever presented to back up the absurd claim, but that didn't' stop the Beltway press (and sadly, large chunks of the liberal blogosphere) from treating the Drudge scoop as a very big deal and turning the pointless Obama image into a scandal. Sort of like with last week's pointless G8 image.

Here's the Freeper connection, as I noted in Bloggers on the Bus:

The snapshot was actually first published online in September 2006, by a news site called Geeska Afrika, which reported on the new Illinois senator's trip to the continent. The Obama image then resurfaced during the 2008 campaign season in the February 4 issue of the supermarket tabloid National Examiner, which used the photo as part of a scurrilous story headlined "Obama's Shocking Al Qaeda Link." The story contained no reference to the Clinton campaign.

The National Examiner does not publish its stories online, but the photo itself got uploaded to the Internet on February 23, to the rabid, Democrat-hating site, FreeRepublic.com, whose "Freeper" members first gained notoriety by spinning all sorts of wild Clinton conspiracies during the 1990s.

Freepers were obsessed with the Obama-in-Africa photo and desperately wanted it to reach a wider audience. Wrote one eager Freeper after seeing the photo, "It needs to get to Drudge."

Less than 24 hours later, it did.

*Added to provide clarity.

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