Despite admitting that they had no evidence to support their allegations, Fox News' Sean Hannity and Robert Novak suggested that "dirty political tricks" by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) are behind the recent "leaking" of Sen. Barack Obama's admission that he had used cocaine. But as Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz noted, Obama wrote in a 1995 memoir that he used drugs; she added, "There's no leak." Earlier in the conversation, Novak claimed that "we have no evidence whatsoever that George W. Bush ever used cocaine."
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On the January 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity, discussing a January 3 Washington Post article on the potential political implications of Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) admission in a 1995 memoir that he had used cocaine, suggested that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) is using "dirty political tricks, leaking damaging information at a time where [Obama] is ascending quite rapidly," despite Hannity's own concession that he had "no proof whatsoever" for his allegation. As Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz noted, Obama wrote in his memoir, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Three Rivers Press), that he had used drugs while in high school and college. The memoir "is a book that's been out for 11 years" and, therefore, she added, "There's no leak." Syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor Robert D. Novak followed up on Hannity's charge by saying that "every reasonable person has to suspect" Clinton's involvement, despite not "hav[ing] any evidence of this."
Hannity and Novak's suggestion that Clinton was somehow behind the story -- with "no proof whatsoever" and without "any evidence" -- fits into a pattern of media figures who have taken it upon themselves to issue warnings to Obama of a purportedly ruthless Clinton operation, as Media Matters for America has documented.
Earlier in the conversation, when co-host Alan Colmes asked Novak about President Bush's statement that he "was young and irresponsible when he was young and irresponsible," Novak claimed that "we have no evidence whatsoever that George W. Bush ever used cocaine." In fact:
- A February 20, 2005, New York Times article about secretly taped conversations that took place during 1998 through 2000 between author Doug Wead and Bush reported that "when Mr. Wead said that Mr. Bush had in the past publicly denied using cocaine, Mr. Bush replied, 'I haven't denied anything.' " The article noted that "[t]he White House did not dispute the authenticity of the tapes or respond to their contents."
- An August 19, 1999, CNN.com article reported that a Bush campaign spokeswoman said Bush "has not used illegal drugs at any time since 1974, when the 53-year-old Bush was 28." The article added: "Bush has faced persistent questions from the news media about whether he had used illegal drugs -- particularly cocaine" and that "Bush has admitted to past problems with alcohol but has not directly answered the drug question."
- In her book The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty (Anchor, 2005), author Kitty Kelley quoted Sharon Bush, ex-wife of the president's brother Neil Bush, as saying that President Bush "did cocaine 'many times' at Camp David during his father's presidency," according to an October 10, 2004, review of the book in The New York Times. The Associated Post reported that Sharon Bush later denied the quote but did not seek legal action or a retraction.
From the January 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
COLMES: Illinois Senator Barack Obama has been fielding lots of questions about his political future lately, but he may soon be facing some questions about his past. The questions have arisen from Obama's 11-year-old memoir, Dreams From My Father, which has hit the best-seller list now that its author is a potential Democratic presidential contender.
The book describes Obama's youthful experimentation with alcohol and illegal drugs. "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow, when you could afford it. Not smack, though. ... Junkie. Pothead. That's where I'd been headed: The final, fatal role of the young would-be black man."
Joining us now are two Fox News contributors, syndicated columnist Robert Novak and Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz.
Bob, I want to ask you what your sources have told you about the youth of George W. Bush, who was young and irresponsible when he was young and irresponsible, and the same allegations surfaced, he just didn't admit to any of them.
NOVAK: Well, we have no evidence whatsoever that George W. Bush ever used cocaine. I think it's pretty evident that he didn't use cocaine. He might have used something else; he never really denied that.
The real thing, Alan, is that what these men did a long time ago is not very important. And Barack Obama confessed to this a long time ago, in his first book. The problem is that Democrats have been attracted to him because they see a potential train wreck if Hillary Clinton is nominated for president, and they thought this guy could save them. Now, if he has that much baggage to carry, I think they're worried about him, as well.
COLMES: What baggage? I mean, first of all, he's been very upfront about it. He has acknowledged whatever he's done. He has no less baggage than other people who've been elected to high office, like maybe the current president. Clarence Thomas has used marijuana. What's the big deal? Why are conservatives -- I think they're going to overplay this hand and hurt themselves.
NOVAK: I don't think it's conservative -- I'm not worried about it. It doesn't bother me. This came out in Illinois a long time ago.
But I'm telling you, Alan, if you want to be a -- I know it's hard for you to be a reporter -- if you want to be a reporter and you ask Democrats, "Is this a good thing for somebody who they want to groom and become the first African-American nominee for president?" It's not a good thing for him to happen.
HANNITY: Why am I always suspicious that when the Clintons are involved in anything? I find it pretty interesting to me -- Bob Novak, I'll ask you this question -- you know, this story was leaked to The Washington Post, of all places. There's been a couple of stories in a couple of days in The Washington Post --
SCHWARTZ: It's a book that's been out for 11 years. There's no leak.
HANNITY: Hang on a second. The Clinton-Obama -- well, but the timing is interesting, that this was highlighted. You know, the Clinton-Obama differences show up yesterday. Today, it's Obama's past can be a big issue. Why do I suspect, Bob Novak, although I have no proof whatsoever, that dirty political tricks, leaking damaging information at a time where he is ascending quite rapidly? Do you suspect that might be possible?
NOVAK: Well, I think every reasonable person has to suspect. I don't have any evidence of this; I'd like to have some. It would be a very good story.
But I will tell you this, that people in the Democratic Party say that if, as he begins to really be a serious threat to Senator Clinton -- and I think Senator Obama is definitely going to run. All my sources in Illinois said that decision has been made. If he looks like he is a serious threat to her, watch out below, because the Clintons will do anything to win this nomination.
HANNITY: I agree with you.
COLMES: Thank you very much, Bob. Thanks for letting people...
SCHWARTZ: I think you guys are too cynical.
COLMES: Thank you, Bob, for letting people know that I'm not a politician nor a reporter. I appreciate that.