CNN did not challenge GOP guest who said Clinton camp "possibly" behind Obama-madrassa smear

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

During a discussion on the February 10 edition of CNN Newsroom about Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) announcement that he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Republican strategist Amy Holmes repeated the baseless smear that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) may have been behind the discredited claim in a story posted on that Obama attended a madrassa in his youth. After host Fredricka Whitfield asked Holmes and Democratic strategist Jenny Backus about the "possibility that we're going to see a fight between" Clinton and Obama, Holmes answered that "the phony madrassa story seemed to have possibly originated in the Hillary campaign." Backus said, "I think that was knocked down." Holmes then said: "I think that Jenny's being a little overly optimistic. Politics ain't beanbag, and Hillary's not going to let Obama roll over her." Whitfield ended the segment, saying, "Amy Holmes, you get the last word."

Holmes' claim that Clinton may have been responsible for the false madrassa report echoed an accusation by Fox News political analyst Dick Morris, who admitted that he did not have -- in the words of Fox News co-host Alan Colmes -- "any evidence that the Clintons were behind the smear." Morris nevertheless claimed that "obviously they were." As ABC News' Jake Tapper reported, the accusation that Clinton is responsible for the smear "remains unproven and unsubstantiated."

From the noon ET hour of the February 10 edition of CNN Newsroom:

HOLMES: And he -- and, you know, Fredricka, he has a -- he has a tremendous presentation. It's an exciting presentation, but he's also going to be running into the Hillary machine that's -- as of today -- is going to start knocking him down.

WHITFIELD: Well, that's interesting you brought --

BACKUS: I think it's --

WHITFIELD -- that's interesting you bring that up because they -- we've seen their senatorial relationship. We've seen pictures of Miss Clinton and Mr. Obama together looking like they're, you know, working on the same page.

But now when you're talking about being competitors and they've been very cordial toward one another, is there a likelihood or a possibility that we're going to see a fight between the two, fighting for the spotlight?

BACKUS: I don't think so, actually. I think -- and that was sort of what was interesting and where I respectfully disagree a little bit with what Amy said earlier.

I think in primaries on the Democratic side, we traditionally have had people fighting with each other. We haven't seen the language of "let's work together," or -- not even just "let's work together," but politics is more important than Republicans and Democrats. It's all about voters.

I think that is going to be an important subtheme, like you were saying Fredricka, inside the Democratic Party.

And it sort of a little bit started with Howard Dean in 2004, his rhetoric about "this is your campaign." I think with the Internet, and you saw how Obama -- he teased the speech that he gave today to his million-person email list last night, saying, "Come to my website, use my website to build a campaign. This is your campaign and my campaign."

I think it's going to be harder for other candidates to sort of attack Barack because, in a sense, they're attacking all the people that support him.

And I don't think you're going to see Clinton and [John] Edwards and Barack and [Tom] Vilsack attack each other.


HOLMES: I have to point out that the phony madrassa story seemed to have possibly originated in the Hillary campaign. I think that Jenny's --

BACKUS: I think that was knocked down.

HOLMES: I think that Jenny's being a little overly optimistic. Politics ain't beanbag, and Hillary's not going to let Obama roll over her.

WHITFIELD: All right, Amy Holmes, you get the last word. Jenny Backus, thank you, as well.

BACKUS: Thanks, Fredricka.

HOLMES: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Good to see both of you and I know we'll be talking a lot more over the next couple of years. Thanks again.

CNN Newsroom
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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