Rosen claimed he "stumbled" in calling Obama "Osama" three times during broadcast

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Newsradio 850 KOA host Mike Rosen referred to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama as "Barack Osama" three times during the February 16 broadcast of his show, prompting calls from listeners. Rosen later said he made "an honest misstatement" in confusing the Democratic presidential candidate's name with that of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

On three separate occasions during the February 16 broadcast of his show, Newsradio 850 KOA host Mike Rosen called U.S. senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) "Barack Osama." Rosen later claimed that he had made a mistake, explaining that "because of the mindset we have where we're familiar with Osama bin Laden," it is "easy" to say "Osama" instead of "Obama."

Rosen and John Fund, senior editor of The American Spectator, were discussing Obama's February 11 comment that the thousands of American lives lost in the Iraq war were "wasted." The Washington Post reported on February 12 that "[t]he senator from Illinois later said he regretted his choice of words, telling an interviewer that he meant the troops' sacrifices 'have not been honored' by an adequate policy."

Rosen explained his use of "Barack Osama" nearly 10 minutes after he said it for the third time, after KOA apparently received phone calls from listeners wanting to know if Rosen had intentionally invoked Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden when referring to Obama. Rosen claimed to have "stumbled once or twice," calling his slips "an honest misstatement" and "not a cutesy play on words on [his] part." During his explanation, Rosen twice repeated "Barack Osama."

As Media Matters for America has pointed out (here, here, and here), other media figures and conservative commentators have either referred to Obama as "Osama" or highlighted the phonetic proximity of Obama's name to "Osama." They also have commented on his middle name, Hussein:

  • Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh repeatedly called Obama "Obama Osama" and "Osama Obama" during the July 11, 2005, broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show.
  • On the December 11, 2006, edition of CNN's The Situation Room, correspondent Jeanne Moos noted that "[o]nly one little consonant differentiates" Obama and Osama. She then added, "[A]s if that similarity weren't enough, how about sharing the name of a former dictator? You know his middle name? Hussein."
  • On the December 11, 2006, edition of The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Jeff Greenfield compared the similarity of Obama's "business casual" clothing to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "jacket-and-no-tie look." Greenfield concluded the segment by saying: "Now, it is one thing to have a last name that sounds like Osama and a middle name, Hussein, that is probably less than helpful. But an outfit that reminds people of a charter member of the axis of evil, why, this could leave his presidential hopes hanging by a thread." He later explained on the CNN website that he was making "a joke."

From the February 16 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show:

ROSEN: With 24/7 media there's no way we'll get anything but excessive coverage of all of these people, and some people getting much more coverage, and much more favorable coverage, than others. For example, are you sensitive to the contrast and the amount of air time that Mitt Romney got when he announced his presidential campaign as compared to Barack Osama -- Barack Obama, the favorite of the liberal media?

[...]

FUND: Because Lord knows, we're both in the communications business, Michael; we should be held accountable for what we say. We also should understand that eventually we're all going to mess up at least once.

ROSEN: Oh, we all make gaffes, and I agree with you; I wouldn't disqualify a candidate because of a gaffe here and there. But my -- my point was, the treatment of -- of misstatements and malapropisms of George W. Bush is -- it's legend. The -- the major media -- ignoring of Barack Osama's use of the word "wasted" I thought was very telling.

FUND: Well, let me give you an example. Remember when Trent Lott made that famous Strom Thurmond comment?

ROSEN: Yes.

FUND: He was only the minority leader, about to become the majority leader of the Senate. He was roasted and forced to resign. Clearly there was a very high standard ascribed to that. John Kerry even had a very high standard ascribed to him when he did something which might have been just a botched joke and he talked about American troops in Iraq last year, and he basically had to drop out of the presidential campaign. Barack Obama is clearly getting a much easier pass. On that, I'm in complete agreement with you.

ROSEN: And are they cheerleading for his candidacy or what?

FUND: Well they -- remember, even if they don't want him to be president over Hillary, they want a race. And the desire to have a race, since John Edwards and Bill Richardson haven't gotten real traction yet -- the desire to have a race means you have to build up Obama so that he can be a real challenger to Hillary, and then they can have a story.

ROSEN: One last question. I know my answer to this; I'm just curious as to whether your analysis is the same. Acid-tongued Maureen Dowd, ever the liberal, nonetheless delivered a barrage against Barack Osama recently. Why in the world do you think Maureen Dowd would be writing negative things about this emerging liberal icon, Barack Obama?

FUND: Well, I don't know what your theory is, but I can tell you, there are journalists as well as politicians who suffer from what I call adult attention disorder, adult ADD. And it's a different kind of ADD; it means you constantly need attention.

[...]

ROSEN: Tyler, our assistant producer and call screener and intern, tells me a couple of people called in and wanted to know if I had intentionally said Barack Osama instead of Barack Obama. I think I stumbled once or twice when I was talking to John Fund. No, it's not -- it's not intentional. It's not a cutesy play on words on my part. I really don't do that kind of stuff. It was just a -- an honest misstatement. It's easy to say that because of the mindset we have where we're familiar with Osama bin Laden. But no, I call him Barack Obama by his name. But once or twice it has come out Barack Osama, and I don't do that intentionally, and I'm not planning on doing that. Wasn't it Ted Kennedy who, during some hearing, was making some reference to Osama bin Laden and he said Osama bin Osama Obama, confusing Osama bin Laden with Barack Obama, but that was inadvertent as well as it is in my case too.

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