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On the March 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report, anchor and Washington bureau managing editor Brit Hume cited a March 25 Chicago Tribune article to support his claim that "[r]eporters digging into [Sen.] Barack Obama's [D-IL] background have found some instances where the facts do not appear to square with Obama's memories." Hume claimed the Tribune "reported problems with a story in the senator's first book about seeing a Life magazine picture of a black man who damaged his skin using chemicals to try to lighten it. The magazine says it ran no such picture or article." Hume continued: "Obama recently said, 'Well, it may have been Ebony magazine,' but Ebony says no as well."
Hume, however, omitted a key fact that was included in the Tribune article -- Obama wrote that he saw the magazine photos when he was 9 years old, 25 years before his memoir, Dreams From My Father (Three Rivers Press, 1995), was published.
Obama, who was born in 1961, lived in Indonesia from 1967 to 1971. On Pages 29 and 30 of Dreams, Obama wrote:
But in one corner I found a collection of Life magazines neatly displayed in clear plastic binders. I thumbed through the glossy advertisements -- Goodyear Tires and Dodge Fever, Zenith TV ("Why not the best?") and Campbell's Soup ("Mm-mmm good!"), men in white turtlenecks pouring Seagram's over ice as women in red miniskirts looked on admiringly -- and felt vaguely reassured. When I came upon a news photograph, I tried to guess the subject of the story before reading the caption.
Eventually I came across a photograph of an older man in dark glasses and a raincoat walking down an empty road. I couldn't guess what this picture was about; there seemed nothing unusual about the subject. On the next page was another photograph, this one a close-up of the same man's hands. They had a strange, unnatural pallor, as if blood had been drawn from the flesh. Turning back to the first picture, I now saw that the man's crinkly hair, his heavy lips and broad, fleshy nose, all had this same uneven, ghostly hue.
He must be terribly sick, I thought. A radiation victim, maybe, or an albino -- I had seen one of those on the street a few days before, and my mother had explained about such things. Except when I read the words that went with the picture, that wasn't it at all. The man had received a chemical treatment, the article explained, to lighten his complexion. He had paid for it with his own money. He expressed some regret about trying to pass himself off as a white man, was sorry about how badly things had turned out. But the results were irreversible. There were thousands of people like him, black men and women back in America who'd undergone the same treatment in response to advertisements that promised happiness as a white person.
We had lived in Indonesia for over three years by that time, the result of my mother's marriage to an Indonesian man named Lolo, another student she had met at the University of Hawaii.
As Media Matters for America documented, the March 27 Politico article stretched Obama's inconsistencies that even the article's author admitted were "trivial" into a 1,200-word, front-page article that conservative Internet gossip Matt Drudge flagged an hour prior to its publication on the paper's website.
From the March 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: Reporters digging into Barack Obama's background have found some instances where the facts do not appear to square with Obama's memories. The Chicago Tribune has reported problems with a story in the senator's first book about seeing a Life magazine picture of a black man who damaged his skin using chemicals to try to lighten it. The magazine says it ran no such picture or article. Obama recently said, "Well, it may have been Ebony magazine," but Ebony says no as well.