Sun-Times columnist omitted key facts in listing "criticisms" of Obama

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jennifer Hunter listed several "criticisms" that have been leveled against Sen. Barack Obama since he launched his presidential campaign, including "Obama's relationship with indicted Wilmette businessman Tony Rezko, who had helped launch his political career; the veracity of characters in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father; and some of his personal investments, which relied to some extent on federal-government funding." However, Hunter did not discuss key facts that call into question the legitimacy of these "criticisms" of Obama.

In a January 1 column, the Chicago Sun-Times' Jennifer Hunter listed several "criticisms" that have been leveled against Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) since he launched his presidential campaign, including "some of his personal investments, which relied to some extent on federal-government funding." Hunter provided no further information or context regarding those investments. In fact, Obama's 2005 stock investments were purchased as part of a blind trust; Obama said he had been unaware of them until eight months after the stocks were purchased, at which point he sold them for a loss. Moreover, The New York Times reported that there is no evidence that Obama's actions in the U.S. Senate benefited either company while he owned the stocks.

Hunter also omitted key details regarding the "criticisms" about the composite characters in Obama's book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Crown, July 1995), and Obama's relationship with indicted businessman Antoin Rezko.

Hunter wrote:

Over the next six months, Obama would make many visits to Iowa and New Hampshire -- with occasional forays to South Carolina, Nevada and California -- ducking out to fund-raising events between public town hall meetings. In fact, he spent so much time on the phone and importuning small groups for money that he was able to woo some former Clinton supporters, including high-profile Hollywood types such as David Geffen.

It provided fruit. The first announcement of how much each candidate had raised in the first quarter showed Obama outdrew Clinton by more than $5 million -- a shocker for those who believed the Clinton campaign machine was unbeatable.

But with accolades came criticisms, including Obama's relationship with indicted Wilmette businessman Tony Rezko, who had helped launch his political career; the veracity of characters in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father; and some of his personal investments, which relied to some extent on federal-government funding.

His campaign's sortie into new media, in a way no other campaign had done, also led to some thorny problems. The campaign had to take over the MySpace Web site of an early Obama admirer, Joe Anthony, who had posted errors on his site.

The New York Times first reported on March 7, 2007, that in 2005, Obama briefly held investments in SkyTerra and AVI BioPharma. The Times reported that AVI BioPharma "was starting to develop a drug to treat avian flu" and that "two weeks after buying about $5,000 of its shares, Mr. Obama took the lead in a legislative push for more federal spending to battle the disease." According to the Times, Obama "bought his Skyterra shares the same day the Federal Communications Commission ruled in favor of the company's effort to create a nationwide wireless network." However, as Media Matters for America noted, the Times also reported that an Obama spokesman said that Obama's "broker bought the stocks without consulting the senator, under the terms of a blind trust that was being set up for the senator at that time but was not finalized until several months after the investments were made." The Times also reported that Obama said he "did not know that he had invested in either company until fall 2005, when he learned of it and decided to sell the stocks. He sold them at a net loss of $13,000." The Times went on to report that "[t]here is no evidence that any of his actions ended up benefiting either company during the roughly eight months that he owned the stocks."

Regarding the "veracity of characters" in Dreams from My Father, Hunter did not note that Obama himself acknowledged in the introduction to the book (Pages xvi-xvii, paperback edition) that he created composite characters, presented dialogue that "is necessarily an approximation of what was actually said or relayed to me," and changed the names of most of the "characters ... for the sake of their privacy." As Media Matters noted, the composite characters in Dreams from My Father have been branded by the media as one of Obama's so-called "rookie mistakes," despite his having written the book more than 10 years ago and despite his having acknowledged the composite characters in the book itself.

In writing that Obama has been criticized for his "relationship with indicted Wilmette businessman Tony Rezko," Hunter did not note what several news reports have -- that there exists no evidence of impropriety or wrongdoing on Obama's part with regard to his relationship with Rezko.

In April 2007, Media Matters noted a tendency in the media's treatment of Obama -- suggesting wrongdoing by Obama without actually alleging or providing evidence that Obama acted improperly. Lacking evidence of wrongdoing, the reports claimed that Obama's actions "raise questions" or "raise flags."

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Chicago Sun-Times
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Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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