Once again, NBC's Myers ignored Obama's specific response countering suggestion that Rezko "may have essentially subsidized" Obama's home purchase

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

NBC's Lisa Myers reported that critics, whom she did not name, say that "in paying full price for" the vacant lot adjoining Sen. Barack Obama's Chicago home, indicted Chicago businessman Antoin Rezko "may have essentially subsidized Obama's purchase" of the property in 2005. While noting that Obama "strongly disputes" the charge, Myers did not report Obama's specific statements countering the suggestion.

On the January 29 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers reported that critics, whom she did not name, say that "in paying full price for" the vacant lot adjoining Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) Chicago home, indicted Chicago businessman Antoin Rezko "may have essentially subsidized Obama's purchase" of the property in 2005. Myers added that "Obama strongly disputes" this claim. In a January 28 "web-only" report on Obama and Rezko, Myers similarly cited unidentified critics saying that Rezko's purchase of the lot "may have essentially subsidized Obama's purchase." But in both cases, Myers omitted Obama's specific statements countering the suggestion. The Chicago Sun-Times specifically asked Obama why he paid less than asking price for the house while Rezko paid full price for the lot, and Obama said that he was "not involved in the Rezko negotiation of the price for the adjacent lot," and that he was able to purchase the house for less than the asking price because "the house had been listed for some time, for months, and our offer was one of two and, as we understood it, it was the best offer."

Myers reported on January 29:

MYERS: In June 2005, Rezko's wife bought the lot for $625,000 -- full price. And on the same day, Obama bought his home for $1,650,000 -- 300,000 below asking price. He says because the house had been on the market for months. At the time, it had been widely reported that Rezko was under scrutiny in various investigations for possible political corruption. Rezko was later indicted for bribery and fraud, unrelated to the Obama sale.

[...]

MYERS: The Chicago Tribune and others have been investigating the deal for more than a year. And in endorsing Obama this week, the Tribune called on the candidate again to divulge all there is to know about his relationship with Rezko.

Critics say that in paying full price for the lot, Rezko may have essentially subsidized Obama's purchase, which Obama strongly disputes. The Realtor who represented the seller says Obama could not have bought the house unless someone bought the lot at the same time.

As Media Matters noted in response to Myers' January 28 report, the Chicago Sun-Times published an interview with Obama on November 5, 2006 -- four days after the Chicago Tribune reported on the land purchase -- in which the paper asked: "Why is it that you were able to buy your parcel for $300,000 less than the asking price, and Rita Rezko paid full price? Who negotiated this end of the deal? Did whoever negotiated it have any contact with Rita and Tony Rezko or their Realtor or lawyer?" Obama responded:

Our agent negotiated only with the seller's agent. As we understood it, the house had been listed for some time, for months, and our offer was one of two and, as we understood it, it was the best offer. The original listed price was too high for the market at the time, and we understood that the sellers, who were anxious to move, were prepared to sell the house for what they paid for it, which is what they did.

We were not involved in the Rezko negotiation of the price for the adjacent lot. It was our understanding that the owners had received, from another buyer, an offer for $625,000 and that therefore the Rezkos could not have offered or purchased that lot for less.

From the January 29 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

WILLIAMS: If you were watching the last Democratic debate, you probably heard that barb from Hillary Clinton directed to Barack Obama. Just when the debate started to heat up, she mentioned Obama's relationship with a, quote, "slumlord" in Chicago. That man is Tony Rezko, currently in jail on federal charges unrelated to Obama. But he is part of something directly related to Obama, a real estate transaction back in '05 that allowed Senator Obama to buy his current home in Chicago. And Rezko's criminal troubles are now bringing renewed scrutiny to that real estate deal. We get more from our senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers.

[begin video clip]

MYERS: This is Senator Barack Obama's stately home in a pricy Chicago neighborhood. Inside the iron fence that surrounds his home is a vacant lot that lies at the heart of the controversy over Obama's relationship with his friend and campaign contributor Tony Rezko. When Obama bought the home in 2005, the seller insisted that the house and the lot be sold at the same time. But Obama says he couldn't afford the lot. Here's the Realtor for the seller talking about the Obamas.

DONNA SCHWAN (real estate agent): They were not interested in the lot at any point. It wasn't even on the table for them.

MYERS: That's where his longtime friend Rezko comes into the picture. In June 2005, Rezko's wife bought the lot for $625,000 -- full price. And on the same day, Obama bought his home for $1,650,000 -- 300,000 below asking price. He says because the house had been on the market for months. At the time, it had been widely reported that Rezko was under scrutiny in various investigations for possible political corruption. Rezko was later indicted for bribery and fraud, unrelated to the Obama sale.

JAY STEWART (executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association): What looks bad about the transaction is the fact that the transaction occurred at all. Tony Rezko was headed for trouble. He was clearly in the crosshairs of the federal government.

MYERS: The Chicago Tribune and others have been investigating the deal for more than a year. And in endorsing Obama this week, the Tribune called on the candidate again to divulge all there is to know about his relationship with Rezko.

Critics say that in paying full price for the lot, Rezko may have essentially subsidized Obama's purchase, which Obama strongly disputes. The Realtor who represented the seller says Obama could not have bought the house unless someone bought the lot at the same time.

SCHWAN: It was a requirement of the listing that they close on the same day.

MYERS: Obama strongly denies any wrongdoing but now calls the deal a "boneheaded mistake."

OBAMA: This was a above-the-board, market-based transaction. Everybody who's looked at it has acknowledged as such, but there's no doubt that it was a mistake on my part.

MYERS: No one has accused Obama of doing anything illegal, but even he admits he should have handled this one differently. And Obama has donated tens of thousands of dollars of Rezko's campaign contributions to charity. Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.

Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
Lisa Myers
Show/Publication
NBC Nightly News
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