Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass sat by as Glenn Beck repeated a baseless claim in Kass' column and added a falsehood of his own regarding Barack Obama's house purchase in Chicago. Beck repeated Kass' claim that Obama received "a $300,000 discount" on the purchase of his Chicago home and falsely asserted that indicted businessman Antoin Rezko "bought the property next door at $300,000 more." Kass did not dispute either assertion.
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On the March 5 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck claimed that Sen. Barack Obama received "a $300,000 discount" on the purchase of his Chicago home and that at the same time, indicted businessman Antoin Rezko "bought the property next door at $300,000 more." Asking his guest, Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, for confirmation, Beck said, "Or something like that?" Kass replied, "About that, yeah. Something like that." Kass did not correct Beck's assertions that Obama received a "discount" on the purchase of his home and that Rezko bought the "property next door at $300,000 more." Kass had similarly claimed in his March 2 Tribune column that Obama received a "discount" on his house. In fact, according to a February 18 Bloomberg article, the people from whom Obama bought his house said that his was "the best offer." The sellers also said, in the words of Bloomberg reporter Timothy J. Burger, "they didn't cut their asking price because a campaign donor bought their adjacent land, according to e-mails between Obama's presidential campaign and the seller." Moreover, according to the Bloomberg article, Rezko's wife reportedly paid the asking price of $625,000 for the adjacent property (a fact that Kass himself acknowledged earlier in the segment with Beck); she did not pay "$300,000 more."
The Obamas subsequently bought a part of the adjacent property, which had been purchased on the same day as the Obamas' house by Rezko's wife. The Washington Post reported on December 17, 2006, that an Obama spokesman said the strip of land Obama purchased from Rezko's wife had been appraised at $40,500, "but Obama considered it fair to pay one-sixth of the original price for one-sixth of the lot," which came to $104,500.
Later in the program, Kass stated, "It looks like, from what I read in The Wall Street Journal and -- and John Fund's column and out of Brit -- out of Britain, that there is some money that may have trickled through to Re -- from Iraq to Rezko into, perhaps, into the house, or into the -- which I think was not $300,000. Maybe it was a $150,000 discount. Into -- into something involving -- in Illinois, involving Mr. Obama." Kass provided no evidence that money "may have trickled ... from Iraq to Rezko ... into the house." Indeed, neither the Wall Street Journal article Kass cited nor the London Times article the Journal references provided any evidence that the Obamas used anything but their own money to purchase the house.
From the March 5 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:
BECK: Tony Rezko and Barack Obama. What's the connection, if anything? Here's a guy who's paying attention, so I don't have to. Let's listen in. John Kass, he's a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. John, who is he?
KASS: Well, Glenn, I call Tony Rezko, I call him Barack Obama's personal real estate fairy.
KASS: He's the fellow who helped -- he -- he helped buy Barack a house. Barack didn't have the money to pay full price. Let's see, he paid -- Barack paid, asking pri -- or less than asking price, $300,000 less. Rezko's family paid the asking price for a house -- for a lot next door. They kind of put it together, and Barack still hasn't been answering questions as to exactly what happened. The Tribune -- the Tribune broke that --
BECK: Wait, wait, wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. So when the housing prices were still really good --
KASS: When they were high.
BECK: -- he paid -- he got a $300,000 discount. And Rezko bought the property next door at $300,000 more? Or something like that?
KASS: About that, yeah. Something like that.
BECK: What -- what was that? Was that just a really good friend? Or -- 'cause I -- 'cause I -- Tony, I could use a new friend.
KASS: Tony Rezko -- if you want a friend like that, you'd want to be -- you know, have a lawyer, too. Because Rezko's been indicted on federal extortion and corruption charges for playing a -- for being an influence peddler in government in Illinois.
BECK: OK. Barack Obama has built his whole campaign as being, you know, a reformer. He's different. He's clean. He's not -- let's get rid of all these dirty politics and everything else. You've got an article coming out tomorrow called "The Chicago Way." Is Barack Obama part of -- is this a smear campaign, or is he part of something that is dirty?
KASS: So under -- here's what's going on, Glenn. Outside of Chicago, reporters, particularly in the -- I guess, the Eastern establishment, liberal media establishment hive --
BECK: Yeah. Well, we're -- yeah, we're totally clean out here.
KASS: Yeah, but you're not part of -- well, the deal is, they look at him like, as if Barack Obama is the boy King Arthur, you know, pulling the sword from the stone, ready to fight dragons and reform our government. But he's from Chicago, right? This is Chicago politics. And the Rezko story is about basically the Chicago way. And I'm trying to illustrate that tomorrow in a column and a video.
BECK: OK. All right. So, so --
KASS: What is the Chicago way? What is the Chicago way?
BECK: I saw The Untouchables. I think I know what the Chicago way is.
KASS: That's one way to look at it.
BECK: What is it?
KASS: What's the -- I don't know. In the -- in the -- right in the city council chambers of Chicago, there's a portrait of George Washington, right? Where all the aldermen, and George Washington has his hand out like this. So I -- I don't know. We'll have to figure it out.
BECK: Hang on just a second, John. One last question. There is something to do with this London billionaire that apparently was laundering money for Saddam Hussein, and Rezko has been to Syria, like, eight times or something like that. Is there some sort of Middle East connection?
KASS: It looks like, from what I read in The Wall Street Journal and -- and John Fund's column and out of Brit -- out of Britain, that there is some money that may have trickled through to Re -- from Iraq to Rezko into, perhaps, into the house, or into the -- which I think was not $300,000. Maybe it was a $150,000 discount. Into -- into something involving -- in Illinois, involving Mr. Obama. All he's got to do, Glenn, is sit with you and talk about that.
BECK: I got to tell you, John, thank you very much. I mean, see, America? That's why I don't -- I just stopped paying attention. I mean, jeez, what is that?
From Kass' March 2 Chicago Tribune column:
The Republican Party should be eagerly lining up for this week's federal corruption trial in Chicago of Barack Obama's personal real estate fairy, Tony Rezko, the way a baseball team lines up to smack fat fastballs from a tired pitcher.
But the Republicans aren't swinging. They're keeping their bats on their shoulders. This should concern Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who will likely face Sen. Obama (D-Rezko/Daley). As most Clinton operatives and Republicans know, Rezko is the indicted political fixer who helped Obama buy his dream house.
The sellers split the parcel in two, one a vacant lot and one with a home. Obama got a $300,000 discount on the house. The Rezkos paid the full asking price for the lot next door.