Fox & Friends' Kilmeade baselessly claimed Newsmax contributor "sat next to" Obama during church services

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

On Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade baselessly asserted that Newsmax "freelance reporter" Jim Davis "sat next to Barack Obama" when Obama heard controversial statements made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., then-pastor of Obama's church, during a July 22, 2007, service. In fact, Davis did not claim in his article that he "sat next to" Obama during the service, and Obama's campaign called the Newsmax report "inaccurate." Also, New York Times columnist Bill Kristol reported that Newsmax had claimed that Obama was at church on the relevant day. Kristol subsequently issued a correction, writing: "The Obama campaign has provided information showing that Sen. Obama did not attend Trinity that day. I regret the error."

While discussing on the March 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends controversial statements made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, co-host Brian Kilmeade referred to and quoted from a March 16 Newsmax report by Ron Kessler that cited an August 9, 2007, Newsmax.com article by "freelance reporter" Jim Davis and stated: "On July 22nd [2007] he [Davis] sat next to Barack Obama as Barack Obama heard some of these same statements from that very preacher [Wright] and was nodding along." Kilmeade added, that "according to the reporter as he heard it," Wright used the phrase "[t]he United States of white America" and "lac[ed] in with expletives as Obama listened on." In fact, neither Kessler nor Davis claimed that Davis "sat next to" Obama during the service. Moreover, in a March 16 entry to its "Know the Facts" Web page, the Obama campaign refuted Newsmax's reporting, calling it "inaccurate" and stating: "Obama did not attend services on July 22nd." As reported by several media outlets, Obama was in Miami on July 22, 2007, speaking at the National Council of La Raza's (NCLR) annual convention. According to the NCLR's schedule for the day, Obama spoke as part of a "special forum" between 1:30 and 3 p.m. ET.

Following Kilmeade's assertion, co-host Steve Doocy referred to Bill Kristol's March 17 New York Times column -- in which Kristol also cited Kessler's March 16 Newmax.com column -- as a "bombshell." Co-host Alisyn Camerota added: "So that's actual evidence if you believe the story that he was there for some of these very inflammatory, offensive comments." In a subsequent report on the same edition of Fox & Friends, Doocy reported: "I know there's an item in The New York Times today that says that July 22nd he was there, but there's another report that he was probably down in Florida that day, so people are trying to connect the dots right now." In fact, later in the day on March 17, Kristol issued a correction that read:

In this column, I cite a report that Sen. Obama had attended services at Trinity Church on July 22, 2007. The Obama campaign has provided information showing that Sen. Obama did not attend Trinity that day. I regret the error.

In addition, Newsmax has issued a clarification that now accompanies Kessler's March 16 column, which reads:

Clarification: The Obama campaign has told members of the press that Senator Obama was not in church on the day cited, July 22, because he had a speech he gave in Miami at 1:30 PM. Our writer, Jim Davis, says he attended several services at Senator Obama's church during the month of July, including July 22. The church holds services three times every Sunday at 7:30 and 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central time. While both the early morning and evening service allowed Sen. Obama to attend the service and still give a speech in Miami, Mr. Davis stands by his story that during one of the services he attended during the month of July, Senator Obama was present and sat through the sermon given by Rev. Wright as described in the story. Mr. Davis said Secret Service were also present in the church during Senator Obama's attendance. Mr. Davis' story was first published on Newsmax on August 9, 2007. Shortly before publication, Mr. Davis contacted the press office of Sen. Obama several times for comment about the Senator's attendance and Rev. Wright's comments during his sermon. The Senator's office declined to comment.

In a March 17 discussion thread on the conservative website FreeRepublic, someone who claimed to be the author of the August 9, 2007, Newsmax article defended the piece, claiming: "I did see Barack Obama that day. I said so in the article, and I'm saying so now." The poster, Philo1962, wrote further: "Now, after everyone's memory has faded, my notes have been taken to some landfill and there has been plenty of time to doctor the videos and the websites, the Obama campaign tries to deny he was there?"

From the March 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: Hey, the Jeremiah Wright, the reverend of that church out in Chicago that Barack Obama has belonged to coming up on 20 years -- it's been very troubling for the senator from Illinois. There's some new news this morning, but if you need to get caught up to date on what the story's all about, here's a little summation.

[begin video clip]

WRIGHT: Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill have been good to us. No he ain't. Bill did us just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.

OBAMA: He is a well-regarded preacher, and somebody who is known for talking about the social gospel, but most of the time, when I'm in church, he's talking about Jesus, God, faith, values.

WRIGHT: The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color -- venomous lies.

OBAMA: None of these statements were ones that I had heard myself personally in the pews. One of them, I had heard about after I had started running for president and I put out a statement at that time condemning them.

WRIGHT: Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain't never been called a [bleep].

OBAMA: These are not statements that I am comfortable with; I reject them completely. They are not ones that reflect my values or my ideals.

[end video clip]

KILMEADE: The thing is, he says he never heard him talk like this when he was in the pews. Now, there's a report right now that Ronald Kessler writes about. And he writes today that Jim Davis wrote for Newsmax -- was a freelance reporter for Newsmax, which is an online magazine and actually a newspaper -- a magazine that comes to your door. On July 22nd he sat next to Barack Obama as Barack Obama heard some of these same statements from that very preacher and was nodding along, according to the reporter as he heard it. The United States of white America, lacing in with expletives as Obama listened on. "Hearing Wright's attacks," goes the story, "Obama had the opportunity to walk out but Davis said" -- the reporter -- "that the senator sat in his pew and nodded along."

DOOCY: So what's extraordinary about this is -- and you saw during that little montage you saw some of Barack Obama appearing on Hannity & Colmes right here on the Fox News Channel on Friday night. And one of the final questions Major Garrett asked Barack Obama was, "If you had heard any of those things would you have quit the church?" And he said, "Absolutely, I would have quit the church."

But this bombshell today that, in fact, Bill Kristol talks about in The New York Times this morning, is it on -- during this past year, July 22nd, Barack Obama, according to Jim Davis as quoted by Ron Kessler -- and of course Ron Kessler from The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, very well-respected reporter -- says Barack Obama was in the room that day when they were talking about stuff just like this.

CAMEROTA: So that's actual evidence if you believe the story that he was there for some of these very inflammatory, offensive comments.

DOOCY: How could you miss them?

CAMEROTA: How could you have gone to the church for 20 years?

DOOCY: Yeah. And miss them?

CAMEROTA: It doesn't stand to reason that this pastor only said these things twice and that Barack Obama happened to not be there during those two times.

[...]

OBAMA [video clip]: You heard some statements from my former pastor that were incendiary and that I completely reject, although I, you know, knew him and know him as somebody in my church who talked to me about Jesus and family and friendships but clearly had -- you know, but if all I knew was those statements that I saw on television, I would be shocked.

DOOCY: Juan Williams joins us live from our D.C. bureau. Juan, I don't know if you saw the Major Garrett interview with Barack Obama on Friday night.

WILLIAMS: I did.

DOOCY: Well, at the very end, he asked Barack Obama, "So if you heard those comments, those fiery comments from Reverend Wright, would you quit your church? Would you leave your church?" And he said yes.

You gotta figure people are going through all the tape right now trying to find the day that Barack Obama was indeed in the pews. I know there's an item in The New York Times today that says that July 22nd he was there, but there's another report that he was probably down in Florida that day, so people are trying to connect the dots right now.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I think -- see, we get locked into this, and now it becomes kind of a hunt. You know, Steven, I think that --

DOOCY: Gotcha.

WILLIAMS: Yeah. And I just think it's too bad, because Barack Obama was trying to represent that he was beyond this, that he was taking us to a different place. I think that's why people have been voting for him, people wanted to be supportive of him, people saw him as taking us to a different place in terms of race or even beyond race in this country. And suddenly here we are back with Barack Obama playing -- I think it's dodgeball because there's no getting away from the fact he knew exactly who Jeremiah Wright was. He wouldn't have Jeremiah Wright at his announcement last year for this very reason when he was announcing for president.

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