Fox's Hemmer failed to challenge GOP strategist's false and misleading statements about Obama and flag, flag pin, Senate record

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

On America's Newsroom, Andrea Tantaros stated: "Barack Obama refuses to salute the flag. He refuses to wear a flag pin. He's been named the most liberal senator in the United States Senate right now." Bill Hemmer did not challenge her statements, the first two of which are false and the third of which echoes a National Journal rating given Obama that was based on a limited number of Senate votes selected by National Journal staff.

On the May 12 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Republican strategist Andrea Tantaros asserted that "the Democrats do a great job painting themselves as liberal and elitist" and went on to repeat several conservative talking points that are either false or misleading, none of which were challenged by Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer. Tantaros said: "I mean, [Sen.] Barack Obama refuses to salute the flag. He refuses to wear a flag pin. He's been named the most liberal senator in the United States Senate right now." Tantaros' assertions regarding Obama "refus[ing] to salute the flag" or "wear a flag pin" are false, and her claim that Obama is "the most liberal senator" apparently refers to a National Journal rating that is based on a limited number of Senate votes selected by National Journal staff as purportedly indicative of ideology.

Refuses to salute the flag

Tantaros baselessly asserted that "Obama refuses to salute the flag." While Tantaros offered no support for her assertion, her claim echoes a smear of Obama circulating in chain emails containing a photograph of Obama that purports to show him not placing his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. However, the photo in the email, in which Obama was standing but did not have his hand placed over his heart, appeared in Time magazine and included a caption that indicated that the photograph was taken during the national anthem -- not the Pledge of Allegiance.

As Media Matters for America noted, Washington Post "fact-checker" Michael Dobbs wrote in a November 2, 2007, item about the email: "Contrary to the e-mails attacking Obama for disrespecting the flag, the candidates were not reciting the pledge of allegiance. They were standing for the national anthem." Dobbs also wrote: "Asked whether Obama normally puts his hand over his heart while listening to the national anthem, Obama spokesman Bill Burton replied by e-mail: 'Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. In no way was he making any sort of statement, and any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous.' " Indeed, other photos show Obama with his hand over his heart during the national anthem.

Refuses to wear flag pin

Tantaros falsely asserted that Obama "refuses to wear a flag pin." In fact, as Media Matters noted, in the April 16 Democratic presidential debate, Obama said, "And let me just make one last point on this issue of the flag pin. As you've noted, I wore one yesterday when a veteran handed it to me, who himself was disabled and works on behalf of disabled veterans. I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins."

"[M]ost liberal senator"

Tantaros' assertion that Obama has "been named the most liberal senator in the United States Senate right now" echoes a conservative talking point frequently repeated in the media that stems from the National Journal's 2007 rating, which was based on "99 key Senate votes, selected by NJ reporters and editors, to place every senator on a liberal-to-conservative scale."

As Media Matters has repeatedly documented (here, here, here, here, and here), among the votes Obama cast that purportedly earned him the National Journal's "most liberal senator" label were those to implement the 9-11 Commission's homeland security recommendations, provide more children with health insurance, expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and maintain a federal minimum wage. When asked by Politico editor-in-chief John F. Harris about the National Journal's 2007 vote ratings during a February 11 Politico/WJLA interview, Obama himself criticized its methodology by noting that it considered "liberal" his vote for "an office of public integrity that stood outside of the Senate, and outside of Congress, to make sure that you've got an impartial eye on ethics problems inside of Congress." American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman J. Ornstein has also criticized the National Journal's rating of Obama as the "most liberal senator," calling it "pretty ridiculous."

Media Matters has also noted that the National Journal admitted to having used flawed methodology in the publication's previous rating of then-Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. John Kerry (MA) as the "most liberal senator" in 2003.

From the May 12 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

BOB BECKEL (Fox News contributor): This time around they say that -- in fact, Newsweek, you know, wrote a cover story and the McCain campaign took great offense and said, "What are you suggesting? That Republican presidential candidates win on negative campaigns?" I can give you the answer: Yes. But --

HEMMER: Well, Andrea, what about this? Is this the strategy from a -- from a GOP perspective?

TANTAROS: You know, I love how Democrats blame Republicans. "Oh, it's Republicans trying to paint the Democrat as liberal and elitist." I think the Democrats do a great job painting themselves as liberal and elitist. I mean, Barack Obama refuses to salute the flag. He refuses to wear a flag pin. He's been named the most liberal senator in the United States Senate right now. He prefers to share his views about Americans in San Francisco. I mean, this guy -- and there's no proof, Bill, that he's a uniter in the Senate. He's the most -- one of the most partisan senators. So really, I don't see how it's Republicans' fault.

BECKEL: Well, the --

TANTAROS: The Democrats just nominate the wrong people.

HEMMER: The list you tick off is addressed by [Fox News contributor Susan] Estrich the following way. Bob, gentlemen, chime in on this: "Mud sticks. Things get worse, not better, if you ignore them." If you're advising Obama, do you address them?

BECKEL: Exactly right. Look, the things you ticked off there -- by the way, last I checked, San Francisco was in the United States.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Bill Hemmer, Andrea Tantaros
Show/Publication
America's Newsroom
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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