On Special Report, Brit Hume falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama "contradicted what he wrote in his book" about town hall meetings and quoted from Obama's book The Audacity of Hope, in which Obama wrote: "One of my favorite tasks of being a senator is hosting town hall meetings." But contrary to Hume's assertion, Obama has hosted 18 town hall meetings in the past two months.
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During the June 25 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume stated: "When [Sen.] Barack Obama declined to join [Sen.] John McCain's invitation to appear at a series of joint town hall meetings, he not only went back on an earlier indication that he would do that ... he also contradicted what he wrote in his book." Hume then quoted from Obama's book The Audacity of Hope: " 'One of my favorite tasks of being a senator is hosting town hall meetings. I held 39 of them in my first year in the Senate.' Obama said they are like, quote, 'A dip in a cool stream. I feel cleansed afterward, glad for the work I have chosen.' " Earlier in the show, Hume had teased his report by claiming that Obama has "changing positions" on town hall meetings.
In fact, in the passage Hume quoted from the book, Obama was not referring to appearances with his political opponents, as Hume suggested. Rather, he wrote:
One of my favorite tasks of being a senator is hosting town hall meetings. I held thirty-nine of them my first year in the Senate, all across Illinois, in tiny rural towns like Anna and prosperous suburbs like Naperville, in black churches on the South Side and a college in Rock Island. There's not a lot of fanfare involved. My staff will call up the local high school, library, or community college to see if they're willing to host the event. A week or so in advance, we advertise in the town newspaper, in church bulletins, and on the local radio station. On the day of the meeting I'll show up a half hour early to chat with town leaders and we'll discuss local issues, perhaps a road in need of repaving or plans for a new senior center. After taking a few photographs, we enter the hall where the crowd is waiting. I shake hands on my way to the stage, which is usually bare except for a podium, a microphone, a bottle of water, and an American flag posted in its stand. And then for the next hour or so, I answer to the people who sent me to Washington.
Attendance varies at these meetings: We've had as few as fifty people turn out, as many as two thousand. But however many people show up, I am grateful to see them. They are a cross-section of the counties we visit: Republican and Democrat, old and young, fat and skinny, truck drivers, college professors, stay-at-home moms, veterans, schoolteachers, insurance agents, CPAs, secretaries, doctors, and social workers. They are generally polite and attentive, even when they disagree with me (or one another). They ask me about prescription drugs, the deficit, human rights in Myanmar, ethanol, bird flu, school funding, and the space program. Often they will surprise me: A young flaxen-haired woman in the middle of farm country will deliver a passionate plea for intervention in Darfur, or an elderly black gentleman in an inner city neighborhood will quiz me on soil conservation.
As I look out over the crowd, I somehow feel encouraged. In their bearing I see hard work. In the way they handle their children I see hope. My time with them is like a dip in a cool stream. I feel cleansed afterward, glad for the work I have chosen. (Page 101)
According to washingtonpost.com's Campaign Tracker, Obama has hosted at least 18 town hall meetings since May 1, including one in Las Vegas the day before Hume's report:
- June 24: Las Vegas, NV
- June 23: Albuquerque, NM
- June 12: Kaukauna, WI
- June 5: Bristol, VA
- June 2: Troy, MI
- May 31: Rapid City, SD
- May 28: Thornton, CO
- May 22: Boca Raton, FL
- May 21: Kissimmee, FL
- May 19: Billings, MT
- May 18: Pendleton, OR
- May 17: Roseburg, OR
- May 16: Watertown, SD
- May 14: Warren, MI
- May 13: Lexington, KY
- May 10: Bend, OR
- May 9: Albany, OR
- May 2: Munster, IN
From the June 25 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: A little later on "The Grapevine," Barack Obama says now that he does not want a lot of town hall meetings about the election, but what has he said in the past?
HUME: And we'll examine Barack Obama's changing positions on town hall meetings when we come back.
HUME: When Barack Obama declined to join John McCain's invitation to appear at a series of joint town hall meetings, he not only went back on an earlier indication that he would do that, but -- that is, attend them -- but he also contradicted what he wrote in his book.
In The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes, in quotes, "One of my favorite tasks of being a senator is hosting town hall meetings. I held 39 of them in my first year in the Senate." Obama said they are like, quote, "A dip in a cool stream. I feel cleansed afterward, glad for the work I have chosen."