Conservative echo chamber pushes story about Obama's brother, despite brother's reported refutation

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER, GREG JOHNSON, NATHAN TABAK, GREG LEWIS & ASLI BASHIR

Numerous conservative media figures have promoted a story in the Italian edition of Vanity Fair that reportedly quoted Sen. Barack Obama's half brother George Obama as saying that he lives "on less than a dollar a month," but have disregarded reports that quoted George Obama saying, "They say I live on a dollar a month, but this is all lies by people who don't want my brother to win," and, "The magazines, they exaggerated everything."

In an August 20 article, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported that the Italian edition of Vanity Fair quoted Sen. Barack Obama's half brother George Obama as saying, "No one knows who I am...I live here [near Nairobi] on less than a dollar a month." Several conservative media figures have recently called attention to the reported quote and suggested Barack Obama is neglecting his half brother. However, these media figures, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Wes Pruden, and Steve Doocy, have all disregarded subsequent reports, including one in the British newspaper the Times, which quoted George Obama saying: "They say I live on a dollar a month, but this is all lies by people who don't want my brother to win." Further, George Obama said on the August 22 edition of CNN's The Situation Room: "I was brought up well. I live well even now. The magazines, they exaggerated everything."

Since the Telegraph article was published and linked to on August 20 by Internet gossip Matt Drudge, several conservative media figures have called attention to George Obama's reported quote:

  • On the August 22 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh claimed: "We found out the other day that Obama -- and [ABC News senior national correspondent] Jake Tapper, by the way, has done some research into Obama's family tree, and so far he's been able to count eight half siblings of Obama. One of them was George Hussein Obama, found in a hut in Kenya, outside Nairobi. And we found that old George Hussein Obama living on less than $1 a month." Limbaugh continued, asking: "How come Barry can't send his half brother a $20 bill and almost double the guy's annual income?"
  • On the August 22 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, Sean Hannity said: "Barack Obama's lost brother, George Hussein Anyango Obama, living in a hut in a ramshackle town on the outskirts of Nairobi, who is literally living there on less than a dollar a month." Hannity added: "Even though Obama met with him in 2006, you know, the guy is suffering. And if Obama -- charity doesn't begin at home with Obama, then I guess we've got to do something about it."
  • During the August 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy stated: "Down in Texas, the GOP party now has a brand new Web video out -- they have paid for it -- and what they're doing is they're using some information that they gleaned from the Italian Vanity Fair article that came out toward the end of last week regarding Barack Obama's half brother, who lives on a dollar a month just outside of Nairobi." After co-host Gretchen Carlson responded by stating that Obama's half brother lives "[i]n a shack," Fox & Friends aired the ad, produced by the Republican Party of Texas, which shows a picture of Obama's half brother while the narrator asks, "If Obama cares so much about your family, why doesn't he take care of his family first?"
  • On the August 25 edition of the syndicated radio program The War Room with Quinn & Rose, co-host Rose Tennent repeated the Vanity Fair quote, and then said: "I'm going to talk to Vanity Fair, get George Hussein Obama's address. I will send him the same amount that I'm sending that family, also in Africa and Ethiopia -- I will send to George Hussein and I will -- and then -- and get him out of that shack. I'll send him less than $500 a year, and his standard of living will increase like you have never seen before." In response, co-host Jim Quinn asked: "Why can't Barack pull 20 bucks out of his pocket?"
  • In his August 26 Washington Times column, Wesley Pruden wrote: "There's the story now afloat that an Obama half brother is living in grim poverty in Kenya, scratching out a bare living on a dollar a month while the senator lives in luxury on $5 million a year."

These media figures did not mention that in an August 22 article, the British newspaper the Times reported:

George, 26, had been living a quiet life, studying to become a car mechanic until earlier this week when Vanity Fair tracked him down to Huruma, on the edge of Nairobi.

He said that he was furious at subsequent reports that he had been abandoned by the Obama family and that he was filled with shame about living in a slum. "It seems there are people who want to destroy me and my family," he said.

"They say I live on a dollar a month, but this is all lies by people who don't want my brother to win." He said that he was supported by his mother, Jael, who now lives in the US, and by a cousin in Huruma.

Nor did they mention the following report on the August 22 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

WOLF BLITZER (host): Barack Obama has written and spoken about his relationship with his Kenyan father and his family there, but little has been said about one of the candidate's closest relatives, who lives in a Nairobi slum. CNN's David McKenzie sat down with him in his first television interview.

[...]

DAVID McKENZIE (CNN correspondent): Some of the neighbors feel that perhaps the candidate Obama should help the brother Obama.

EMELDA MARGRETTE NEGEI (George Obama's neighbor): I'd like Obama to visit his brother, to see how he's living, to improve our way of life. See the place he's living. He'll have to come and change the place.

McKENZIE: George bristles at the thought. Recent magazine articles, claiming that he is impoverished and desperate, just don't sit well.

GEORGE OBAMA: I was brought up well. I live well even now. The magazines, they exaggerated everything. I think I kind of like it here. I'm Kenyan, so definitely I'd really love to live in Kenya.

From the August 22 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: But here's -- here's a way of looking at it. We found out the other day that Obama -- and Jake Tapper, by the way, has done some research into Obama's family tree, and so far he's been able to count eight half siblings of Obama. One of them was George Hussein Obama, found in a hut in Kenya, outside Nairobi. And we found that old George Hussein Obama living on less than $1 a month. We also found out that one of [Sen. John] McCain's houses, a condo, is one that they provide for an elderly aunt of Mrs. McCain's.

How come Barry can't send his half brother a $20 bill and almost double the guy's annual income? Well, a $20 bill would almost double his brother's annual income, and McCain said to be so out of touch with the common man, he's using one of his houses to house an elderly aunt.

From the August 22 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: Now, you know, we spent a lot of time yesterday on the Rezko hypocrisy. If they want to make housing an issue and the fact -- by the way, it appears that John McCain and his wife, Cindy, use these houses for their family. They actually take care of their family. Which leads us to what we discussed at length yesterday, and that is Barack Obama's lost brother, George Hussein Anyango Obama, living in a hut in a ramshackle town on the outskirts of Nairobi, who is literally living there on less than a dollar a month.

Now, I can't get anybody from the Obama camp to give me an address so I can send this man some money. Even though Obama met with him in 2006, you know, the guy is suffering. And if Obama -- charity doesn't begin at home with Obama, then I guess we've got to do something about it.

From the August 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: Down in Texas, the GOP party now has a brand new Web video out -- they have paid for it -- and what they're doing is they're using some information that they gleaned from the Italian Vanity Fair article that came out toward the end of last week regarding Barack Obama's half brother, who lives on a dollar a month just outside of Nairobi.

CARLSON: In a shack.

DOOCY: Yeah.

CARLSON: In a shack. He's met his -- he's met Barack Obama twice. Let's watch.

[begin video clip]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama has viciously attacked John McCain and his family for being successful and living the American Dream. This, even after McCain gave so much for his country. Obama claims he's looking out for our families in an economic downturn. But ask yourself this: if Obama cares so much about your family, why doesn't he take care of his own family first? Barack Obama lives in this house, wants to live in this house, while his own brother lives in this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paid for by the Republican Party of Texas and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

[end video clip]

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): All right, so we don't know how the McCain camp feels about that but we do know this, John McCain went on a day vacation right after he was not able to answer the question how many homes he had. Joe Biden mentioned how many homes he had, how many kitchen tables he could sit at. Everyone's having fun with it, Bob Beckel talked about it all day. Well, John McCain answered that question when Katie Couric asked him about how many homes he had and why he couldn't answer. Here it is.

McCAIN [video clip]: We spend our time primarily in Washington, D.C., where I have a condominium in Crystal City [in Arlington, Virginia]; here in this beautiful Sedona that I am blessed every moment that I can spend here; our condominium in Phoenix, Arizona; and a place over in San Diego. The others are also for investment purposes. So all I can say is I am blessed to have the opportunity to continue to be part of a country where you can succeed and do well.

DOOCY: So he's the embodiment of the American Dream.

KILMEADE: Right.

CARLSON: The thing I glean from this is that this getting nasty, folks.

DOOCY: Yeah.

CARLSON: This is getting nasty. If we go back to that Texas ad where they're bringing up the half brother now who lives in Nairobi.

DOOCY: On a buck a month.

CARLSON: That's -- it's getting nasty because the minute you bring up the whole house problem, then you can talk about Rezko with Barack Obama, you can talk about his half brother living in Nairobi. Without a doubt, though, that was a gaffe for McCain talking about his homes.

KILMEADE: Well, it is. The others are investment properties. And the other thing is, I let Bob Beckel -- Bob Beckel says to me yesterday, "Have you seen John -- has John McCain commented yet on the homes thing?" I said, "Yeah." I showed him on my Blackberry and I showed him that verbatim. He said, "That's a good enough answer."

DOOCY: Yeah. Well, it's very complicated because --

KILMEADE: Does it stop the storyline now?

DOOCY: -- John McCain's wife is really rich, and because, you know, they keep -- they file separate income tax and all that stuff, so he does not know exactly what his wife's investments are, and it was all lined up in the -- I think it was The New York Times on Saturday. It's complicated.

From the August 25 edition of Clear Channel's The War Room with Quinn & Rose:

TENNENT: You know, he [Obama] quotes Matthew and he says, whatever you do to the least of these or how -- whatever you neglected to give unto one of these, the least of these, you neglected to do to me. Let me ask you a question, Barack Obama. Your brother, George Hussein Obama, who exists on a dollar a day, we found out, in a tiny little shack -- not even a hut, but a shack --

QUINN: Oh, it's worse --

TENNENT: -- in Nairobi, Africa -- would you consider him, George Hussein Obama, your brother, one of the least of these?

QUINN: Oh, it's worse than you just said.

TENNENT: Well, I know, and I've got that story, but that's not my point. My point is that you're talking about whatever you do to the least of these -- Barack Obama, would you consider your brother, George Hussein Obama, the least of these? The man is living on a dollar a day in Nairobi, Africa. Here's the story, I'll read the story, you wanna hear how bad it is. This is from the Italian edition of Vanity Fair and it said that they found George Hussein Obama living in a hut in a ramshackle town on the outskirts of Nairobi. This Mr. Obama is 26 years old, he's the youngest of the presidential candidate's half brothers who spoke for the first time about his life, which could not be more different than that of the Democratic contender. Indeed, it couldn't be more different. His brother, George Hussein Obama, says, "no one knows who I am. I live here on less than a dollar a month."

And according to Italy's Vanity Fair, his two-meter by three-meter shack is decorated with football posters of the Italian football giants Milan and also as well as a calendar showing exotic beaches of the world. That poor little guy is probably sitting in there thinking, "Someday I'd like to see one of those beautiful beaches. But, right now I'm stuck in this -- this tiny little wood shack, no roof over it." It's just different pieces of wood and aluminum pounded together for some protection from the elements. Anyway, Vanity Fair also noted that he had a front-page newspaper picture of his famous brother born of the same father, Barack Hussein Obama, but to a different mother, named only as Jael. But he told the magazine, "I live like a recluse. No one knows I exist." So he says that, "if anyone says anything to me about my surname, I say we are not related; I am ashamed." For 10 years, George Obama lived rough. However, he now hopes to try to sort out his life by starting a course at a local technical college. He's only met his famous older brother twice. Once when he was five and the last time in 2006 when Obama was on tour of East Africa and visited Nairobi. And also, Obama mentions his brother in his autobiography, describing him in just one passing paragraph as "a beautiful boy with a rounded head." What the hell does that mean?

QUINN: Yeah, and --

TENNENT: A beautiful boy with a rounded head.

QUINN: And an income of just $12 a year. Now --

TENNENT: Now, here -- I want to tell you something. There's a little family in Africa, in Ethiopia, Africa, not Nairobi, but Ethiopia. And they have a couple of children, and the little girl touched my heart, so I give her $26 a month. That $26 a month goes to school supplies, it gets her into a school, clothes for school. They asked me the other -- about a month ago, "Would you consider helping her brother?" And I said, "Sure, put him on." So, now it's, what, $52 a month. Fifty-two dollars a month I spend to make sure someone is having -- gets a chance, gets a chance to get out of where they are and make something out of themselves. And one year I bought them a cow for the family for Christmas. And the next year you joined me and bought me some ducks -- we bought them ducks and hens to lay eggs. And now this family, on less than what, $400, $500 a year from me --

QUINN: Something like that, yeah.

TENNENT: -- OK, is living high on the hog in Africa. So, here's what I'm suggesting. I will -- if they said -- I'm going to talk to Vanity Fair, get George Hussein Obama's address. I will send him the same amount that I'm sending that family, also in Africa and Ethiopia -- I will send to George Hussein and I will -- and then -- and get him out of that shack. I'll send him less than $500 a year and his standard of living will increase like you have never seen before.

QUINN: Why can't Barack pull 20 bucks out of his pocket?

TENNENT: Why, indeed. What the heck is that all about? So don't -- you know, don't you tell me that as a nation we have failed because we don't live by Matthew.

Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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