Responding to President Obama's September 8 back-to-school address, the text of which was posted online on September 7, several conservative media figures have echoed Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer's assertion that Obama altered his speech after "the White House got their hand in the cookie jar caught." Numerous media conservatives, as well as Greer, had previously made the baseless charge that Obama would use the speech to push an ideological agenda or indoctrinate children.
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Greer: "Now that the White House got their hand in the cookie jar caught, they changed everything."
From the September 7 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
SUZANNE MALVEAUX (guest host): You've had a chance to see the president's text here. Have you changed your mind?
GREER: Well, I haven't changed my mind that I was very concerned as a parent last week when the White House was writing lesson plans and telling teachers what they should say to students before the president's speech and what they should say afterwards. And then when the White House said they weren't going to release the text, that concerned me. But now today, that they have released the text, and I've read it. It's an -- it's an upbeat speech, but is it the one the president was always going to give? You know, the White House --
MALVEAUX: You --
GREER: -- should not have been involved in writing lesson plans.
MALVEAUX: So you suspect that this isn't really the speech that he was going to give?
GREER: No, because clearly last week there was a plan with the Department of Education. When you ask students to write a letter to the president on how we can help you with your new ideas, Mr. President, that is leading the students in an effort to push the president's agenda.
Now that the White House got their hand in the cookie jar caught, they changed everything. They re-did the lesson plans. They released the text. And tomorrow he's going to give a speech that every president should have an opportunity to give. This was never about the president speaking to children about the importance of education. It was about the White House writing lesson plans.
MALVEAUX: They did change the lesson plan. But -- but you have no information that the White House actually changed the text of the speech. You don't have any inside knowledge of that?
GREER: No, I don't. But I would anticipate, based on this president being so vocal and so aggressive about his vision of America, where government is in every aspect of our lives, I believe that the speech that he was going to give, based on the lesson plans, is different.
Previously, Greer had baselessly asserted that Obama would use speech to "indoctrinate" children. In a September 1 press release, Greer baselessly claimed students "will be forced to watch the president justify" a policy agenda and that Obama would "turn to American's children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American's youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves." PolitiFact.com concluded Greer's claim that Obama would discuss a policy agenda was "Pants on Fire" false, noting that "the [Florida Republican] party could not offer any support for the statement."
Conservative media figures accused Obama of planning to "indoctrinate" kids with speech. Echoing Greer's September 1 press release, numerous conservative media figures similarly accused Obama, without evidence, of "indoctrinating" children by delivering the back-to-school speech.
Conservative media assert Obama was forced to change speech after uproar
Goler: "[S]ome skeptics say" Obama would have discussed politics in speech if they hadn't "wav[ed] the red flag." Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler uncritically reported that "[f]ormer first lady Laura Bush says kids should see the speech. But some skeptics say the president might have included politics in the speech if it hadn't been for them waving the red flag last week." [Fox Report with Shepard Smith, 9/8/09]
Rove: "I would suspect, a dime to a dollar bet you, that they altered that speech." Fox News contributor Karl Rove stated: "I would suspect, a dime to a dollar bet you, that they altered that speech. And they certainly altered the study guides. But the purpose was partly good, partly political. It's now been turned a lot more good, less political." [Fox News' Happening Now, 9/8/09]
Limbaugh: Personal responsibility was "not the original intent of the speech." Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh asserted: "The theme of his speech, which was not the original intent of the speech, by the way -- the original intent of the speech was a, you know, a 'dear leader' kind of thing, right out of the pages of that potbelly dictator in North Korea, Kim Jong Il. That's what it was gonna be." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/8/09]
Janet Porter: "America demanded a rewrite"; Obama's plans to recruit "Obama Youth" have "been thwarted." In a WorldNetDaily commentary, Janet Porter wrote: "America demanded a rewrite of Obama's speech he is to give to our children today. The indoctrination of the captive audience in public schools was going to be subjected to helping President Obama secure his radical agenda of government take over of health care -- but instead of recruiting 'Obama Youth,' with written pledges, that agenda has been thwarted for another more opportune time -- like when people aren't watching as closely." [WorldNetDaily, 9/8/09]
White House said speech was not altered
White House spokesmen stated that the speech was not changed as a result of conservative complaints. CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported, "White House spokesman Bill Burton says President Obama's speech to school children was not altered as a result of the controversy over the remarks - that it is the same speech that was originally to be delivered to students before critics began accusing the President of trying to indoctrinate the nation's children." Malveaux also reported that "Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the speech was 'largely written (over) the past week or two.' " [CNN.com's Political Ticker, 9/8/09]
From the September 8 edition of Fox News' Fox Report with Shepard Smith:
TRACE GALLAGHER (guest host): Wendell, what is the White House saying about the schools that decided not to show the speech?
GOLER: Well, obviously they're disappointed, but they won't admit it. In fact, the president's press secretary yesterday compared the fight over the whole thing to the -- the controversy over the whole thing to the Animal House food fight. Education Secretary Duncan points out that the speech, both the video and the text, are on the White House website right now for parents who want to watch it with their kids. Former first lady Laura Bush says kids should see the speech. But some skeptics say the president might have included politics in the speech if it hadn't been for them waving the red flag last week, Trace.
From the September 8 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
JON SCOTT (host): We know that the Education Department sort of scrubbed or altered some of the lesson plans that were to go along with this speech. Here's my question. The White House took the extraordinary step of releasing the text of the president's speech 24 hours in advance. That doesn't usually happen. Do you think that the speech itself was altered?
ROVE: Oh, I bet it was. I mean, look, the White House was tone deaf. They clearly had a purpose here, which was, let's have the president speak to every student in the country, let's have a study guide, let's have them write the president and the president can write them back. In fact, they still have that in there. The president's -- the students are now being encouraged to write the president about, sort of, their life experiences, so the White House can then, you know, using the Department of Education budget, send out God knows how many, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of letters to students, signed by the president, saying thank you for writing me.
This clearly has a political import; it's clearly using the government's budget in a way to advance the president personally. It's the kind of thing that makes us -- that makes all Americans uneasy about what the White House is doing. But they clearly, I would suspect, a dime to a dollar bet you, that they altered that speech. And they certainly altered the study guides. But the purpose was partly good, partly political. It's now been turned a lot more good, less political, but there still is a political utility to this, which is have them write the president and then, using the Department of Education budget, have the president write them back.