Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed asserted in a column that she "hears rumbles President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is reportedly on 21 different taped conversations by the feds -- dealing with his boss' vacant Senate seat!" Sneed added: "A lot of chit-chat? Hot air? Or trouble? To date, Rahm's been mum. Stay tuned." Despite the complete absence of sourcing, many in the media have run with Sneed's assertion, in some cases simply quoting Sneed, in others, paraphrasing the assertion, and in still others, actually expanding on it.
MSNBC's Alex Witt failed to challenge Republican strategist Tripp Baird's claim that President-elect Barack Obama's team had "something to do with" a "corruption" scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, even though there are no allegations of wrongdoing against Obama or his staff contained in the criminal complaint against Blagojevich. Further, Witt did not challenge Baird's false claim that Rep. Barney Frank "ran a male prostitute ring out of his basement."
On Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity suggested that President-elect Barack Obama -- the first African-American elected president -- was named Time magazine's Person of the Year because Vice President-elect Joe Biden chose Time's Jay Carney as his communications director. Hannity stated: "Shocker: The president-elect is crowned Time magazine's Person of the Year; this after Time magazine's D.C. bureau chief accepts a job in the Obama White House. Ah, I'm sure it's a coincidence."
On Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN correspondent Casey Wian claimed that President-elect Barack Obama is "not taking ... very seriously" the issue of Mexican drug trafficking and its impact on the U.S., adding that "we couldn't find a thing" Obama "has had to say about Mexican drug cartels since he was elected, and even before that." In fact, Obama has made several statements on the subject of Mexican drug cartels.
The New York Post falsely reported that a Rasmussen poll found that "[n]early one in two Americans thinks it likely" that President-elect Barack Obama or members of his staff were "in on" the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich and that 23 percent of respondents in the poll "[s]ay it's 'very likely' an Obama aide will be implicated." In fact, the poll found that 23 percent of respondents found it "[v]ery likely" and 22 percent of respondents found it "[s]omewhat likely" that "Obama or one of his top campaign aides was involved in the Blagojevich scandal" [emphasis added]. The Rasmussen question itself is ambiguous as to whether "involvement" is limited to instances of wrongdoing by Obama or his staff, of which there is no evidence.
In the absence of any allegations of wrongdoing by President-elect Barack Obama or his staff in connection with the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, media figures continue to warn that a "cloud" hangs over Obama or assert that the scandal threatens to cast a "cloud" over Obama's presidency.
On Hannity's America, Sean Hannity repeated the baseless claim that "the Obamas pa[id] $300,000 below market value" for their house. Additionally, after recounting that the Obamas purchased land from the adjacent lot owned by Antoin Rezko, Hannity asserted: "And then, as state senator, he helped funnel money to these housing projects that Tony Rezko and other friends were working on." In fact, Obama's letter in support of a Rezko housing project was written seven years before the Obamas purchased their home, and both parties have reportedly said that Rezko did not solicit the letter.
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade echoed a false assertion made in a December 11 AP article by claiming that President-elect Barack Obama said, "I'm confident nobody on my staff talked on my behalf when it comes to filling my seat." The AP had reported falsely that "President-elect Barack Obama said Thursday he didn't discuss his vacant Senate seat with disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich and said he's confident nobody on his staff did either." In fact, during a December 11 press conference, Obama did not claim that nobody on his staff "talked on his behalf" to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich; rather, he stated, "I'm confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat."
On Hannity's America, Sean Hannity asserted that "the word 'president-elect' was mentioned ... 44 times" in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, which, Hannity said, "is a pretty high, high number." Hannity had previously described the number of mentions of the word "president-elect" in the complaint as "pretty troubling." In fact, with one exception, none of the 44 instances in which "president-elect" was used in the complaint actually mentioned any alleged conduct or statement by President-elect Barack Obama, much less any conduct or statement amounting to wrongdoing. The one exception was an allegation that Blagojevich complained that Obama would not give him anything other than "appreciation."
In the absence of any actual allegations of wrongdoing by President-elect Barack Obama or his staff in connection with the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, several media figures have in recent days ominously asserted that a "cloud" hangs over Obama because of the Blagojevich scandal, or that the scandal threatens to cast a "cloud" over Obama's presidency.
CNN's Drew Griffin misrepresented President-elect Barack Obama's response to the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, falsely suggesting that Obama disputes allegations made in the complaint. In fact, there are no allegations regarding Obama in the complaint for him to deny, as U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald made clear when he stated that the complaint "makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever."
On The Radio Factor, John Kass falsely claimed that Rita Rezko, wife of Antoin Rezko, "b[ought] the Obama dream house" in what Kass called "that shady real estate deal." In addition, Kass, who was also featured on ABC's World News and the CBS Evening News in reports about the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, suggested to Bill O'Reilly that President-elect Barack Obama must be tainted by corruption because he comes from Chicago.
On Hannity & Colmes, Hannity asserted that President-elect Barack Obama is "all over" the criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, adding, "The pres -- the word 'president-elect' is mentioned 44 times in the document. Pretty troubling." However, nowhere in the complaint was a single allegation against Obama made. Further, U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald stated during a December 9 press conference that the criminal complaint "makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever -- his conduct."
The headline of a Washington Times article about the implications of the charges against Gov. Rod Blagojevich baselessly asserted: "Scandal casts cloud over Obama presidency." In fact, the article itself noted that "[a]uthorities stressed that Mr. Obama was not involved in the far-flung corruption probe" and that U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald "told reporters, '[t]he complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever.' "