Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT
New York Post columnist John Podhoretz asserted in the wake of Sunday’s mass murder at a gay nightclub in Orlando that President Obama suggested Americans were to blame for the terror attack. The column ran under the Post headline, “Obama: ‘we’ are to blame, not Islamic terrorism, for massacre.”
Podhoretz’s claim is categorically false and is easily debunked by a simple reading of Obama’s statement. That a columnist for a major market American newspaper would publish such a purposefully false allegation about the president at a time of national mourning is rather disturbing.
The allegation stands as a stark example of how Obama’s conservative critics routinely misinform during times of national tragedy.
If, as a partisan, you don’t agree with how Obama’s fighting terror, if you want to detail ways the United States could be more forcefully and effectively dealing with the threat, go for it. Write a column. Call out the president for being wrong-headed if you think he is.
But to have published a column even before the 50 dead bodies had been removed from the Orlando nightclub and completely fabricate the claim that Obama blamed American society for the Florida gun rampage? That’s beyond the pale and Podhoretz ought to be entirely ashamed of himself.
Podhoretz essentially lied to his readers about what Obama said on Sunday, probably assuming they’d never double check the facts.
Obviously, Obama never said “we” are to blame for the terror attack, as the Post headline suggested. Why on earth would he? It’s an illogical premise to even start with and I can’t imagine any American president ever entertaining such a notion. Worse, Podhoretz doesn't provide any evidence to support the falsehood that Obama claimed “we” are to blame for the massacre -- none.
Podhoretz laments that Obama -- in comments he labeled "disgusting" and "astonishing" -- was supposedly trying to distract from the terrorism angle by saying "'we need the strength and courage to change' our attitudes toward the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community." Here's what Obama said:
In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy. Their names. Their faces. Who they were. The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world. Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families -- that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable. And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change. We need to demonstrate that we are defined more -- as a country -- by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.
As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts -- friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives. In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other. Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.
In Podhoretz's view, a call for unity is "disgusting."
Still railing against Obama, Podhoretz insisted, “We Americans do not bear collective responsibility for this attack. Quite the opposite.” But in his subdued comments while trying to unite the country, Obama never said anything about Americans shouldering "collective responsibility" for the attack.
Does this sound like Obama’s was blaming Americans? From his remarks:
So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American -- regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation -- is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.
The columnist simply fabricated that premise in order to denounce the president.