MSNBC, FoxNews.com flip out over purported "flip-off"
MSNBC and FoxNews.com reported on Sen. Barack Obama's touching his right cheek at a campaign event while referring to Sen. Hillary Clinton. Of the action, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer stated, "[S]ome think it looks like a flip-off."
During the 4 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on April 18, anchor Contessa Brewer aired video of Sen. Barack Obama at a campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina, the previous day -- shot from Obama's front -- in which Obama, while speaking about Sen. Hillary Clinton, reached up and touched his right cheek. Noting that "the blogs are buzzing about this one," Brewer claimed that Obama "made an unfortunate gesture," adding: "[S]ome think it looks like a flip-off. You can judge. Watch it." Brewer continued: "Maybe his cheek had an itch. If it itches, scratch it. What do you think? Hey folks, they don't call this the silly season for nothing." However, as video  of the event shot from Obama's right side clearly shows, Obama had both his middle and index fingers extended when he reached up to touch his cheek. The video showing both of Obama's fingers extended was available prior to Brewer's report.
FoxNews.com went so far as to suggest Obama may have been "flipping off" Sen. Hillary Clinton because the gesture came as he was referring to her. An April 18 article  headlined "Did Obama Give a 'Flip' Response to Clinton Attacks?" posted at 12:16 p.m. reported, "Just when you thought the Democratic race couldn't get uglier, Barack Obama is being accused of giving Hillary Clinton the finger at a town hall meeting in North Carolina." The article continued: "The gesture -- which may have been an innocent scratch of the face or, according to some, something more mischievous -- came as Obama was complaining Thursday about the debate in Philadelphia the night before. Bloggers were quick to note that as the Illinois senator scolded his Democratic rival for her performance at the debate, he raised his right hand and scratched his cheek with one finger. That finger" [emphasis in original]. On April 18, Daily Kos diarist jimmyhoffa2222 posted  a screenshot of the video at 3:32 p.m. ET in response to the FoxNews.com article.
One of the blogs "buzzing," as Brewer put it, over the allegation was the conservative RedState.com, which posted video of the Obama rally -- also shot from Obama's front -- in an April 17 entry  (reposted and updated on April 18) and stated affirmatively that "Obama gave Hillary the finger today." In an April 17 entry  on his blog, Politico senior political writer Ben Smith called RedState's claim a "myth," writing, "That looks like two fingers to me." RedState responded by linking to yet another video of Obama's comments, taken from a slightly different angle, and writing: "Ben Smith might want to look at the different angle before eagerly myth busting."
In this screenshot of Obama at the rally, two fingers appear to be touching his face:
From the 4 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on April 18:
BREWER: Wow, the blogs are buzzing about this one. On he campaign trail in Raleigh, North Carolina, yesterday, Barack Obama made a -- he made an unfortunate gesture. As he complained about the ABC debate and his rival, Hillary Clinton, some think it looks like a flip-off. You can judge. Watch it.
OBAMA [video clip]: I don't blame Washington for this, because that's just how Washington is. They like stirring up controversy and they like playing gotcha games and getting us to attack each other, and I have to say, you know, Senator Clinton, you know, looked in her element. You know, she was taking every opportunity to get a dig in there.
BREWER: Now, there it is. Right there. That very last piece. I don't know why it takes so long to get to it, but it does. We're keeping you on your edge of your seats -- it just took a minute. Maybe his cheek had an itch. If it itches, scratch it. What do you think?
Hey folks, they don't call this the silly season for nothing.
The state of Texas has just finished presenting its evidence in the case that will decide whether the children of alleged polygamists should go to foster parents. NBC's Don Teague joins us from outside the courthouse. So, Don, what's the latest here?