The Right-Wing Media's Failed White House Log Conspiracies
The American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord misrepresented White House visitor logs to suggest that President Obama knew about the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits because he met with the president of a union that represents IRS employees shortly before the agency began its controversial actions. This is far from the first time a right-wing media conspiracy dependent on those records has fallen apart.
American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord: "Smoking Gun" In Logs Ties Obama To IRS Scandal Through Meeting With Union Head Kelley. Lord reported that according to the White House logs, President Obama met with Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS employees, the day before IRS employees "set to work in earnest targeting the Tea Party and conservative groups around America." He concluded:
The obvious question instantly arises with the revelation that Kelley was meeting with the President personally -- the day before the IRS kicked into high gear with its "Sensitive Case Report on the Tea Party".
Were the President of the United States and the President of the NTEU meeting in the White House at 12:30 on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 -- and engaged in "collaboration" and "partnership"? A "collaboration" and "partnership" that was all about targeting the Tea Party?
And did that collaboration and partnership result in the IRS letting loose the hounds on the Tea Party and conservative groups -- the very next day after the Obama-Kelley meeting? [American Spectator, 5/20/13 ]
Lord's Conspiracy Spread Through The Conservative Media. The story was covered by Sean Hannity on his radio show, CNS News, Fox Nation, Jim Hoft, and Michelle Malkin's website. [The Sean Hannity Show, 5/20/2013 [link?]; CNS News, 5/20/2013 ; TheGatewayPundit.com, 5/20/2013 ; MichelleMalkin.com, 5/20/2013 ; Fox Nation, 5/20/2013 ]
But Logs Indicate Kelley Did Not Have A Personal Meeting With Obama. According to the database, Kelley was one of 117 visitors who came to the Old Executive Office Building for what the log describes as a "Workplace Flexibility Forum." [Data.gov, accessed 5/21/2013 ]
Kelley Attended And Spoke At A Forum On Workplace Flexibility. According to a contemporaneous report:
An expanded telework program is one of the best ways to bring real flexibility to the federal workplace, Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), said during a White House forum to examine the state of flexible work arrangements.
Kelley spoke at the March 31 White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility, hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, which examined ways that the government might help American workers juggle the twin demands of work and family.
Telework "allows employees to avoid long, expensive and tiresome commutes, enables them to better balance work and family life and increases job satisfaction," Kelley said, noting that NTEU negotiates for flexibilities in every bargaining unit. Often, she said, there is real resistance among managers to implementing flexibilities. [FCW.com, 4/6/2010 ]
Union: Kelley Had "No Direct Contact" With Obama At The Forum. US News & World Report's Washington Whispers blog reported:
National Treasury Employees Union spokeswoman Dina Long tells Whispers that Kelley never met privately with Obama.
"Kelley attended the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility at the Old Executive Office Building... [which] was attended by approximately 200 attendees including business leaders, workers, policy experts and labor representatives discussing telework and worklife balance issues," Long said in a statement. "The president made opening remarks. President Kelley did not have any direct contact with the president or the first lady." [USNews.com, 5/20/13 ]
National Review's Andrew McCarthy: White House Won't Clarify Whether New Black Panthers Party Chief Visited. McCarthy, commenting on Andrew Breitbart's report that both Obama and New Black Panthers Party National Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz had marched with thousands of others at the commemoration of the Selma civil rights march, wrote:
Andrew also notes that visitor logs indicate that a man identified as "Malik Shabazz" visited the White House two months after attorney general [Eric] Holder dismissed the Panthers case. The White House has refused to clarify whether that Malik Shabazz is the Panther national chief. [Media Matters, 10/3/2011 ]
White House Said Years Earlier That It Was A Different Shabazz. In a 2009 blog post introducing the database, Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, identified "Malik Shabazz" as one of the "false positives" that came up in their visitor logs:
A lot of people visit the White House, up to 100,000 each month, with many of those folks coming to tour the buildings. Given this large amount of data, the records we are publishing today include a few "false positives" - names that make you think of a well-known person, but are actually someone else. In September, requests were submitted for the names of some famous or controversial figures (for example Michael Jordan, William Ayers, Michael Moore, Jeremiah Wright, Robert Kelly ("R. Kelly"), and Malik Shabazz). The well-known individuals with those names never actually came to the White House. Nevertheless, we were asked for those names and so we have included records for those individuals who were here and share the same names. [WhiteHouse.gov, 10/30/09 ]
WhitePages.com Has 46 Listings For "Malik Shabazz." [WhitePages.com, accessed 5/21/2013 ]
Shabazz Visited For A Group Tour. According to the log, the Malik Shabazz who visited the White House went for a group tour with a total of 311 people. [Data.gov, accessed 5/21/2013 ]
RW Media: Obama Met With DOJ Official Who Had Been Briefed On Operation Fast And Furious Four Times In 2010. In late 2011, several right-wing bloggers suggested that President Obama might have been lying about not knowing about the ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious, citing as evidence White House logs that they said indicated that Obama had repeatedly "met with" then-Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, who they described as aware of the tactics used during that operation. [Media Matters, 12/1/2011 ]
Logs Actually Indicated DOJ Official Had Been At Widely-Attended State Events.
The three May 19, 2010, listings the bloggers were referring to actually indicate that Grindler was one of President Obama's many guests for the widely attended events  related to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's state visit. The May 10, 2010, visit is listed in the visitor logs as a "Large Event With POTUS and Community Leaders" that took place in the East Room, apparently President Obama's announcement of Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. [Media Matters, 12/1/2013 ]
Breitbart's BigGovernment.com Claimed ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis Visited White House. A December 30, 2009, BigGovernment.com "exclusive" noted that according to White House visitor logs, a "Bertha E. Lewis" had visited the White House on September 5, 2009. The piece alleged that "Bertha E. Lewis" was, in fact, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis. The story further stated: "Ms. Lewis doesn't seem to have returned to the White House after this visit. Of course, just 5 days after this visit, James O'Keefe would release the first video of his undercover journalism on the systemic corruption within ACORN." [Media Matters, 7/21/2010 ]
White House Reportedly Said It Was A Different Bertha Lewis. Politico reported in response to Breitbart's report: "An administration official tells me that, indeed, this is a different Bertha Lewis, an ordinary visitor who came in through the White House visitor's office." [Politico, 12/31/2009 ]
ACORN: Our CEO Has A Different Middle Initial. Politico further reported: "One clue: The ACORN official's middle initial, according to her New York voter registration record on Nexis, is "M." An ACORN spokesman says her middle name is 'Mae.'" [Politico, 12/31/2009 ]
WhitePages.com Has More Than 100 Listings For "Bertha Lewis." [WhitePages.com, accessed 5/21/2013 ]
The Bertha Lewis Who Visited The White House Came For A Tour. According to the logs, Lewis was part of a group of more than 1,000 who visited on September 5 for a "staff tour." [Data.gov, accessed 5/21/2013 ]
Heritage Blog: Logs Show Two White House Visits For "Controversial Scholar" Derrick Albert Bell. In a March 2012 post, the Heritage Foundation's blog The Foundry reported:
Visitor logs show that Derrick A. Bell visited the White House twice since President Obama took office. The logs show two visits by an individual of that name on January 29 and 31, 2010.
Derrick Albert Bell, the late Harvard professor and controversial scholar in the field of Critical Race Theory has been thrust into national headlines after conservative bloggers at Breitbart.com posted video of Obama lauding his work at a 1991 rally at Harvard. [The Foundry, 3/8/2012 ]
ABC News: White House Says It's A Different Bell. ABC News' Jake Tapper reported of the Foundry post:
There are two problems with the Heritage post. One: it excludes some details from the visitors' logs. There are 28 columns on the publicly released records, the Heritage blog lists seven. The data they omit includes a description of what the visit was for: in this case, for both visits: TOURS. A White House tour - not MEETING or APPOINTMENT. Another data point: TOTAL PEOPLE. This is a reference to how many people were present for the tour, meeting or appointment - in this case 304 people and 282 people.
But Bell surely could have taken a tour or two and then met with President Obama, right? Sure, it's possible - and I asked the White House about it. The answer from a White House official: this was not the same Derrick A. Bell. He had a different birthday than the late law professor, whose birthday was November 6, 1930. That would seem to undermine the significance of this visit. [ABCNews.com, 3/9/2012 ]