UPDATED: Limbaugh, Hannity Repeat Wash. Times Misquote of Obama Adviser


A Washington Times article contained a purported statement by Obama adviser Samantha Power that President Obama inspired the uprising in Libya -- a claim later exposed as "badly misquoted." Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were among the hosts who repeated the misquoted remark.

Wash. Times: Power Said American Values "Caused The People Of Libya To Risk Their Lives On The Street"

Times Claimed Power Said Obama "Helped Trigger The Uprising In Libya." From a March 29 Washington Times article by Andy Thibault:

White House aide Samantha Power, a former news reporter turned anti-genocide advocate, said President Obama's two-year campaign to promote human rights helped trigger the uprising in Libya against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's rule.

In a speech Monday at Columbia University, Ms. Power, director of multilateral affairs at the National Security Council, defended her support for the military operation against Libyan government forces and said the president's efforts, through speeches in various foreign capitals, made it easier for other nations to stand with the United States against tyrants.

"The president has argued our interests and our values cannot be separated," Ms. Power said, speaking to a friendly crowd of about 130 people. "These values have caused the people of Libya to risk their lives on the street."

times power

[The Washington Times, 3/29/11]

Politico: Power Was Referencing "The Universality Of Human Rights Norms," Not Claiming Obama Inspired Uprising

Politico's Smith: "Hard To Be More Wrong Than That." From a March 29 Politico blog post by Ben Smith:

I had no memory of Power making that claim -- I wrote about her case that Obama has rehabilitated the notion of human rights -- and didn't remember the quotes either, so I listened again to the tape. The Times has badly misquoted her, and her meaning is almost the exact opposite of what is reported.

In fact, Power was arguing, the Libyan uprising was motivated not by American or even by Western values, but by universal values "that have been expressed in all countries at all times."

The two quotes from the Times come from different parts of the speech. The first one is roughly accurate; the second wildly off.

The first is a slightly scrambled version of this quote: "The president has argued consistently that our values and our interests can't be easily separated. In his Nobel Address, he said, 'There has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists -- a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values around the world. I reject these choices.'"

The second quote came six minutes later in her speech, as she extolled Obama's and Hillary Clinton's "confidence in the universality of human rights," and their adherence to the Geneva Convention and other international expressions of the universality of human rights norms.

"These things are not Western values. It's not Western values that caused the people of Libya to risk their lives on the street."

Hard to be more wrong than that. [Politico, 3/29/11]

Article Removed From Wash. Times Website. After Smith's post appeared, the link to Thibault's article on the Washington Times website was replaced by the message, "That story has been removed from the site." [The Washington Times, accessed 3/30/11; screenshot of Google cache version of original article here]

Limbaugh, Hannity Ran With Power Misquote

Limbaugh: Power "Says Obama's Words Have Inspired The Middle East Uprisings." From Limbaugh's radio show:

LIMBAUGH: The template is set, the narrative is written. Samantha Power, The Washington Times, Washington Examiner today -- I'm not sure which, doesn't matter -- says Obama's words have inspired the Middle East uprisings. Keep a sharp eye on Moammar Gadhafi in the next month, two weeks. Let me ask, though: While we were actually going to war, where was Obama? Not last night, but nine days ago, ten days ago. Where was he? He was playing golf. He was vacationing in Rio. He was doing everything he could to distance himself from what was going on in Libya, just in case anything went terribly wrong. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 3/29/11]

Hannity: Power's Comments Are "Ridiculous." From the March 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: Now, amid all of his soaring rhetoric, President Obama credited himself with stopping Gadhafi's army and preventing a massacre. But as insulting as all of that sounds, we're learning that an administration official is actually attempting to credit President Obama with igniting the Libyan uprising in the first place. Now, in a speech on Monday, controversial White House aide Samantha Power told a crowd at Columbia University that, quote, "The president has argued our interests and our values cannot be separated. ... These values have caused the people of Libya to risk their lives on the street." Of course, this is not the first time Power's ridiculous comments have made headlines. [Fox News, Hannity, 3/29/11]

UPDATE: Wash. Times Issues Print Correction

The March 31 print edition of The Washington Times contains this correction:

An article in Tuesday's paper and on The Washington Times website incorrectly quoted White House aide Samantha Power. She did not say, in a Monday night address at Columbia University, that Mr. Obama's promotion of human rights helped trigger the uprising in Libya. She said: "The president has, of course, and you've heard a lot of this lately, has stressed that change, lasting change, sustainable change, is bottom-up and indigenous." Ms. Powers [sic] later went on to say: "And those things are not Western values, it's not Western values that would cause the people of Libya to risk their lives on the street.


[The Washington Times, 3/31/11]

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