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Did FOX News do Obama a favor?

January 31, 2007

Hey, did you hear the one about presidental hopeful Sen. Barack Obama attending a Muslim madrassah extremist school as a kid?

Sen. Barack Obama (AP)Yeah, I heard it too. Shocking, huh? Unfortunately, that’s where most people stopped listening.

If you stayed for the WHOLE story, you would have heard that was reporting that staffers from the rival Dem campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton was spreading this story to media and Democratic donors, in an effort to smear Obama, who threatens the former First Lady’s aspirations for the White House.

From the Insight article:

The sources said the background check concerned Mr. Obama’s years in Jakarta. In Indonesia, the young Obama was enrolled in a Madrassa and was raised and educated as a Muslim. Although Indonesia is regarded as a moderate Muslim state, the U.S. intelligence community has determined that today most of these schools are financed by the Saudi Arabian government and they teach a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims.

Although the background check has not confirmed that the specific Madrassa Mr. Obama attended was espousing Wahhabism, the sources said his Democratic opponents believe this to be the case—and are seeking to prove it. The sources said the opponents are searching for evidence that Mr. Obama is still a Muslim or has ties to Islam.

Obama’s camp denies the Muslim madrassah claims are true, and I have no reason not to believe him. Hillary’s camp denies they are probing Obama, but to believe that would be foolish as Clinton and Obama are the top contenders for the Democrats nomination in 2008.

Of course both sides are digging into each other’s past … I’m sure Hillary’s cattle future windfall will be mentioned again. (oh wait, I just did).

And many media outlets went to find the Islamic school in Jakarta. And right now, it’s not a militant-leaning institution.

So that debunks that, right?

But Insight still stands by it’s original reporting, according to the Post:

“Insight’s story was not thinly sourced,” the posting said. “Our reporter’s sources close to the Clinton opposition research war room confirm the truth of the story. The Clinton camp’s denial has as much credibility as the ‘I never had sex with that woman’ statement.”

The REAL story in the Insight piece was NOT about the madrassah … no matter how cool that word sounds when you say it.

The point was that Clinton’s camp was spreading the story, no matter the validity of the claim. And a denial from the Clinton camp is all it takes to debunk that story? Remember, this is the same woman who embarrassed herself blaming a “right-wing conspiracy” for the sexual allegations against her husband, President Bill Clinton.

Now, today in the Washington Post blog “The Sleuth”, it’s reported that Obama is freezing out FOX News reporters because FOX reported the Insight story as the first big controversy of the election season … the long, torturous, never-ending election season that is almost 23 months long!!! Argh!!

From the Post blog:

“I’m still in the freezer,” one Fox journalist said, noting that the people at Fox “suffering the most did nothing wrong.” (It was “Fox and Friends” host Steve Doocy who aired the Insight magazine piece, which reported that operatives connected to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) found out that Obama, as a child, was educated at a Muslim madrassah in Indonesia.)

Another Fox journalist called the network’s airing of the story “unfortunate” for the network’s journalists who have to cover Obama and who are being adversely affected despite not being involved in the incident.

Since the madrassah incident, Obama has given interviews to ABC, CNN, CBS and NBC — pretty much every other network except Fox. Sources close to Obama acknowledged that they’re not thrilled to play ball with Fox journalists, but they stopped short of saying they are freezing the network out.

As journalists in the Internet age, we rush to get breaking news out there ASAP. It’s understandable that FOX News tried to get this story in the open and to get people talking about a controversy. And it’s also understandable that some at the network regret the voracity of the way it was presented

But the story was not about Obama’s past, it was about the Clinton camp’s attempts at duplicity. And somewhere in the blogosphere and translation, that information got lost.

FOX should not be punished by the campaign, and its reporters should not face sanctions. After all, this story, if read correctly, should have HELPED Obama, showing the extent of which Clinton’s handlers are worried about the Illinois junior senator in the upcoming election.

My question is: If FOX News, a network that notoriously leans to the right, does NOT report this story and does not shine light on the Clinton camp’s alleged smear efforts now, then how long is it until the story is leaked/mentioned by the mainstream media elsewhere at a later date?

It would have been just a matter of time until the rumor/allegations of Obama’s Muslim past surfaced, and charges of madrassah schooling came forth. Maybe a little closer to primary time, when the news networks aren’t as eager to fly reporters to Jakarta to check this out because they need every hand covering primary states.

And the charge would then be affecting potential voters’ minds that Obama is trying to woo. Advantage: Clinton.

In the end, as convoluted that this sounds, this whole affair should HELP Obama. It takes one more arrow out of the quivers of the Clinton camp.  It gets any Muslim “mystique” around Obama out in the open and helps the public relate to and understand him more.  All through controversy. 

And for the Democrats who still believe it’s all FOX News’ fault, maybe they’ll see Obama in a more-sympethetic light, since he was “targeted” by the “right-wing hit machine.”  (That sounds like something from “American Bandstand”)

Yes, many Dems are screaming that this was a “hatchet job” on Obama.  I agree.

But instead of screaming “FOX News! FOX News!”, take a second look at who’s holding that hatchet handle.

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One Comment
  1. March 3, 2007 12:09 am

    Complete nonsense. Fox News is set to smear Obama. That is OBVIOUS. With this nonsense story they were trying to not only smear Obama but smear Clinton as well.

    I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect for Barack Obama for freezing out Fox “News” – It’s absolutely ridiculuos for any serious politician to treat that channel with respect. They do not deserve to be treated like a news channel, because they are not one.

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