Early Thursday afternoon a quote attributed to Sen. Barack Obama applauding the political dexterity of Ronald Reagan appeared on CBS News' website. The statement seemed to be an extension of comments made by the Illinois Democrat during a Monday meeting with the Reno Gazette-Journal editorial board, in which he cast his presidential candidacy in the same historic light as that of Reagan in 1980. Only this time, Obama offered an even deeper, more detailed analysis of why he thought the Gipper was a political success.
"Reagan knew the electorate was so sick of a blue-state president and blue-state policies, they we're willing to go 100% red," Obama said, according to the account. "Reagan didn't mince words." (Read the full quote below.)
There was a problem, however. Obama never made the statement. And roughly an hour after the quote went up, CBS News was forced to take it down. In its place they put the excerpt from the Reno Gazette-Journal interview. And several hours after that they ran the following correction:
"This blog post originally included an inaccurate and unverified quote, provided by the Edwards campaign, in lieu of the Obama quote used above. CBS News regrets this error."
So where, exactly, did the Edwards campaign get the quote? An aide to the Senator acknowledged that they had lifted the material from an entry on the progressive blog, Daily Kos. And Matt Stoller, writing for the site OpenLeft, identified Mark Kornblaut, a spokesperson for Edwards, as the one who had done so.
That Daily Kos post, which was made in the wake of Obama's comments to the Reno Gazette-Journal, included the same erroneous quote that appeared in the CBS piece. But the words "Obama said" where never in it. And at the top of the page was the following disclaimer.
"If you listen to the interview, Obama is RIGHT. He didn't say the following... but the the [sic] logic behind what he says is thus..." (emphasis added)
According to the same Edwards aide, the Daily Kos entry was sent out as an actual Obama "quote" to the Edwards' campaign traveling press, including four network embeds and a New York Times reporter. CBS was the only outlet to run the quote. The network and reporter declined to comment.
Reached by phone, Kornblaut said that while he erred in sending out the wrong information, it shouldn't overshadow the underlying fact that Obama had painted himself in the same historical light as Reagan.
"What Sen. Obama actually said is even more laudatory of Ronald Reagan than the mistake quote," said Kornblaut.
The full quote falsely attributed to Obama:
"When the country was so sick of a blue state president, Carter, Reagan was able to tap into it by being 100% red-state. Reagan knew the electorate was so sick of a blue-state president and blue-state policies, they we're willing to go 100% red. Reagan didn't mince words. He ran on a 100% red-state message. When Reagan won with a 100% red state message, Reagan had a 100% red-state mandate. Reagan knew transformation was all about mandate. Reagan ran a clear red-issue campaign. He never reached out to blue. Reagan was able to bowl over any resistance in Congress because he had a clear 100% red-state mandate. When you have a 100% red-state mandate, no one is surprised by what you do. Reagan, therefore, was able to get all the changes he wanted. Reagan was for those reasons...transformational."
Obama's real quote:
"I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what's different are the times. I do think that for example the 1980 was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."