This weekend, Fox News and John McCain tried to convince voters that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) was "endorsed" by Hamas -- a lie created by Fox News.
Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist militant organization and political party listed by the U.S. Department of State as a foreign terrorist organization. By suggesting to voters that terrorists support Sen. Obama, Sen. McCain embraced the long-term effort by right-wing media to define Democrats as supporters of foreign terrorist groups and, by extension, potential violent threats to the American people.
The real story, however, may be that Sen. McCain's campaign laundered a false Fox story by running it through his campaign, giving voters a false impression about the story's veracity.
On Apr 16 Fox News reported that Hamas had "endorsed" Sen. Obama. Two days later, Sen. McCain sent out a mass email echoing the Fox story. Fox then reported McCain's letter and -- voila! The original false story had become "real" news.
Fox Posts Deceptive Story, McCain Sends It To Supporters
The April 16 a Fox News story was posted by Mosheh Oinounou claiming that Hamas supports Sen. Obama. Notice how Oinounou frames Sen. Obama's denouncement of Hamas by claiming that Hamas gave their"endorsement" to him:
During an interview on WABC radio Sunday, top Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef said the terrorist group supports Obama's foreign policy vision.
"We don't mind-actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance," Yousef said in response to a question about the group's willingness to meet with either of the Democratic presidential candidates.
For his part, Obama criticized former President Jimmy Carter's decision to meet with Hamas, telling Jewish leaders Wednesday that "Hamas is not a state, Hamas is a terrorist organization."
"We must not negotiate with a terrorist group intent on Israel's destruction," Obama said. "We should only sit down with Hamas if they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements."
While the IL Democrat has condemned Hamas, an endorsement from a top leader in the group is probably the last thing Obama needs right now. (link)
Now, the problem of course is that Hamas did not "endorse" Sen. Obama.
If we actually listen to the interview linked from the Apr 16 Fox article, we notice the exchange which set up the response from the Hamas adviser, it was this:
"Do you believe that your prime minister is ready to speak with Sen. Obama and Mrs. Clinton before the election?"
"Our prime minister?"
(link - CAUTION: link opens mp3 file)
Interestingly, the Hamas spokesperson follows that initial question with a general observation that Sen. Obama promises to bring a foreign policy leadership marked by respect not "arrogance."
If there is a single person in the world who believes that Sen. Obama's foreign policy will be more arrogant than the promise of continuing George W. Bush's foreign policy that John McCain promises, he/she should make themselves known at this time.
Until that person steps forward, the correct way to read the Hamas spokesperson's remark is simply as a "this-is-the-way-the-wind-is-blowing" talking point. There are two choices...Obama is the apparent Democratic party choice...anything would be better than more George W. Bush...etc.
After Fox, McCain Sends Letter To Supporters
After this interview was represented by Fox as an example of Sen. Obama supposedly being "endorsed" by a group that he has repeatedly denounced as a "terrorist" organization -- following the exact position of the current Department of State position on foreign terrorist organizations, John McCain sent an email to his supporters saying that Sen. Obama was the choice of terrorists.
On April 18, Fox reported on McCain's use of this false talking point that was created by Fox on April 16:
John McCain's campaign is seizing on a Hamas adviser's recent "endorsement" of Barack Obama, trying to suggest that the Democratic front-runner brought the unsavory praise on himself. (link)
Hamas did not "endorse" Sen. Obama. If they had, then Fox would not have been compelled to put the word in double-quotes. In fact, what the bald quote refers to is the earlier article by its own reporter.
Fox creates the false story.
McCain uses the story in a political hit piece.
Fox reports on McCain using their story.
The story now appears to be legit -- laundered.
Also on April 18, some real reporting on this story actually happened, courtesy of Will Thomas at Huffington Post, who for the first time draws attention to the the story itself as an intentional smear of Sen. Obama manufactured by McCain for political gain:
McCain's deputy campaign manager, Christian Ferry, sent an email to donors today with the subject line: "Hamas Weighs In On U.S. Presidential Election." The email, which attacks Obama over his foreign policy stances, includes these paragraphs:
Barack Obama's foreign policy plans have even won him praise from Hamas leaders. Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to the Hamas Prime Minister said, "We like Mr. Obama and we hope he will win the election. He has a vision to change America."
We need change in America, but not the kind of change that wins kind words from Hamas, surrenders in Iraq and will hold unconditional talks with Iranian President Ahmadinejad.
The letter comes in response to this report of a Hamas leader speaking favorably about Barack Obama. The article -- though not the McCain campaign -- notes that Obama has condemned Hamas, repeatedly said that he would not meet with the terrorist organization, and also condemned former President Carter's decision to meet with Hamas leaders. (link)
Thomas wrote a good story, but focused on McCain's hypocrisy -- a candidate who claims to running a respectful campaign, but is in fact running a campaign driven by rumor-mongering and smear tactics.
Still, even Thomas failed to complete the loop back to the original interview dropped by WABC and reframed by Fox. The story, in fact, is not about Hamas or even Sen. Obama.
What journalists should be reporting is how several major news networks -- WABC and Fox -- created a false news story which gave the impression that Sen. Obama was supported by a Department of State defined terrorist organization, and then the campaign of Sen. McCain picked up that story and fed it directly to voters -- all in less than 48 hours.
McCain's Strategy: Convince Public Obama is a Terrorist
It should come as no surprise, here, that Fox News is involved in manufacturing a false impression that Barack Obama was "endorsed" by terrorists -- that he is in fact supported by terrorists.
Every single right-wing pundit on Fox News has repeated talking points suggesting to viewers that Sen. Obama is a terrorist.
What should be a surprise -- and should become the immediate focus of investigative journalists -- is the speed with which John McCain mainlined these smears by Fox News directly into his campaign. It took less than 48 hours for McCain to rebroadcast this false claim, thereby making it virtually impossible for most viewers to figure out that Fox had, essentially, laundered a false story through the McCain campaign.