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ABC News Continues To Get Obama/NAFTA Story Wrong

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I am watching ABC's World News Tonight. George Stephanopoulos is filling in for Charles Gibson. I say that to possibly excuse Mr. Gibson for his program continuing to propagate a story line that has now been proven to be totally false: The story line that the Obama campaign said one thing to the Canadian government while saying something else to the voters in Ohio.

This story is not true. In fact the opposite is what is true. And there have been reports to this effect since March 5th, as best as I've been able to track the reporting.

But just in case you haven't seen the proof that it was the Clinton campaign - NOT the Obama campaign - that said "Don't worry about what we're saying in Ohio" to the Canadian government, while it was the Canadian government that mis-stated the comments made by the Obama representative (which the Canadian government has now publicly admitted it did), you can watch Keith Olberman on this issue below.

So, my questions for ABC News and George Stephanopoulos is...

Where are your reporters getting their information? Last weekend's newspapers?

And -- if you have heard that it was the Clinton (not Obama) campaign that was lying to the voters of Ohio -- then why aren't you reported that story?

As recently as today, Hillary Clinton is still referring to Obama having told the people of Ohio one thing while he told the Canadians something else. I am waiting for some major news organization to stop her from scoring political points with a still uninformed voting public.

ABC NEWS: THIS LIE MUST BE STOPPED NOW.

UPDATE at about 9:25pm Eastern...

For those wanting original reporting from Canada, here is the CBC report on the Obama side of the story, which proves that the Canadian government mis-stated what his adviser told them. It's about 4:30 long... a tribute to how thorough the reporting can be on the CBC's news show.

And here is the CBC news report on the Clinton side of the story, which proves that it was the Clinton campaign that said "Don't worry" to the Canadian government. And who in the Canadian government said they had heard from the Clinton campaign? Ian Brodie, the Chief of Staff to the Canadian Prime Minister. Like I say folks, I am just the messenger of the true facts here.

And if you would rather read than watch, here is the original reporting from The Globe and Mail of Canada...

'NAFTAgate' began with remark from Harper's chief of staff

ALEXANDER PANETTA

The Canadian Press

March 5, 2008 at 8:53 PM EST

OTTAWA -- If the Prime Minister is seeking the first link in the chain of events that has rocked the U.S. presidential race, he need look no further than his chief of staff, Ian Brodie, The Canadian Press has learned.

A candid comment to journalists from CTV News by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's most senior political staffer during the hurly-burly of a budget lock-up provided the initial spark in what the American media are now calling NAFTAgate.

Mr. Harper announced Wednesday that he has asked an internal security team to begin finding the source of a document leak that he characterized as being "blatantly unfair" to Senator Barack Obama.

What is now a swirling Canada-U.S. controversy began on Feb. 26, when the usually circumspect Mr. Brodie was milling among droves of Canadian media on budget day in the stately old building that once housed Ottawa's train station.

Reporters were locked up there all day, examining the federal budget until they were allowed to leave once it was tabled in the House of Commons at 4 p.m.

Since the budget contained little in the way of headline-grabbing surprises, some were left with enough free time to gather around a large-screen TV to watch the latest hockey news on NHL trade deadline day.

Mr. Brodie wandered over to speak to Finance Department officials and chatted amiably with journalists -- who appreciated this rare moment of direct access to the top official in Mr. Harper's notoriously tight-lipped government.

The former university professor found himself in a room with CTV employees where he was quickly surrounded by a gaggle of reporters while other journalists were within earshot of other colleagues.

At the end of an extended conversation, Mr. Brodie was asked about remarks aimed by the Democratic candidates at Ohio's anti-NAFTA voters that carried serious economic implications for Canada.

Since 75 per cent of Canadian exports go to the U.S., Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton's musings about reopening the North American free-trade pact had caused some concern.

Mr. Brodie downplayed those concerns.

"Quite a few people heard it," said one source in the room.

"He said someone from (Hillary) Clinton's campaign is telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt. . . That someone called us and told us not to worry."

Government officials did not deny the conversation took place.

They said that Mr. Brodie sought to allay concerns about the impact of Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton's assertion that they would re-negotiate NAFTA if elected. But they did say that Mr. Brodie had no recollection of discussing any specific candidate -- either Ms. Clinton or Mr. Obama.

CTV News President Robert Hurst said he would not discuss his journalists' sources.

But others said the content of Mr. Brodie's remarks was passed on to CTV's Washington bureau and their White House correspondent set out the next day to pursue the story on Ms. Clinton's apparent hypocrisy on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Although CTV correspondent Tom Clark mentioned Ms. Clinton in passing, the focus of his story was on assurances from the Obama camp.

He went to air on Feb. 27 with a report that the Democratic front-runner had given advance notice to Canadian diplomats that he was about to engage in some anti-NAFTA rhetoric, but not to take it too seriously.

The report wound up on YouTube and caused an uproar in the U.S. race -- influencing the final days of the critical Ohio primary, with every indication it will also play a role in the upcoming Pennsylvania vote.

Mr. Obama has been pilloried by his opponents and faced the most aggressive questioning of his heretofore smooth-sailing campaign.

Clinton used the story to cast him as a double-talking hypocrite -- winking and nudging at Canadians while making contrary promises to American voters.

Republican nominee John McCain -- who proudly dubs himself a straight-talker -- has also seized on the incident to paint the Democratic front-runner as anything but.

When Mr. Obama's campaign and the Canadian government denied the allegation, a leaked document was obtained by The Associated Press written by a Canadian diplomat. It chronicled a conversation between Obama economic adviser Austan Goulsbee and diplomats at Canada's Chicago consulate.

The Obama aide has challenged the wording of the memo and says it characterized the conversation unfairly. A government official said that memo was initially e-mailed to over 120 government employees.

Mr. Harper has rebuffed opposition requests to call in the RCMP and also investigate the source of the original tip that led to the CTV report that triggered the diplomatic tempest. But a team of internal security agents has begun an investigation that will see dozens of bureaucrats and political staff questioned about their knowledge of the leak.

"This kind of leaking of information is completely unacceptable. In fact, it may well be illegal," Mr. Harper told the House of Commons.

"It is not useful, it is not in the interests of the government of Canada -- and the way the leak was executed was blatantly unfair to Senator Obama and his campaign.

"Based on what (investigators) find, and based on legal advice, we will take any action that is necessary to get to the bottom of this matter."

NDP Leader Jack Layton is asking Mr. Harper to call on the Mounties to find out how the leaks occurred, and whether the Security of Information Act or any other privacy legislation was breached.

"There can be no doubt about it: the leak from within the Canadian government has had an impact now on the American elections," Mr. Layton said Wednesday.

"That is about the worst thing a country could do to another country -- to have an effect on their democratic process. . . If Mr. Harper isn't willing to call in the RCMP that confirms our suspicion that this was intentional."

Mr. Layton said Canadians would never accept Americans interfering in our elections, and we shouldn't tamper with theirs.

He said the incident is far more serious than another one last year in which the government called in the RCMP.

A temporary employee at Environment Canada was arrested in his office and marched out in handcuffs for allegedly leaking details of a government climate-change plan to the media.

Mr. Layton said that's small potatoes compared with inflicting political damage on one of the three contenders to lead the world's biggest superpower, and Canada's neighbour and largest trading partner.

"He's unwilling to treat it with the level of serious attention that he did when there was a junior bureaucrat at environment. . . He called in the RCMP on that one."

SECOND UPDATE at about 9:50pm Eastern

To the person directing me to The Washington Post's publication of tonight's AP report on this story, I will make the following observation: The story includes the follow responses from the Canadian government:

Asked about it on Thursday, (Canadian Prime Minister) Harper spokeswoman Sandra Buckler said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that "Ian Brodie is alleged to have made an offhand comment about a rumor to a reporter. He does not recall saying it."

"...does not recall saying it" is not the same thing as saying "...did not say it." This is classic government speak... a non-denial denial.

Asked about it again on Friday, Buckler said Canadian officials did not discuss NAFTA with the Clinton campaign.

"The answer is no, they did not," Buckler said.

If this is true, then what are we to make of the following...

On Wednesday, the Canadian Press quoted an unidentified source as saying that Brodie made the comment about the alleged Clinton campaign overture to a crew for Canada's CTV television network during a press gathering last week to discuss Canada's budget. According to a person with knowledge of the incident, the source was a CTV journalist.

The Canadian Press story said a CTV reporter asked Brodie about remarks by Clinton and presidential rival Barack Obama that they would seek to renegotiate NAFTA.

"He said someone from Clinton's campaign is telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt. ... That someone called us and told us not to worry," the journalist quoted Brodie as saying, according to the report.

Who has more to gain here by lying? The conservative Canadian government that might be said to have an interest in who wins our 2008 election? Or a reporter who was just doing his job?

The Canadian government has launched an investigation of this whole matter.

What is DEFINITELY known right now is that the Obama campaign did NOT say one thing to the Canadian government and say something else to the people of Ohio. Yet, Hillary continues to attack Barack for doing so. To the extent that she continues to say that's what he did, she is lying to the American people right now... in real time. And will continue to get away with doing so until all the major networks get the truth out there.

This will be my last update for tonight. Happy commenting everyone. But please stay on topic and please don't claim things are true when they are not.

If it turns out that the Clinton campaign did not tell the Canadian government "don't worry", I will retract that part of my story. But right now, I am much more willing to believe the CTV reporter than the spokesperson for the party which has something to gain by protecting Hillary Clinton: the Canadian government.