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FOX News Panel Smears By Speculation Over Clinton Tax Returns

Reported by Ellen - April 6, 2008 -

Hannity & Colmes spent several segments discussing the just-released Clinton tax returns Friday night (4/4/08). There were no accountants present, just the usual slew of conservative political pundits ready to declare their suspicions prior to any investigation. There were no Clinton supporters on hand either. Nor did it appear that any attempt had been made to contact the Clintons to get an explanation from them as to the questioned items. With video.

Both segments of a two-part panel discussion opened with a FOX News Alert about the release of the Clintons’ tax returns, even though the returns had actually been released hours earlier . During Part Two of the panel discussion (in the video below), Oliver North excitedly announced, “This is a FOX News alert.” North was guest-hosting for Sean Hannity. North continued, “The Clintons have released their much anticipated tax returns for the years 2000 to 2006 and limited information on 2007. The release indicates a combined income of – hold onto your socks – of $109.2 million. The Clintons also paid 33.8 million in taxes and made just over 10 million in charitable contributions.”

The panel consisted of Dennis Prager (whose intolerance toward Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, you may recall, so offended the United States Holocaust Memorial Council’s Executive Committee that they took the astonishing action of condemning him, even though he was and still is a member of the Council), conservative author Bill Sammon, and a supposedly neutral blogger, Patricia Murphy.

If it weren’t such a tragedy for American media, it would be hilarious to see North, convicted of lying to Congress about illegally trading arms to Iran (the conviction was later overturned on a technicality), accusing someone else of being dishonestly involved with foreign governments. It's even funnier given that he has some 'splaining to do of his own about the finances of the FOX-ballyhooed Freedom Concerts. North's charity, the beneficiary of those concerts, has received an "F" rating for its meager spending on veterans relative to the monies received, according to the leading watchdog group.

North said about the Clintons' returns, “I know there’s questions out there… The reality of it is we don’t know much about where some of (Bill Clinton’s) speeches were made or income, perhaps, from foreign places like Dubai, do we?”

“No,” said Sammon, all too eager to help smear by innuendo. “We do know that the Clintons made some money from some investment with connections to Dubai at a time when both Bill and Hillary Clinton were criticizing the Bush administration for that Dubai Ports deal. So there’s the issue of hypocrisy there, coming up, possibly.”

Comment: Investing in a company with “connections” to Dubai is a whole lot different than selling our ports to that country.

Sammon continued, “We also know just from a cursory look at these returns that Bill Clinton made something like 12 and a half million dollars from being some sort of an unofficial advisor to Ron Burkle, the billionaire donor to the Clintons from many years. And I think there may be questions about what, exactly, does an ex-president do to earn 12 million dollars from a Democratic donor? So I think these things could have legs.”

North asked Murphy, “Are there concerns that there may be foreign influence in (Hillary Clinton’s) campaign? …The reality is, there are questions, aren’t there, about foreign influence?”

Murphy was another squeaky-voiced FOX News pundit who seemed determined to talk like a 9th grader long after high school has ended. She seemed just as determined to indirectly further the smears. She answered, “Well, I think that, um, there are questions? But I think that those are questions that still have yet to be answered? And, again, these types of documents, just cold hard facts, just numbers, will start to create a paper trail… So there are questions but, again, there haven’t been a lot of, um, answers uh, provided. That will be up to reporters to start digging through and see, uh, see how we can answer those questions.”

In other words, there’s no evidence to support any of the implications made by either North or Sammon. I could find no information about Murphy’s political leanings (though she did work in the Senate for nine years). But it was striking, to say the least, that Murphy failed to point out the flimsiness of North’s and Sammon’s allegations.

When it was Alan Colmes’ turn, he noted that the Clintons paid more in taxes than the average for their tax bracket. “Do they need a new accountant?” Colmes asked Prager.

Prager replied, “No, what I think is, I think that they have their eye on the ball and the ball for them is not so much money as it is power. And so they know that if they don’t pay the full fare on taxes, it won’t look good. The Clintons are very smart. The Clintons are very ambitious. They want her to be the president of the United States. He would like to return to the White House. They will pay their full due.”

“I see,” Colmes said.

Prager went on to cite an editorial by Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek about world leaders' concern (Prager called it “panic”) over the Democrats’ opposition to NAFTA. Prager added, “So (the world is) gonna look at Bush with some nostalgia.”

Surprisingly, Colmes, a Clinton supporter, did not rebut any of the smears, either, but moved along to question the claim of nostalgia for Bush.

Meanwhile, there has been no scrutiny on the show about Republican candidate John McCain's finances, the fact that Mr. Campaign Finance Reform has more lobbyists raising money for him than any other presidential candidate or about Mr. Straight Talk's refusal to disclose how much money lobbyists have raised for him. Colmes does sometimes mention McCain's ties to lobbyists but there has yet to be even one full-blown discussion about it. I'm not holding my breath for one.