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FOX News Teams Up With Karl Rove To Baselessly Suggest An Obama Report Cover Up In Blagojevich Scandal

Reported by Ellen - December 25, 2008 -

The release of the Obama team's report wasn't just not good enough for FOX News but they trotted out Karl Rove, without disclosing either his Republican partisan activities or his own questionable role in Republican scandals, to raise unfounded suspicions that sinister facts had been concealed. Rove never found any actual evidence that any damning evidence existed but that didn't stop him from wildly speculating that something (he never offered up what, exactly) was amiss. With video.

In a 12/23/08 discussion on Hannity & Colmes, the suspicion-mongering began in the scripted introduction which baselessly suggested that Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, may have been connected to the bribery: “It's also worth noting that from the report it appears that Emanuel did have several conversations with the governor's chief of staff about the open seat and even suggested names... (such as) Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. You will remember that it has been suggested that Jackson was one of the candidates whose supporters may have tried to bribe the governor. Jackson has denied that but his own attorney admits that the Congressman was indeed the so-called Candidate Number 5 named by the federal prosecutor.”

Nothing further was presented to indicate Emanuel had any improper ties to Jackson nor even that Jackson had committed any wrongdoing.

The introduction also stated, “It's important to remember that this report was not prepared by independent investigators but by the Obama transition team, themselves.”

The only guest for the discussion was Republican operative Karl Rove, disingenuously presented as a “FOX News contributor” who would provide “analysis.” So while FOX made sure that viewers knew Obama's report was not prepared by “independent investigators,” the “We report. You decide” network did not think it worth mentioning that its own scrutiny was not being provided by an independent analyst.

But FOX News was not just being disingenuous but cynically partisan in the extreme by putting forth Rove as a champion of ethics and transparency in government. It was a choice that can only be described as - well, Rovian.

Rove announced that he saw no problems in the report. But then he launched into a series of “take-aways” that suggested there was something sinister being covered up.

“First of all, Barack Obama was more involved in this process than he let on two weeks ago in his news conference,” Rove said. “On the 9th of November, he has a meeting with people in which they agree upon a list and he directs Rahm Emanuel to give that list to Blagojevich. There's nothing wrong with that. Nothing unethical. But I wish that he'd sort of laid that out to the American people at his first news conference.”

Rove implies that Obama said otherwise. But, in his press conference, Obama stated, “In terms of our involvement, I'll repeat what I said earlier, which is I had no contact with the governor's office. I did not speak to the governor about these issues. That I know for certain. What I want to do is to gather all the facts about any staff contacts that I might -- may have -- that may have taken place between the transition office and the governor's office. And we'll have those in the next few days, and we'll present them. But what I'm absolutely certain about is that our office had no involvement in any deal-making around my Senate seat. That I'm absolutely certain of.” This is consistent with what Obama said in his briefer previous statements.

There is nothing in Obama's statement that contradicts the later report and there's nothing in the report to suggest that Obama's statement was in any way misleading. Instead, it was Rove doing the misleading.

This is disconcertingly similar to the attack methods used against the Clintons during Whitewater, as Media Matters' Jamison Foster noted in an excellent post discussing the similarities in the ways the media inflated the two scandals.

Rove's second and “most interesting” “take away” was that Emanuel suggested Obama-friend Valerie Jarrett for the Senate seat before talking to Obama. “Why is Rahm Emanuel recommending Valerie Jarrett (before Obama had officially approved the recommendation)? Is he advocating her? Did he check with Obama? Was he trying a get a erstwhile competitor within the White House on a separate track to become a United States Senator?”

Other than Rove's ominous inference that something may have been amiss, there is nothing in that bit of transition team trivia that even remotely smacks of anything improper or even significant. OK, so Emanuel spoke out of turn. So what? It's not like he did any harm like – oh, I don't know – outing a CIA agent as a result.

Rove's “third interesting thing” was, “Where did Rod Blagojevich get the idea that he was only gonna get appreciation only if no one had a discussion about some quid pro quo?”

Once again, who cares? Maybe it was because, as had been previously leaked, someone from the governor's office asked Rahm, “All we get is appreciation, right?” in return for naming Jarrett to the Senate. Rahm is reported to have answered, “Right.” Or maybe it was because the governor knew, from the obviously ethical behavior of all his Obama contacts, that there would be none?

It was another non-issue that Rove tried to conflate into “quid pro quo.” And yet even Rove acknowledged that the evidence shows there was no quid pro quo. He could not even find any evidence to suggest that anyone on Team Obama discussed a quid pro quo, much less became involved in any way. All he could do is raise a passle of unsupported suspicions.

Alan Colmes commented, “All that interesting analysis, Karl, but obviously, the real issue here is whether or not there was a quid pro quo - whether or not one was offered. Certainly, we know that one was not accepted.”

“We know that right from the beginning,” Rove agreed. But then he continued his spurious, suspicion-enhancing speculation, this time suggesting that Obama might be involved in the scandal in some other, unknown way. “Where did Blagojevich get the idea that he was gonna get nothing from except appreciation if there was no discussion of a quid pro quo? There's other characters who have entered into this... and there might be others that are not involved directly in the Obama operation but nonetheless seem to be taken by (unintelligible).”

Rove added that the Obama report “goes out of its way to say... explicitly there was no discussion of a quid pro quo or any personal benefit for the governor but if the governor's over on one side and having all kinds of conversations with his own people about what he wants out of this and what we get out of the report is that nobody had a discussion about a benefit and yet Blagojevich is saying, 'Hey, they're gonna give me nothing but appreciation, where did he develop that sense?”

And other than casting suspicion on Obama, this would be significant – why? Rove never said.