Wash. Post uncritically reports McCain ad’s false suggestion that Obama wrote letters for Rezko’s project in 1998 “in return” for help … in 2005

mediamatters.org

Summary: The Washington Post uncritically reported the false suggestion in an ad by Sen. John McCain that Sen. Barack Obama wrote letters in support of a Chicago housing project proposed by Chicago businessman Antoin Rezko's company "in return" for Rezko's "help[ing] him buy his million-dollar mansion." In fact, Obama reportedly wrote the letters in 1998 but did not purchase his house until 2005.

In an August 22 Washington Post article, staff writers Jonathan Weisman and Robert Barnes uncritically reported the false suggestion in an ad by Sen. John McCain that Sen. Barack Obama wrote letters in support of a Chicago housing project proposed by Chicago businessman Antoin Rezko's company, New Kenwood LLC, "in return" for Rezko's "help[ing] him buy his million-dollar mansion." Weisman and Barnes wrote of the McCain campaign ad:

"The spot raises Obama's relationship with Rezko, saying that 'one of Obama's biggest fundraisers helped him buy his million-dollar mansion,' and charges that in return 'Rezko got political favors.' " The McCain ad states that "from Obama, Rezko got political favors" while showing a headline from a June 13, 2007, Chicago Sun-Times article that stated "Obama's letters for Rezko." In fact, according to the Sun-Times article cited by McCain, Obama wrote the letters in 1998; however, he did not purchase his house until 2005.

Additionally, Weisman and Barnes did not note that, while the Sun-Times article reported that Obama "did a political favor" for Rezko by writing letters to state and local government officials in support of a Chicago housing project proposed by Rezko's company, the article also included statements from Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton and Rezko's attorney that challenge the article's assertion that Obama performed a "favor" for Rezko. The Sun-Times quoted Burton stating that "[t]his wasn't done as a favor for anyone" and "I don't know that anyone specifically asked him to write this letter nine years ago." The paper also quoted Rezko's attorney Joseph Duffy stating: "Mr. Rezko never spoke with, nor sought a letter from, Senator Obama in connection with that project."

From the Washington Post article:

That provoked a furious response by McCain campaign and Republican National Committee aides, who charged hypocrisy and argued that the senator from Illinois had received help purchasing his South Side Chicago mansion from businessman Tony Rezko, a convicted felon.

[...]

The senator from Arizona also quickly assembled a response ad, in which a narrator intones, "Barack Obama knows a lot about housing problems." The spot raises Obama's relationship with Rezko, saying that "one of Obama's biggest fundraisers helped him buy his million-dollar mansion," and charges that in return "Rezko got political favors."

—T.A.

http://mediamatters.org/items/200808220007?f=h_latest