Friday, December 19, 2008

Levi Johnston's mother hit with drug charges



AL GRILLO / Associated Press archive 2008 /

Sherry L. Johnston was arrested by Alaska State Troopers at her Wasilla home Thursday December 18, 2008 and charged with six felony counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance. Johnston is the mother of Levi Johnston, the Wasilla 18-year-old who received international attention in September when Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, announced their teenage daughter was pregnant and he was the father.

WASILLA -- A 42-year-old Wasilla woman was arrested Thursday at her home by Alaska State Troopers with a search warrant in an undercover drug investigation. Sherry L. Johnston was charged with six felony counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance.

Johnston is the mother of Levi Johnston, the Wasilla 18-year-old who received international attention in September when Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, announced their teenage daughter was pregnant and he was the father. Bristol Palin, 18, is due on Saturday, according to a recent interview with the governor's father, Chuck Heath.

Troopers served the warrant at Johnston's home at the "conclusion of an undercover narcotics investigation," said a statement issued Thursday by the troopers as part of the normal daily summary of activity around the state.

Troopers charged Johnston with second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance -- generally manufacturing or delivering drugs -- as well as fourth-degree misconduct involving controlled substances, or possession.

Troopers released no other information, including the kind or amount of drugs, because details could jeopardize an ongoing investigation, spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Asked how long the investigation had proceeded before Johnston's arrest, Peters would only say "a while."

The Palmer District Attorney's office had no comment.

Sherry Johnston was arrested around noon and booked at Mat-Su Pretrial Facility, according to a booking officer there. She was released on a $5,000 unsecured bond just after 2 p.m.

No charging documents had been filed at Palmer courthouse by the end of the day, a clerk said.

Levi Johnston sat with Bristol and the rest of the Palin family in St. Paul, Minn., during Gov. Palin's speech to the Republican National Convention, and he joined the family on the stage afterwards.

When asked about the arrest, Palin's spokesman, Bill McAllister, issued the following statement by e-mail: "This is not a state government matter. Therefore the governor's communications staff will not be providing comment or scheduling interview opportunities."

Johnston didn't come to the door of her home on Caribou Loop Road outside Wasilla on Thursday afternoon. A teenage boy who answered the door said he couldn't provide any information.

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Not Another Word on Gay Marriage Until They Execute an Adulterer

The religious right picks and chooses which parts of the Bible they want to apply. And they choose based on which outsider group they would like to hate next. First, they emphasized slavery in the Bible when they wanted to hate black people. Now, they emphasize the parts condemning homosexuality so they can hate gay people.

They are completely and utterly disingenuous. They don't mean a word of it. They don't give a damn what the Bible says. They just want to use it as an instrument of hate.

The Bible says eating shellfish is an abomination. Yet there are no Red Lobster Amendments. The Bible says you shall not wear two different types of cloths at the same time. Yet there are no Propositions against cotton and wool combos.

The Bible says you should leave your family and join Jesus Christ. The religious right pretends that Jesus was about family values. He wanted you to abandon your family. Read the Bible.

The religious right pretends that the Bible says marriage is between one man and one woman. But that is a bald faced lie. Have any of these people ever read the Bible? The Bible is full of men taking on second wives, servants, prostitutes and concubines. And all the while, God heartily approves. How many wives did King David have? Eight? Twelve? Let alone his possibly gay lover, Jonathan.

Now the Bible says that a man shall not lie with another man. That is true. But it also says, in the same exact book, that adultery is an abomination. And the just punishment for this sin is execution. So, who will execute the first adulterer? Please step on up. May the one without any Biblical sin cast the first stone.

Here is a question no one can answer -- and lucky for the right wing, the media never bothers to ask -- why do you only focus on the part of the Bible against homosexuality but not on the part against adultery? It's one thing to say you're against adultery; it's another to take away their rights. How come no religious figure in this country has mounted a campaign to take away the rights of adulterers? Let alone execute them.

I'll tell you why. Because there are too many of them. Their followers are adulterers. They don't make for good scapegoats. They are not an easy target to ostracize and focus your hatred on. Gays are perfect. They are a small enough percentage of the population and different enough from the rest of us to be able to get people to focus their negative, barbaric instincts on them. The Bible is only a tool for this tribal, ugly tactic.

But I am tired of hearing people saying that homosexuality is a sin in the Bible when they never quote the rest of the Bible (probably because a great majority of church goers have never independently read the Bible or they have built up a reservoir of excuses for the parts they find inconvenient). So, from now, I would like to tell the Rick Warrens of the world, you are perfectly allowed to say how much you would like to take gay people's rights away from them based on the Bible so long as you agree to do one thing first -- execute an adulterer.

If you can do that for me, then I'll believe that you actually believe in the Bible literally and will accept your literal argument against homosexuality. Fair is fair. Step on up.

Watch The Young Turks Here

PS -- In case anyone is a maniacal literalist, please do not actually attempt to execute any adulterers or anyone else. Check yourself into a mental hospital instead because the seven headed dragon in Revelations could be out to get you.

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Olbermann: 'The president is just full of crap'

David Edwards and Muriel Kane

As George W. Bush prepares to leave office, he and his staff appear to be attempting to rewrite history to cast him in a more favorable light -- but it seems that history may have the last laugh.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann featured three examples of "Revision-gate" on his program Tuesday, starting with Press Secretary Dana Perino's insistence that, rather than Americans being occupiers, "we are absolutely a guest" in Iraq.

"Obviously, that microphone flying in the post-shoe fracas hit her in her grammar," Olbermann suggested.

Olbermann's prime example, however, was Bush's claim while visiting Afghanistan this week that "I never said the Taliban was eliminated, I said they were removed from power."

Olbermann refuted this a flurry of Bush quotes, including his statement in September 2004 that "the Taliban is no longer in existence." Bush has also repeatedly referred to the "defeat" of the Taliban and claimed in September 2002 that "the Taliban's ability to brutalize the Afghan people and to harbor and support terrorists has been virtually eliminated."

"See, here's the thing," Olbermann concluded, literally throwing up his hands. "The president is just full of crap."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Dec. 16, 2008.

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Sean Hannity: Media Matters' 2008 Misinformer of the Year

As Media Matters for America has demonstrated time and again, Fox News' Sean Hannity has been a prolific and influential purveyor of conservative misinformation. But never has he so enthusiastically applied his talents for spreading misinformation as he did to the 2008 presidential race, focusing his energies primarily on President-elect Barack Obama. Day after day, Hannity devoted his two Fox News shows and his three-hour ABC Radio Networks program to "demonizing" the Democratic presidential candidates, starkly explaining in August: "That's my job. ... I led the 'Stop Hillary Express.' By the way, now it's the 'Stop Obama Express.' " Hannity's "Stop Obama Express" promoted and embellished a vast array of misleading attacks and false claims about Obama. Along the way, he uncritically adopted and promoted countless Republican talking points and played host to numerous credibility-challenged smear artists who painted Obama as a dangerous radical. When he was not going after Obama, Hannity attacked members of Obama's family, as well as Sen. Hillary Clinton and other progressives, and denied all the while that he had unfairly attacked anyone.

Hannity's attacks may have also influenced mainstream media coverage. ABC News' George Stephanopoulos appeared on Hannity's radio program on April 15, during which Hannity suggested to Stephanopoulos that he ask Obama at the Democratic presidential debate the following evening about his "association with Bill Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist from the Weather Underground." Stephanopoulos assured Hannity that he was "taking notes right now." Stephanopoulos then did ask Obama at the debate to "explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem," though he later denied that Hannity had exerted any influence on his questioning.

Because of the unending stream of falsehoods and character attacks that fueled the "Stop Obama Express," and the countless other distortions he promoted throughout 2008, Sean Hannity is Media Matters for America's Misinformer of the Year.

Among the myriad falsehoods and attacks that Hannity promoted throughout 2008, several found their way into regular rotation:

Obama will "invade" Pakistan

In an August 1, 2007, speech, Obama said of terrorists in Pakistan:

OBAMA: I understand that President [Pervez] Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

Almost immediately afterward, Hannity began attacking Obama over the comment, claiming he made a "rookie mistake" by saying "I'll invade an ally." In fact, Obama never said he would "invade" Pakistan, and Hannity's co-host Alan Colmes corrected Hannity and accurately quoted Obama. Nevertheless, Hannity repeated the accusation several times throughout 2008, even once to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who had just two days earlier advocated a position on Pakistan very similar to Obama's.

"Air-raiding villages"

At an August 13, 2007, campaign stop, Obama said regarding the war in Afghanistan: "We've got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there." As Media Matters noted at the time, Obama's comments were accurate -- U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan and accounts of resulting civilian casualties were widely reported in the media and reportedly provoked criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a British commander stationed there. Time and again, however, Hannity used these comments to attack and denounce Obama, even after Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged and apologized for Afghan civilian deaths caused by coalition airstrikes. Hannity has called the statement a "lie" and evidence that Obama was "the most radical and unqualified candidate"; mischaracterized Obama's remarks as an "accus[ation]" against "American troops" and praised Gov. Sarah Palin for attacking Obama over the comments; and cited Obama's remarks to question his "experience to be commander in chief."

Most liberal senator

When the National Journal announced that Barack Obama was the "most liberal" senator in 2007, according to their ranking system, Hannity was one of many conservative media figures to tout the statistic despite the facts that the National Journal considered just 99 votes in its survey and that the publication admitted that its previous surveys' methodologies had been flawed. Moreover, a separate study by political science professors Keith Poole and Jeff Lewis that used all 388 non-unanimous Senate votes during 2007 produced a different result, placing Obama in a tie for the ranking of 10th most liberal senator. Hannity, however, has attacked Obama as "the number one liberal -- National Journal -- in the United States Senate" and called him the "No. 1 radical liberal in the Senate" and "the most liberal senator in Washington" (Hannity's America, July 13). On the October 26 Hannity's America, Hannity listed his "top 10 reasons" not to vote for Obama, and introduced his sixth reason -- "Barack Obama is anything but mainstream" -- by saying: "Obama's position on many issues has earned him the spot as the most liberal senator in the United States."

Defense spending

In October 2007, Obama told Caucus4Priorities:

OBAMA: I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of Future Combat Systems. And I will institute an independent defense priorities board to ensure that the quadrennial defense review is not used to justify unnecessary spending.

At several points throughout 2008, however, Hannity mischaracterized this statement, claiming that Obama "talked about in the campaign cutting tens of millions of dollars in defense spending," when Obama clearly said he would cut wasteful spending.

Attacks on Obama's family, associations

In addition to assailing Obama, Hannity also falsely attacked Obama's wife, Michelle, and mischaracterized Obama's associations with certain controversial figures in order to make Obama appear radical or corrupt:

  • Hannity repeatedly distorted Michelle Obama's 1985 senior thesis from Princeton University, suggesting that she was asserting her own views when she wrote that "[i]t is possible that Black individuals either chose to or felt pressure to come together with other Blacks on campus because of the belief that Blacks must join in solidarity to combat a White oppressor." As the context of the quote makes clear, however, she was purporting to document attitudes among black Princeton alumni who attended the school in the '70s and not expressing her own opinions. Hannity employed this distortion at one point to ask: "Do the Obamas have a race problem of their own?"
  • Hannity also frequently attempted to link Obama to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, claiming that Obama "associated" himself with Farrakhan and pointing to an award given to Farrakhan by Trumpet Newsmagazine, a publication founded by Obama's former church. What Hannity consistently failed to note in asserting this linkage, however, is that Obama issued a statement disagreeing with the award and criticizing Farrakhan, and that Obama has said he has been "a consistent denunciator of Louis Farrakhan."
  • Hannity also repeatedly suggested that Obama was able to purchase his Chicago home at a discounted price because convicted Chicago businessman Antoin Rezko purchased an adjacent lot on the same day. As Media Matters noted, the sellers of the Obama's house reportedly told Bloomberg News that they did not cut the price of the house for Obama "because a campaign donor bought their adjacent land," and that the Obamas had made the "best offer." Nevertheless, Hannity asked on the June 5 broadcast of his radio program: "Did Obama know at the time that Rezko was saving him three hundred grand on the purchase of his home?"

GOP mouthpiece

Hannity helped to boost Republicans throughout 2008, parroting false McCain campaign talking points, touting unscientific polling to promote Sen. John McCain's debate performances, and embellishing President George W. Bush's economic record:

  • On January 3, Hannity interviewed then-Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani and failed to disclose that he had reportedly helped raise money for Giuliani's campaign. The New York Daily News reported on August 19, 2007, that Hannity "introduced the Republican front-runner at a closed-door, $250-per-head fundraiser Aug. 9 in Cincinnati, campaign officials acknowledge." Bill Shine, Fox's senior vice president of programming, was quoted in the article saying, "Sean is not a journalist -- Sean is a conservative commentator."
  • On July 26, the McCain campaign released an ad claiming that Obama for "cancelled a visit with wounded troops" at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany because "the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras." This claim was quickly debunked by NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who accompanied Obama on the overseas trip. Mitchell said on MSNBC on July 28: "There was never any intention -- let me be absolutely clear about this. The press was never going to go. The entourage was never going to go. There was never an intention to make this political. ... And the McCain commercial on this subject is completely wrong, factually wrong." Nonetheless, Hannity claimed on the July 29 edition of Hannity & Colmes that Obama "abandon[ed] the troop visit because the cameras weren't around -- allowed and the campaign wasn't allowed," and repeated the allegation on July 30.
  • On September 10, the McCain campaign released a web ad claiming that Obama "smear[ed]" Palin when he said at a campaign rally the previous day: "But, you know, you can -- you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig." On a September 9 McCain campaign conference call with reporters, former Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift (R) claimed Obama "[c]all[ed] a very prominent female governor of one of our states a 'pig.' " As Media Matters noted, Obama was actually alluding to McCain's policy platform in those comments, Swift herself later admitted not "know[ing] if it was aimed at Governor Palin," and the phrase "lipstick on a pig" is in common parlance and has been used by many political figures, including McCain. Hannity, however, insisted that Obama was "talking about Sarah Palin," even after McCain supporter Mike Huckabee told Hannity: "I do not think he was referring to Sarah Palin. He didn't reference her."
  • On September 18, McCain released an ad citing The Washington Post in claiming that former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines "advises" Obama "on mortgage and housing policy." Both Raines and Obama denied the allegation, and the Fact-Checker determined that the McCain ad "exaggerat[ed] wildly" in its claim about Raines' purported role with the Obama campaign. On the September 23 edition of Hannity & Colmes, however, Hannity went beyond the McCain campaign's allegation, claiming that Raines was "a chief economic adviser" to Obama. Hannity later claimed that Raines was "an economic adviser" to Obama, citing The Washington Post, even though the Fact-Checker had already called such claims "exaggerat[ed]."
  • Following the September 26 presidential debate, Hannity touted the results of a Fox News text-message poll that found that McCain won the debate, saying: "[W]e have gotten around 50,000 text votes so far. Eighty-two percent are correct: They say John McCain won." Unmentioned by Hannity was the fact that Fox News started conducting the poll while the debate was still going on. On-screen text had invited viewers to vote on "who [they] thought won" the debate as early as 9:12 p.m. ET, 10 minutes after the candidates began responding to the moderator's questions. Media Matters has documented Hannity's shifting opinions of text-message polls, depending on who the results favor.
  • On the December 8 Hannity & Colmes, Hannity claimed, "We had a good six and a half years with the economy" under Bush, adding: "We created 10 million new jobs, lower unemployment than in the last four decades' average." In fact, the United States has gained 2,866,000 net private-sector jobs between 2001, when Bush took office, and the first quarter of 2008, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also, Hannity's claim about the unemployment rate is misleading, given that Bush inherited from Clinton an employment rate that was lower than the average unemployment rate during the Bush years.

Smears of Democrats

When not promoting the "Stop Obama Express" or the "Stop Hillary Express," Hannity found time to falsely attack other prominent Democrats:

  • On the December 4 editions of Hannity & Colmes and his radio program, Hannity suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's use of a military jet was unprecedented, despite the fact that the White House and the Defense Department agreed in 2001 that military planes should be made available to the speaker of the House for national security reasons. The first speaker to use such a plane was Dennis Hastert (R-IL).
  • Hannity has repeatedly attacked Minnesota Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken. Hannity baselessly accused Franken of "stealing an election" by challenging ballots that appeared to favor Franken's opponent, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, failing to note that Coleman also challenged ballots that appeared to favor Franken. Hannity also claimed that by challenging ballots, Franken was "trying to litigate his way into the Senate seat," even though Franken and Coleman had challenged roughly the same number of ballots at the time.
  • Hannity was one of many conservatives to baselessly blame "the Democrats" and the Community Reinvestment Act, passed in 1977 under President Jimmy Carter, for the current financial crisis, saying: "The federal government and the Democrats ... forced these banks, through the Community Reinvestment Act, to make these risky loans," adding: "The risky loans started the subprime mortgage crisis, which impacted all these financial institutions, which needed government bailouts." As Media Matters has noted, the allegation that the Community Reinvestment Act is the cause of the financial crisis has been widely discredited.
  • Following Obama's selection of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) as White House chief of staff, Hannity attacked Emanuel as "one of the hardest left-wing ... radicals," citing no evidence. Contrary to Hannity's assertion, a study using every non-unanimous vote cast in the House in 2007 to determine relative ideology placed Emanuel in a tie for the ranking of 126th most liberal Democratic congressman, while several news reports cast Emanuel as "a centrist" who has "worked at good relations with Republicans."
  • Hannity falsely accused former President Bill Clinton of "taking a shot at Senator McCain" during July 5 remarks at the Aspen Ideas Festival, airing a deceptively cropped video of Clinton's comments. As the full context of Clinton's remarks made clear, however, he was not discussing McCain, but rather what former South African president -- and political prisoner -- Nelson Mandela means to him.

Conspiracy conjecture

Hannity frequently launched attacks on Obama and other progressives that were totally unsubstantiated or wildly speculative and which were often contradicted by available evidence:

  • Commenting on the State Department's admission that Obama's passport records had been repeatedly accessed without authorization by three contract workers, Hannity said on the March 20 edition of Hannity & Colmes: "Seems to me Barack Obama is looking for anything to distract from the story of Jeremiah Wright."
  • On the July 30 broadcast of his radio show, Hannity repeated the already-debunked allegation that Obama had distributed to the press a prayer he had written and left at the Western Wall in Jerusalem: "[E]verything was well orchestrated, all the timing -- you know, for example, even the release of the note that he put at the Western Wall, that was all leaked to the press, and that was a big deal as well."
  • After airing a deceptively cropped recording of Hillary Clinton commenting on the October 2 vice-presidential debate, Hannity said on the October 6 broadcast of his radio show: "I just had to play that 'cause you just know the Clintons are just -- why do I bet, and this is just a guess on my part, that Hillary and Bill go in there, and they vote for John McCain? I just know it. I really believe it."
  • On the December 9 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity disregarded the context in which the word "president-elect" appears in the criminal complaint filed against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), declaring: "The pres -- the word 'president-elect' is mentioned 44 times in the document. Pretty troubling." Hannity never explained what he found "troubling" about those mentions, given that there are no allegations of wrongdoing against Obama in the document. Indeed, with one exception, none of the 44 instances in which "president-elect" was used in the complaint actually mentioned any alleged conduct or statement by President-elect Barack Obama, much less any conduct or statement amounting to wrongdoing. The one exception was an allegation that Blagojevich complained that Obama would not give him anything other than "appreciation."

Selective amnesia

Even though Hannity and the rest of the conservative media spent much of the 2008 election cycle falsely attacking Obama and other progressives, he stridently denied that such attacks were happening and constantly rallied to the defense of Republicans and conservatives accused of smearing Democrats and liberals.

  • On the September 8 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity accused Obama of an "outright falsehood," asserting that Obama said "Fox News and Republican commentators suggest that, in other words, that he is a Muslim. No one has ever suggested that." In reality, Fox News was quite infamously the home of E.D. Hill and the "terrorist fist jab," and several other Fox News personalities promoted false reports about Obama's religion, including the claim that Obama was educated in a madrassa.
  • On the August 4 broadcast of his radio program, Hannity claimed that Obama could not "point to a single instance in which ... Sean Hannity or talk radio or any other major Republican has made an issue of Obama's race." On the October 13 edition of Hannity & Colmes, he claimed that "[n]obody in the Republican Party" resorted to overtones of "race and fear" in attacking Obama. Months earlier, however, Hannity had claimed that Obama "has all the same problems with race as those before him," and asked: "Do the Obamas have a race problem of their own?" As Media Matters noted, Hannity was joined by Rush Limbaugh, John Gibson, and several Republican officials and supporters in making "an issue of Obama's race" or name.
  • On the July 31 Hannity & Colmes, Hannity incredulously challenged a guest: "Can you name any prominent Republican that has brought up -- that has said that [Obama] is not patriotic, or that he's got a funny name, or that he doesn't look like those presidents on dollar bills? Do you know any prominent Republican that has said any of these things?" In fact, Hannity himself had raised questions about Obama's patriotism, as had Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), while Rep. Steve King (R-IA) claimed that if Obama was elected, "radical Islamists" would "be dancing in the streets because of his middle name."
  • On the August 25 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity proclaimed that he thought was "more fair to the Clintons" during the 2008 Democratic primaries. He claimed this despite the fact that in February he proudly declared himself the leader of the "Stop Hillary Express," and throughout 2007, he attacked Clinton as a socialist, suggested she was a co-conspirator in a murder cover-up, and denounced her for "hate speech" against Republicans, among other things. Less than a week after claiming he was "more fair to the Clintons," Hannity declared that "demonizing" Clinton was his "job," and acknowledged having rechristened the "Stop Hillary Express" as the "Stop Obama Express."
  • On the September 1 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity, referring to Internet rumors about Palin's daughter, said: "Is that fair that they would attack that? I mean, I don't remember Chelsea Clinton being attacked. I don't remember Al Gore's children being attacked. I thought there was a general rule that children of candidates ought to be left alone." Hannity's memory notwithstanding, Chelsea Clinton was not "left alone." McCain reportedly told a "joke" about Chelsea Clinton in 1998, saying: "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." Radio host Rush Limbaugh is alleged to have referred to Chelsea Clinton early in the Clinton administration as the "White House dog."

Character assassins

Hannity, on his Fox News shows and his ABC Radio Networks program, hosted several controversial guests who attacked Obama, despite their documented credibility problems and histories of inflammatory rhetoric.

  • Andy Martin

Self-described "Internet Powerhouse" Andy Martin's years-long crusade against Obama has taken on many forms, almost all of them completely divorced from factual accuracy. Martin has been credited as the originator, in 2004, of the false rumor that Obama is actually a Muslim. Shortly before Obama launched his presidential campaign in February 2007, Martin promoted his "CIA-style psychological profile" on Obama that "will cast more light on Barack's supple psyche and his ability to seamlessly deny objective reality." Months later, Martin baselessly attacked Obama for "lock[ing] the grandmother who actually raised him away in a closet" in "one of the cruelest and most mendacious political kidnappings this nation has ever seen." Prior to all this, Martin reportedly attacked a federal judge as a "crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race," expressed "understand[ing] for how the Holocaust took place," and the Illinois Supreme Court reportedly noted that, according to his Selective Service records, Martin possessed a "moderately-severe character defect manifested by well documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and a grandiose character."

Despite Martin's glaring credibility issues and history of "viciously anti-Semitic assertions," he featured prominently in the October 5 edition of Hannity's America, titled "Obama & Friends: History of Radicalism". On the program, Martin, identified as an "author & journalist," baselessly claimed that Obama's work as a community organizer was "training for a radical overthrow of the government" and that if Obama were elected president, "we're basically going to be ... in the throes of a socialist revolution, which attempts to essentially freeze out anybody who's not part of this radical ideology."

As Media Matters noted, Fox News reportedly later "express[ed] regret for booking" Martin on Hannity's America, and Fox News Senior Vice President Bill Shine called Martin's appearance a "mistake." Hannity, however, has not yet expressed any on-air misgivings about hosting Martin. Confronted by Obama adviser Robert Gibbs, Hannity defended Martin's appearance, saying, "I'm a journalist who interviews people who I disagree with all the time." (Hannity, who has both embraced and rejected the "journalist" label, did not challenge any assertion or statement by Martin, nor did he mention any of Martin's anti-Semitic and racially charged statements.) Challenged again by Fox News political contributor and NPR news analyst Juan Williams about Martin's appearance, Hannity once again declined to express regret.

  • Jerome Corsi

Jerome Corsi, co-author of the falsehood-ridden 2004 book Unfit for Command, returned to presidential politics in 2008 with The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality. The book, which described as a "mishmash of unsupported conjecture, half-truths, logical fallacies and outright falsehoods," was widely and thoroughly discredited by Media Matters, the Obama campaign, various media outlets, and even some conservatives. Corsi, however, appeared several times on Hannity's various programs to promote the book, with no challenge from Hannity regarding the book's many falsehoods. Corsi even appeared on Hannity & Colmes on August 20, just days after it was revealed that Corsi -- who has previously made inflammatory comments about Islam, Muslims, and Catholicism -- was reportedly scheduled to promote The Obama Nation on the August 17 edition of The Political Cesspool Radio Show, a program described by its own producers as representing "a philosophy that is pro-White." Corsi had appeared on the program in the past, but did not appear on August 17.

Since the release of The Obama Nation, Corsi has promulgated (without evidence) several conspiracy theories regarding Obama -- for example, suggesting that the true purpose of Obama's pre-election trip to Hawaii was not to visit his ailing grandmother, but to address rumors -- widely debunked -- that he had failed to produce a valid U.S. birth certificate.

  • Jill Stanek

As Media Matters noted, Hannity was one of many media figures to cite anti-abortion activist and WorldNetDaily columnist Jill Stanek's criticism of Obama's opposition to certain bills amending the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975 while he was in the Illinois state Senate -- without noting facts that undermine her credibility. Stanek has suggested that domestic violence is acceptable against women who have abortions; supported billboards in Tanzania that say "Faithful Condom Users" in English and Swahili next to a photo of a skeleton; and credulously cited a report that "aborted fetuses are much sought after delicacies" in China. Hannity interviewed Stanek on the August 20 edition of Hannity & Colmes, during which Stanek claimed that Obama attempted to "lure" Illinois state senators into "vot[ing] to endorse infanticide." She also repeated her allegation that at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, where she worked as a nurse, "a little baby boy who had been aborted alive" was taken to a "soiled utility room to die because his parents didn't want to hold him." According to the Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn, however, an Illinois Department of Public Health spokesperson said that the agency conducted an investigation into Stanek's allegations about Christ Hospital and concluded that they could not be substantiated.

Exit "balance"...

In early October, it was reported that Hannity had signed a new contract with Fox News "that will keep him at the network through the next presidential election in 2012." In late November, Alan Colmes announced that he was leaving Hannity & Colmes at the end of 2008, leaving unresolved whether another liberal would be brought in to "balance" Hannity. On December 11, that question was answered:

Fox News host Sean Hannity, who is losing his liberal counterpart Alan Colmes at the end of the year, will not be getting a new on-air partner. Instead, the conservative commentator will headline his own show, called simply "Hannity," beginning Jan. 12, the network announced today.

The program -- running in the same 6 p.m. Pacific time slot -- will include several segments in which three guests from across the political spectrum, dubbed the "Great American Panel," will weigh in on the topics of the day. The show will also include regular commentary and interviews by Hannity, as well as a feature called "Hate Hannity Hotline" that will highlight the critical comments he receives from listeners of his syndicated radio show.

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Report: Gonzales Appears To Have Lied To Congress For Rice About Vetting Bush’s Pre-War Uranium Claims

gonzorice.jpgIn his January 2003 State of the Union address, as part of his effort to make the case for invading Iraq, President Bush infamously declared that “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” The White House was later forced to repudiate the statement after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson blew the whistle on the claim.

As part of an investigation into pre-war intelligence claims, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence asked the White House to provide examples of times that the CIA had cleared such uranium references for use in speeches. On January 6, 2004, then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales sent a letter to Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) on behalf of Condoleezza Rice that claimed the CIA had “orally cleared” the uranium claim for two of Bush’s speeches.

But in a new memo, House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) says that he has found evidence contradicting Gonzales’ assertions:

The information the Oversight Committee has received casts serious doubt on the veracity of the representations that Mr. Gonzales made on behalf of Dr. Rice. Contrary to Mr. Gonzales’s assertions, the Committee has received evidence that the CIA objected to the uranium claim in both speeches, resulting in its deletion from the President’s remarks.

When White House speechwriters tried to put the uranium claim into Bush’s Sept. 12, 2002 speech to UN, the CIA rejected it because it was “not sufficiently reliable to include it in the speech”:

During an interview with the Committee, John Gibson, who served as Director of Speechwriting for Foreign Policy at the National Security Council (NSC), stated that he tried to insert the uranium claim into this speech at the request of Michael Gerson, chief White House speechwriter, and Robert Joseph, the Senior Director for Proliferation Strategy, Counterproliferation, and Homeland Defense at the NSC. According to Mr. Gibson, the CIA rejected the uranium claim because it was “not sufficiently reliable to include it in the speech.” Mr. Gibson stated that the CIA “didn’t give that blessing,” the “CIA was not willing to clear that language,” and “[a]t the end of the day, they did not clear it.”

When National Security Council staff refused to take the uranium claim out of Bush’s Sept. 26, 2002 speech, Jami Miscik, the Deputy Director of Intelligence at the CIA, called Rice personally to request it be removed:

According to Ms. Miscik, the CIA’s reasons for rejecting the uranium claim “had been conveyed to the NSC counterparts” before the call, and Dr. Rice was “getting on the phone call with that information.” Ms. Miscik told Dr. Rice personally that the CIA was “recommending that it be taken out.” She also said “[i]t turned out to be a relatively short phone call” because “we both knew what the issues were and therefore were able to get to a very easy resolution of it.”

According to Waxman, Rice refused to testify to the Committee about the pre-war claims, so he is unable to say “how she would explain the seeming contradictions between her statements and those of Mr. Gonzales on her behalf and the statements made to the Committee bv senior CIA and NSC officials.”

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Republicans suddenly care about White House oversight

Nick Juliano

After years of habitually resisting and belittling attempts to use a key House committee as a mechanism to investigate and hold the White House accountable, Republicans are deciding they want to get into the oversight game.

Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), who will become ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is making clear the next president will be firmly in his sights.

A day after he was formally selected as ranking member last week, Issa ousted 14 of 39 Republican committee staffers, including many senior aides. Outgoing staffers said they were told the panel's minority will shift its focus away from legislation toward oversight of federal agencies.

By bringing in aides with investigative backgrounds, committee Republicans believe they can increase their capacity to conduct independent investigations, despite lacking the majority's subpoena power.
To be sure, President-elect Barack Obama should be as subjected to Congressional scrutiny as any of his predecessors, and the adversarial relationship that has defined legislative-executive branch interactions over the last two years likely will dissipate now that Democrats control both.

Of course, a look at Issa's past performance on the committee suggests he'll be hardly as interested in an even-handed approach to good governance as he will be in using the perch for partisan grandstanding.

As Rep. Henry Waxman has burrowed into the various abuses of the Bush administration since taking the Oversight Committee gavel two years ago, Issa has continually belittled the panel's work and proven himself to be among the most obsequious defenders of even the most odious conduct from the president and his allies.

A member of the Oversight and Judiciary Committees, Issa has been in a position to defend Bush on issues ranging from warrantless wiretapping to contractor abuse to meddling with the EPA.

He also has not hesitated to come to the defense of Blackwater, at one point attacking the mothers of four defense contractors murdered in Iraq and implying that inquiries into Blackwater were akin to attacking US troops. Sometimes his defenses backfire, as when he was the only Oversight Committee member to meticulously trace the firm's GOP connections before hastily trying to argue that such connections should not be used to judge the security contractor.

Issa also has consistently opposed federal funding to help 9/11 rescue workers.

In Oversight Committee hearings, Issa did everything possible to make himself a thorn in Waxman's side. During one hearing on Bush administration meddling with EPA ozone standards, Issa frequently interrupted Waxman's questioning of EPA administrator Stephen Johnson.

"I will have you physically removed if you don't stop," a gavel-banging Waxman warned Issa.

During a floor debate over an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Issa jumped to Bush's defense and forced a Democratic lawmaker to withdraw his observation that Bush's warrantless surveillance program was illegal.

Issa's approach when he takes over the top Republican spot on Oversight will mirror the approach Waxman took when Democrats were out of power. And one former member who follows the committee cheered the move.

"With the administration and both houses controlled by Democrats, it makes sense policywise," he tells Government Executive.

After so long defending the reach of executive authority, it will be interesting to see how quickly Issa reverses his view of Congressional authority once a Democrat moves into the White House.

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Priest removes Obama books from school

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A priest has removed two books about Barack Obama from a Missouri Roman Catholic school's library because of the president-elect's abortion position.

"I am very pro-life," the Rev. Ron Elliott of Blue Springs, Mo., told KMBC-TV, Kansas City, Mo. "Because of his stance on certain issues, I was asked to look into that matter."

Obama has said he believes abortions should be legally available in accordance with the landmark Roe vs. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that said abortion was a constitutional right to privacy under the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment.

Elliott said he pulled the Obama books from St. John LaLande Catholic School, even though he didn't find anything wrong with them when he read them.

He said he would put the books back on the shelf in February or March, "after the dust kind of settles."

The school has an early childhood center and teaches students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

© 2008 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Franken Senate Victory Projected

Democratic challenger Al Franken finds himself on the cusp of winning a seat in the United States Senate after Minnesota's canvassing board awarded him a host of challenged votes during deliberations on Thursday.

As of 8PM ET, the Minneapolis Star Tribune projected that Franken would finish the recount process with a lead of 89 votes, positioning him to become the 59th senator caucusing with Democrats in the upcoming Congress.

According to local paper tallies, Franken currently trails Sen. Norm Coleman by a mere five votes, down from the 358-vote margin that the Republican held just last night. The Associated Press has the count even closer, with Coleman ahead by two votes. An aide to Franken told the Huffington Post that, according to the campaign's internal count, Franken has already taken a small lead.

The gains came as the canvassing board sifted through hundreds of ballots that Coleman had contested during the recount process. On Friday, the canvassing board will consider another 400 or so Coleman challenges. If the pattern remains consistent, Franken should vault past his opponent to a projected lead of approximately 89 votes, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The process by which the Senate race has come to this stage is often confusing. Coleman held an approximately 200-vote lead after the state went through a hand recount of all ballots. However, there remained approximately 1,500 ballots that one or the other campaign contested (and temporarily removed from the overall vote tally). Coleman challenged about 1,000 of these, Franken the rest.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the canvassing board considered Franken's challenges, which gave a slight gain to Coleman's lead (Franken, after all, was challenging ballots that were, perhaps erroneously, awarded to Coleman during the recount). But the Franken campaign also gained some votes during the two days; the canvassing board awarded him dozens of ballots that had been wrongfully determined to be non-votes or under-votes.

By Thursday, the canvassing board had moved onto the pile of Coleman challenges, and with it, Coleman's lead quickly dissipated. It became clear early on that the Senator had challenged many ballots simply because they favored Franken and had a minor (non-disqualifying) clerical error. The board began plowing through the votes until, by late afternoon, Franken found himself down by only five.

As it stands now, it seems likely that Franken will end this process with a lead wider than even his campaign expected. Earlier projections, from the Associated Press, Star Tribune and Franken himself, suggested that Coleman would lose the race by roughly 20 votes or less. And this tally doesn't even take into consideration the legal and political battle being waged over wrongfully rejected absentee ballots, which the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled, on Thursday, should be counted.

That decision, another loss for the Coleman campaign, could mean even more votes flowing into Franken's tally, though the Court also stressed that the state and both campaigns come up with a uniform standard for identifying these absentee ballots before they are counted.

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Senator: 'As far as I'm concerned,' Cheney admitted condoning torture

David Edwards and Diane Sweet

Vice President Dick Cheney confessed to approving torture, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Wednesday night.

During an interview with ABC News on Monday evening, Cheney had said "I supported it," referring to the practice known as "waterboarding," a form of simulated drowning.

"I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do," Cheney said. "And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it."

"Did he just admit to condoning torture?" Maddow queries.

"As far as I'm concerned, that's exactly what he admitted," Levin said after a pause to shut his eyes, and shake his head as if still in disbelief.

"Now he'll say that he doesn't admit supporting torture," Levin added, "but facts are that the policies which were approved, the legal opinions authorized these harsh techniques, and when the Vice President of the United States says that he believes -- and he said that what, just a few nights ago -- that waterboarding is 'appropriate,' there is no other conclusion that I can reach other than I know it's a form of torture, it's been acknowledged as a form of torture I think since the Inquisition. Senator McCain who was the subject of torture is absolutely clear on it, but I think every authority on waterboarding and torture will say that waterboarding constitutes 'torture.'"

Senator Levin oversaw an 18-month long investigation into the Bush administration’s torture policy that established that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo Bay resulted from policies introduced by George W. Bush. Levin spoke on the need for further investigations, and the ultimate necessity for indictments in order to hold those responsible for torture policies accountable.

"You can't suddenly change something that's illegal into something that is legal by having a lawyer write an opinion saying it's legal," Levin said later.

"Do there need to be prosecutions?" Maddow asked, steering the discussion towards the possibility of prosecution and indictments by noting that the Armed Services Committee report on the treatment of U.S. detainees seemed as if its purpose had been the gathering facts for an indictment.

Levin spoke hopefully that the Obama administration would take some "major steps" as "clearly this Justice Department is not willing," and the need for an independent commission that could be appointed by the Obama administration to examine the role of the CIA in the treatment of U.S. detainees as their role has not yet been made clear. Then with all the facts they "may or may not lead to indictments, or civil action."

"You heard the "I" word here," Maddow concludes. "Indictments!"

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Dec. 17, 2008.

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Bush says he didn't compromise soul to be popular

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush knows he's unpopular. But here's what matters, he says: "I didn't compromise my soul to be a popular guy." In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News Channel, Bush also praised the national security team assembled by President-elect Barack Obama, offered hope to U.S. automakers seeking government assistance and said the people of Illinois will have to sort out allegations that Gov. Rod Blagojevich sought kickbacks in choosing a successor for Obama's Senate seat.

Bush said presidents fail when they make decisions based on opinion polls.

"Look, everybody likes to be popular," said Bush.

"What do you expect? We've got a major economic problem and I'm the president during the major economic problem. I mean, do people approve of the economy? No. I don't approve of the economy. ... I've been a wartime president. I've dealt with two economic recessions now. I've had, hell, a lot of serious challenges. What matters to me is I didn't compromise my soul to be a popular guy."

An Associated Press-GFK poll last week showed just 28 percent of the public approving of the job Bush is doing, about where he has been all fall. Among Republicans, 54 percent approve, a low figure from members of a president's own political party.

Bush said he didn't think he would be viewed as the 21st century's Herbert Hoover, who was president during the Great Depression. He said he worked to keep the economy from collapsing.

"I'm a free market guy," Bush said. "But I'm not going to let this economy crater in order to preserve the free market system. So we made a lot of very strong moves and it's been painful for a lot of people, particularly because, you know, this — the excesses of the past have caused a lot of folks to hurt when it comes to, like, their 401(k)'s or, you know, their jobs."

He said his administration is continuing to look at options for helping the Big Three automakers and that it needs to get done "relatively soon." He said a "disorganized bankruptcy" of one or more of the automakers could cause great harm to the economy "beyond that which we're now witnessing."

"That concerns me," he said. "And the other point is that I — I'm not interested in — in really putting good money after bad."

On other subjects:

• Bush called Obama's national security team "solid," especially praising his own Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who will continue in the post in Obama's administration.

"I think the incoming administration's going to have to fully analyze the risks and the tools and — come to their own conclusion," he said. "But one thing's for certain. I'm confident that President-elect Obama knows that one of his most solemn duties is to protect the American people."

• Bush avoided discussing Blagojevich.

"They're going to have to sort it through in Illinois," Bush said. "Obviously anytime anybody allegedly betrays the public trust there's got to be great concern because, you know, democracy really is, you know, really rests on the trust of the people. It's a system of people and by people and for people. And, therefore, the public trust is important."

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Alaska officials exchanged racist emails about Barack Obama

laska has launched an investigation after state officials emailed each other racist jokes about President-elect Barack Obama using government computers.
Following the president-elect's victory, one of the emails said: 'Another black family living in government housing!' Photo: AP

One of the five emails obtained by the Associated Press news agency asks about the outcome of the Democrat's victory after all the time and money invested. It concludes: "Another black family living in government housing!"

The existence of three of the racist messages were confirmed by the state's information technology division after an electronic search of the government's email system.

Annette Kreitzer, Alaska's administration commissioner, said: "It's embarrassing to the state."

She said that she had alerted the office of Governor Sarah Palin - the failed Republican vice presidential candidate - about the emails.

Bill McAllister, Mrs Palin's spokesman, said that the matter concerned individual actions taken by a handful of state employees among thousands.

"My understanding is that the department of administration is following up on this with the individuals who took action to forward the offensive emails," he said in an emailed statement. "This is, of course, a confidential personnel and disciplinary matter that has nothing to do with the governor's office."

The Rev Alonzo Patterson, state chairman of the Alaska Black Leadership Conference, encouraged Mrs Palin to comment on the offending emails.

"They're doing that in a state setting," he said. "She should condemn it."

Officials have not released the names or positions of the staff involved.

It appears that the original emails were sent to state employees from outside the government computer system, but that some state employees then forwarded them internally.

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Obama's Talking Points On Rick Warren

At his press conference on Thursday, Barack Obama for the first time addressed the flurry of protest that has erupted over the choice of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation.

Stressing his own advocacy of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, the president-elect raised a relevant anecdote from his biography as a defense.

"A couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion," he said. "Nevertheless I had an opportunity to speak, and that dialogue I think is part of what my campaign's been all about, that we're not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans."

The remarks came after progressives and, in particular, the gay and lesbian community criticized the president-elect's decision to give such a prominent role to a pastor whose views on torture, gay rights, and stem cell research don't align with Obama's stated agenda.

Indeed, the backlash against the Warren selection has been swift and fierce, putting Obama's inauguration team largely on the defensive. A source sent over a copy of talking points making the rounds among the president-elect's staff in order to rebut these critiques. A transition official would not confirm or dispute the material, but did acknowledge that it sounded "an awful lot like what I have been saying."

• This will be the most open, accessible, and inclusive Inauguration in American history.

• In keeping with the spirit of unity and common purpose this Inauguration will reflect, the President-elect and Vice President-elect have chosen some of the world's most gifted artists and people with broad appeal to participate in the inaugural ceremonies.

• Pastor Rick Warren has a long history of activism on behalf of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. He's devoted his life to performing good works for the poor and leads the evangelical movement in addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis. In fact, the President-elect recently addressed Rick Warren's Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health to salute Warren's leadership in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and pledge his support to the effort in the years ahead.

• The President-elect disagrees with Pastor Warren on issues that affect the LGBT community. They disagree on other issues as well. But what's important is that they agree on many issues vital to the pursuit of social justice, including poverty relief and moving toward a sustainable planet; and they share a commitment to renewing America's promise by expanding opportunity at home and restoring our moral leadership abroad.

• As he's said again and again, the President-elect is committed to bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground. That's the only way we'll be able to unite this country with the resolve and common purpose necessary to solve the challenges we face.

• The Inauguration will also involve Reverend Joseph Lowery, who will be delivering the official benediction at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery is a giant of the civil rights movement who boasts a proudly progressive record on LGBT issues. He has been a leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, gay or straight.

• And for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.

The inclusion of Rev. Joseph Lowery, an icon of the civil rights movement and a respected progressive voice is, perhaps, the Obama team's most obvious defense. One progressive pastor I spoke with on Wednesday, who was critical of the Warren selection, said she would have been fine had the two pastors merely switched spots in the program.

But the inclusiveness of the inauguration is an important point to stress as well. At his 2005 inaugural, George W. Bush tapped Rev. Dr. Louis Leon to deliver the invocation. Like Obama and Warren, the two shared a commitment to combating AIDS in Africa, as well as a friendship from time spent in each other's company. But Leon was and is a progressive voice. And his selection in '04 sparked a lot of interest, though little of the outrage that we see with Warren.

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Gay leaders furious with Obama

Barack Obama’s choice of a prominent evangelical minister to deliver the invocation at his inauguration is a conciliatory gesture toward social conservatives who opposed him in November, but it is drawing fierce challenges from a gay rights movement that — in the wake of a gay marriage ban in California — is looking for a fight.

Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, opposes abortion rights but has taken more liberal stances on the government's role in fighting poverty, and backed away from other evangelicals’ staunch support for economic conservatism. But it’s his support for the California constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that drew the most heated criticism from Democrats Wednesday.

“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote to Obama Wednesday. “[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination.

The rapid, angry reaction from a range of gay activists comes as the gay rights movement looks for an opportunity to flex its political muscle. Last summer gay groups complained, but were rebuffed by Obama, when an “ex-gay” singer led Obama’s rallies in South Carolina. And many were shocked last month when voters approved the California ban.

“There is a lot of energy and there’s a lot of anger and I think people are wanting to direct it somewhere,” Solomonese told Politico.

The selection of Warren to preside at the inauguration is not a surprise move, but it is a mirror image of President Bill Clinton’s early struggles with gay rights issues. Obama has worked, and at times succeeded, to bridge the gap between Democrats and evangelical Christians, who form a solid section of the Republican base.

Obama opposes same-sex marriage, but also opposed the California constitutional amendment Warren backed. In selecting Warren, he is choosing to reach out to conservatives on a hot-button social issue, at the cost of antagonizing gay voters who overwhelmingly supported him.

Clinton, by contrast, drew early praise from gay rights activists by pressing to allow openly gay soldiers to serve, only to retreat into the “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise that pleased few.

The reaction Wednesday in gay rights circles was universally negative.

“It’s a huge mistake,” said California gay rights activist Rick Jacobs, who chairs the state’s Courage Campaign. “He’s really the wrong person to lead the president into office.

“Can you imagine if he had a man of God doing the invocation who had deliberately said that Jews are not going to be saved and therefore should be excluded from what’s going on in America? People would be up in arms,” he said.

The editor of the Washington Blade, Kevin Naff, called the choice “Obama’s first big mistake.”

“His presence on the inauguration stand is a slap in the faces of the millions of GLBT voters who so enthusiastically supported him,” Naff wrote, referring to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. “This tone-deafness to our concerns must not be tolerated. We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians. The election was supposed to have ended that era. It appears otherwise.”

Other liberal groups chimed in.

“Rick Warren gets plenty of attention through his books and media appearances. He doesn’t need or deserve this position of honor,” said the president of People for the American Way, Kathryn Kolbert, who described Warren as “someone who has in recent weeks actively promoted legalized discrimination and denigrated the lives and relationships of millions of Americans.”

Warren’s spokeswoman did not respond to a message seeking comment, but he has tried to blend personal tolerance with doctrinal disapproval of homosexuality.

“I have many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church,” he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet.

In the same interview, he compared the “redefiniton of a marrige” to include gay marriage to legitimizing incest, child abuse, and polygamy.

Obama’s move may deepen some apparent distance between him among gays and lesbians, one of the very few core Democratic groups among whom his performance was worse than John Kerry’s in 2004. Exit polls suggested that John McCain won 27 percent of the gay vote in November, up four points from Bush’s 2004 tally — even as almost all other voters slid toward Obama.

But despite the symbolism of picking Warren, Obama is likely to shift several substantive policy areas in directions that will please gay voters and their political leaders, including a pledge to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” in military service.

And some gay activists were holding out hope that they would either persuade Obama to dump Warren or Warren to change his mind.

“Rick Warren did a real disservice to gay families in California and across the country by casually supporting our continued exclusion from marriage,” said the founder of the pro-same sex marriage Freedom to Marry, Evan Wolfson. “I hope in the spirit of the new era that’s dawning, he will open his heart and speak to all Americans about inclusion and our country’s commitment to equality.”

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