On tonight's edition of Fox News' Hannity, Michelle Malkin and Sean Hannity launched an attack on the Obama administration, claiming that the president is implicated in the Rod Blagojevich corruption scandal, and alleging that recent testimony proved that Obama had "lie[d] to the American people" about his involvement.
Hannity and Malkin seized upon SEIU Local 1 chapter head Tom Balanoff's testimony at Blagojevich's trial. Balanoff testified that he had spoken with Obama on the eve of the election about Obama's preferred criteria for choosing a successor for his Senate seat, and that Balanoff told Obama that he would pass his comments on to Blagojevich.
Malkin and Hannity suggest that this "bombshell" testimony indicates that Obama "was far more engaged in the process than he's let on." Hannity also suggests that "the president of the United States, through his counsel, lie[d] to the American people when he said he had no contact with Blagojevich, no contact with his staff."
But Hannity's claim is false on its face: Balanoff is not a member of Blagojevich's staff, so his conversation with Obama cannot contradict the December 2008 report by Obama lawyer Greg Craig that the President-elect "had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat." The fact that Obama talked with Balanoff about his criteria for a Senate replacement does not invalidate the findings of Craig's report.
In fact, Balanoff's testimony serves to corroborate Craig's report.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported of Balanoff's testimony:
Top union leader Thomas Balanoff said he was at dinner the night before the November Presidential election when he got a call that was blocked.
So he didn't take it.
Later he listened to his messages: "I walked outside, listened to it and it was from President Obama," Balanoff said.
"Tom, this is Barack, give me a call," the soon-to-be President-Elect said on the message.
After Balanoff sent word through an Obama aide to call him back, Obama returned his call later that night.
"Tom, i want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat," Obama told him.
Balanoff said Obama said he had two criteria: someone who was good for the citizens of Illinois and could be elected in 2010.
Obama said he wasn't publicly coming out in support of anyone but he believed Valerie Jarrett would fit the bill.
"I would much prefer she (remain in the White House) but she does want to be Senator and she does meet those two criteria," Balanoff said Obama told him. "I said: 'thank you, I'm going to reach out to Gov. Blagojevich."
While Hannity and Malkin highlight a portion of the report which states that Obama "had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat," and falsely claim this is contradicted by the Balanoff testimony, they skip over the next statement that, in turn, serves to further invalidate their claims. The Craig report acknowledges that "[i]n various conversations with transition staff and others, the President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House. He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy." Balanoff himself testified that Obama "would much prefer" Jarrett work with him at the White House, but said that she met his qualifications for the post.
It is also important to note that even though Obama discussed the Senate appointment with Balanoff, that in no way implicates him in Blagojevich's attempts to sell the Senate seat. In fact, according to the Chicago Sun-Times report, "Blagojevich told Balanoff -- who had Obama's blessing to act as an emissary for Jarrett -- to find a way to set up a new advocacy group Blagojevich would one day head, the union leader testified. And, in exchange, Blagojevich would appoint Jarrett." However, Balanoff stated in his testimony that he "never intended to pass on the message" to President-elect Obama.
Though Malkin and Hannity allege that there were "quid pro quos going on," no evidence has emerged that suggests that Obama or his staff were a part of any such deal. In fact, all available evidence, including Balanoff's testimony, Greg Craig's investigation, and Blagojevich's statements about Obama (who he criticized for being "not willing to give me anything except appreciation") indicates the opposite.
Further, this is not the first time that Sean Hannity has claimed that the president was involved in illegal activity, despite all indicators pointing otherwise. In May, Hannity devoted an entire show to the debunked claim that the administration's job discussion with Rep. Joe Sestak was illegal. He also promoted the falsehood that Andrew Romanoff said he was promised a job by the Obama administration. It's time someone told Sean Hannity, three strikes and you're out.