On March 8, Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes joked: "[I]t is true that [Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL] is on the move. I don't know if it's true that President Bush called [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf and said: 'Why can't we catch this guy?' " Ailes made his comment while accepting the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation's First Amendment Leadership Award.
As Media Matters for America has noted, on January 19, several Fox News hosts touted a since-discredited InsightMag.com report that "researchers connected to" Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) disclosed that Obama "spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia" and that "the specific Madrassa Mr. Obama attended" might have taught "a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims." For example, The Big Story's John Gibson said that Clinton had "reportedly outed Obama's madrassa past" despite later acknowledging that it "[d]oesn't seem" that "Hillary's fingerprints [are] on the story." Several news outlets have debunked the allegations that Obama attended a madrassa, and ABC News reported that the charge that Clinton's campaign was behind the smear "remains unproven and unsubstantiated."
ABC News also reported that, after the madrassa story had been debunked, Bill Shine, Fox News senior vice president of programming, issued a statement saying that the hosts of Fox News' Fox & Friends "gave too much credence to the Insight magazine report and spent far too long discussing its premise on the air." Shine noted that Fox & Friends subsequently issued a "clarifi[cation]." Shine's statement did not address Gibson's allegations of Clinton's involvement.
Media Matters for America has documented other media figures who have likened Obama's name to that of Osama bin Laden.
In a March 9 article noting Ailes' Obama joke, The Politico reported: "The Nevada State Democratic Party is pulling out of a controversial presidential debate scheduled for Aug. 14 in Reno and co-hosted by Fox News, according to Democratic insiders."
From Ailes' March 8 speech, as broadcast on C-SPAN's Tonight from Washington:
AILES: It is true that I said Britney Spears looked great at the Academy Awards -- and I later found out it was Jack Nicholson.
It is true that, just in the last two weeks, Hillary Clinton has had over 200 phone calls telling her, in order to win the presidency, she must stay on the road for the next two years. It is not true they were all from Bill.
And it is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don't know if it's true that President Bush called Musharraf and said: "Why can't we catch this guy?"