In a December 15 post, Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb reported the claims of an unnamed "Senate aide" who allegedly said that the White House is "threatening to close" Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base "to extort" Sen. Ben Nelson's vote on health care reform. The rumor has since been denied by both Nelson's office and the White House, but Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh have nonetheless seized on Goldfarb's blog post and advanced the dubious allegation.
Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh bring poorly sourced and dubious rumor to their radio audiences
Beck reads Goldfarb's post, then hosts Goldfarb to advance rumor. On the December 16 edition of his radio show, Beck read from Goldfarb's post and called it "one of the worst things you've heard yet this year." Despite later saying that "[w]e have called Senator Nelson's office; Senator Nelson says, 'No, no, no. That's not true,' " Beck interviewed Goldfarb, who said, "I have 100 percent confidence in my source on this, and, of course, the Nelson people have every reason to deny it." After Goldfarb later said, "As I understand it, Rahm Emanuel delivered a message to the Senate leadership that if Nelson did not get behind this, Offutt Air Force base would find itself on the next round of BRAC closures," Beck responded, "I don't even know what category that fits in -- high crimes?"
Hannity: "They're threatening to close a base vital to national security." Citing Goldfarb's "Weekly Standard report," Hannity stated on the December 15 edition of his radio show, "They're threatening to close a base vital to national security. Now this is the headquarters, by the way, for the U.S. Strategic Command, the successor to the Strategic Air Command, and StratCom was located in the middle of the country for strategic reasons, meaning its closure would be a massive blow to the economy and the state of Nebraska, but also another example of how the administration is playing politics with national security. That's how bad it's got."
Limbaugh suggested "Dingy Harry and Obama" said "we'll exempt Offutt" in return for vote. From the December 15 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: Harry Reid and Ben Nelson, Senator Nelson, I don't know if you care, but you're finished if you vote for this. Lieberman's not, but Ben Nelson is finished. If he votes for this, he's finished. I'll tell you what's going on with Nelson. It's not just the abortion language in the bill. There are two things that are happening with Ben Nelson. One is there's a doctor-owned hospital, physician-owned hospital being built south of Omaha, and it's not finished. It has been put on hold. It's under delay. Under this current health bill, it may not be finished because doctor-owned hospitals are going to be legislated out of existence. Doctor-owned hospitals are targeted for elimination. So Ben Nelson says, "I want to finish this hospital." Dingy Harry says, "We'll think about it."
Also, Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha is slated to be closed in the next round of blue ribbon base closing commissions. The next seating, the next convening of a base closing commission is 2013. Offutt Air Force Base, which is where the Strategic Air Command is, was, Offutt Air Force Base is responsible for 10,000 jobs and gazillions of dollars in not just the Omaha area but the Nebraska economy and Ben Nelson is holding out, "You gotta help me on these two things." Dingy Harry and Obama, that won't be any problem. OK, we'll exempt Offutt, we'll keep it going, we'll think about your physician-owned hospital. And they'll monkey around enough with the abortion language to get his vote. If they get his vote, it's over.
Both Nelson's office, White House have denied rumor
Nelson spokesman: "The rumor is not true." The Omaha World-Herald reported on December 15 that Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson said, "The rumor is not true," and, "This misinformation is coming from inside-the-Beltway partisans who only want to derail health care reform."
Pfeiffer: "[T]hese rumors are completely baseless and false." From a December 15 blog post by White House Communications director Dan Pfeiffer:
Proving that they will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to undermine health reform, some blogs opposing reform are now trafficking an absurd rumor that Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base is being threatened over Senator Ben Nelson's vote on the Senate reform bill.
To be perfectly clear: these rumors are completely baseless and false.
Thanks for your time.
Rumor circulated by conservative bloggers citing single anonymous "Senate aide"
Matt Lewis: "Hearing Ben Nelson has been threatened with closing his air force base." Posted on Matt Lewis' Twitter page at 4:50 a.m. on December 15:
Citing single anonymous "Senate aide," Goldfarb reports "White House is now threatening" to close Nebraska Air Force Base "if Nelson doesn't fall into line" on health care. In a December 15 Weekly Standard blog post, Goldfarb wrote:
According to a Senate aide, the White House is now threatening to put Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn't fall into line.
Offutt Air Force Base employs some 10,000 military and federal employees in Southeastern Nebraska. As our source put it, this is a "naked effort by Rahm Emanuel and the White House to extort Nelson's vote." They are "threatening to close a base vital to national security for what?" asked the Senate staffer.
Indeed, Offutt is the headquarters for US Strategic Command, the successor to Strategic Air Command, and not by accident. STRATCOM was located in the middle of the country for strategic reasons. Its closure would be a massive blow to the economy of the state of Nebraska, but it would also be another example of this administration playing politics with our national security.
Noonan, Continetti advance allegation. In a December 15 Weekly Standard blog post, John Noonan linked to Goldfarb's post and stated, "In what appears to be a very strange decision, the White House seems to feel that all the money, pain, and headaches that would result from BRAC'ing Offut is fair price in exchange for a single vote on health care reform. Nelson should recognize a bogus threat when he sees one, and dare Emanuel to try." Additionally, in a December 15 Weekly Standard blog post, Matthew Continetti wrote that Nelson "has been threatened and cajoled into a Yes vote," linking to Goldfarb's post.
Malkin: Nelson "is reportedly being threatened with closure of an air force base." Michelle Malkin wrote in an "update" to a December 15 blog post, "A Hill source says to pay attention to Sen. Ben Nelson. He is reportedly being threatened with closure of an air force base if he doesn't fall in line and will be offered a 'blank check' bribe bigger than Sen. Landrieu's."
Ed Morrissey: Obama administration "willing to damage national security to extort his support." In a December 15 Hot Air blog post, Ed Morrissey wrote, "How desperate has the White House become to get anything passed under the name of health-care reform? According to Michael Goldfarb's source on Capitol Hill, the Obama administration has targeted the last remaining Democratic holdout, at least among moderates -- and they're willing to damage national security to extort his support. The White House has threatened Ben Nelson (D-NE) with the closure of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska if he opposes Reid's latest version, despite its status as the headquarters of US Strategic Command."