Hume offered misleading report on Abramoff White House visits

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

Fox News' Brit Hume misleadingly reported that after "allegations" that "President Bush had closer ties with the discredited lobbyist Jack Abramoff than the White House had admitted, the Secret Service today released records showing only two White House visits by Abramoff in the past five years." In fact, the White House has already acknowledged several Abramoff visits not mentioned in the logs released by the Secret Service, and both the White House and the Secret Service have acknowledged that the records release "would not present a complete picture of Abramoff's" visits.

On the May 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host and Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume misleadingly reported that in the wake of "allegations" that "President Bush had closer ties with the discredited lobbyist Jack Abramoff than the White House had admitted, the Secret Service today released records showing only two White House visits by Abramoff in the past five years." Unlike other media outlets, Hume did not report that the White House had already acknowledged several Abramoff visits not mentioned in the logs released by the Secret Service or that both the White House and the Secret Service have acknowledged that the records release "would not present a complete picture of Abramoff's" visits.

From the May 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: After many allegations from critics that President Bush had closer ties with the discredited lobbyist Jack Abramoff than the White House had admitted, the Secret Service today released records showing only two White House visits by Abramoff in the past five years. A computer search came up with one visit to administration officials in 2001, lasting about a quarter of an hour, and another in 2004 for about 45 minutes.

On May10, the Secret Service released the computerized records in response to a lawsuit filed by the conservative "public interest group" Judicial Watch.

In contrast with Hume's misleading report, on the May 11 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams reported that the records show Abramoff "entering the White House twice," but added, "The White House already confirmed three other visits. Both the White House and the Secret Service acknowledge this computerized search would not present a complete picture of Abramoff's comings and goings."

As the Associated Press reported on May 10, the visits noted in the released Secret Service logs "occurred on Jan. 20, 2004, the day President Bush delivered his State of the Union address, and on March 6, 2001. Abramoff stayed a total of 63 minutes, 29 seconds, but the records do not indicate where he went in the complex or who he met."

As the AP further noted, "Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan has said that Abramoff attended Hanukkah receptions at the White House in 2001 and 2002, and some additional staff-level meetings." Neither of the Hanukkah receptions were mentioned in the released records.

On February 11, The New York Times published a photograph -- taken May 9, 2001 -- showing "Abramoff looking on from the background as Mr. Bush greets" Chief Raul Garza of the Kickapoo tribe at the Eisenhower [Old] Executive Office Building "on the White House grounds." This meeting also did not appear in the released records.

In its May 10 article, the AP noted that Secret Service spokesman Tom Mazur "said the computerized logs have never been considered a complete record of access to the White House and the Old Executive Office Building."

The New York Times reported on May 11 that two anonymous administration officials "said the White House had decided that the settlement of the [Judicial Watch's] lawsuit did not require other, more complete visitor logs to be made public." According to the Times, the same officials "said the more complete logs ... would have identified the other visits by Mr. Abramoff":

Two other administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of rules that generally bar them from speaking to reporters, said the White House had decided that the settlement of the lawsuit did not require other, more complete visitor logs to be made public.

They said the more complete logs, known within the White House as Waves records, an acronym for the Workers Appointments and Visitors Entry System, would have identified the other visits by Mr. Abramoff.

The conservative group that sought the logs in the lawsuit, Judicial Watch, which has often championed open-government causes, suggested that it might return to court. The group's president, Tom Fitton, said the White House had decided to ''cherry-pick the information.''

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Brit Hume
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
Stories/Interests
Abramoff Scandal
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