Chicago Tribune repeated Obama-arugula falsehood, used anecdotes to cast Obama as "wine-track"

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

A Chicago Tribune article cited Barack Obama's statement, "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?" in an appearance at an Iowa farm as evidence that Obama has had more success among "wine-track" voters than among "beer-track" voters -- though arugula is grown by Iowa farmers and is available at grocery stores throughout the state. The article also noted "white zinfandel with an Obama logo on the bottle" available at one rally as purported evidence of Obama's "wine-track" affinity, though it could have just as easily highlighted "beer-track" anecdotes, including an event where Obama's face was on the label of beer bottles.

In a September 24 Chicago Tribune article, reporter John McCormick wrote that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, has had more success among "wine-track" voters -- characterized by "higher incomes and more education" -- than he has among "beer-track" voters, who have less education and "tend[] to care more about pocketbook issues." The article went on to report that Obama, during a campaign stop at an Iowa farm, "made it clear that he sometimes forgets he is not in his intellectually and financially affluent section of Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood" when he asked: "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?" According to the Tribune: "That comment came despite the fact that Iowa does not have any Whole Foods stores, nor do its farmers typically grow the leafy green." As Media Matters for America documented, however, arugula is grown by Iowa farmers and is available at grocery stores throughout the state.

Additionally, the Tribune offered purported evidence of Obama's "wine-track" affinity -- citing a portion of his stump speech to claim "Obama seems to prefer wine to beer" and noting that "it was white zinfandel with an Obama logo on the bottle that was for sale at a rally one recent evening in Dubuque, Iowa." The Tribune, however, could just have easily highlighted "beer-track" anecdotes, including the following:

  • The Associated Press reported on September 24 that as an Illinois state senator, Obama was a "founding member" of a group that regularly participated in poker games during which "beer and cigars were staples":

Obama was a regular at the low-stakes games sometimes stud poker, sometimes draw designed to break up the tedium of long legislative sessions. Poker, beer and cigars were staples; Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers and even the lobbyists who Obama sometimes rails against dealt the cards and placed their bets.

  • The New York Times reported on July 17 that an Obama fundraiser in San Francisco featured "boutique beer with Mr. Obama's face on the label":

Senator Barack Obama was the guest of honor at a dinner at the luxurious Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco this spring with a few hundred lawyers, executives and investors. The guests drank a boutique beer with Mr. Obama's face on the label and contributed more than $1 million in $2,300 checks to support his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

  • The Associated Press reported on June 23:

Except for the American flag backdrop and the presidential candidate onstage, Sen. Barack Obama's fundraiser Friday night could have been mistaken for a rock concert.

Beer was served in plastic cups, the young crowd snapped photographs with cell phones, and a deafening roar of approval met Obama at the Hammerstein Ballroom a venue known for rock, rather than rubber chicken.

From the moment he arrived in the Illinois Senate, it was clear to many that Obama didn't plan to stay. Just months into office, he approached then-Senate Democratic Chief of Staff Mike Hoffman and offered to buy him a beer. The two adjourned to a hotel bar.

From the September 24 Chicago Tribune article:

Obama himself offers other evidence that he can sell himself in working-class and rural areas, often pointing to his strong showing in southern Illinois in his lopsided 2004 Senate victory.

Still, during his first major Iowa farm visit earlier this summer, he made it clear that he sometimes forgets he is not in his intellectually and financially affluent section of Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood.

On the farm that day, while trying to make a sympathetic point that farmers have not seen an increase in prices from their crops, Obama posed the following question:

"Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?" he asked. "I mean, they're charging a lot of money for this stuff."

That comment came despite the fact that Iowa does not have any Whole Foods stores, nor do its farmers typically grow the leafy green.

Hard-working anecdote

The need for Obama to appear more working-class is perhaps reflected in the periodic inclusion in his stump speech of a recent experience helping a union health-care worker as part of the Service Employees International Union's "Walk a Day in My Shoes" program for candidates.

"I went with her to work that day, and we made his bed and helped him get dressed, and we scrubbed the floors and made him breakfast and cleaned the house and did the laundry," Obama recently told an audience. "I have to say, it was one of the best days I have had on the campaign so far."

Still, after a hard day's work, Obama seems to prefer wine to beer. In another section of his stump speech, he recalls a recent decision to visit a remote South Carolina town with relatively few voters to woo a state legislator's endorsement.

"I must have had a glass of wine or something because I said 'fine, no problem,'" he says in one of the anecdote's laugh-lines.

It should not be suggested that Obama is without blue-collar support. A speech he gave last week to the Service Employees International Union, for example, won strong reviews.

Still, it was white zinfandel with an Obama logo on the bottle that was for sale at a rally one recent evening in Dubuque, Iowa, where a local winery had offered them as a campaign fundraiser.

The adjoining building was a former brewery, but there was no Obama beer for sale that night.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Class
Network/Outlet
Chicago Tribune
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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