On The Radio Factor, John Kass falsely claimed that Rita Rezko, wife of Antoin Rezko, “b[ought] the Obama dream house” in what Kass called “that shady real estate deal.” In addition, Kass, who was also featured on ABC's World News and the CBS Evening News in reports about the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, suggested to Bill O'Reilly that President-elect Barack Obama must be tainted by corruption because he comes from Chicago.
On the December 10 broadcast of Bill O'Reilly's nationally syndicated radio show, The Radio Factor, Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass falsely claimed that Rita Rezko, wife of convicted Chicago businessman Antoin Rezko, “b[ought] the Obama dream house” in what Kass called “that shady real estate deal.” In fact, documents posted on President-elect Barack Obama's campaign website indicate that he purchased the house himself. In addition, Kass, who was also featured on ABC's World News and the CBS Evening News in reports about the scandal involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), suggested to O'Reilly that Obama must be corrupt because he comes from Chicago.
On the December 10 Radio Factor broadcast, O'Reilly asked Kass, "[I]s it possible that Obama could have, for years, operated in this Chicago political world and not been dishonest? Is that possible?" Kass replied, “Yes, that is possible. It's also possible that he was found as an infant in a reed basket floating in the Chicago River.”
As Media Matters for America documented, several media figures and outlets have used the Blagojevich scandal as an opportunity to suggest that Obama is a product of corrupt “Chicago politics,” disregarding prosecutor and U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's warning to “not cast aspersions on people for being named or being discussed” in the criminal complaint against Blagojevich.
From the December 10 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: Let's bring in John Kass. He is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. So what do you make of all this?
KASS: Bill, I was on your program -- television program during the election. You got it. I don't think many of the mainstream media got it. It wasn't about Ayers that was the thing with Obama. It's about the corruption of the Chicago machine. It's all over the paper. You can see it for yourself.
O'REILLY: OK, but what does that mean for Obama? Is it going to mean that this is just the beginning of a never-ending association problem for him?
KASS: That may be -- that may be the most of it or the least of it. Like you, I don't know.
O'REILLY: OK, so you don't have -- you don't have --
KASS: What we do know --
O'REILLY: OK, so ahead.
KASS: -- is that because -- as you said, because this is Obama's Senate seat, the focus will be on this for a while.
O'REILLY: Yeah. Now, everybody's gonna go nuts and investigate every corner of this thing, which can't be good news for Obama because he dealt with Blagojevich and these guys, right?
KASS: Who was the -- who was in common between Obama and Governor Blagojevich?
KASS: Tony Rezko, right.
O'REILLY: Right. The bagman.
KASS: Who was in common between -- Mrs. Rezko buys the Obama dream house in that shady real estate deal? Patty Blagojevich is a real estate -- you know, gets a lot of real estate deals herself. The fellow in between is named Amresh Maharjan. He's a banker. And he too -- his family, too, is under investigation for rippin' off the state for millions -- allegedly for millions of dollars in phony drug tests. It goes on and on.
O'REILLY: Now, Blagojevich himself -- it's amazing that a guy would be this stupid knowing he's under investigation for four years doin' this on the telephone, right?
KASS: How about -- how about Jackson doing the -- do the pay-for-play with a guy who everyone in town knows is under federal investigation?
O'REILLY: But Jackson says he didn't do it.
KASS: Jackson said that his people and he will cooperate with the investigation.
O'REILLY: Jackson denied that anyone had been authorized to make payments or promises to the governor on his behalf.
KASS: Oh, OK. We'll see. We'll see on that.
O'REILLY: So are you saying that you suspect that Jesse Jackson Jr. offered a million dollars for the Senate seat?
KASS: I'm saying that we haven't heard the end of this, and this is going to -- you know, I can't say that Jesse Jackson Jr. sat down and offered the money. But I assume that based on my experience of covering politics here for 30 years that sooner or later, you know, things come out. And the best thing for Jackson and everybody else to do is to cop to it and get it out of -- you know, get it of the way.
O'REILLY: You know, everybody went over Obama's background. I mean, the right wing particularly really worked his resume over, and they couldn't find very much. The Rezko thing was embarrassing. That was the big headline as far as Obama's concerned.
KASS: Well, the Rezko thing should have been a Senate ethics investigation, for God's sake, and it wasn't.
O'REILLY: OK, but say -- is it possible that Obama could have, for years, operated in this Chicago political world and not been dishonest? Is that possible?
KASS: Yes, that is possible. It's also possible that he was found as an infant in a reed basket floating in the Chicago River, and that --
LIS WIEHL (co-host): Boy.
O'REILLY: So it's that bad, John? You're tellin' me it's that bad and everybody in there is a crook?
KASS: No, no, no. I'm saying this, the image -- what I think the McCain -- the McCain people had a problem with focusing, but the message of Obama is change, right? Change and reform. But look, look at just the facts. Rezko, Blagojevich -- he endorsed Blagojevich -- he endorsed the Daley machine, even after the mayor gave a hundred million dollars in affirmative action contracts to white guys with connections to the Mafia. I mean, he endorsed Todd Stroger, the sort of ridiculous son of another ward boss. It goes on and on and on and on, all right?. So is that -- I guess you can -- the most damning thing you can say now is clearly that's not, you know, Chicago machine politics is not change. Whether there's anything more to it, I don't know. But I'm sure that because of the Blagojevich situation, people will be -- finally, the national media will finally be focused on the corruption here.
O'REILLY: I hope so.
From the December 10 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:
DEAN REYNOLDS (CBS News correspondent): A dark cloud hung over Chicago this morning as Governor Rod Blagojevich made his way to work. And longtime observers of the political climate here wonder whether that shadow will fall on Barack Obama.
KASS: It'll be interesting to see what happens when the -- in Washington, he's compelled to speak. Will he be able to avoid this?
From the December 10 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
[begin video clip]
JIM AVILA (senior law and justice correspondent): Tonight, new Christmas decorations at the governor's house, but the same bunker mentality, as some of Blagojevich's old colleagues call for him to resign and worry about his mental health.
LT. GOV. PAT QUINN (D-IL): He became more and more isolated, and I think that wasn't healthy.
AVILA: Many of his former friends now call him, out of touch, and Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass says something is different now. This city used to laugh at the corrupt past, and its unofficial political catchphrase motto of “Where's mine?”
KASS: The Senate of our country sold like it's lunch meat by a governor from a machine. There's nothing amusing about it. And what we're looking for is an end to it.
[end video clip]
AVILA: But as Kass points out, despite the Obama moment this city has been basking in, this is not Camelot. It's just Illinois.