Fox Pirates Drudge's Misleading Attack On Obama

Fox News falsely suggested that President Obama met with a pirate yesterday even though he doesn't have time to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In fact, Netanyahu has said that Obama has met with him more than “any other leader in the world.” And the picture Fox showed to suggest that Obama was meeting with a pirate was actually taken in May 2009 for use during that year's White House Correspondents' Dinner.

On Wednesday, which was Talk Like a Pirate Day, the staff that runs Obama's campaign Twitter feed sent out a tweet featuring a photo of Obama sitting down with a pirate. This morning, the photo was at the top of the Drudge Report, with the headline “But No Time For Netanyahu...”:

Fox & Friends fell for Drudge's misleading framing. This morning, the show displayed the picture and featured the caption: “TOO BUSY FOR ISRAEL: President finds time for pirate, Letterman.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy characterized the picture as “a quick look at what President Obama has been up to.” Doocy added: “Here he is, sitting down with a pirate, making sure he didn't forget to mark International Talk Like A Pirate Day.”

But the photo was taken May 8, 2009, and can be seen on the White House's flickr account.

Additionally, CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller reported on the story behind the photo in a May 12, 2009, article:

Pity the poor historian a couple hundred years from now, at a loss to figure out why Barack Obama, an American president at the start of the 21st century, was photographed meeting in the Oval Office with - a pirate.

What kind of unexplained policy initiative was being played out in this photo, the historian might wonder, perhaps confusing it for something other than what it was: a gag - one of dozens - for the president's remarks at the White House Correspondent's Dinner.

The joke was the idea of three top presidential aides including senior advisor David Axelrod.

They would have Mr. Obama refer to his recent meetings with world leaders.

“There I am with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso,” he would say, followed by, “there I am with Gordon Brown.”

But the punch line was his assertion that he was living up to his campaign pledge that “we can't just talk to our friends.” And with that, up would pop the photo of President Obama with a pirate.

This was no modern-day pirate of the type that hijacks ships off the horn of Africa. It was a buccaneer in full Captain Hook regalia: knee-high boots, a cut-away coat, an eye patch and even a parrot on his shoulder.

Fox and Drudge's suggestion that Obama won't meet with Netanyahu is also false. When asked about the lack of a meeting with the president, Netanyahu told David Gregory on Meet The Press that it was just a scheduling conflict. Netanyahu added: “I think he's met with me more than any other leader in the world and I appreciate that”:

NETANYAHU: You know, I'm always pleased and -- and happy to have a conversation with President Obama. He's -- I think he's met me more than any other leader in the world and I -- I appreciate that. We've had our discussions. Our-- our schedules on this visit didn't work out. I come to New York and he leaves New York.  But we continue in close consultations.  We have urgent business, Israel and America, to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. I think it's important to delineate a red line for Iran so we're not faced with a conundrum of what to do if we don't place a red line and they just proceed to the bomb.

UPDATE: After this post went live, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade made the definitive false statement that “this pirate got a sit-down in the Oval Office yesterday.”

UPDATE 2: Nearly an hour after the show ended, the Fox & Friends Twitter account noted that the picture was from 2009:

The picture we aired this morning of the President & the pirate was from 2009

-- fox & friends (@foxandfriends)

Doocy similarly said:

By the way, our picture of the President with a pirate was from 2009. How time flies!

-- Steve Doocy (@sdoocy)

Neither of these tweets addressed Kilmeade's declaration that this happened “yesterday.”