Based on flimsy evidence and leaps of logic, conservative media outlets are pretending that, in the words of Newsmax, “Reagan's Childhood Home to Become Parking Lot for Obama's Library.” But the story doesn't pass the smell test.
The “childhood home” is an apartment Reagan lived in for less than a year as a young child, and its planned demolition is part of an expansion by the University of Chicago that has nothing to do with President Obama's presidential library. Obama hasn't chosen which state his presidential library will eventually be in, let alone where people will need to park for it. Further, Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney has declared the story “false.”
While easily dismissed, the story serves as an illustrative example of the way the conservative echo chamber can twist facts and turn baseless speculation into their controversy du jour.
Some backstory: In 2004, The University of Chicago purchased an apartment building near its campus that future president Ronald Reagan lived in for less than a year when he was four. The University recently announced their intention to demolish the building as part of a plan to provide parking for their expanding medical campus.
Attempts to preserve the building as a historic landmark were rejected by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks because it “is not associated with Mr. Reagan during his active and productive years.”
While the story sparked mild interest among conservative outlets in December, it was given new life this week thanks to a WashingtonTimes.com Communities column by Republican activist William J. Kelly, who, without any concrete evidence, managed to tie the destruction of the building to President Obama's potential future library. (The Times states that content in its Communities section is “not edited by The Washington Times. The opinions of Communities writers do not necessarily reflect nor are they endorsed by the Washington Times.”)
In his piece, headlined, “Reagan's home could become a parking lot for Obama's library,” Kelly explains the fight over the demolition, then cites unnamed “opponents” who are suspicious it could “become a parking lot for Obama's library” because “this is still Chicago”:
Could the Reagan site become a parking lot for Obama's library? Opponents of the demolition say yes.
There is good reason for them to be suspicious.
First Lady Michelle Obama and the president's close advisor Valerie Jarrett are former top executives of the University of Chicago Medical Center. President Obama was a lecturer at the law school for twelve years. And let's not forget, Obama's Hyde Park home is here too.
This is still Chicago. Barack Obama's Chicago. Rahm Emanuel's Chicago.
It is safe to say that Democrats don't want any reminders of a Republican president named Reagan and his glory days a stone's throw from a future Obama Presidential Library.
According to Kelly and these “opponents,” because Obama is considering Chicago as one possible location for his future presidential library (Hawaii is also reportedly under consideration), then it's possible the non-existent future building will be situated in such a way that people will need to use the medical center parking lot for it.
Conservative outlets have since run with Kelly's flimsy report, stripping out the fact that it was premised on a hypothetical. Fox Nation, reposting Kelly's story, announced to their readers:
Similarly, Newsmax posted an article featuring the fabricated claim that the U of Chicago Medical Center “has announced plans to turn Ronald Reagan's childhood home in Chicago into a parking lot for President Barack Obama's library.”
The manufacted controversy inevitably made the leap to Fox News this morning, where Fox & Friends First co-host Ainsley Earhardt told viewers that the story was “drawing strong concerns the University might turn President Reagan's former house into a parking lot for an Obama library”:
In comments to Mother Jones, the news director at the University of Chicago swatted down the conservative rumors as “inaccurate”:
“832 E. 57th St. is one of a number of vacant buildings the University owns that will be taken down to allow for expansion of the medical and biological research campus,” Jeremy Manier, news director at the University of Chicago, wrote in a email to Mother Jones. “The University's permit request currently is under review by the city. Recent media reports that have speculated on other potential uses of the property are inaccurate.”