Hume claimed: “Hastert never said Soros was receiving funds from drug cartels”

FOX News Channel managing editor and chief Washington correspondent Brit Hume provided false cover for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) smear of financier and philanthropist George Soros. On the September 1 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume, Hume claimed: “Hastert never said Soros was receiving funds from drug cartels.”

But, as Media Matters for America has documented, while being interviewed by host Chris Wallace on the August 29 edition of FOX News Sunday, Hastert made the comment: “I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where -- if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from. ... George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there.” Wallace asked if Hastert thought Soros “may be getting money from the drug cartel,” and Hastert responded, “I'm saying I don't know where groups -- could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know.”

Soros wrote a letter to Hastert in response, calling Hastert's comments “deeply offensive,” and saying Hastert should be “ashamed” of his “dishonest smear tactics.” Hume noted on Special Report that Hastert replied to Soros's letter that claimed, in Hume's words: “by 'drug groups' he [Hastert] meant groups trying to decriminalize drugs.” But that's not what Hastert said in response to Wallace's specific question about “the drug cartel.” Also, as blogger Joshua Micah Marshall has noted on his website, Talking Points Memo: “Hastert goes on Fox raising questions about the source of Soros's money; and when he's called to account he responds by pointing to groups to which Soros gives his money.”

Hastert's letter to Soros contained an additional lie: that “527 political organizations set a dangerous precedent for political discourse because we don't know where the money comes from.” Yet Hastert himself was involved in ensuring that full disclosure of donors to 527 organizations is required by law. As the Chicago Tribune reported on June 30, 2000, “Congress closed a loophole that had enabled tax-exempt political groups [527s] to raise millions of dollars in secret contributions,” and “Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) played an instrumental role in getting the bill passed in the House.”

The Center for Public Integrity hosts a database of donors to 527 organizations.