Still not funny: CNN again associates Obama with bin Laden

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

On CNN's The Situation Room, Jeanne Moos reported on why presidential candidates point when addressing crowds and stated, "[S]ince we usually can't see who the candidates are pointing at, we'll just have to use our imagination." Moments later, the report showed footage of Sen. Barack Obama pointing, followed by a still image of Osama bin Laden.

On the February 11 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, in a report about presidential candidates' "body language" and "why ... they point" when addressing crowds, national news correspondent Jeanne Moos said, "[S]ince we usually can't see who the candidates are pointing at, we'll just have to use our imagination." Moments later, as noted on the website, video of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) pointing was followed by a zoomed-in still of Osama bin Laden. Moos also suggested that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) was pointing to Monica Lewinsky and that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was pointing to right-wing pundit Ann Coulter.

Obama Points


As Media Matters for America noted, on the December 11, 2006, edition of The Situation Room, Moos said that "[o]nly one little consonant differentiates" Obama and Osama. She then added, "[A]s if that similarity weren't enough. How about sharing the name of a former dictator? You know his middle name, Hussein." Additionally, on the December 11, 2006, edition of The Situation Room, then CNN senior political analyst Jeff Greenfield compared the similarity of Obama's "business casual" clothing to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "jacket-and-no-tie look." Greenfield concluded the segment by saying: "Now, it is one thing to have a last name that sounds like Osama and a middle name, Hussein, that is probably less than helpful. But an outfit that reminds people of a charter member of the axis of evil, why, this could leave his presidential hopes hanging by a thread." He later explained on the CNN website that he was making "a joke."

A December 19, 2007, post on The New York Times' Caucus blog, headlined "CNN's Obama/Osama Habit" noted several instances in 2007 in which CNN personalities or on-screen text "confused" Obama with bin Laden:

The Democratic presidential candidate's name has been confused with the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and even Omaha, Neb., in separate occasions on CNN recently.

Glenn Beck, the host of shows on radio and CNN Headline News, was the latest to make the mistake in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday, catching himself mid-word when he started to say "Osama" in a discussion of presidential candidates. "Unfortunate name," Mr. Beck remarked.

Alina Cho, a CNN anchor, made a similar mistake the same day on CNN's "American Morning" newscast. "Senator Barack Obama's campaign has been dogged with false rumors, among them that Osama is a Muslim," Ms. Cho said, immediately correcting herself. A number of conservative blogs immediately picked up on the slip-up.

In January, CNN was ridiculed for an on-screen graphic that said "Where Is Obama?" in front of footage of bin Laden. Anchor Wolf Blitzer said he would call Mr. Obama personally to apologize. Earlier this month the network apologized for an on-screen graphic that accidentally read "Obama, Nebraska."

A link to the video of Moos' segment on candidates' pointing was on the front page of CNN's website under the headline "Candidates' gestures: So, what's the point?" on the morning of February 12. The headline on the front page of was subsequently changed to "Comedians poke fun at pointing candidates."

Obama Osama

During the segment, a clip of Clinton pointing was followed by video of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Additionally, video of McCain giving a thumbs-up was followed by footage of right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, who, on the February 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, said of McCain possibly becoming the Republican nominee: "[I]f you're looking at substance rather than whether it's an R or D after his name, manifestly, if he's our candidate then Hillary's going to be our girl, Sean, because she's more conservative than he is. ... I will campaign for her if it's McCain." Coulter has repeatedly attacked McCain, including in a February 7 column in which she wrote: "If McCain is elected president, we'll have a four-year disaster."

From the February 11 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

[begin video clip]

MOOS (voice-over): When it comes to what matters in the presidential race, this is completely beside the point. But why do they point like that?

Hillary has even managed a two-finger point. [Former Arkansas Gov. Mike] Huckabee's finger deserted his guitar.

What exactly is the point?

Our favorite body language expert, Dan Hill, describes a candidate's entrance before an adoring crowd as a moment of vulnerability.

HILL: And if you don't do something, I think you run the risk of looking kind of listless, forlorn, marooned.

MOOS: So, to project confidence and connect with a crowd, they salute; they give a thumbs-up; and they point.

HILL: She [Clinton] has these big, forced, social smiles. She's waving. Her eyes are going wide like she's so surprised and delighted to see someone she knows.

MOOS: It's not like we're the only ones to notice.

STEPHEN COLBERT (Comedy Central host): She engaged in her traditional pre-victory speech game: clap, clap, point, point, clap, clap, point, point. That is good. Take a look at her audience.

Kids love the Clinton campaign -- or as they call it, lady in the yellow jacket '08, clap clap point point.

MOOS: Hey, Obama claps just as much, though he seems to point less, preferring a casual wave.

HILL: I think he has a little bit of disdain for doing something really cheesy.

MOOS: Because of Vietnam War injuries, John McCain has trouble raising his arms high.

HILL: He will push his hands out and he'll do thumbs-up.

MCCAIN: Thank you, thank you.

MOOS: Body language experts like to gauge smiles as natural or forced.

HILL: And Obama, when he does flash a smile, has the best smile in the race.

MOOS: Now, since we usually can't see who the candidates are pointing at, we'll just have to use our imagination.

CROWD: Hillary, Hillary, Hillary!

[video footage of Monica Lewinsky]

CROWD: Obama, Obama, Obama!

OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.

[still image of Osama bin Laden]

[video footage of John McCain as "Rocky" theme plays]

[video footage of Ann Coulter]

[end video clip]

MOOS: You know, this is so unfair -- putting these candidates' every single gesture under the magnifying glass. I mean, what do we want? Do we want them to act like wax figures?

Speaking of which, there's wax Obama -- lifelike down to the mole next to his nose. He just joined Hillary and Bill in the Oval Office at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Washington. But enough of this pointlessness.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

Jeanne Moos
The Situation Room
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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