By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: birthers

Bullied by sociopaths

I have very little to say about President Obama’s decision to release his long-form birth certificate, but I will offer this: No white president would have been pressured into this. And my gut tells me Obama shouldn’t have done it, as it makes him look like he’s been bullied by sociopaths.

Although I don’t hold out much hope, I do think this is a splendid occasion for executives at mainstream news organizations to think about the consequences of “covering the controversy” as opposed to calling out people like Donald Trump as the lying jackasses that they are.

Yes, there’s been some of that. But not nearly enough.

Why liberals are condescending

In my latest for the Guardian, I find myself agreeing with Gerard Alexander’s essay in the Washington Post that liberals are condescending. But it’s hard not to be when many on the other side reject evolution, think global warming is a hoax and believe President Obama was not born in the United States.

Hudak’s backhanded apology to Brown

In the guise of an apology, Republican congressional candidate William Hudak writes that Sen.-elect Scott Brown promised to support him and then reneged when the Hudak campaign went public. Hudak writes in an op-ed that appears in today’s Salem News:

Scott and I spoke personally and he agreed to help my campaign. But pressing forward with an endorsement announcement without his written permission or review of our press release, was wrong and for that I have apologized.

Hudak also apologizes for putting signs on his lawn depicting President Obama as Osama bin Laden — that is, if you were among the “some” who were offended — and tries to make it sound like his birther views, which he recently disavowed, were based on super-special information that came into his possession because he’s an attorney, rather than the same Internet crap we all saw.

I think the Brown team has handled the Hudak matter fairly well up to this point. But it’s time for Brown himself to say something that will cause Hudak to cross him off his Christmas card list once and for all.

Earlier coverage.

Bringing the Hudakmobile into focus

Click on photo for larger image

A Media Nation reader sent along a couple of close-up photos of Republican congressional candidate William Hudak’s SUV. You get a much clearer look than in the video I posted last week. Click here for the second photo.

Brown and Hudak speak

(Breaking, 2:30 p.m.: Hudak apologizes to Brown. See Tony Schinella’s comment for details.)

Three new developments in the matter of whether U.S. Sen.-elect Scott Brown endorsed congressional candidate William Hudak, who reportedly has denied that President Obama was born in the United States (he now denies the denial), and who offended his Boxford neighbors during the 2008 presidential campaign by putting a sign on his property comparing Obama to Osama bin Laden.

1. Brown tells the Boston Globe that Hudak put out a press release touting Brown’s endorsement without his knowledge or permission. “I haven’t spoken to Bill at all,’’ Brown said. “I understand he made a press release of some sort. But I wasn’t aware of it, and we’ve asked him to retract it.”

But Brown also reportedly “dodged” on the matter of whether he would endorse Hudak. Wrong question. Brown should have been asked whether he’d said anything to Hudak that would lead him to believe he already had Brown’s endorsement.

Still, Brown’s comments are in accord with a statement put out yesterday by his spokesman, Felix Browne. The most likely scenario remains that Brown said something Hudak wrongly interpreted as an endorsement.

2. Hudak, in an interview with the Salem News, says, “There’s no question that he [Brown] gave me his endorsement,” citing a “private conversation” the two men had. He also says he did not see the press release his own campaign put out touting the alleged endorsement, but that it’s OK with him: “I trust my campaign staff to do what they need to do.”

So now we have a press release filled with direct quotes from both Brown and Hudak, and both men say they were unaware of it before it went out. It reminds me of the time that David Wells claimed he’d been misquoted in his own autobiography.

Neither the Globe nor the News credits Media Nation for bringing this story to light yesterday. No big deal, but the News allows Hudak to blame it on “Democrats,” and to refer to the whole matter as “very clearly politically motivated.”

The implication left hanging is that political operatives put this out there. The reality is that I have a memory like an elephant for certain things. I’m not a Democrat. As for being partisan, I’ve been complimentary toward Brown and his staff for the way they’ve handled this.

3. As Hudak’s spokesman did yesterday in The Hill, Hudak, in his interview with the News, denies that he believes Obama was born outside the United States. News reporter Stacie Galang writes, “Hudak said he has clarified his stance, but it continues to be repeated, wrongfully, in the press. It’s ‘not even an issue.'”

Hudak’s alleged birther views have been reported in two papers: the Tri-Town Transcript, which published the original story in November 2008, and in a column by Nelson Benton in the Salem News, which pointed out, as the Transcript had not, that Hudak was a Republican candidate for Congress.

In an e-mail to Media Nation, Benton says Hudak has “never asked for a correction.” An editor for GateHouse Media, which owns the Transcript, told me last night that he hopes to provide some information to me later today.

Update: Hudak never asked the Transcript for a correction, either, according to Peter Chianca, managing editor of GateHouse Media New England’s North Unit. Chianca e-mails: “David Rogers, the Transcript’s editor at the time, says that Hudak did not ask for a correction after the story ran.”

Earlier coverage.

Thinking through the Brown-Hudak matter

I plucked this Google ad off National Review a little while ago. A trusted source tells me it’s been in rotation on Rasmussen Reports, too, though I couldn’t get it to pop up.

Now, even though this requires some speculation, it seems pretty clear what happened.

Republican congressional candidate William Hudak got involved in Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s campaign, even to the point of letting Brown’s folks use his Danvers headquarters.

They came to like each other. And in the giddiness of the Tuesday-night victory party, Brown said some nice things to Hudak about his campaign — nice things that Hudak interpreted as an endorsement. Hudak put out the word, and the press, having no reason to doubt him, reported that Brown had endorsed Hudak without bothering to check with Brown’s people.

Then, this morning, Media Nation broke the news that Hudak had told a reporter for the Tri-Town Transcript in November 2008 that he believed President Obama had been born in Kenya. Hudak also put a sign on his Boxford property depicting Obama as Osama bin Laden. The Salem News confirmed that it was the same Hudak who was running for Congress.

Next: The Brown folks, appalled, issued a statement that they had neither seen nor approved of Hudak’s press release claiming Brown had endorsed him. (I suspect they’ve hedged on the question of whether Brown had, in fact, endorsed Hudak because they don’t know exactly what Brown may have said.)

That all makes sense, although if Hudak actually put words in Brown’s mouth (his press release quotes Brown directly), then this goes beyond a simple misunderstanding. And, of course, there is the matter of Hudak’s spokesman now claiming Hudak is not a birther, and that he was misunderstood when he was interviewed by the Transcript some 15 months ago.

Needless to say, it has been a bizarre little interlude. It looks like the Brown people have handled this about as well as could be expected. But it may not be quite played out yet.

I have asked for comment from the Transcript and the Salem News as to whether Hudak ever asked for a correction. I’ll let you know what I find out.

Hudak now says he’s not a birther

Congressional candidate William Hudak’s spokesman now says Hudak believes President Obama was born in the United States. He tells The Hill that his comments about Obama being born in Kenya were mischaracterized.

Leaving aside the fact that this is a guy who put a sign in his yard depicting Obama as Osama bin Laden, here, again, is what the Tri-Town Transcript reported in November 2008: “Hudak asserts that Obama was not born in the United States but in Kenya, according to affidavits that he made available to the Tri-Town Transcript.”

So the reporter, Brendan Lewis, looked at some sort of affidavits Hudak provided to him and somehow managed to “mischaracterize” Hudak’s view? I have no idea what these affidavits are, but I sure hope someone digs them up.

Hudak campaign tweets about Brown

Birther congressional candidate William Hudak’s Twitter feed (4:44 update: looks like it’s been disabled) is loaded with happy tweets about the endorsement he claims to have received from Sen.-elect Scott Brown. A few examples:

Thanks, @hubpolitics, for picking up our story about Brown’s endorsement! #masen #nrcc #tcot #41stsvote from web

@Time picked up our story about Scott Brown’s first endorsement – Bill Hudak! #masen #tcot

FYI: @RedMassGroup @hubpolitics: Scott Brown endorses Bill Hudak! Let’s keep the momentum going! #masen #the41stvote 11:25 AM Jan 20th from web

Scott Brown endorses Bill Hudak for Congress! Let’s keep the momentum going! #masen #the41stvote #tcot 11:17 AM Jan 20th from web

(Thanks to sharp-eyed commenter Scutch.)

Was birther candidate Hudak going rogue?

U.S. Sen.-elect Scott Brown neither saw nor approved of the statement issued under his name by birther congressional candidate William Hudak, according to an e-mail I received a short time ago from Brown spokesman Felix Browne.

As I wrote earlier today, both the Salem News and the Boston Globe reported that Brown had endorsed Hudak, who has said President Obama was born outside the United States and who got in trouble with his neighbors during the 2008 presidential campaign for putting up a sign in his yard comparing Obama to Osama bin Laden. Browne’s statement:

Neither Scott Brown or anyone connected with his campaign approved that press release before its release or the quote that was attributed to Scott. Bill Hudak is an energetic candidate who has been working hard as a candidate for Congress. Right now, Scott Brown is focused on the job that people elected him to do. That’s his number one priority.

Needless to say, Browne’s statement raises some questions. Does Brown endorse Hudak’s candidacy or not? Is Brown (or Browne) accusing Hudak of making up words and putting them in the senator-elect’s mouth?

I’ve asked Browne to clarify. From the context of the e-mail, though, my guess is the answers to those questions are “no” and “yes,” but that Team Brown is trying to hold back from saying anything quite that damaging.

Politically, it would make no sense for Brown to endorse a Republican candidate this early. Brown’s stunning victory on Tuesday is likely to bring more-prominent Republican candidates out of the woodwork to challenge U.S. Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat. Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins and state Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester come immediately to mind.

I’d have liked to see a stronger statement from Brown, but that’s nitpicking. I’m encouraged that he’s distancing himself from piece of work like Hudak.

Update: But wait! The Hudak camp says Brown did too endorse their man. From The Hill:

“Scott Brown gave his endorsement to Bill Hudak and it’s unfortunate that the people Scott Brown surrounds himself with are backing down from a commitment that their boss already made,” said Tyler Harber, a spokesman for Hudak.

Harber added that Hudak and Brown are friends and that Hudak worked tirelessly for Brown during his Senate bid.

“If you went to Bill’s office right now you’d probably still find Brown’s people packing their stuff up,” he said.

What is not to love about this story?

Did Brown endorse a birther for Congress? (revised)

Hudak reportedly put up this sign on his property.

Sen.-elect Scott Brown has endorsed a candidate for Congress who has asserted that President Obama was born in Kenya rather than the United States, and who drew complaints from his neighbors during the 2008 presidential campaign for putting up signs on his property depicting Obama as Osama bin Laden.

The Salem News reports that the Brown campaign has issued a statement endorsing Republican lawyer William Hudak of Boxford, who hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, this fall. Here’s the key passage:

“Bill was with us from the beginning and is the representative the people of the 6th District need,” Brown said in a press release.

“We’re going to take advantage of this endorsement,” Hudak said. “We’re going to capitalize on this momentum and add it to [our] campaign.”

(Update, Thursday, 3 p.m.: Brown spokesman Felix Browne says the senator-elect neither saw nor approved of the press release Hudak put out claiming Brown’s support.)

But on Nov. 3, 2008, the Tri-Town Transcript reported that Hudak and another person who lives on his street had festooned their properties with signs their neighbors found offensive. Reporter Brendan Lewis tells the tale:

Down the road at 165 Herrick Road, William and Angela Hudak have more of the same anti-Obama signs lined along the front of their property. One large, roughly 6-foot-by-4-foot sign stands back from the road, up against their house, with words — such as socialist, Marxist, and lazy — surrounding the same picture of Obama dressed as Osama Bin Laden….

[Hudak] said he decided to put up to signs to spread the message that Obama was not the person that the American public thinks he is.

“I was looking to wake people up and it worked,” Hudak said….

Hudak asserts that Obama was not born in the United States but in Kenya, according to affidavits that he made available to the Tri-Town Transcript. He said that Obama has ties to the Muslim faith through an extremist cousin that is from Kenya.

“There is a lot more going on here than anyone knows,” Hudak said.

Police asked Hudak and his neighbor to remove the signs, and Hudak said he agreed to do so in order to spare the police from the barrage of complaints they had received.

Now, it’s unlikely that Brown knew about Hudak’s birther beliefs before he endorsed him. The Boston Globe didn’t note it in reporting Brown’s endorsement; neither did the Salem News, though columnist Nelson Benton has mentioned it in the past.

But Brown has already been caught expressing falsehoods about Obama. As Blue Mass Group discovered last week, Brown once raised the possibility that Obama had been born out of wedlock, an assertion for which there is zero evidence.

The question now is whether Brown has the guts and integrity to admit he made a mistake and withdraw his endorsement of Hudak.

Not only would Brown’s repudiation of Hudak be the right thing to do, but it would be for the good of the Republican Party as well. Brown won overwhelmingly in Tierney’s district, which you’d think would make the Democrat vulnerable this fall. But if the Republicans can’t come up with a candidate more credible than Hudak, Tierney will likely roll to re-election.

Update: I should point out that the importance of Benton’s column, linked above, was that he confirmed it was that William Hudak, something the original Transcript article did not do.

Update II: I’ve asked Brown spokesman Felix Browne if the senator-elect has anything to say about the Hudak endorsement. Browne replied that he (that is, the spokesman) is “looking into it.”

Photo (cc) by Brendan Lewis. The Tri-Town Transcript makes its content available under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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