-- by Dave
Megyn Kelly invited the resident expert in all things British at Fox, Stuart Varney, on to discuss that sensational story from the Telegraph claiming that the Obama administration was selling British nuclear secrets to the Russians.
Of course, Varney believes every word of the story, even though it has in fact been pretty readily debunked. And lots more, too:
VARNEY: There's an increasing feeling in Britain that the American administration doesn't like the British, for whatever reason.
KELLY: What's the evidence of that?
VARNEY: Well, there's two symbolic items, and two more serious items. To first, the symbolism: The first act of President Obama when he walks in the White House -- send back a bust of Winston Churchill, the great statesman between America and Britain. Second --
KELLY: Why did he do that?
VARNEY: Because his father -- President Obama's father -- disliked the colonial administration in his native Kenya.
Varney then described the other supposed anti-British offenses: the White House's clumsy gift gaffe of presenting the Queen with an iPod; the administration's ardent prosecution of British Petroleum over the catastrophic Gulf oil spill; and now, the supposed nuclear-secrets release.
Kelly ran through these and actually demonstrated that they're all either nonsense -- such as the supposed "secrets" release, which has been debunked by the State Department (it seems we've been providing Russia with this information since 1991, and everyone has known about it) -- or otherwise perfectly explicable. But she was at a loss on the Churchill-bust charge, which Varney again asserted has convinced Britons that President Obama "dislikes" them:
KELLY: But the thing about the bust -- has the White House ever come out publicly to explain why they sent that bust back?
VARNEY: It was apparently because President Obama's father, who was a native Kenyan --
KELLY: Have they admitted that?
VARNEY: I believe that is out there. I've not read the formal statement. But an explanation was requested. And the explanation was that Obama's father, being a native Kenyan, disliked the British colonial rule in Kenya, which ended in 1963.
Now, the folks at Media Matters are more polite than I am. They called this a "fact-free Obama smear and a "betrayal of reality." Actually, this is just a flat-out baldfaced lie.
Because in reality, back when the explanation was requested, a very clear one was given by both the White House and the British embassy: The bust had been a loan to the White House that expired with President Bush's tenure and was simply due to be returned.
A British Embassy spokesman said: "The bust of Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein was uniquely lent to a foreign head of state, President George W Bush, from the Government Art Collection in the wake of 9/11 as a signal of the strong transatlantic relationship.
"It was lent for the first term of office of President Bush. When the President was elected for his second and final term, the loan was extended until January 2009."
Varney is right in at least one respect, though: This theory linking the return of the bust to Obama's father and his Kenyan background has been "out there" alright -- floating around the GlennBeckosphere since at least last summer, when Beck adopted Dinesh D'Souza's cockamamie theory that Obama is secretly an anticolonialist, just like his father from whom he was utterly estranged and for whom he had no known affinity.
As Matt Gertz observes at MM, in a sane and rational world in which journalistic standards actually meant something, Varney would be fired for this kind of naked race-baiting:
That is an extraordinary and -- if true -- damning allegation. Such allegations, when made on an avowed "straight news" program, demand evidence. But Varney offered no evidence whatsoever. Instead, Varney portrayed his claim as conventional wisdom that is "out there."
One of two things is true: Either Fox News is sitting on a story that would be massively damaging to the Obama administration, or they are employing a hack who pushes libelous, evidence-free speculation during its news reports.
It's pretty obvious that Door No. 2 is the only one that's going to open. But at Fox News, it will almost certainly make no difference.
[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]