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Did Obama Say He Would Meet with Ahmedinejad? Absolutely

John on October 4, 2008 at 10:15 am

The weekly standard blog has a post noting that CNN’s factcheckers got one wrong. According to CNN:

Palin stated an assertion made repeatedly by Republican running mate Sen. John McCain. Sen. Joe Biden said at the debate “it is simply not true” that Obama said he would “sit down” with Ahmadinejad.

Obama has talked about meeting with Iranian leaders if necessary, but not Ahmadinejad specifically.

Verdict: Misleading. While Obama has said he wouldn’t rule out meeting with any foreign leader, he never specifically said he’d meet with the Iranian president.

I’m sick of this getting a pass. Let’s settle it once and for all.

First, as the Weekly Standard blog post linked above notes, Obama was specifically asked if he’s still meet with Ahmedinejad in a September 2007 press conference. Click over there for video. He clearly says nothing has changed.

But this isn’t the strongest evidence. Take a look at these screen grabs from the July 2007 You Tube debate. Here’s the stage, candidates on the right. They’re all watching the big screen as a question is asked about meeting with the leaders of four countries:

Notice that in addition to the big video screen there’s also a smaller monitor on each candidate’s podium. And as the questioner asks if candidates would be willing to meet with leaders of Iran, take a look at the photo that was put up there:

That’s right. It’s Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. In fact, here’s the exact picture they used:

So when asked if he would meet with the leaders of Iran without preconditions, this is the photo that was on that 20′ screen and on Obama’s personal monitor. Obama’s reply was a clear and unapologetic “Yes.” If he didn’t mean Ahmedinejad, he should have said so then. That’s clearly who the questioner meant.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Factcheck.org has also failed to correct this one as well. I wrote them about it and here’s the response I got:

We’re unable to read people’s real intentions, so we can’t really say what Obama may or may not have really meant. We can only clarify what he actually says.

That sounds great, only when it came to the VP debate, that’s not what they did. Palin’s statement that John McCain had co-sponsored a bill to add oversight to Fannie and Freddie was accurate. He did. Factcheck however decided to dock Palin by saying that in 2006 the collapse was inevitable, therefore McCain’s sponsorship didn’t matter.

Seems to me they’ve gone beyond what was said to an interpretation of what it meant in that case. But not in this case. Obama gets to skate away from this because the word “Ahmedinejad” never passed his lips.

Verdict: Obama has been trying to weasel out of his answer since at least May, but there’s no doubt about it. Shown a picture of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, he said he would meet with him without preconditions. CNN’s fact checkers and Factcheck.org have it wrong and both are misleading their readers about the facts in this situation.

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