On Wright, Bill Kristol's wrong again

A day after an embarrassing mistake in his New York Times column, he appears on Fox News and gives an inaccurate preview of Barack Obama's speech.

Published March 18, 2008 4:20PM (EDT)

Shortly after the publication of his latest column for the New York Times on Monday, Bill Kristol had to issue a rather prominent and embarrassing correction of a major factual mistake he'd made.

Kristol had claimed, based on an old report from the conservative Web site Newsmax, that Barack Obama had been present for one of the controversial sermons given by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In his correction, Kristol noted, "In this column, I cite a report that Sen. Obama had attended services at Trinity Church on July 22, 2007. The Obama campaign has provided information showing that Senator Obama did not attend Trinity that day. I regret the error."

So who did Fox News turn to on Tuesday morning for a preview of Obama's speech that addressed Wright? Why, Bill Kristol, of course. And in his appearance, Kristol managed once again to get a major assertion wrong. By the time Kristol was on television, the Obama campaign had already sent out the full text of Obama's remarks -- actually, we were reading them as we watched Kristol -- and yet Kristol still managed to be 180 degrees off in his reading of what Obama would say. (Video of Kristol on Fox is below.) Kristol said:

I think Barack Obama will try to make this about race. No one wants to be racially divisive, and he'll say, "Dwelling on Wright is racially divisive, let's move beyond this."

One could challenge him and say, "Isn't this about extremism, not about race?" If a white minister had said the things that Wright had said, that 9/11 was chickens coming home to roost, that Israel is a dirty word, that the U.S. government launched the AIDS virus on the country, wouldn't we be pretty appalled or at least raise questions about a white candidate who had made that minister one of his closest advisors and confidants over the last 15 or 20 years?

To his credit, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer -- who had, he said, read some of Obama's remarks by then -- seemed to try to warn Kristol off this angle. But Kristol didn't get the hint.

As you can easily see from the transcript of Obama's speech that Salon has posted here, Obama's speech is vastly different from Kristol's preview of it.

But hey, at least Kristol's consistent. That's something, right?

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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