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Koch, Obama and Quoting Saddam Hussein

Mother Jones published its “Secret Koch Brothers Retreat Tape!” this morning, as part of its important investigative series into the Koch Brothers summer fundraising event. So far, the biggest scandal is that Charles Koch may have referred to Obama as “Saddam Hussein”:

“We have Saddam Hussein,” declared billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, apparently referring to President Barack Obama as he welcomed hundreds of wealthy guests to the latest of the secret fundraising and strategy seminars he and his brother host twice a year. The 2012 elections, he warned, will be “the Mother of All Wars.”

Liberal blogs predictably flipped out over this, despite yawning through the whole Joe Biden “terrorist” controversy. But Mother Jones seems to have misinterpreted the statement. Koch actually appears to be quoting Saddam Hussein, and Obama isn’t referenced at all, Ben Smith reports:

The word “as” isn’t in the transcript, but as I hear the (ambiguous) line, Koch is quoting Saddam here, not comparing Obama to him. In that version, the quote reads:

“We have, as Saddam Hussein [said] this is the Mother of All Wars,” Koch is quoting Saddam, rather than making a comparison between him and Obama.

Audio recordings are notorious for yielding whatever interpretation the listener expects to hear; an attendee who heard the line as a quote, not a comparison, pointed me to the transcript and the audio.

A spokesperson for Koch Industries also gave a similar explanation to Smith:

To be clear, Mr. Koch was not referring to President Obama in his remarks. The “Mother of All Wars” is a common phrase, frequently attributed to Saddam Hussein on the eve of the first Gulf War. Amid record U.S. unemployment, continued economic decline, and loss of liberty, the U.S. has been plunged into its own “Mother of All Wars.” Our nation’s future will be determined in the coming months by the choices Americans make to address the serious economic issues facing our country.

So the audio, Koch’s spokesperson, and the context of the speech all contradict the Mother Jones interpretation. A correction is probably warranted in this case, especially since other outlets are still picking up the original report. The left usually acts like the Kochs are the biggest threat facing our country, so it’s  interesting this over-hyped scandal was the worst dirt Mother Jones could find at the event.


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