Proof that Jay Severin is either a liar or a fool

Why am I spending any of my time on this guy? I have no idea. But I can’t help it. Here’s his latest offense.

Jay, along with at least one other radio talk show host, likes to refer to the junior senator from Illinois as "Barack Hussein Obama." Why does he do this? Because, he says, that while this country is at war with radical Islam, there are several "facts" about Obama that are worth noting. Among them:

  • That Obama’s father was a Muslim.
  • That Obama’s grandfather was a Muslim.
  • That Obama went to a madras ([sic] — Madras is a city in India (and Oregon) and a type of fabric; I’m pretty sure Jay means "madrassa," which is a type of Muslim school.
  • That Obama "grew up in Africa."

I won’t bother arguing the first two points. Even if they are true, they are completely irrelevant. Obama’s father left the family when Obama was two years old, and he was raised by his mother, his maternal grandparents, and others. (The Chicago Tribune wrote an extensive background piece on Obama’s childhood last year.)

Point three — that Obama attended a Muslim school — was a false claim that has been thoroughly and completely debunked and debunked and debunked.

Point four is a Severin original, as far as I can tell. I’ve never heard anyone else make that claim, probably because it is demonstrably untrue. What is Jay thinking? I can only imagine that Jay read somewhere that Obama spent some time as a youngster in Jakarta. I suppose the word Jakarta looks and sounds somewhat similar to Dakar and Lusaka, which are indeed in Africa. And of course, Obama’s father’s family was originally from Kenya — also in Africa. So perhaps Jay assumes that Jakarta is in Africa as well. But Jakarta, of course, is in Indonesia — which is most decidedly not in Africa.

So which is it Jay? Are you being intentionally dishonest? Or merely grossly incompetent?

I called in again on Friday to set the record straight, but after one sentence out of my mouth — following a 90 minute wait on hold — he hung up on me after accusing me of misquoting him (which I hadn’t). Finally, at 6:15 that day someone corrected him — sort of — about the Africa angle. Unfortunately, the caller was also confused on the facts, and thought that Obama had gone to school in the Philippines. Jay was quick to issue a correction, in his own style:

OK, I’ll tell you what. Until I know specifically — I don’t know the years and so I could be wrong, so I will hold that in abeyance and I thank you for that criticism.

Jay later took the opportunity to restate his position (and, as is his wont) to amplify (I’ve added a few of comments in red):

Neither you [the caller] nor I know [Obama’s connection to Islam]. Your statement is like Nora O’Donnell’s statement when she was talking to Chris Matthews last night, when she said "He’s not a Muslim." Listen, she only knows what she’s read in the paper. Nora O’Donnell no more knows the religious or theological proclivities of Barack Obama than she knows whether or not I have a birthmark on my left buttock. Although there was that night — she may actually know that. How does your wife feel when you say such things, Jay? But anyway, she doesn’t know that. You don’t know it. I don’t know it. So you’re calling Barack Obama a liar? …. I’m sure you can appreciate that the mere fact that we are debating these things, and maybe, and I don’t mean to say this in a way that is in any way argumentative or offensive, I honestly don’t, (then how do you mean it?) but if you have been born and have grown up in America, the very notion that we are debating these fine points of in which countries — like I may be wrong about Africa or certain years about Africa, you know maybe a madrassa (hey, you got the word right this time) in the Philippines instead, he may have gone to a radical Muslim school in the Philippines instead of in Africa for certain years (actually, he never went to a madrassa or any other type of Muslim school) — the mere fact that we are debating the fine points of a guy who may become President of the United States who has Muslim connections (I enjoy falafel and hummus; do I therefore also have Muslim connections?) and has a background like his is so very extraordinary. I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad though I’m not going to be coy and tell you I think it’s good. I only can tell you that having been born and raised here in America and made my life’s work the culture of this country, you know, I know that people find it wicked queer. People? What people? If you mean you find it wicked queer, say so. They may not in the end find it sufficiently troubling that it is significant or determinative but it is a wicked queer thing to be holding a candidate election for president in which one of the candidates has this much of a connection (you mean that the family of his father, who left him when he was two, were Muslims? that much of a connection?) to a faith or a group that has declared war on the United States of America, under which there is a current state of war, of murderous slaughter against our people. Ah, so we are at war with the entire Muslim faith, are we? No wonder you want to kill them. The notion there could be any connection, no matter how remote, that we should even be asked to consider it or to parse it is what makes this so extraordinary. And I’ll tell you, you guys can’t have it both ways. I don’t mean again to be argumentative, [caller], but you can’t have it both ways. Please don’t tell me America is close-minded, racist, biased, bigoted, prejudiced, all these things. I’m not sure a lot of people are saying that about "America," Jay. I think they’re just saying it about certain Americans, like you. The mere fact that a candidate like Barack Obama, with his beliefs, and his heritage, the mere fact that he could be as serious a candidate for president as he is means that we are the most open, wonderful country Yes, we are so open, we welcome all comers from all nations. Right. — of course a lot of us already knew that, a lot of us are not like Obama-Mama, Michelle Obama, who only recently for the first time felt pride about our country. Most of us know this is the most wonderful place on Earth. And Barack Obama’s candidacy proves it. Which is why you’re such a strong supporter of his, correct? I just want to know: If Barack Obama wins — and this is a trick question, I know this answer, and so do you — if Barack Obama wins, can we stop hearing people bitch about how racist America is? Can we put that to rest? If Barack Obama is elected by a majority of voters in the United States of America, (You mean like Al Gore was in 2000?) does that mean that we can now say that it is a false claim to assert that America is a biased, bigoted, racist country? No, watch and see. We’ll elect a black president and we’ll still have to give in to people who argue we’re a racist country. Give in how? What are you talking about? Although among people who are intellectually honest (Like you, Jay? Give me a break) and adroit to any, even minimal, degree, the notion that we could elect Barack Hussein Obama (there you go again) and you’d still declare that we’re a racist country is laughably ludicrous, frighteningly ludicrous. But it will still happen. Oh, and if Mrs. Clinton — ahh! ahh! ahh! — pardon me, if Mrs. Clinton becomes president will that be the end of bitching about how phallocentric, patriarchal, sexist a country we are? Nah.

Too bad radio talk show hosts keep their jobs because of their ratings and their ability to refrain from saying "um" on the air, rather than on the strength of their logic, accuracy, or intelligence. Jimmy Severino would have been off the air a long time ago.

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