Fox News, Rush Limbaugh say Obama watched doc about himself on election night; Rush says HBO doc's butt-kissing could cause 'anal poisoning'

ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper is disputing a Fox News report that President Barack Obama spent Tuesday evening watching a documentary about himself instead of incoming election results.

"Gibbs did NOT say that POTUS [President Obama] watched the HBO film last night," Tapper wrote on his Twitter account. "I think someone must have misunderstood."

On Wednesday, Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum reported that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters off-camera that the president "was actually watching the HBO special about his year-long campaign and how it all went" as election results came in.

The documentary By The People premiered on HBO Tuesday night at 9 pm ET, just as election results were coming in. The doc follows Obama around for the two years leading up to his election as president. And the film itself seems to contradict the White House's assertion yesterday that President Obama doesn't watch election returns. As the New York Times reported:

The film begins the night of the 2006 midterm elections — a glowing time for Democrats — when Mr. Obama watched as results came in from House, Senate and governors’ races across the country.

With a smile, he looked directly into the camera and said: “I love elections! It’s so much fun. It’s even more fun when you’re not on the ballot.”

CBS News reported Wednesday that the president "might" have watched the documentary:

By habit, Mr. Obama didn't watch the election returns on TV last night. He never does, says Gibbs. Not even when he's on the ballot. He might have watched an HBO documentary on his own triumphant two-year quest for the presidency, but Gibbs said Mr. Obama had already seen it on DVD.

Tapper states in another Tweet that he "doesn't know" what Obama watched, but that "all Gibbs said is he didn't watch election returns, got [election] info emailed to him."

If Gibbs had suggested that Obama was watching HBO instead of election results, it was likely as part of an effort to downplay last night's election returns, in which two high-profile governors' races, in New Jersey and Virginia, were won by the GOP.

Gibbs said Republicans should not presume Tuesday's triumphs will translate into victory in 2010 midterm polls when all the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate is up for election.

"The data from the gubernatorial races demonstrates that voters went to the polls in those two contests and talked about, and worked through very local issues that didn't involve the president," Gibbs said Wednesday.

"If you look at the exit polling, which is pretty clear on this, people went to the polls and voted on local issues not to even register support for or opposition to the president."

Exit polls conducted by television networks backed the White House argument, with 55 percent of Virginia voters and 60 percent of New Jersey voters saying Obama did not factor into their decision.


On his radio show Wednesday, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh repeated the claim that Obama spent election night watching By The People, but expressed incredulity at the notion.

"Do you mean to tell me that they didn't send him a screener copy?" Linbaugh asked. "He had to wait to see this thing? I, frankly folks, can't believe he hadn't seen and hadn't helped to put it together."

Limbaugh said of the documentary: "I would be embarrassed if somebody put together a documentary about me the way this has been put together. I mean it is God-like. ... If a documentary could get anal poisoning, this one could. I mean, it's just kiss butt, kiss butt, kiss butt, and here he's watching it."

-- With Agence France-Presse

The following audio was broadcast on the Rush Limbaugh Show Nov. 4, 2009, and uploaded by MediaMatters.