CBS’s Smith Asks Obama About Rezko, Never Asked About Hsu

In an usually tough interview with Barack Obama on Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith asked the Illinois Senator about a financial scandal involving Tony Rezko, that Hillary Clinton brought up during Monday’s Democratic debate on CNN: "This is a guy that's facing federal charges of fraud and influence peddling next month. What is your real relationship with Tony Rezko?"

While such tough questioning of presidential candidates is certainly appropriate, one wonders why Harry Smith never asked Hillary Clinton about her involvement with convicted felon, Norman Hsu, who made significant financial contributions to the Clinton campaign. On September 18 of last year, while Clinton was asked about the Hsu scandal by co-host Matt Lauer on NBC’s "Today," Smith was busy touting her health care plan on CBS, ignoring Hsu completely:

Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, has now outlined her plan for health care reform. In a new CBS News poll, 66% of voters said her health care experience in Bill Clinton's Administration is actually a strength for her. As we know, her efforts in the 1990s failed, 52% of those questioned said it wasn't her fault. Senator Clinton joins us this morning.

This was despite the fact that Smith had reported on the Hsu scandal while filling in for Katie Couric on the CBS "Evening News" on August 31 and September 6.

Here is the full transcript of Wednesday’s segment:

HARRY SMITH: We turn now to the presidential race, 2008. As we've been saying all week, the Democrats, Clinton and Obama, have been engaged in hand-to-hand combat with no let-up in sight. We spoke earlier this morning with Senator Barack Obama. Joining us now from Columbia, South Carolina, is Senator Barack Obama. Good morning, Senator.

BARACK OBAMA: Good morning, Harry. How are you?

SMITH: Very well. Quick question for you, when you walked off the stage Monday night, I wonder if you said to yourself, I wish I had said or I wish I hadn't said fill in the blank.

OBAMA: No, I thought it was a vigorous debate. It's what I think people are expecting in a hard fought contest, and you know, the key issues, I think, that need to be talked about are the ones that I'm hearing from families all across South Carolina and all across the country. People are working harder for less money. They're worried about the consequences of Bush economic policies that over the last several years have really put people in a hole, you know, because of a combination of lax oversight of the subprime lending market, as a consequence of tax policies that have been skewed against people who are living paycheck to paycheck. We've got a lot of problems in this country -- go ahead.

SMITH: Well, let's talk about your economic stimulus -- all right. Let's talk about your economic stimulus plan for a second, though. The president is talking about giving $800 a person, $1,600 a married couple. Yours calls for much less cash than that in the pockets of Americans. How come?

OBAMA: Well, we were first out of the box in terms of saying that we needed a tax rebate and a supplement to Social Security, and we've got two phases in terms of how that money is released. Initial phase of $35 billion. A second phase of another $35 billion. It appears that the economy may be deteriorating more quickly than when we first put out our plan, so we can make adjustments in terms of what the amount of the rebate is. The important principle is to make sure that we get --

SMITH: Well the pres -- here's the thing, the problem is now.

OBAMA: Money to productive people as soon as possible --

SMITH: The president and Congress have said something needs to be done within a month. If you were sitting in on those negotiations right now, what would you say needed to be done? How much?

OBAMA: Well, I think that it's important for us to make sure that we get as much money as quickly as possible into the pockets of hard-working Americans understanding that, you know, we have finite resources, but that it's better off for us to spend the dollars now, even if it turns out later that, you know, we're going to have to pay some of that money back.

SMITH: I'm going to go back to the debate Monday night. Mrs. Clinton brought up your relationship with Tony Rezko. You explained it to a degree, but can you just put into perspective who -- your relationship with this guy from the standpoint that he funneled tens of thousands of dollars into your campaigns over the years. You bought property right next to him. This is a guy that's facing federal charges of fraud and influence peddling next month. What is your real relationship with Tony Rezko?

OBAMA: Well, my relationship is that he was somebody who I knew and had been a supporter for many years. He was somebody who had supported a wide range of candidates all throughout Illinois. Nobody had an inkling that he was involved in any problems. When those problems were discovered, we returned money from him that had been contributed, and what is true is that I also purchased a piece of land from him. Everything was above board, and there's been no allegations that there wasn't.

SMITH: Senator Obama, thanks very much for your time this morning.

OBAMA: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC