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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Fox News attacks Barack Obama for giving props to Sitting Bull

November 17, 2010 |  5:30 pm

Sitting_bull The Indian wars have been over for roughly 130 years, but at Fox News, no war is too distant in memory to go unnoticed, especially when it comes to opening up a new avenue of attack on Barack Obama.

My wife writes about children's books, so she always lets me have a look at titles that deal with my favorite subjects (baseball, the South, Bob Dylan, high school basketball, tropical gardening and, of course, Sioux chiefs). So I'm already familiar with President Obama's new children's book, "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters," which went on sale Tuesday (all royalties from book sales go to a scholarship fund for children of American soldiers who've been killed or disabled).

The book pays tribute to 13 groundbreaking Americans and the ideals they personified, including such familiar icons as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Jackie Robinson, Jane Addams, Neil Armstrong and Billie Holiday. Oh, yes, and Sitting Bull. Obama describes Mr. Bull as a "Sioux medicine man who healed broken hearts and broken promises. ...  Though he was put in prison, his spirit soared free on the plains, and his wisdom touched the generations."

I take a special interest in Sitting Bull because my great-great-uncle, Julius Meyer, was an interpreter and trader who lived in Omaha from the late 1860s into the 20th century. Uncle Julius not only befriended Sitting Bull but took him to Europe as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in the early 1880s. I have a photo of Uncle Julius with Sitting Bull, Red Cloud and a couple of other somber-looking Sioux chiefs. Sitting Bull was a warrior but by no means a bloodthirsty killer. If you ask almost any historian, they'll tell you that the Sioux took up arms against the U.S. government only after suffering through a series of broken treaties and under the threat of forced imprisonment for opposing the government's efforts to hand over the tribe's lands to gold miners and settlers. 

Only in the nutty world of Fox News is there anything possibly controversial about celebrating a renowned chief. But apparently the Fox News crew hadn't managed to fill the daily quota of anti-Obama screeds, so the Fox's website got hold of a typically bland USA Today story about Obama's new book, zeroed in on the one potentially controversial angle and came up with this headline: "Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Killed U.S. General." Fox even managed to get that wrong, since there is zero evidence that Sitting Bull actually killed George Armstrong Custer at the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn. If you go to the post, you'll see the headline now reads: "Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Defeated U.S. General." 

It seems like such a rinky-dink thing to get worked up about, but this is the way Fox News operates, always willing to stoop as low as possible to demonize its opponents with some potentially damaging accusations, even if they might come from a harmless children's book. Interviewed a year or so after Custer's ignominious defeat, Sitting Bull had his say on the subject of Fox News-like inflammatory media coverage. "They say I murdered Custer," he told a reporter. "But it was a lie. He was a fool who rode to his death." 

Photo: Sitting Bull from the book cover of "Sitting Bull and his World" by Albert Marrin. Credit: Dutton   

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