Over the weekend, one of the many shocking allegations to come from Edward Klein's controversial new book on Obama was the story that someone from the Obama camp tried to pay Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- Obama's controversial former pastor -- $150k to keep quiet until after the 2008 election. Wright rejected the hush money. But we never knew who allegedly tried to pay Wright off.
In an interview with Sean Hannity on Monday, Klein revealed the identity of his money middle man -- and he's a doctor from Chicago.
"What happened is that after ABC’s Brian Ross broadcast the audiotapes --videotapes of the Rev. Wright God damning America and slamming whites and slamming Jews and America, he was contacted by one of Obama’s closest personal friends, a guy who travels on Obama’s plane, who plays basketball with him, who goes on vacations with him," Klein told Hannity during Hannity's radio show.
"I didn't name him in the book, but I can tell you who he is. His name is Dr. Eric Whitaker. Dr. Whitaker is the vice president of the University of Chicago Medical Center and he’s a member of Obama’s very tight inner-circle. And he sent an email to a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ," Klein said.
"Chicago politics is one hand feeds the other, as you know. And Eric Whitaker, a very close friend of the Obamas, sent an email to a member of the church saying that the Rev. Wright could get a $150,000 if he would shut up and not criticize Obama anymore," Klein explained.
Wright rejected the offer, which Klein says prompted a secret visit from Obama just 10 days after he gave his famous race speech.
Klein, who has come under fire by the White House (a spokesman has called him a "liar), told Hannity he's confident in his facts.
"Now we know that this is true, not only because the Rev. Wright told me so, but because the Secret Service logs logged in this meeting. So we have confirmation that it actually took place," Klein said.
Want to know more about Whitaker? The Washington Post has a small biography:
A member of Barack Obama's tight-knit circle of friends from Hyde Park in Chicago, Whitaker was a fixture on the 2008 presidential campaign trail, often sitting with Obama on the campaign plane, serving as a sounding board for the candidate and helping to keep him grounded with frequent basketball games.
Whitaker, who has been friends with Obama since both were in graduate school, works at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where Michelle Obama also worked.
But an even more interesting tidbit may be that while Whitaker was apparently offering Wright $150k in 2008, he only donated $200 to Obama's campaign during that same year.
Still, Whitaker's past isn't all basketball games and political donations. As the Chicago Sun-Times noted back in 2008 when it vetted Whitaker ahead of a possible appointment in the administration, Whitaker's name was thrown around during Chicago's Tony Rezko scandal.
Rezko, you may remember, was the crooked, now-convicted political "fixer" who helped dirty Gov. Rob Blagojevich find people to run state agencies. The Sun-Times explained back then:
"Somebody who I do remember talking directly to Tony about was Dr. Eric Whitaker," Obama told the Sun-Times in March. "He and I played basketball together when he was getting his master's in public health at Harvard, while I was in law school there. He had expressed an interest in that job. I did contact Tony, or Tony contacted me, and I gave him a glowing recommendation because I thought he was outstanding.''
As state health chief, Whitaker spent millions on programs that used churches to educate minorities about AIDS, breast cancer and preparing for public health emergencies, a program hailed nationwide.
Whitaker's agency also got caught up in scandal. He oversaw the budget of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which approves medical construction projects. Rezko and his associates controlled that board, which they used to solicit kickbacks and payoffs, according to testimony at Rezko's trial.
Rezko was convicted. Whitaker, who said he wasn't involved in the board's day-to-day operations, was never accused of any wrongdoing.
And how about this for interesting: it's just been announced that the Urban Health Initiative (UHI) at the University of Chicago Medical Center has received a $5.9 million government grant. The Daily Caller gives a rundown of the president's "deep ties" to the center and the program, and they involved Whitaker:
- Eric Whitaker runs the UHI, has known the president since his days at Harvard Law and occasionally vacations with the Obamas.
- Michelle Obama launched the UHI while working as an executive at the University of Chicago Medical Center, which runs the program.
- Valerie Jarrett, the president’s senior adviser, was the chairman of the University of Chicago Medical Center board of trustees until she resigned her post to join the White House.
- David Axelrod, now-communications director for the Obama campaign, provided public relations services to the UHI after Michelle Obama recommended that he be hired in 2006.
The Department of Health and Human Services maintains the grant -- which was part of Obama's "We Can't Wait" initiative -- was warranted.
But considering all this -- and the history of Chicago-style politics -- is it really that hard to believe that Whitaker would try to help Obama out by paying off a fiery pastor?