Obama or an Obama-Impersonator? Ros-Lehtinen Flubs the Call
By Anne E. Kornblut
Twice on Wednesday, President-elect Barack Obama tried to reach across the partisan divide with a phone call to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida.
And twice, according to her office, she hung up on him.
She "thought it was a hoax," an aide to the congresswoman said.
In a series of hang-up and follow-up calls that appears to have taken up much of the afternoon, Ros-Lehtinen first received a call on her cell phone, from a Chicago phone number, and was informed by the caller that Obama wished to speak with her. When a man sounding like Obama got on the line, Ros-Lehtinen cut him off, saying, "I'm sorry, but I think this is a joke from one of the South Florida radio stations known for these pranks." She then hung up, according to a statement issued by her office.
A little while later, Chief of Staff-designate Rahm Emanuel called the congresswoman back.
"Ileana, I cannot believe that you hung up on the president-elect," Emanuel said, according to the congresswoman's office.
"Ros-Lehtinen told Rahm that she didn't believe the call was legitimate and hung up on Emanuel," her statement said.
A third party then sought to intervene. Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and someone Ros-Lehtinen knows well, called and told her he "needed to speak with her urgently." She got on the line -- but demanded that Berman recount a story "only both of them would know," which the congressman did.
He then told her what had just happened -- "that she had, indeed, hung up on the president-elect," according to her office statement.
Finally, when Obama called a third time, she took the call.
"He told her 'It is very funny that you have twice hung up on me,' to which she responded that South Florida radio stations are notorious for these jokes," her statement said. "Obama told her that in Chicago they also have prank calls. Ileana told Obama that 'you are either very gracious to reach out in such a bipartisan manner or had run out of folks to call if you are truly calling me and Saturday Night Live could use a good Obama impersonator like you.'"
She went on to congratulate him for his victory, and urged him to work with allies on Cuba and Israel, two of her top issues.
If only Sarah Palin had been so careful.
Posted at 6:53 PM ET on Dec 3, 2008
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