When talk radio destroys bipartisan outreach

WHEN TALK RADIO DESTROYS BIPARTISAN OUTREACH…. I’m reluctant to make too much fun of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), despite my opposition to her politics, because this could happen to anyone. That said, it is pretty embarrassing, in an amusing kind of way.

On Wednesday, the Republican congresswoman got a call from President-elect Barack Obama, didn’t believe it was him, and hung up on him. Twice.

According to Ros-Lehtinen’s flack Alex Cruz, the congresswoman received the call on her cell phone from a Chicago-based number and an aide informed her that Obama wanted to speak to her. When Obama introduced himself, Ros-Lehtinen cut him off and said, “I’m sorry but I think this is a joke from one of the South Florida radio stations known for these pranks.” Then she hung up.

Moments later, Obama tried again, this time through his soon-to-be chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

“Ileana, I cannot believe you hung up on the President-Elect,” Emanuel said. And then — yes, you know what’s coming — she hung up on Emanuel saying she “didn’t believe the call was legitimate.”

Soon after, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, called Ros-Lehtinen, and explained that this wasn’t a prank. When Obama called for a third time, the two actually spoke. (Obama said, “It is very funny that you have twice hung up on me,” before noting similar radio pranksters in Chicago.)

Late yesterday, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen issued a statement on the amusing incident, touting Obama’s graciousness. She spelled the president-elect’s name wrong, and then also misspelled Rahm Emanuel’s name, twice.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.