Ronald Reagan’s home will not be leveled for Obama library

February 4, 2013
A photo of the building in question, via Google Maps.
A photo of the building in question, via Google Maps.

If you saw Fox Nation, Mediaite or the Washington Times recently, you may be under the impression that Ronald Reagan’s childhood home is being paved for Obama’s parking lot.

But not exactly. The original report, published on an unedited, community-generated section of WashingtonTimes.com, alleged that the University of Chicago was demolishing and paving over Reagan’s boyhood home. The report further claimed that the parking lot could one day serve Obama’s presidential library.

If anyone had bothered Googling the rumors or the report’s author, they would have found plenty of room for doubt. For starters, the apartment in question was not “Reagan’s childhood Chicago home,” as the Daily Mail phrases it, but a house he lived in for about a year between the ages of three and four, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

And while the University of Chicago does plan to bulldoze the building, the university will use the space to expand its medical and biological research campus. The school bought the building in 2004, long before Barack Obama became a household name, and has planned to expand since 2010, two years before Obama expressed interest in a library.

"832 E. 57th St. is one of a number of vacant buildings the University owns that will be taken down to allow for expansion of the medical and biological research campus," Jeremy Manier, the news director at the University of Chicago, told Mother Jones. "The University's permit request currently is under review by the city. Recent media reports that have speculated on other potential uses of the property are inaccurate."

Furthermore, there’s no indication that Obama’s presidential library will be in the same timezone as the doomed building, let alone on the same block. The University of Chicago and the University of Hawaii are battling for that honor. And if Chicago wins, NBC reports the library could go in the vacant Michael Reese Hospital, a location neighbors have lobbied for. That’s four miles from the Reagan home.

Nevertheless, William Kelly -- the author of the Washington Times piece -- stands by his statements "100%," he wrote in a statement.

"For the White House and the University of Chicago to attack the piece means that I have truly struck a nerve," the statement said. "For weeks, I have had people opposed to the demolition of the Reagan home call me ... I am representing their view and concern, not the Obama Administration's concern, and not the PR spin of the University of Chicago."

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Kelly has found himself in the middle of a media controversy. A conservative provocateur, activist and blogger, Kelly sparked a minor scandal in 2010 when he pushed his way into a TV interview with Rahm Emanuel, earning articles on Breitbart and the Huffington Post. He later pressed assault charges against Jay Levine, the CBS reporter who told Kelly he would “deck him” if he didn’t let Emanuel finish an answer, according to the Sun-Times.

In July of this year, Kelly vowed to press similar charges against Emanuel’s aides when they wouldn’t let him question the mayor at a public event. His Washington Times post on those allegations, like his more recent piece, ran on a section of WashingtonTimes.com that the paper does not edit or endorse, according to a posted disclaimer on the site.

While Emanuel has stayed mum on Kelly’s past charges, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did respond to the parking lot story in a sarcastic tweet.

Update: This post originally said Reagan lived in the Chicago home for a few months. It's been clarified to reflect he lived there for about a year.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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