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Fox News Lie: Kerry didn't call US troops terrorists
Media Matters
December 12, 2005

Summary: Fox News hosts failed to challenge Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) and Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman's false claims that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) called American troops "terrorists" on the December 4 broadcast of CBS News' Face the Nation.

In recent days, Fox News hosts have failed to challenge prominent Republicans who have distorted comments made by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) on the December 4 broadcast of CBS' Face the Nation. On that show, Kerry said: "[T]here is no reason ... that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the -- of -- the historical customs, religious customs."

Echoing numerous conservative commentators, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) misrepresented what Kerry said, telling Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace on December 11 that Kerry is "basically saying that our troops are acting as terrorists as they go into Iraq." Similarly, on the December 9 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Ken Mehlman stated: "I think it's wrong to call our troops terrorists, which is what Senator Kerry said last week. He compared them to terrorists on Face the Nation." Mehlman later repeated the distortion, claiming that "the previous nominee from the last election made a comment comparing our troops to terrorists." Neither Wallace nor Cavuto made any attempt to correct their guests' distortions.

Frist and Mehlman made their comments during discussions of an RNC Internet ad suggesting that Democrats advocate "retreat and defeat" in Iraq. The ad includes video and audio comments made by Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Kerry. The ad contains Kerry's actual words, but Wallace and Cavuto both played a clip only from the portion of the ad containing Dean and Boxer's comments, leaving their guests free to distort Kerry's words.

Though Cavuto did not challenge Mehlman's distortion of Kerry's comments, he did ask Mehlman: "Some of the people featured [in the RNC ad] say you're taking their comments out of context. Are you?" Mehlman responded, "I don't think we are at all."

As Media Matters for America documented, Kerry's statement -- which is supported by reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United States Institute for Peace, as well as news accounts -- has been distorted by right-wing bloggers and conservatives in the media, including nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh. On the December 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Mehlman twice claimed Kerry "compared American troops to terrorists."

In his Your World appearance, Mehlman also distorted comments made by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) on the November 27 broadcast of ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos. According to Mehlman, Feingold "said, 'It's not really a war,' in last week's appearance on ABC News." In fact, Feingold said on ABC's This Week:

FEINGOLD: You know, this is not a war that we should really think in terms of winning or losing. What we tried to do there was go in and make sure that the Iraqi people could get rid of Saddam Hussein. Now it is a political matter, and the military mission in my view needs to come to an end. We should have a public timetable to show the Iraqi people, the American people and the world that we're not trying to have a permanent occupation of Iraq. So we should look at this as a political issue in Iraq, not as something that the American military is going to handle.

Once again, Cavuto made no attempt to challenge Mehlman's distortion.

Following Mehlman's appearance on Your World, Fox News political analyst and News Corp. (Fox News' parent company) lobbyist Angela McGlowan also distorted Kerry's Face the Nation comments. McGlowan said on Your World that Kerry "compared our military to terrorists ... saying that they're terrorizing children and women in the dark of night."

From the December 11 edition of Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: The Republican National Committee put an ad on the Internet this week that accuses Democrats of having a retreat and defeat policy on Iraq and features the white flag of surrender. Let's take a brief look at it:

DEAN: The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that, unfortunately, is just plain wrong.

BOXER: So there's no specific time frame, but I would say the withdrawal ought to start now, right after the elections --

WALLACE: The DNC fired back that Republicans are more interested in attacking Democrats than they are terrorists. Are some of these attacks by Republicans over the line?

FRIST: Chris, I think what is over the line right now is either side -- and I'll have to look at Howard Dean's comments this week, but either side basically using partisan political purposes at a time that our troops are in war, and that really does become shameful, I think, and irresponsible, and I think potentially dangerous to our homeland security here, security around the world. I think the fact that for the first time at least in my memory that we have a leader of a party, the Democratic Party, coming out and saying, at a time we're at war, with our troops -- as that ad said, with our troops watching, with terrorists watching, that we cannot win, that we will be defeated, that we cannot be victorious, is absolutely irresponsible and dangerous to the security of this country.

WALLACE: Now, later in the week he said we can win, we have to win. Does that make any difference?

FRIST: Well, I don't know. And I think the good thing about the ad that you just showed -- it's using the actual words, the words of the Democratic nominee, who are basically saying that our troops are acting as terrorists as they go into Iraq.

WALLACE: This is John Kerry in the ad.

FRIST: This is John Kerry in that ad. And the good thing about the ad -- it uses the Democrats' words. And when you say this defeat and retreat thing, which is real, cut and run, and when you say that we can't win, and yes, you can try to cover up for it, and when you say our troops are terrorists, it is dangerous. It is wrong. We are at war. And we're talking about the safety and security of you, your children, all of your listeners today. We've got to win this war. We will win this war. There is no question in my mind.

From the December 9 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:

CAVUTO: The Republican National Committee taking the war over the war in Iraq to a new level. (vidio)

DEAN: The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that, unfortunately, is just plain wrong.

BOXER: So there's no specific time frame, but I would say the withdrawal ought to start now, right after the elections December 15.

CAVUTO: Well, strong stuff, but some are warning that it simply goes too far and could backfire. With us now, the man behind that ad, the head of the RNC, Ken Mehlman. Ken, does it go too --

MEHLMAN: How are you?

CAVUTO: Good to have you, Ken. Does it go too far?

MEHLMAN: Well, I certainly think the rhetoric in the ad does go too far. I think that dissent and discussion is a very good and important thing, but it's very hard to remember a time when leader of one of America's too great parties predicted that our troops would lose in a war. I think it's wrong to call our troops terrorists, which is what Senator Kerry said last week. He compared them to terrorists on Face the Nation. I think those are mistakes. I think that we clearly need to work together to have a strategy to win the war, but to adopt a retreat and defeat approach and to make these comments about our troops while they're in harm's way I think is wrong.

CAVUTO: Some of the people featured say you're taking their comments out of context. Are you?

MEHLMAN: I don't think we are at all.

[...]

CAVUTO: Ken, you're a smart guy. How much of this --

MEHLMAN: Thank you.

CAVUTO: -- was based on the idea that you had a good response when you sort of culled together a lot of the Democrats' early support of the war, including that of Bill Clinton on weapons of mass destruction. You put all that together. Now some of the people featured in that, including Bill Clinton who was pretty ticked off, didn't like it. But I think maybe you must have seen something in internal tracking polls that you seized on to make you do this again.

MEHLMAN: Well, I'm not sure that it was internal tracking polls. I think what happened is this past week was a fairly extraordinary week. I can't think of a week ever in American politics when the leader of one of America's two parties said that we were likely to lose a war; when the previous nominee from the last election made a comment comparing our troops to terrorists; and when a leading United States senator endorsed retreat and defeat as a strategy. Also, we didn't include some other things in there: Look at Sen. Feingold's comments where he said, "It's not really a war," in last week's appearance on ABC News.

CAVUTO: But Ken, do you think that --

MEHLMAN: Look at the comments by [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] --

CAVUTO: I know, there are plenty others --

MEHLMAN: So all this kind of happened in --

CAVUTO: Do you think, though, that you are doing just what you blasted the Democrats for doing: yammering on too much about this?

MEHLMAN: I don't think we are at all. I think what we thought was it was a fairly extraordinary week with some fairly extraordinary charges made, and we thought it would be useful to remind politicians on both sides that, in fact, our troops are watching, that the enemy is watching, that the Iraqi people are watching and, therefore, it's worth reminding ourselves and reminding everyone of people's words during this important debate.

CAVUTO: Ken Mehlman, thank you.

MEHLMAN: Thanks a lot. Thanks.

[...]

CAVUTO: Are you un-American if you criticize Congressman [John P.] Murtha [D-PA], decorated war hero --

JULIE ROGINSKY (Democratic strategist): Not at all.

CAVUTO: -- by criticizing getting out?

ROGINSKY: Go ahead and criticize him all you want, but the problem here is the Republicans are politicizing a war. The American people are well -- excuse me, Angela -- the Republican people -- the American people are well ahead of the Republican Party --

McGLOWAN: Julie, excuse me, may I please remind you what John Kerry did? He compared our military to terrorists --

ROGINSKY: Go ahead and swift -- go ahead and swift-boat -- there we go --

McGLOWAN: -- saying that they're terrorizing children and women in the dark of night. I let you speak, Julie, now let me speak --

ROGINSKY: We're swift-boating John Kerry again.

Commentary:
The Iraqi's want us to leave, US polls say Americans want us to leave. And the best Fox can do (after helping Bush lie to us about WMD) is attack anyone who dares to expose the insanity of fighting a war for no reason.

By Bush's own admission the majority of insurgents are Iraqis who hate the US. The country is already in a civil war. Bush's war is the problem, not terrorism. Bush is responsible for the people they kill. Cover your eyes if you must, but history will see this truth.

Btw, most intelligent people expect nothing but nonsense from Fox, but when a US Senator l(Frist) ies to the American people, that's serious business.