Fox's Neil Cavuto attacked President Obama for "congratulating" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on winning the recent presidential election. But the White House did not congratulate Chavez at all; rather they congratulated the Venezuelan people for a high participation and a "peaceful election process," a response nearly identical to the one issued by President Bush in 2006.
During the October 9 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto reacted to a statement by White House press secretary Jay Carney on the Venezuelan election by asking if the White House gave "its blessings to a dictator critics say is muscling into his job for life?" When asked for commentary on the White House's response, Fox News contributor John Bolton suggested it "was a big mistake" and "very sad commentary." Bolton went on to attack Obama, claiming "it may have been Chicago-style politics that attracted the approval" of the White House:
However, the White House statement never congratulated Hugo Chavez on his victory. In a press gaggle en route to Bakersfield, California, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters pointed out "differences with President Chavez" but congratulated Venezuela on "a high level of participation" and a "relatively peaceful election process":
Q Speaking of foreign policy, can you react to the election results in Venezuela?
MR. CARNEY: The Venezuelan National Elections Commission has declared that President Hugo Chavez won reelection, I believe roughly 54 to 45 percent, with 90 percent reporting. We congratulate the Venezuelan people on the high level of participation, as well as on what was a relatively peaceful election process. I would note the challenger has conceded the race.
Q Do you have anything else to say about Chavez?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have our differences with President Chavez, but we congratulate the Venezuelan people on a process that included high levels of participation.
Carney's comments closely resemble those of the George W. Bush administration following Chavez' reelection in 2006. Former press secretary Tony Snow told reporters "we congratulate the Venezuelan people for having a successful democratic election" and "they have a right to participate in free and fair elections without fear of intimidation, and without real intimidation":
Q Venezuela. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has been reelected for six more years. Will the President try to improve relations with Chavez?
MR. SNOW: Well, the one thing we do is we congratulate the Venezuelan people for having a successful democratic election. And they've made their decision. They're responsible for picking their leaders, and they have a right to participate in free and fair elections without fear of intimidation, and without real intimidation.
We remain committed to the Venezuelan people. We support their desire for a democratic future. We commend Manuel Rosales for the dignity he showed in the wake of the election. And we continue to seek a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government on areas of mutual interest.