ABC Radio host Sean Hannity used his July 23 radio show to take on Media Matters for America President and CEO David Brock as well as his "liberal-media-attack-conservative website," and he continued to assert, falsely, that former President Bill Clinton refused a 1996 offer from Sudan to hand Osama bin Laden over to the United States -- a claim that the 9-11 Commission found "no reliable evidence to support."
HANNITY: David Brock used to be a conservative, now he's a liberal. I -- you know, how does one go from one political point of view to another political point of view? ... And now he claims to be the-the number-one liberal media watchdog man against conservatives in the media. Well, and -- the -- there's -- now there's this website of his. OK, so they are now today attacking me for exposing this very important story [of the supposed Sudan offer].
HANNITY: Look, if Brock has changed his philosophical point of view, that's fine. I - you know that's his business, he can say anything he wants on his website, he can call me a liar all they want, when in fact we have absolutely nailed this.
Hannity was responding to a July 23 Media Matters for America item, which reported that Hannity "thrice repeated the false claim that former President Bill Clinton refused a 1996 offer from the Sudan to handover Osama bin Laden to the United States," a claim originating in an August 11, 2002, article by the right-wing website NewsMax.com that distorted a 2002 Clinton speech. Hannity also repeated the claim on the June 21 and July 22 editions of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, as Media Matters for America has previously noted.
From the July 23 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show:
HANNITY: I distorted nothing here, and the person that agrees with me is Bill Clinton himself. And I wonder if they're gonna print the truth for you here on this little liberal web-website.
The 2002 NewsMax.com claim (credited to "Carl Limbacher and NewsMax.com staff") is summarized in the article's headline: "Clinton Admits: I Nixed Bin Laden Extradition Offer."
Not exactly. Here's what Clinton said before the Long Island Association on February 15, 2002:
He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991, then he went to Sudan. And we'd been hearing that the Sudanese wanted America to start dealing with them again. They released him. At the time, 1996, he had committed no crime against America so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him, though we knew he wanted to commit crimes against America. So I pleaded with the Saudis to take him, 'cause they could have. But they thought it was a hot potato and they didn't and that's how he wound up in Afghanistan.
At no point did Clinton say that Sudan offered bin Laden to the United States.
Hannity's assertion that "the person that agrees with me is Bill Clinton himself" is an apparent reference to a July 8 interview the former president gave to CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, in which he explained that there were discussions in 1996 within the Justice Department over whether the United States had enough evidence that bin Laden "committed an offense against the United States" to justify holding him. He acknowledged in the interview that by referring to these discussions in the 2002 speech, he wrongly implied that the United States was offered bin Laden.
While Clinton's statements during his interview with Amanpour represent a first instance of his "admitting" that the speech implied an offer (as Hannity noted), it does not provide additional evidence for that claim's validity (as Hannity asserted). In fact, Clinton immediately followed his comment by stating that the implication is not "factually accurate."
From a transcript of the July 8 CNN interview with Amanpour:
CLINTON: [W]hat I said there was wrong. What I said was in error. I went back now and did all this research for my book and I said that we were told we couldn't hold him, implying that we had a chance to get him and didn't. That's not factually accurate.
The bipartisan 9-11 Commission found "no reliable evidence to support" the claim that Sudan offered bin Laden to the United States and determined that, based on Clinton's testimony, in "wrongly recounting a number of press stories he had read," Clinton had "misspoken" in his 2002 speech.
Hannity dismissed Clinton's statements in the July 8 CNN interview; in his July 23 radio broadcast, Hannity called Clinton a "known liar." Yet it is on a single comment by this "known liar" that Hannity has entirely based his claim, repeatedly ignoring the findings of the 9-11 Commission.