FOX News Channel hosts Morton M. Kondracke (Roll Call executive editor); Fred Barnes (Weekly Standard executive editor); and Brit Hume (FOX News Channel managing editor and chief Washington correspondent) all agreed that President George W. Bush never claimed that Iraq posed an "imminent threat" while making his public case for war and that, in fact, "he said the opposite."
The truth is that while Bush never uttered the phrase "imminent threat," he and members of his administration conveyed essentially the same message using other language: Bush called Iraq an "urgent threat"; Vice President Dick Cheney called Iraq a "mortal threat"; and other senior White House officials agreed in response to press questions that Iraq posed an "imminent threat."
From the August 4 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
KONDRACKE: I think everybody would agree that the word "imminent" was the crucial word, over which the fight [over whether Bush misled the public into war] took place. And in the case of Iraq, clearly there was not an imminent threat, and Bush didn't say there was.
HUME: He said there wasn't.
BARNES: He said the opposite. Yes.
In a September 28, 2002, radio address, Bush said of Iraq, "We are united in our determination to confront this urgent threat to America."
In an October 7, 2002, speech in Cincinnati, Bush said, "America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
In an August 26, 2002, speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, Cheney said, "What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness."
In the daily White House press briefing on October 16, 2002, then-press secretary Ari Fleischer unequivocally agreed with a reporter who interpreted Bush's recent public statements as depicting an imminent threat:
QUESTION: Ari, the president has been saying that the threat from Iraq is imminent, that we have to act now to disarm the country of its weapons of mass destruction, and that it has to allow the U.N. inspectors in, unfettered, no conditions, so forth.
BLITZER: But the question is, he's a threat based on what the information you're suggesting, to his own people, to his neighbors.
But is he an imminent threat to U.S. interests, either in that part of the world or to Americans right here at home?
BARTLETT: Well, of course he is.