Echoing the assertion that Sen. John McCain simply "misspoke" when he falsely claimed during a March 18 press conference that Iran is training Al Qaeda, Fox News' Shepard Smith said, "I mean, as much as these people talk, and ad-lib and live speeches and all the rest, slip-ups like that can happen." In fact, McCain had previously made the same misstatement to radio host Hugh Hewitt and did so more than once during the press conference.
While discussing Sen. John McCain's false claim during a May 18 press conference in Amman, Jordan, that Iranian operatives are "taking Al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back," on the March 19 edition of Fox News' Studio B, host Shepard Smith asserted that McCain "did have one sort of blunder ... when he confused insurgents and Al Qaeda," Smith later said: "I mean, as much as these people talk, and ad-lib and live speeches and all the rest, slip-ups like that can happen, but I guess the Democrats are making some hay of it today." Smith's characterization of McCain's comments as a "slip-up" echoes the McCain campaign's assertion that he simply "misspoke" when he said Iran is training Al Qaeda. In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented, McCain previously made the same misstatement to nationally syndicated radio host Hugh Hewitt during a March 17 interview and did so more than once during the March 18 press conference.
From the March 19 edition of Fox News' Studio B with Shepard Smith:
SMITH: Five years ago today, American soldiers invaded Iraq -- soldiers, and Marines, and the rest. And today, the war dominating much of the talk on the campaign trail.
McCAIN [video clip]: I don't think there's any doubt that if we withdraw the way they want to, that it will be a huge setback, not only for democracy and freedom in Iraq, but in the entire region.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA [video clip]: The war in Iraq has done more to embolden America's enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades.
SMITH: And Senator [Hillary] Clinton said again today at a stop in Detroit that she would withdraw some troops within the first three months of taking office.
With us now, Amanda Carpenter for Townhall.com, a conservative political website, and Marissa Shorenstein, who is a Democratic strategist. Amanda, how is this issue playing for Republicans today?
CARPENTER: Well, right now, I think it's good. You know, as we know, McCain is abroad right now, meeting with foreign leaders, checking out the situation on the ground, and then he's going to come back and I expect he's going to have, you know, a couple of big press conferences talking about what he's learned.
Meanwhile, on our home turf, we have Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton talking about what they will do, never having set foot, you know, in a foreign land. I mean, Barack Obama's only been to Iraq once. Hillary Clinton's only been there three times. I mean, John McCain, he's taking time off the trail to make his seventh visit there. I think that's important.
SMITH: Amanda, he did have one bit of a blunder there.
SMITH: I'm sure you watched that, right? John McCain, when he confused insurgents and Al Qaeda?
CARPENTER. Oh, yeah. But his friend --
SMITH: I wonder how that's playing over in the Democratic --
CARPENTER: I will say, it was interesting to see that his friend [Sen.] Joe Lieberman [I-CT] was willing to help him correct that -- make that mistake. I don't know that there's a lot of Republicans that would have helped Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton with a foreign policy gaffe like that.
SMITH: And, you know, Marissa, that's the kind of thing -- I mean, as much as these people talk, and ad-lib and live speeches and all the rest, slip-ups like that can happen, but I guess the Democrats are making some hay of it today.
SHORENSTEIN: Yeah, I think it's a mistake to make too much hay of that, considering that all candidates slip up from time to time. So if I were them, I'd watch their step, because once they say something like that, then he'll just come right back at them.