Challenged by Franken, Hannity admitted he "misspoke"

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

ABC Radio and FOX News Channel host Sean Hannity admitted, in a July 27 interview with The Al Franken Show co-host Al Franken, that he had accused former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean of "saying that the president knew about 9-11 ahead of time" and said that he "misspoke" when he made the accusation. Confronted with audio from the May 11 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, during which Hannity repeated the accusation against Dean, Hannity said, "You're right. You're right. ... I'll concede your point."

As Media Matters for America previously noted, Salon.com senior writer Eric Boehlert reported on January 13 what Dean actually said as a guest on the December 1, 2003, edition of The Diane Rehm Show (a daily talk show on NPR member station WAMU in Washington, DC, with a weekly nationwide audience of 1.4 million): "When Rehm asked Dean in a Dec. 1 interview why he thought Bush wasn't more forthcoming with the commission investigating the terrorist attacks, Dean replied, 'The most interesting theory that I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis.'"

Challenged by Franken as to whether he had accused Dean of "saying that the president knew about 9-11 ahead of time," Hannity claimed on The Al Franken Show that "99 percent of the time," he qualifies the assertion by saying Dean "advanced the theory." Although Hannity has often said Dean "advanced the theory," MMFA discovered numerous other examples of Hannity on FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes more directly distorting Dean's statement:

  • HANNITY: Howard Dean suggesting the president knew about 9-11 (12/8/03)

  • HANNITY: Howard Dean ... suggesting that the president knew about 9-11 ahead of time (12/17/03)

  • HANNITY: Howard Dean ... suggesting the president knew ahead of time [about the September 11 terrorist attacks] is an absolute despicable disgrace (12/22/03)

  • HANNITY: Howard Dean is coming up with conspiracy theories, that the president knew about 9-11 (1/5/04)

  • HANNITY: Candidate Dean, the leader of the Democratic Party, suggesting the president knew about 9-11 (1/6/04)

  • HANNITY: this statement [by Dean] suggesting the president knew about 9-11 ahead of time (1/9/04)

  • HANNITY: He [Dean] did suggest the president knew about 9-11 ahead of time (2/16/04)

  • HANNITY: Howard Dean saying the president knew about 9-11 (4/13/04)

  • HANNITY: You've got Howard Dean accusing the president of knowing about 9-11 ahead of time (4/21/04)

Hannity has also made the accusation numerous times in which he attributed it to "Democrats," rather than to Dean himself:

  • HANNITY: The president knew about 9-11 ahead of time. ... [P]rominent Democrats, congressmen, former governors, presidential candidates, U.S. senators, they're the ones making these theories (12/26/03)

  • HANNITY: The president has been accused of having knowledge, prior knowledge of 9-11. ... When you hear all of these things, what are your thoughts on the Democrats? This is their leadership (1/26/04)

  • HANNITY: Democrats ... saying he knew about 9-11 ahead of time (2/26/04)

  • HANNITY: We've been hearing the AWOL charge without any substantiation from the Democrats. The president knew about 9-11 ahead of time, is assassinating civilians, concocted a war for political gain (3/1/04)

Although Hannity conceded that he "misspoke," he has not been so forgiving when others have committed the same error. As Media Matters for America has noted, when the 9-11 Commission report determined that, based on former President Bill Clinton's testimony, in "wrongly recounting a number of press stories he had read," Clinton had "misspoken" in a 2002 speech, Hannity dismissed Clinton's mea culpa, calling him a "known liar."

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