During coverage following Senator John Kerry's speech at the Democratic National Convention on July 29, CNN political analyst Tucker Carlson attempted to downplay Republican attacks leveled against former Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) -- who had introduced Kerry that night -- during Cleland's 2002 U.S. Senate race. On CNN's Larry King Live, in conversation with MTV News correspondent Gideon Yago, Carlson claimed, "[N]obody called him [Cleland] unpatriotic." Yet Cleland's opponent in the '02 race ran an attack ad featuring photos of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
From the July 30 edition of CNN's Larry King Live:
YAGO: They brought out Max Cleland to introduce John Kerry, and here was a guy who had an entire campaign against him predicated on the fact that he was unpatriotic and un-American.
CARLSON: No, that's not true, I covered that, and they criticized his vote -- some people thought it went over the line, others didn't, but nobody called him unpatriotic.
While the campaign of Cleland's opponent, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), never used the word "unpatriotic," as The New Republic's "Notebook" reported on December 2, 2002, "attacks on Cleland's patriotism formed the subtext of virtually the entire Chambliss campaign, as noted by innumerable press accounts leading up to and following the election." A July 3, 2003, Washington Post article described the controversial Chambliss ad that attacked Cleland, a Vietnam veteran who lost three limbs during the war:
It opened with pictures of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. "As America faces terrorists and extremist dictators," said a narrator, "Max Cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead. He says he supports President Bush at every opportunity, but that's not the truth. Since July, Max Cleland voted against President Bush's vital homeland security efforts 11 times!"
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, the Chambliss ad was immediately condemned, as the Post reported, by Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona (who said of the ad, "[I]t's worse than disgraceful, it's reprehensible") and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska (who threatened to run an ad denouncing Republican officials if they didn't pull it off the air).