FOX hosts continue to distort Howard Dean's statements

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

On August 2 -- a week after Hannity & Colmes co-host Sean Hannity admitted, during The Al Franken Show, to misquoting a past statement by former Vermont governor Howard Dean -- Hannity gradually distorted another statement by Dean. Appearing on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer on August 1, Dean said of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's decision to raise the terror alert level from yellow (elevated) to orange (high): "It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it."

Hannity began the August 2 edition of his FOX News Channel program by accurately reporting Dean's remarks in a discussion with White House Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend: "Howard Dean in an interview this weekend ... says, 'It's impossible to know how much of this,' meaning your announcement this weekend, by Tom Ridge and making the public aware of the elevated threat, 'is real, or how much of it is politics.' He says he suspects it's both." However, within minutes, Hannity distorted Dean's statement, asserting that Dean "suggested that this terror alert that came out and this announcement by Tom Ridge over the weekend may be about politics," without mentioning that Dean indicated his belief that there was a credible or "real" element to the alert as well. Before the episode of Hannity & Colmes was over, Hannity distorted Dean's comments even further: "Howard Dean is out there, suggesting this terror alert that came forward this weekend was 'the Republicans playing politics.'"

Similar distortions of Dean's remarks occurred on the August 2 editions of FOX News Channel's FOX & Friends and FOX & Friends First; all three FOX & Friends hosts participated in the distortions. On FOX & Friends, co-host E.D. Hill introduced Dean's comments by asking, "As we get the terror warnings, are they for real? Well, if you listen to Howard Dean, he says no. The terror alerts are coming out because the president is playing politics." Co-host Brian Kilmeade later made an identical assertion, saying, "Howard Dean comes out and accuses the president of playing politics with terror alerts." Earlier that morning, on FOX & Friends First, co-host Steve Doocy stated, "Howard Dean said that what's going on with this terror alert stuff, it's all politics." Kilmeade replied, "There's no breathalyzer for pundits [like Dean], is there?"

FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly also initially mischaracterized Dean's remarks on the August 2 edition of his radio show: "Howard Dean came out, and said, oh, the terror alert's a phony thing, like he knows anything. Like where did you get your intelligence, Howard, Ben & Jerry [the Vermont-based ice-cream purveyors]? Like Dean knows anything. What an irresponsible jerk."

However, unlike Hannity and the FOX & Friends crew, O'Reilly realized later in the program that he "may have been a little unfair" to Dean by not providing the full context of his comments. After reading Dean's full statement on the air, O'Reilly said, "All right, so it wasn't as cut and dried as I said and I -- I'm sorry. We want to be accurate here and we want to even be fair to the likes of Howard Dean, because if we're not fair, then we lose credibility, and we don't want to do that."

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