FOX News Channel senior White House correspondent Jim Angle repeated a misquote -- originally published in The Washington Times -- of statements that Senator John Kerry made during a 1997 appearance on CNN's Crossfire. At 4:09 p.m. (ET) on September 24, Media Matters for America first documented Washington Times columnist John McCaslin's misquote. Angle, filling in for Brit Hume as host of Special Report, repeated the false quotation just over two hours after MMFA posted the item to this website.
From the September 24 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: John Kerry continues to slam President Bush for invading Iraq preemptively without sufficient support from world allies. But New York Republican Congressman Peter King says Kerry took a different position on CNN's Crossfire in 1997. King says Kerry appeared with him on the show just after France and Russia watered down a U.N. resolution on Iraq. And that Kerry said, quote, "We know we can't count on the French. We know we can't count on the Russians. We know that Iraq is a danger to the United States, and we reserve the right to take preemptive action whenever we feel it's in our national interest."
Also on September 24, MMFA emailed a letter to Washington Times editor in chief Wesley Pruden requesting a correction. The newspaper published a correction in its September 25 edition (a correction appeared online at washingtontimes.com late in the evening on September 24).
In addition to misquoting Kerry, as MMFA pointed out, McCaslin's original Washington Times column falsely claimed that "no Crossfire transcripts from 1997 are available," even though those transcripts are available on the widely used Nexis research database.
According to the correction, the source of the false quotation was a press release from Representative Peter T. King (R-NY). In the correction, The Washington Times -- still not quoting the 1997 transcript, despite its ready availability -- simply reported what King said the transcript revealed. "The congressman said the transcript of the CNN program quotes Mr. Kerry as saying in reference to France and Russia: 'There's absolutely no statement that they have made or that they will make that will prevent the United States of America and this president [Bill Clinton] or any president from acting in what they believe are the best interests of our country.'" The Times' correction explained neither how King had found the transcript, which 24 hours earlier McCaslin had claimed was unavailable, nor why The Washington Times would trust the same source who had provided the phony quotation to provide an accurate correction. The Times concluded the correction with another attack by King on Kerry, this one based on the accurate quotation:
In a telephone interview over the weekend, Mr. King says this is not another case of Mr. Kerry simply changing his position.
"The fact is, he was strongly for the war, for searching for chemical and biological weapons, working against terrorists, and, basically, he's now denying he ever said that," Mr. King says. "This is not the basic flip-flop you hear from politicians. This is not John Kerry being careless in his views.
"He's going right to the guts of his position -- it's like Dr. Martin Luther King suddenly becoming a segregationist," Mr. King says. "He is not just changing his position, he is rewriting history on that position."