Conservative media figures have been quick to adopt the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign's distortion of Senator John Kerry's remark, from an October 10 New York Times Magazine interview, that "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance."
When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. ''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''
Yet on October 10, the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign announced the release of an advertisement that took Kerry's comment entirely out of context. The ad suggested that Kerry referred to the current terrorist threat in the United States as "a nuisance." From the ad: "Terrorism ... a nuisance? How can Kerry protect us when he doesn't understand the threat?"
Several media conservatives have repeated the distortion:
PAT BUCHANAN (MSNBC analyst, as guest host of MSNBC's Scarborough Country): Kerry seems to have this -- obviously they try to portray him as a girlie man at the Republican Convention. But he seems to play into this with the phrase about sensitive war, and global test, and now terrorism is a nuisance. [MSNBC, Scarborough Country, 10/11]
SEAN HANNITY (FOX News Channel host and ABC Radio Networks host): He [Kerry] is saying, these are his words, this is his little debate he's had with himself, and the fact that 3,000 of our fellow citizens were slaughtered on 9-11 -- and here we are -- we're supposed to believe that these terrorists are only a mere nuisance -- just a nuisance. [ABC Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 10/11]
HANNITY: You know that nuisance that John Kerry was talking about? We're going to win the war on terror so that American cities and American malls and the American people are going to be safe. That's what the war has always been about. [FOX News Channel, Hannity & Colmes, 10/11]
TONY SNOW (FOX News Channel host and FOX News Radio host, as guest host of FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor): But first, our top story tonight, the political heat is on as we count down to November 2. President Bush and Senator Kerry are back on the campaign trail, pounding away at each other, verbally, of course. This morning, the president pounced on a quote in Sunday's New York Times Magazine where Senator Kerry called terrorists a nuisance. [FOX News Channel, The O'Reilly Factor, 10/11]
GARY BAUER (chairman of the conservative political action committee Campaign for Working Families and a former Republican presidential candidate, sitting in for CNN Crossfire co-host Tucker Carlson): Listen up, Senator Kerry. We're fighting Jihadists, Islamofascists, not just a nuisance or law enforcement problem. [CNN, Crossfire, 10/12]
JACK KEMP (former Republican vice presidential candidate): What John Kerry did is take it and call it a soon-to-be nuisance, which is not correct. [FOX News Channel, Hannity & Colmes, 10/12]