Addressing President George W. Bush's and Senator John Kerry's competing claims in the October 13 debate about Kerry's legislative accomplishments in the Senate, FOX News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron and FOX News managing editor and chief Washington correspondent Brit Hume misrepresented statements by Kerry's campaign to cast Kerry as a liar.
During the debate, Bush said of Kerry's Senate record: "He introduced some 300 bills and he's passed five." Kerry responded: "Once again, the president is misleading America. I've actually passed 56 individual bills that I've personally written." In fact, as The Washington Post explained, Kerry was "the lead sponsor of eight bills that became law" (the Post cited a July 2003 Associated Press examination for this figure), but "Kerry sponsored 56 bills and resolutions that passed the Senate, but did not necessarily become law" (the Post cited Kerry's website for this figure; a complete list of bills is here).
Hume specifically requested that Cameron investigate the dispute, departing from his practice in the first three debates, in which FOX News Channel declined to devote special segments to fact-checking the candidates' claims, as other news outlets have.
Cameron falsely claimed that "Kerry argues that that 56 was legislation that he wrote or cosponsored." In fact, the Kerry website states clearly that "[a]t least 56 bills and resolutions John Kerry has sponsored over the years have passed the U.S. Senate." Cosponsorships are not included in this figure, and the sponsor of a bill is considered its primary author. Hume seized on Cameron's error to suggest that Kerry had lied, and Cameron agreed.
From FOX News Channel's October 13 post-debate coverage:
CAMERON: And the Kerry camp does not dispute that, five that made it to a president's desk and were signed; whereas Senator Kerry argues that that 56 was legislation that he wrote or cosponsored or was involved in over the course of his career --
HUME: Well, he said "personally wrote."
CAMERON: -- but did not --
HUME: He said "personally wrote."
CAMERON: Well, that -- he co-sponsored. He did indeed. That's not entirely accurate. Some of them were bills that he cosponsored or worked with, and by putting his name on it -- in legislative parlance, being a cosponsor does not necessarily mean that one is a principal in the writing of the legislation, but one who has joined on it.