Cavuto defended suggestion that bin Laden was wearing Kerry campaign button in videotaped message

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

FOX News Channel host Neil Cavuto responded to the Kerry-Edwards '04 campaign's criticism following his October 29 remark that in Osama bin Laden's recently released videotaped message, he "thought [he] saw" a Kerry-Edwards button. On the November 2 edition of Your World w/ Neil Cavuto, Cavuto called the comment an "innocuous remark in an analysis segment, on an analysis show."

CAVUTO: Well, you know, this whole Osama thing has become a very contentious issue among the Kerry folks. One campaign official going so far as to say it will be a cold day in hell before a Kerry spokesman makes his or her way onto my show again. All over an innocuous remark in an analysis segment, on an analysis show, where we don't get super serious, and more often than not, aren't afraid to get a little humorous. Not so our humorless critics, who seem to have selective memory. Forgotten were comments in the very same exact segment about bin Laden's remarks, and how they could hurt the president, reminding voters that the mastermind behind 9-11 still has not been captured.

Forgotten as well, the many, many Democrats featured on this program to express their views. Ask [Kerry-Edwards '04 economic adviser] Roger Altman if he was ever treated unfairly on this show, or [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA], or [unseated Senate Minority Leader] Tom Daschle [D-SD], or [Rep.] Dick Gephardt [D-MO], or [former Democratic presidential candidate] Al Sharpton. ... No, no one remembers that stuff, or that one of the only full-length interviews [former President] Bill Clinton did with this network when he was president, he did with me. No one mentions, either, that I was an intern in the Carter administration. Last time I checked, a Democratic one.

So you take a bias, you assume a bias, and you run with it. Nowhere in the criticism of this remark did I hear a cry of foul over a Democratic operative, sometime back, comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler [referring to the false charge that MoveOn.org aired a commercial comparing Bush to Hitler]. And that guy was serious. Methinks someone's being selectively thin-skinned. Take it from someone who quite literally and figuratively is not. I've been through enough in my life to not pay attention to the absurdities of life, like threats from Democrats who now say they will boycott my show. I say, go ahead, boycott me. Fair and balanced, I'll continue to invite you, and I'll let my viewers know when you decline, each and every time you do.

Here is what Cavuto said during an October 29 discussion about the bin Laden tape with Hannity & Colmes co-host Alan Colmes and Republican strategist David Johnson:

COLMES: I don't think it's good for President Bush that this -- there he [bin Laden] is, once again, and we don't have him, after he [President George W. Bush] said "dead or alive." I don't think this helps the president.

CAVUTO: David Johnson, we are getting more translations, that bin Laden has said that September 11 would have been less severe if the president had been more alert. What do you make of that?

JOHNSON: Well, I mean, this almost looks like an endorsement by Osama bin Laden of John Kerry. It's the last thing that the Democrats really need, because you have Osama bin Laden basically making John Kerry's argument for him. I think it's really too early to say what impact the tape is going to have. We'll know in the next 24 to 48 hours, but my first reaction is that it helps President Bush because on the war on terrorism, the American people feel more comfortable with him, in states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan that are very close, I think it might give the president the extra edge.

CAVUTO: In our own FOX News/Dynamics poll, we had terrorism as the No. 1 issue, Alan, for the folks back at home. But you raise a good point, Alan, where people might look at this and say, hey, this knucklehead's still out there. He's still a threat, but -- but, if he's doing this to get the American people against Bush, that could kind of be the wrong message, right?

COLMES: I don't think the terrorists think -- I don't think he's narrowing escape with a Kerry-Edwards sticker in the cave. I don't think that's what's happening.

CAVUTO: But he's all but doing that, isn't he? I thought I saw a button.

COLMES: I think he's coming out for [former presidential candidate Ralph] Nader on the tape, actually, quite frankly. Look, these are guys that like to think they can affect the elections. We saw what happened in Spain. Regardless of who the incumbent is, Republican or Democrat, they like to think he could have an effect. Not because it's Kerry or because it's Bush. Because they want to feel they can affect the way an election goes.

CAVUTO: What do you make of the flip-side of the argument, that he, Osama bin Laden, his cohorts might want the president to still be president, because that channels and focuses all of the Muslim hatred out there?

COLMES: I don't think, honestly, they care. They would like to affect change. I don't think it's a matter of we like Bush because, you know what, because he has been easy on the terrorists, or we want to change because Kerry is not going to be easy. Each party will play it that way.

Bush is going to say, he's a Kerry supporter, you vote with Kerry, you vote with the terrorists. That's the way the Republicans will spin this. That's outrageous to me.

CAVUTO: You are saying that the Democrats are not going to spin this?

COLMES: They may, but perhaps more honestly spinning it.

CAVUTO: OK. David, what do you make of the fact that people can hear this tape and glean from it what they will, but that the ultimate message is that Osama bin Laden is still alive, he's still out there, he's still a threat. What do you make of that?

JOHNSON: It helps the Kerry argument that we haven't caught him. But it helps the president that we are in a global war against international terrorism. Just as it took FDR [former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt] about four years to win over Adolf Hitler. It's going to take a long while, and there's going to be setbacks in the way until we achieve victory over Osama bin Laden. I think the majority of the American people realize, no matter who the American president is, this is not going to be an overnight solution. Osama bin Laden is someone that we need to catch, and it's going to be a long-term proposition.

CAVUTO: You're arguing what Alan is, they hate all of us, it doesn't matter if we are Democrats, Republicans, purple, white, blue, they hate us all?

JOHNSON: They do. They hate every single one of us.

CAVUTO: So this is not a Kerry endorsement tape?

JOHNSON: I'm sorry?

CAVUTO: This is not a Kerry endorsement tape?

JOHNSON: Not unless he pops up with the Kerry-Edwards sticker. Then we could say it's an endorsement.

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2004 Elections
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