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Washington Times White House correspondent Bill Sammon revived a baseless claim that a videotaped message released by Osama bin Laden days before the 2004 presidential election featured the Al Qaeda leader "urging people, essentially, to vote for Kerry." But bin Laden neither literally nor "essentially" urged U.S. citizens to vote for any candidate. To the contrary, he suggested that the possibility of future attacks did not depend on which candidate won the 2004 election.
The video first aired on Arabic TV station Aljazeera on October 29, 2004. Bin Laden, speaking in Arabic, began the address: "Oh American people, my talk to you is about the best way to avoid another Manhattan; about the war, its causes and results." Over the course of the 18-minute speech, bin Laden did not advocate the election of either President Bush or Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). While he strongly criticized the Bush administration, he also stated, "Your security does not lie in the hands of Kerry, Bush, or Al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Each and every state that does not tamper with our security will have automatically assured its own security."
In the wake of the video's release, numerous media figures -- primarily on Fox News -- claimed, while offering no evidence, that bin Laden was trying to help Kerry win. The claim echoed the oft-repeated Republican assertion that terrorists preferred a Kerry victory.
Little evidence exists to support such an argument, and a March 17, 2004, Reuters article suggested precisely the opposite: In a statement claiming responsibility for the Madrid bombings that killed nearly 200 people in March, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades -- a terrorist organization claiming ties to Al Qaeda -- said it wanted to see Bush re-elected in November. Also, on September 21, 2004, British newspaper The Guardian reported that the British ambassador to Italy, Sir Ivor Roberts, called Bush "the best recruiting sergeant ever for al-Qaida" and said that "[i]f anyone is ready to celebrate the eventual re-election of Bush, it's al-Qaida."
From the August 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: We now have [Al Qaeda lieutenant Ayman al-] Zawahiri out on this tape. Add this up and assess the political impact, in terms of how people in this country and perhaps Britain, as well, respond to this. Does this make it harder for the president to sustain this war in Iraq, or easier?
SAMMON: I think it makes it easier. I think it plays into Bush's hands. You saw he immediately takes the tape, goes before the microphones and the cameras and says, essentially, "This proves that we have to remain tough on the war on terror."
It reminds me of the weekend before the election in November, when a similar tape like this came out --
HUME: Bin Laden, right?
SAMMON: Yeah, bin Laden urging people, essentially, to vote for Kerry. And that backfired, too. So I mean, in case anybody thinks that, you know, we're going to forget about the war on terrorism, these tapes helpfully remind us of why we have to be so tough on these people.