Blitzer's not-so-full disclosure on guest's ties to Robertson

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN & DUNCAN BLACK

During a discussion of Pat Robertson's recent call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer disclosed the fact that guest James Carville had worked for Chavez's opponents in 1994. But Blitzer failed to devote the same degree of scrutiny to the long-standing relationship of his other Situation Room guest, Greg Mueller, with Robertson and the Christian Coalition. While Blitzer mentioned that Mueller is "close to a lot of conservatives" and knows Robertson "quite well," Blitzer conceded that he did not know if Mueller "worked directly with him over the years." But a quick Nexis search would have revealed that the Christian Coalition, which Robertson founded, has been a client of Mueller's public-relations firm for more than a decade.

On the August 23 edition of the show, Blitzer introduced Carville as a "CNN political analyst" and Mueller as a "Republican strategist." Blitzer then pointed out -- for the purpose, he said, "of full disclosure" -- that Carville had worked for opponents of Chavez during the 2004* referendum campaign to remove Chavez from power. Later in the segment, Blitzer said to Mueller, "Greg, you're close to a lot of these Christian conservatives," and acknowledged, "I don't know if you worked directly with him [Robertson] over the years."

In fact, the Christian Coalition -- the conservative political organization Robertson founded in 1989 -- was a client of Creative Response Concepts (CRC), the public relations firm run by Mueller, from 1994 through at least 2004. Robertson left the coalition in December 2001. A Nexis search** revealed that the earliest mention of the Christian Coalition as a CRC client appeared in a July 17, 1994, Washington Post article. Other mentions of Mueller's ties with the group include:

  • An April 24, 1997, article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution described Mueller as a spokesman for Ralph Reed, former Christian Coalition director.
  • A June 1997 article in Church & State magazine described Mueller as a "Christian Coalition spokesman."
  • A June 11, 1999, Chicago Tribune article described Mueller as a Republican strategist "whose clients include the Christian Coalition" and quoted Mueller describing Robertson as a "great leader."
  • A December 11, 2004, Boston Globe article noted that the Christian Coalition is among CRC's clients.

During his appearance on The Situation Room, Mueller downplayed Robertson's remarks as "a little bit off-the-cuff, a little bit flippant, and a little bit silly."

From the August 24 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: In our "Strategy Session" today, Pat Robertson's controversial proposal to assassinate the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Joining us here in The Situation Room to talk about that: Democratic strategist and CNN political analyst James Carville, Republican strategist Greg Mueller. Gentlemen, thanks very much. A full disclosure up front, James: You worked politically, with his -- against Hugo Chavez. You supported his opposition.

CARVILLE: That's correct. It was leading up to the referendum that they had.

BLITZER: Was he democratically elected? Was that a free and fair election in Venezuela, based on everything that you know?

CARVILLE: You know what? The Carter Center said it was. I tend to agree with that Wall Street Journal editorial page, which I seldom do, that there was a lot of odd things. But you know, he's there and he's right now probably the most popular politician in Latin America, unfortunately.

BLITZER: And presumably what Pat Robertson said is going to make him even more popular.

CARVILLE: See, the idea -- let me tell you this. There's real agony in every South -- Latin American embassy right now -- the United States. What Pat Robertson said -- I mean, of course, he is a King Croesus, an old fool -- but it's really going to cause the United States some grief, not just in Latin America but around the world, because people who wish America ill are going to take this, blow it up as an example, and it's going to do nothing but enhance Chavez's stature. That and a $65 barrel of oil will make you a pretty popular guy.

BLITZER: Greg, you're close to a lot of these Christian conservatives. Have you found anyone who supports, at least publicly, a person of stature, what Pat Robertson has said?

MUELLER: Well, no. I think Pat Robertson made the comment as a political commentator, commenting on what Chavez, who has had a lot of ill words -- as James has said, a lot of ill words for the United States. We've got to remember, he's a friend of Fidel Castro. He's a committed communist. He's also harboring potential terrorists, at least reaching out and inviting them into his country. He's a very dangerous man. But Wolf, I think this gets to the broader strategic discussion over what lines of attack. Nobody is going to subscribe -- Democrat or Republican are not going to subscribe to that.

BLITZER: When you woke up -- and I don't know if you knew about it last night, but when you woke up this morning, presumably and heard what Pat Robertson said, what was your reaction?

MUELLER: Well, my reaction was that was a little bit off-the-cuff, a little bit flippant, and a little bit silly.

[...]

BLITZER: He's 75 years old, Pat Robertson. He's been around a long time. All of us know him. We've all covered him over the years. You know him quite well. I don't know if you worked directly with him over the years. But is it your sense, when you hear what he's saying right now, that he still has influence in the Christian conservative community out there, or is he simply over the top?

MUELLER: Well, I think people in the Christian community run to their own beat. I don't think they take leadership from anybody that's directly given to them. I think they have their own views. The Christian Coalition now is a much different group than it was when Robertson and Reed ran it years ago. It's very much its own state groups and their own leaderships there. So I don't think that's relevant, kind of what he said. Again, I think it was done in -- it wasn't helpful, it wasn't good, but it does draw attention to this battle in the global war on terror which, I think, is getting more and more serious. And we're going to have two party lines drawn on that role. Where are we going to stand? Are we going to be the party to retreat and surrender -- the Jimmy Carter approach to terrorism? Or are we going to take the Ronald Reagan approach of engagement to terrorism?

*CORRECTION: The original version of this item stated that Carville worked for opponents of a 1994 referendum campaign to remove Chavez from power. In fact, the referendum was in August 2004. Media Matters regrets the error.

** The Nexis search of U.S. newspapers and wires included the search terms "Creative Response Concepts and Christian Coalition."

Correction: 

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Religion, Pat Robertson on Chavez, Religious Broadcasting, Media Ethics
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