Fox's Wilson cropped Bush's apparent confirmation of NSA call-tracking reports

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

Fox News' Brian Wilson cropped a quote from President Bush at a press conference, omitting a statement in which Bush appeared to confirm a USA Today report that the National Security Agency is collecting records of "tens of millions" of Americans' telephone calls. Without any further explanation, Wilson then reported that "a few minutes later," White House press secretary Tony Snow "insisted the president was not confirming details of the original USA Today report."

On the May 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, congressional correspondent Brian Wilson cropped a quote from President Bush at a May 16 press conference, omitting a statement in which Bush appeared to confirm a May 11 USA Today report that the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting records of "tens of millions" of Americans' telephone calls. Without any further explanation, Wilson then reported that "a few minutes later," White House press secretary Tony Snow "insisted the president was not confirming details of the original USA Today report."

As Media Matters for America has noted, during a May 16 press conference with Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a reporter asked Bush: "[W]hy shouldn't ordinary people feel that their privacy is invaded by the NSA compiling a list of their telephone calls?" Bush responded in part: "The program he's asking about is one that has been fully briefed to members of the United States Congress, in both political parties. They are very aware of what is taking place." Subsequently, during his May 16 White House press briefing, Snow categorically denied that Bush had confirmed USA Today's reporting.

Wilson showed part of Snow's denial, but did not show viewers the question posed to Bush or the relevant portion of Bush's response. Wilson showed only a separate portion of the same exchange, in which Bush stated, "What I have told the American people is: We'll protect them against an Al Qaeda attack, and we'll do so within the law. I've been very clear about the principles and guidelines of any program that has been designed to protect the American people." Wilson gave viewers no indication that Snow's denial appeared to conflict with what Bush actually said.

From Bush's March 16 press conference with Howard:

QUESTION: Mr. President, you've said that the government is not trolling through the lives of innocent Americans, but why shouldn't ordinary people feel that their privacy is invaded by the NSA compiling a list of their telephone calls?

BUSH: What I have told the American people is: We'll protect them against an Al Qaeda attack, and we'll do so within the law. I've been very clear about the principles and guidelines of any program that has been designed to protect the American people. I've also been clear about the fact that we do not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval, and that this government will continue to guard the privacy of the American people. But if Al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know, and we want to know why.

For the Australian press friends here, we got accused of not connecting dots prior to September the 11th, and we're going to connect dots to protect the American people, within the law. The program he's asking about is one that has been fully briefed to members of the United States Congress, in both political parties. They are very aware of what is taking place. The American people expect their government to protect them, within the laws of this country, and I'm going to continue to do just that.

From Snow's May 16 press briefing:

QUESTION: You might repeat the same thing, but why not declassify this [the call-tracking program]? I mean, the president did talk about the surveillance [warrantless eavesdropping] program a day after The New York Times broke that story. This would seem to affect far more people, and it did sound like the president was confirming that story today. He was answering Terry's question --

SNOW: Well, if you go back -- if you go back and you look through what he said, there was a reference to foreign-to-domestic calls. I am not going to stand up here and presume to declassify any kind of program. That is a decision the president has to make. I can't confirm or deny it. The president was not confirming or denying.

From the May 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

WILSON: The president again today insisted that the government was not monitoring domestic phone calls without a warrant.

BUSH: What I have told the American people is: We'll protect them against an Al Qaeda attack, and we'll do so within the law. I've been very clear about the principles and guidelines of any program that has been designed to protect the American people.

WILSON: His new spokesman followed up a few minutes later and insisted the president was not confirming details of the original USA Today report.

SNOW: I am not going to stand up here and presume to declassify any kind of program. That is a decision the president has to make. I can't confirm or deny it. The president was not confirming or denying it.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Brian Wilson
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
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