MSNBC's O'Donnell on Cindy Sheehan's hunger strike: "Isn't this really just more of a publicity stunt?"

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

On MSNBC's Hardball, Norah O'Donnell questioned the sincerity of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan's recently initiated hunger strike, asking her: "Isn't this really just more of a publicity stunt?" During the discussion of Sheehan's two-month protest, the on-screen text read: "Starving for Attention." O'Donnell also presented a distorted version of Sheehan's position on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

On the July 5 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, guest host Norah O'Donnell questioned the sincerity of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan's recently initiated hunger strike, asking her: "Isn't this really just more of a publicity stunt?" O'Donnell wondered whether Sheehan "honestly expect[s] Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or the president of the United States to say, 'Cindy Sheehan is going on a hunger strike, and so I'm going to end this war?' " During the discussion of Sheehan's two-month protest, the on-screen text read: "Starving for Attention."

O'Donnell, who accused Sheehan of "trashing the president" three times during a five-minute interview, also presented a distorted version of Sheehan's position on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. O'Donnell asserted: "You would, if you could, fly a bunch of planes over there, pick up all our troops and take them home tomorrow, if you could, if it was in your power." Sheehan responded by saying that "we can't fly planes over and pick them all up tomorrow. ... [I]t would take a few months, and it has to be as safe for our soldiers and as safe for the Iraqi people as possible, but it has to be as soon as possible."

The interview was first noted by Greg Sargent on his weblog The Horse's Mouth and later by John Amato's Crooks and Liars.

From the July 5 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

O'DONNELL: Welcome back to Hardball. Cindy Sheehan is America's most outspoken anti-war activist. But does she speak for America, or just the fringes? She's called President Bush "the biggest terrorist in the world," and she stood side-by-side with socialist dictator Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Now, she begins a two-month hunger strike to get the American people to join her mission to end the war.

Welcome to Hardball, Cindy.

SHEEHAN: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Let me begin by asking you, you know, Americans may hate the war, but they don't necessarily hate the president. How do you expect to get change by going around the world and trashing the president of the United States?

SHEEHAN: Well, actually, I don't hate the president, either. And I don't trash the president; I trash the president's foreign policy, which is fundamentally and inherently wrong and immoral. And I don't tell people around the world anything that they don't know.

O'DONNELL: But you called him "the biggest terrorist in the world."

SHEEHAN: Right.

O'DONNELL: So you are trashing the president.

SHEEHAN: Well, you know, he says a terrorist is somebody who kills innocent men, women, and children, and there has been over 100,000 innocent men, women, and children killed in Iraq on his orders.

O'DONNELL: Cindy, you have just begun a two-month hunger strike. Isn't this really just more of a publicity stunt?

SHEEHAN: No, actually it's not. It's a moral reaction to an immoral war. Thousands of people all over the world are joining us. And hunger strikes have proven to be effective tools in civil disobedience and changing policy.

O'DONNELL: But do you honestly expect Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or the president of the United States to say, "Cindy Sheehan is going on a hunger strike, and so I'm going to end this war?"

SHEEHAN: Well, that would be nice, but what we're trying to do is also awaken consciousness in the United States and around the world to get more people out and active, because we know two-thirds of America disapprove of George Bush and his policies in Iraq, but I don't see two-thirds of America out protesting, writing their congresspeople and changing policy.

O'DONNELL: And nor, quite frankly, do you see members of Congress -- and you claim to not be in the fringes, to not be an extremist, and yet what members of Congress support you in your policy?

SHEEHAN: Well, really on both sides of the aisle. You know, we have [Rep.] Ron Paul [R-TX] and [Rep.] Walter Jones [R-NC], who are Republicans who are outspoken critics of George Bush's policies. We have many on the other side, such as [Rep.] John Conyers [D-MI], [Rep.] Charlie Rangel [D-NY].

O'DONNELL: And in the Senate?

SHEEHAN: In the Senate, well, we would have many supporters in the Senate, too.

O'DONNELL: Who? Who?

SHEEHAN: [Sen.] John Kerry [D-MA].

O'DONNELL: John Kerry supports an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Did he tell you that?

SHEEHAN: His office is working on starting a withdrawal as soon as possible to have the troops home by the end of the year. He has -- I have talked to his office about that, and that's something he's trying to push in the Senate.

O'DONNELL: Well, in fact, the bill that Senator Kerry has proposed --

SHEEHAN: Right.

O'DONNELL: -- went down in flames in the Senate.

SHEEHAN: Right, well, actually, yeah, it did but, you know, only -- you know, in Vietnam, there was only a few senators at first, and then it turned around.

O'DONNELL: Let me challenge you on this, Cindy, because what you're calling for is, in fact, an extreme position, because there are very few members of Congress who support immediate withdrawal. You would, if you could, fly a bunch of planes over there, pick up all our troops and take them home tomorrow, if you could, if it was in your power. There is no one in the United States Congress, Democrat, Republican, or Independent who would do that.

SHEEHAN: Actually, there are many members. There's an "Out of Iraq" Congress that has 70 members that are calling for an immediate withdrawal. And we can't fly planes over and pick them all up tomorrow.

O'DONNELL: Right.

SHEEHAN: You know, it would take a few months, and it has to be as safe for our soldiers and as safe for the Iraqi people as possible, but it has to be as soon as possible.

O'DONNELL: You speak very passionately about your cause. You lost a son in Iraq. We honor his service and sacrifice. But you've been traveling the world -- Scotland, Spain, Venezuela, Ireland, Australia, Austria -- how does that help the cause when, again, you're around the world trashing the president, calling him a terrorist, calling him worse than Osama bin Laden. How do you honestly expect to effect change with those types of remarks?

SHEEHAN: Well, it's really important, too, that the people in the world know that there are Americans on their side, because as anti-Bush sentiment goes up in the world, anti-American sentiment goes up also. And people -- I've had hundreds of people around the world tell me before you, we thought all Americans supported George Bush. And it's important for us, people of different countries in different borders, to reach out to one another to work to force our leaders to solve problems peacefully. And this is really important.

O'DONNELL: But why go stand side-by-side by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela? Why do that? I mean, it sounds like that -- would you rather live under Hugo Chavez than George Bush?

SHEEHAN: Yes. You know, Hugo Chavez is not a dictator like you introduced him. He's been democratically elected eight times, and he's not anti-American.

O'DONNELL: Saddam Hussein was democratically elected.

SHEEHAN: Yeah, hold on a second. He is not anti-American. He has helped the poor people of America. He has sent aid to New Orleans. He has sold heating oil to disadvantaged people in America, in the United States of America at low cost, and he -- the people of his country love him, and for us to say that we have some kind of influence over Venezuelan policy is wrong.

The people of Venezuela have elected him overwhelmingly eight times, and it's his country, and it's their country and they should have the leader that they deserve, that they want.

O'DONNELL: All right, Cindy Sheehan, thank you for joining us.

SHEEHAN: OK, thank you.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Norah O'Donnell
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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