CNN's Daryn Kagan and John King repeated two falsehoods frequently advanced by conservatives to attack former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, former CIA operative Valerie Plame: that Wilson "did say in one television interview, and ... intimated in some others, that the vice president had sent him to Niger" to investigate reports that Iraq had sought to purchase yellowcake uranium from that country, and that the Senate Intelligence Committee found that Plame "sent" Wilson on the trip to Niger.
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On the July 14 edition of CNN's Live Today, host Daryn Kagan and chief national correspondent John King repeated two falsehoods frequently advanced by conservatives to attack former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who - along with his wife, former CIA-operative Valerie Plame -- filed a lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney, White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, and former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby the previous day. First, King falsely claimed that Wilson "did say in one television interview, and ... intimated in some others, that the vice president had sent him to Niger" to investigate reports that Iraq had sought to purchase yellowcake uranium from that country. Later, both King and Kagan claimed that the Senate Intelligence Committee found that Plame "sent" Wilson on the trip to Niger. As Media Matters for America has noted numerous times, Wilson did not claim Cheney sent him to Niger, and the Senate Intelligence Committee report did not officially conclude that Plame was responsible for sending Wilson on the trip.
Falsehood #1: Wilson claimed Cheney sent him to Niger
During his discussion with Kagan, King stated that the matter of "who decided Joe Wilson goes to Niger" was a "thing in contention" and "an open question," and that Wilson "did say in one television interview, and he intimated in some others, that the vice president had sent him to Niger." But as Media Matters has noted, Wilson did not claim that Cheney sent him to Niger. King's assertion appears to echo a Republican National Committee (RNC) talking points memo made public on July 12, 2005, which accused Wilson of falsely claiming "that it was Vice President Cheney who sent him to Niger." To support this accusation, the RNC misrepresented Wilson's July 6, 2003, op-ed in The New York Times, in which he criticized the Bush administration's use of intelligence to suggest that Iraq had sought to purchase yellowcake uranium in Africa. Additionally, the RNC distorted a remark Wilson made in an August 3, 2003, interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. Contrary to the allegations advanced by the RNC -- and apparently adopted by King -- Wilson clearly stated in the op-ed that "agency officials" at the CIA had requested he travel to Niger. Further, in the CNN appearance, he stated it was "absolutely true" that Cheney was unaware he went on the trip.
King's remark was first noted by Joshua Micah Marshall on his Talking Points Memo weblog.
Falsehood #2: The Senate Intelligence Committee found that Plame sent Wilson to Niger
Additionally, King and Kagan both falsely claimed that the Senate Intelligence Committee "said that she [Plame] sent him [Wilson]" to Niger. This claim echoes previous conservative attacks on Wilson, including those of RNC chairman Ken Mehlman and syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Both suggested that Wilson's trip to Niger was the result of nepotism, in an attempt to discredit his subsequent criticism of the Bush administration. But as Media Matters previously noted, in an addendum to the Senate Intelligence Committee's 2004 Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) wrote that Democrats on the committee had prevented the inclusion of the following statement as an official conclusion of the report: "The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador's wife, a CIA employee."
Additionally, unnamed intelligence officials have been subsequently quoted in the media claiming that the CIA -- not Plame -- selected Wilson for the mission, and CIA officials have disputed the accuracy of a State Department intelligence memo that reportedly indicates that Plame "suggested" Wilson's name for the trip.
From the July 14 edition of CNN's Live Today:
KAGAN: There you have the husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson. Before that, Valerie Plame, the other plaintiff in this lawsuit, the former CIA officer, talking about how she would rather be a public servant at this time rather than a plaintiff in a lawsuit. And then the former ambassador going back and retracting this trip to Niger in 2003 that really is the crux of what this controversy grew out of. I want to go ahead and bring back in John King and talk about that trip a little bit. One thing in contention here is, who decided Joe Wilson goes to Niger? There are the allegations that it was Valerie Plame as a CIA officer who said, "We should send my husband." They say that that's not true, however.
KING: Well, Daryn, this is one of the key contentions and it will be a key contention not only if this suit goes forward, but it is a key contention in a court of law right now: the federal trial of the former vice presidential chief of staff, Scooter Libby. And among the exhibits in the trial the prosecutor put in, that column Joe Wilson just mentioned with some scribbles by Vice President Cheney asking, who sent him? Did his wife send him? Was this a junket? The vice president asking those questions of his chief of staff, Scooter Libby. It is an open question.
But what the White House says happened -- you heard Ambassador Wilson say that this was a deliberate effort to punish and discredit his wife. What Scooter Libby has said in the hearings before his trial is that, no, they were trying to discredit what Joe Wilson said, take issue with some things they say were factual and that his wife came up almost as an afterthought when they were dealing with that point, who sent Joe Wilson.
Joe Wilson did say in one television interview, and he intimated in some others, that the vice president had sent him to Niger. What the White House is saying, that it was responding saying, no, he didn't. That the vice president had nothing to do with that trip, that he asked the CIA, is there any more information about uranium and can we check this out a little bit more? Can we find out more about this? And the CIA decided to send Joe Wilson. His wife was involved in that at some level, some officials say. Others say she came into the process very late. That is a debating point, Daryn.
KAGAN: Well, the Senate Intelligence Commission investigation said that she sent him.
KING: Yes, the Senate Intelligence Committee said that she sent him. And what Ambassador Wilson and his wife said is the intelligence committee investigation was led by Republicans, and that if you go into the CIA it's more complicated than that, that at some point she was brought into the loop and said, "Well, he knows the territory, he certainly could be helpful there." So if this goes forward, this is one of the issues that will be in this civil trial that they have filed and also in the criminal trial of Scooter Libby. This is one of the issues. Although one of the reasons many people think this suit is being filed now is because the judge has narrowed the focus in the Scooter Libby trial, and that many of the issues Ambassador Wilson would like explored in that trial, would like put on to the public record, will not be because Scooter Libby is not charged with leaking Valerie Wilson's name. He's charged with lying to investigators and lying to the grand jury.
Karl Rove was not charged in this case because the source of the original column, Bob Novak, says that Karl Rove was not his number-one source. So the trial has not gone, if you will, to this open-ended process to tell this whole story over and over again. And many think that's one of the reasons Ambassador Wilson and his wife wanted to file this suit, because there are questions they want addressed that will simply not be answered in Scooter Libby's trial.
KAGAN: John King in Washington. John, thank you.