On the heels of several conservative media outlets cropping a quote from Rep. John Dingell to suggest that he had refused to condemn Hezbollah's actions in the ongoing conflict with Israel, Newt Gingrich announced on Fox News Sunday that Dingell had said "there's no moral difference" between Hezbollah and Israel.
On the August 6 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Fox News political analyst and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) falsely claimed that Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) had said "there's no moral difference between" Hezbollah and Israel. Last week, several conservative media outlets similarly claimed -- using a cropped quote from a recent interview -- that Dingell had refused to condemn Hezbollah's actions in the ongoing conflict with Israel. In fact, as the weblog Think Progress noted, Dingell explicitly stated in the interview that "I condemn Hezbollah, as does everybody else, for the violence."
Gingrich made his claim in response to a question from Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace regarding the potential political ramifications for Democrats if Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT) loses against challenger Ned Lamont (D) in the August 8 primary. Gingrich noted that "you have a number of things building" and went on to cite Dingell's purported assertion of "no moral difference" between Hezbollah and Israel. (While Wallace cut off Gingrich before he could name Israel, it was clear he was referring to the two warring parties.)
This claim first surfaced in a July 31 posting on the right-wing weblog Powerline, which referred readers to a portion of a July 30 interview Dingell had with Devin Scillian, host of Detroit's WDIV-TV's news program Flashpoint. In this excerpt, Dingell appeared to answer "no" when asked, "You're not against Hezbollah?" But as Think Progress noted, the clip used by Powerline had been cropped to leave the impression that Dingell sympathized with Hezbollah. In fact, Dingell went on to explicitly condemn Hezbollah moments later, as the full transcript makes clear:
SCILLIAN: [S]ome would suggest that if -- even though there are obviously a lot of issues with Lebanon and with the Palestinian cause wrapped up in this, that this largely boils down to Israel against Hezbollah, and as Hezbollah is a group that the United States has deemed a terrorist organization, that there's only one side for the Americans to come down on in this fight.
DINGELL: Well, we don't -- first of all, I don't take sides for or against Hezbollah or for or against Israel.
SCILLIAN: You're not against Hezbollah?
DINGELL: I happen to be -- no, I happen to be -- I happen to be against violence. I think the United States has to bring a resolution to this matter. Now, I condemn Hezbollah, as does everybody else, for the violence. But I think that we've got to talk to them, and if we don't -- if we don't get ourselves in a position where we can talk to both sides and bring both sides together, the killing and the blood let [sic] is going to continue.
On the August 1 edition of his syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh aired the cropped quote to claim that Dingell "refuses to condemn" Hezbollah, as Media Matters for America noted. Think Progress further highlighted an August 2 Washington Times editorial that repeated the false claim. The following day, the Times acknowledged that it had failed to include Dingell's complete answer and printed the full transcript. Nonetheless, the Times maintained in its August 3 "clarification" that Dingell had refused to "denounce Hezbollah."
From the August 6 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
WALLACE: Speaker Gingrich, if the Democrats vote down Lieberman -- basically because he was an anti-war candidate and Ned Lamont wants to get out of Iraq -- what does that say about the Democratic Party heading into November?
GINGRICH: Well, you have a number of things building. You have this report that [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] has indicated she would appoint [Rep.] Alcee Hastings [D-FL] to be the head of the [House] Intelligence Committee, which would be a stunningly irresponsible act since he is the -- only the ninth person in history to be impeached and removed as a federal judge, and the idea of him chairing the Intelligence Committee basically means that the system will just break down totally.
You have Congressman Dingell, a potential chairman for the Democrats, saying there's no moral difference between Hezbollah and --
WALLACE: I mean, forgive me.
GINGRICH: I know, but I want to get --
WALLACE: Well, I do want to say that she's also issued a statement saying, that in fact, that no committee chairmanships will be set until after the election.
WALLACE: But in any case, what would it say about the Democratic Party?
GINGRICH: OK. And then third, you have what I think is a legitimate insurgency in Connecticut, which needs to be met head-on and debated head-on, which is people who say, "This is so hard, it is so frightening, it's so painful, can't we come home and hide?"