CNN and Fox let "straight-shooter" Tony Snow peddle false, misleading, and baseless GOP talking points


During Tony Snow's recent series of appearances on cable news channels, interviewers on CNN and Fox News left unchallenged a number of false, misleading, and baseless Republican talking points on a variety of issues. After allowing Snow to misrepresent the Democratic position on the surveillance and detention of suspected terrorists, CNN host Wolf Blitzer told Snow that he is "a straight shooter."

On the November 2 edition of CNN's American Morning, co-host Miles O'Brien did not challenge White House press secretary Tony Snow's complaint that the media did not adequately report that "last week, violence throughout Iraq was down 23 percent," and "down 41 percent" in Baghdad. O'Brien could have noted that the Bush administration appears to be seeking to use both increases and decreases in violence in Iraq to its advantage; just a week earlier, Vice President Dick Cheney claimed that the recent upsurge in violence and US troop casualties were meant to influence the upcoming midterm elections and to "break the will of the American people." Also, during an interview with Snow on the November 2 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, host John Gibson left unchallenged Snow's claim that "[t]he Democrats made a calculated gamble that this is going to be the year of throwing mud at George W. Bush," whereas "the president is talking about how he is trying to work toward a successful conclusion on the war on terror." Gibson did not mention President Bush's recent claim that "[t]he terrorists win and America loses" if the Democrats win control of Congress on November 7.

In addition, on The Big Story and during November 2 appearances on CNN's The Situation Room and Glenn Beck, Snow repeated without challenge false, misleading, and baseless Republican talking points regarding stances Democrats have taken on the Patriot Act, and surveillance, interrogation and detention of terrorist suspects, Democratic tax policy initiatives should they regain control of the House of Representatives, and the nation's current economic trends. Instead, for example, Glenn Beck asked Snow if he has "ever just wanted to take David Gregory and Helen Thomas and just knock their heads together," and Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer even told Snow that he is "a straight shooter."

From the November 2 edition of CNN's American Morning:

O'BRIEN: All right, let's move on here. The president with a show of support for the defense secretary, saying, he's doing a "fantastic job." Let's go through this a little bit.

Senators John McCain, Chuck Hagel say they have no confidence in the defense secretary. A couple of Republicans running right now -- Tom Kean Jr. in New Jersey, [Rep.] Chris Shays in Connecticut, saying Rummy should go. And the public, in general, has a fairly low opinion of him, about 35 percent right now. How does that all add up to a "fantastic job"?

SNOW: Well, I'll tell you. When's the last time, Miles, you guys reported on real support for Don Rumsfeld, or talking about the successes of American forces in the battlefield? I know CNN has shown people getting shot. The question here is --

O'BRIEN: Well, actually, no, no, no. We didn't actually show them. We did a report, which showed snipers, a propaganda film from insurgents showing sniper activity. We didn't show them being shot.

SNOW: All right, that's -- all right, I'm sorry. You blurred them out while the picture was showing them getting shot.

Here's the key. There are a lot of American forces that are doing some pretty amazing things in Iraq right now. And one of the things they've been doing is training up Iraqi forces to assume responsibility. I noted yesterday a lot of people were holding up a chaos chart that was taken at the peak of violence last month in Iraq. Guess what's happened? Last week, violence throughout Iraq was down 23 percent. Deadly violence in Iraq was down 41 -- I mean, in Baghdad was down 41 percent. Nobody did the other story, which was the needle would've jumped toward peace yesterday -- didn't want to report that.

From the November 2 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

GIBSON: Instead of directing his fire at Kerry, DNC chair Howard Dean is aiming it at President Bush instead. He says, quote, "I think George Bush is the most incompetent president we've had in our lifetime. I think there are a lot of similarities between Nixon and Agnew and Bush and Cheney. They've both been dishonest with the American people." Let's get reaction now live from the White House -- White House press secretary Tony Snow joins me now.

Tony, thanks -- appreciate seeing you, and I appreciate you coming on. So, what do you make of Howard Dean's latest blast?

SNOW: Well, boy, I think I've heard that before. Look, it's interesting, John, because, here we are, we're in election season. The big issue by acclimation is the war on terror and what's going on in Iraq.

Now, when it comes to the war on terror, the president has tried to use common-sense measures all along to make us safe here at home and also to fight the enemy abroad. It starts with the Patriot Act, which would allow a CIA officer to at least let a local police chief know that there's a terror cell in his neighborhood.

In the past, that kind of information-sharing -- impossible. Now, it's legal. Or, again, when you come to the terrorist surveillance program, a program designed to listen -- or, you know, to have surveillance -- actually, more precisely -- on a terrorist in the United States talking to his or her terror master abroad: The president supports; Democrats oppose.

How about the program for dealing with military commissions? You take somebody like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, possibly the mastermind of September 11th, get 'em off the battlefield, get intelligence from him, you stop at least eight terrorist attacks that we have made public.

And yet, Democrats said, "Nope, we don't like the program of detaining him, questioning him, and bringing him to justice." John Kerry, in the last presidential election -- voting against the $86 billion to keep the war going and supply the troops. You put it all together, and you think, "Well, they're against everything. What are they for?" And Howard Dean's answer gave you a perfect insight.

The Democrats made a calculated gamble that this is going to be the year of throwing mud at George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, the president is talking about how he is trying to work toward a successful conclusion on the war on terror, not one where we do all the fighting but where, in fact, we make the Iraqis capable of defending, governing, and sustaining themselves and helping us out in the war on terror.


SNOW: The president cut taxes, pushed it through in 2002, took effect in 2003. Since then, the biggest run-up in wealth in American history -- you have 6.6 million new jobs, more people working, making more money than ever before.

They're starting -- the middle class have pulled us out of all this by working hard and attending to the business of helping an economy grow. They're seeing it in their paychecks, they're seeing it in their savings accounts, and now, Democrats say, "Well, you know, we may need to raise taxes.'

GIBSON: But Tony, you know --

SNOW: You put it together, I'm telling you, you've got a successful presidency, and you've just got an unhappy Howard Dean.

GIBSON: You know how it works around here. I can look down here at the email right now that -- as you're speaking, and there's going to be viewers saying to me, "The economy is said to be so great, how has it changed my life? Nothing." They're saying, "Iraq is supposed to be so great, then why do I see all these bodies in the streets?" It's been declared, people sort of accept that it's not going well. Sixty percent of the public believes it's not.

SNOW: Yeah, well, let's segregate the two. When it comes to the economy, you start taking a look at consumer-confidence numbers, they have been trending pretty heavily up for the last few months. So, people do feel it when you ask them if they're doing better off economically.


GIBSON: Tony, John Kerry obviously had his foot in his mouth the last couple of days. Let me show you our little equation we put on the screen.

Do you think it is now in the -- in the public's mind that John Kerry equals Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, John Conyers, Charlie Rangel, and all the rest?

SNOW: I don't know. You know, I mean, you know, the more interesting thing here is ask yourself what happens if you got Democrats in control of the House or Senate. What are they going to do to make your life better? Do they have a plan for victory in Iraq?

As I've just pointed out, their plan this year has been to say more negative things about the president than about Osama bin Laden. Not terribly constructive. When it comes to the economy, we haven't had any Democrats say, "I'm going to cut your taxes." You haven't heard that, have you?

From the November 2 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: The one thing that -- I have this theory, and maybe I'm wrong. I've always believed that America is a country of doers, and builders, and dreamers.

SNOW: Yeah.

BECK: And the Republican -- Democratic Party has not seemed to me to give anything to vote for. They've had a lot to vote against. Are they repeating the same tactics that they have done for the last couple of elections?

SNOW: Yeah, I mean, you know, I guess you could call them the party of hecklers this year. Yeah, it's interesting, because here you've got key issues. You've got the war in Iraq and the larger war on terror, and every time the president proposes something, they say, "No, we don't want to do that. We don't want to pay for the war. We don't want the Patriot Act. We don't want the terrorist surveillance. We don't want military commissions. But, by golly, we can do it better."

Well, then, tell me what you're going to do.

BECK: Right.

SNOW: You're absolutely right. It's all been about trashing the president. It's a negative vote.


BECK: Yeah, and it's strange, because, you know, you can -- I think there's nothing more American than honestly questioning your government, questioning your president, and questioning the war.

SNOW: Absolutely.

BECK: I do it. I'm sure --

SNOW: We should do all of those.

BECK: We all do those things. But there is a -- there's a difference between -- at least, as I see it -- honest questioning and, as you just said, heckling.

SNOW: Yeah. Yeah. And I think people are serious about this. Look, nobody wants to be in a war. It's a horrible thing.

BECK: Yeah.

SNOW: It's very difficult in democracies to sustain long wars. People have written about that for centuries.


BECK: Do you think that that is the -- is that the only reason why you got the job? Because that kind of backs into my second question -- is: Have you ever just wanted to take David Gregory and Helen Thomas and just knock their heads together? I would just --


BECK: I couldn't do it. I could never have your job, because I would -- just blood would shoot out of my eyes.

SNOW: Oh, that's just an unlovely image, Glenn.

BECK: You wouldn't want to take the two and just knock their heads together? Never occur --


BECK: Never occurs to you, huh?

SNOW: No, I like them both. I actually have fun doing it. The high moment -- one of the high moments of my job as press secretary -- a couple of weeks ago, David and I were having at it in a briefing, and at the end of it, he looks at me and says, "That was fun!"

Perfect. You know, go after it. Ask tough questions. Do whatever you want. But, at the end, you know, you say, "OK, that was fun. Let's do it again." And then, we'll do it once or twice, I'm sure.

BECK: Tony, best of luck. You're a good, good man. I'm glad you're in the White House.

SNOW: Thanks, Glenn.

BECK: Thank you. Back in a minute.

From the November 2 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

SNOW: But meanwhile, it's been interesting. Every time the president proposes something, Democrats say no. Patriot Act -- no. How about the terror surveillance program? Where you can surveil a terrorist in the United States communicating with a terror master abroad. "Don't like that," say the Democrats. OK, how about the detainee act?

BLITZER: Hey, let me -- Tony, let me interrupt you and get back to the war in Iraq for a minute, then we'll get into some other issues. Here's the --

SNOW: Well, OK, but let me -- I'll finish the point I'm making --

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead.

SNOW: -- if I promise not to filibuster.


SNOW: But the point is you've got a whole series of these things and Democrats have not offered a simple solution. OK, you don't like it? How are you going to win? They've said no to everything, but they haven't said yes to anything. And Americans have to ask themselves if this is the dominant issue, why won't Democrats talk about it? Why won't they tell you what their plan is?


BLITZER: You do think that the Republicans --

SNOW: Yeah.

BLITZER: -- are going to be in the majority?

SNOW: Yeah.

BLITZER: Seriously, because you used to be a journalist. You know, we've known each other for a long time. You are a straight shooter. Give us your bottom line prediction right now and then we'll talk after Tuesday.

SNOW: OK, I won't give you numbers, because I'm never even close on that. Let me give you my analysis and then we can compare notes later.

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