CNN's Roberts, The Hill's Stoddard uncritically repeated claim that Pelosi "fumbled" Israel's message to Syria

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

In discussing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) recent trip to Syria on the April 8 edition of CNN's This Week at War, host John Roberts uncritically repeated the accusation that Pelosi "may have fumbled a message that she was bringing from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about opening up another dialogue for peace in the Middle East." A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, claimed: "Because [Israel] sort of rejected her declaration, it really kind of validates what the administration is saying, which is that, you know, 'You're not secretary of state. It's not your role to come in and make these declarations, especially when they turn out not to be true.' " Roberts' and Stoddard's suggestion that Pelosi misrepresented Israel's position echoed that of an April 5 Washington Post editorial, which was rebutted by the Post's reporting and Pelosi's office, as Media Matters for America has noted. Neither Roberts nor Stoddard acknowledged this fact, though Roberts' other guest, Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen, later noted: "[W]hat the speaker's office says is that the message she gave to Syria did include the tough conditions about engaging with Israel, but that got lost in the translation."

Roberts went on to note that both the April 5 Post editorial and an April 6 Wall Street Journal editorial attacked Pelosi's trip to Syria, claiming: "This was a rare occasion when The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post both agreed on something." In fact, the Post editorial board frequently expresses views similar to those of the Journal's editorial page, a reliable outlet for conservative misinformation and a staunch defender of the Bush administration. The April 5 Post editorial was just the most recent example of the Post editorial page not only agreeing with the Journal and the Bush administration, but advancing misinformation to bolster its case.

As Media Matters noted, the Post's April 5 editorial omitted key information reported by its own paper that undermined its attacks on Pelosi's Syria trip, which it called "counterproductive" and "foolish." The editorial attacked Pelosi for "misrepresent[ing] Israel's position" when she told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Israel was ready to negotiate. However, an April 4 Post article on Pelosi's meeting with Assad reported that when Pelosi said "she conveyed a message" from the Israeli government that it "was ready to resume peace talks," she also said that she "reiterated U.S. demands that Syria stop the passage of insurgents across Syria into Iraq and stop supporting militant groups." On April 5, Pelosi's office responded to the editorial with a statement saying that Pelosi also made clear that Israel continued to demand that Syria cut ties with extremist groups and that she told Assad that "in order for Israel to engage in talks with Syria, the Syrian government must eliminate its links with extremist elements, including Hamas and Hezbollah." The weblog Think Progress documented additional examples of the editorial ignoring its own paper's coverage to baselessly attack Pelosi.

Roberts' comment on the "rare" parity between editorials in the Post and the Journal was similar to one made by Fox News Washington bureau managing editor Brit Hume, who said on the April 10, 2006, edition of Fox News' Special Report: "The president's so-called leak of classified intelligence information in 2003 has had a rare and unusual result: It brought together the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post." Hume was referring to an April 8, 2006, Journal editorial and an April 9, 2006, Post editorial, both of which repeated several falsehoods in defending Bush's authorization former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to leak classified portions of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. As Media Matters documented at the time, the Post and the Journal have found common ground on several key issues:

  • Both the Post and the Journal strongly supported going to war with Iraq and failed to challenge the Bush administration's justifications for the war during the lead-up to the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Both papers have also been complicit in forwarding many of the administration's false and misleading claims attempting to justify the war retroactively, including Vice President Dick Cheney's attempts to falsely link Iraq to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
  • Both papers strongly endorsed Bush's nomination of John Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court, and both supported Justice Samuel Alito's nomination, though the Post was less enthusiastic than the Journal.
  • Both papers supported Bush's proposal to partially privatize Social Security.

From the April 8 edition of CNN's This Week at War:

ROBERTS: So, President Jimmy Carter thinks that there are benefits to dialogue, are benefits to talking to Syria, even if they're not playing nice. But A.B., what about this idea that it looks like she may have fumbled a message that she was bringing from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about opening up another dialogue for peace in the Middle East? Because Olmert's office had to almost immediately afterwards clarify what Pelosi had said.

STODDARD: That's what I was referring to in terms of it backfiring. Because they sort of rejected her declaration, it really kind of validates what the administration is saying, which is that, you know, "You're not secretary of state. It's not your role to come in and make these declarations, especially when they turn out not to be true."

ROBERTS: Is this undermining foreign policy, Mike? Let me just read a couple of editorials. This was a rare occasion when The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post both agreed on something. Friday in The Wall Street Journal, Thursday in The Washington Post, quote, "Democrats took Congress last fall in part by opposing the war in Iraq. But it's becoming clear that they view their election as a mandate for something far more ambitious -- to wit, promoting and executing their own foreign policy, albeit without the detail of a presidential election."

The Washington Post said, "We have found much to criticize in Mr. Bush's military strategy and regional diplomacy. But Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it's foolish."

ALLEN: Well -- and if you're going to do something like this, if you're going to go against the president, as A.B. points out, do something very risky, you have to hit a home run. And if you're going to carry a secret message from one leader to another, keep it a secret that protects you from having this back and forth go on. Now, what the speaker's office says is that the message she gave to Syria did include the tough conditions about engaging with Israel, but that got lost in the translation, and it left the speaker vulnerable to being said that she was incompetent in how she handled this.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
CNN, The Hill
Person
John Roberts, A.B. Stoddard
Show/Publication
This Week At War
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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