On the January 1 Hannity & Colmes, Mike Huckabee discussed a campaign advertisement attacking Mitt Romney that Huckabee said he decided not to air, claiming: "I don't know how you obtained that copy [of the ad] because we didn't give it to anybody. We had a box of CDs of them. We gave them to no one. We showed it in that room for those reporters, and the only way they could have gotten it would be to tape it, I guess, off a camera from the screen." But during a December 31 press conference, Huckabee himself said that his campaign had sent the ad to television stations, telling reporters, "We prepared it, sent it to the stations. It was supposed to start running at noon today." Moreover, Colmes himself had reported that "Fox News exclusively obtained a clean copy of the Huckabee attack ad that he ordered pulled earlier today." Yet neither Sean Hannity nor Alan Colmes challenged Huckabee's assertions.
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During an appearance on the January 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee discussed a campaign advertisement attacking opponent Mitt Romney, which he said he decided not to air, and claimed, "I don't know how you obtained that copy [of the ad] because we didn't give it to anybody. We had a box of CDs of them. We gave them to no one. We showed it in that room for those reporters, and the only way they could have gotten it would be to tape it, I guess, off a camera from the screen." But during the December 31 press conference in which he told reporters that the ad would not be broadcast, Huckabee himself said that his campaign had sent the ad to television stations, telling reporters, "We prepared it, sent it to the stations. It was supposed to start running at noon today." Notwithstanding Huckabee's statement at the press conference, co-hosts Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes did not challenge his January 1 assertion that the campaign had not given the ad "to anybody." Nor did they challenge Huckabee's assertion that "the only way they could have gotten it would be to tape it ... off a camera from the screen," when in fact, the night before, Colmes himself reported that "Fox News exclusively obtained a clean copy of the Huckabee attack ad that he ordered to be pulled earlier today."
No one on the January 1 or December 31 editions of Hannity & Colmes explained how Fox obtained a copy of the ad.
While discussing the advertisement after it was played on the January 1 Hannity & Colmes, Huckabee stated:
HUCKABEE: Well, we didn't run the ad, Sean. What we did, we pulled it. I knew that if we said we had made one and didn't reveal that it existed, there would have been this cynicism of the reporters that said, "Oh, you really didn't have one." But we did. And I don't know how you obtained that copy because we didn't give it to anybody. We had a box of CDs of them. We gave them to no one. We showed it in that room for those reporters, and the only way they could have gotten it would be to tape it, I guess, off a camera from the screen.
Neither Hannity nor Colmes noted on that show that Huckabee had asserted at the press conference that his campaign "sent it [the ad] to the stations" and that "[i]t is being pulled off both radio and television. And that order was given earlier this morning, and we will abide by it, and it will not run."
During the December 31 edition of Hannity & Colmes, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron reported that the Huckabee campaign "did distribute the ad to TV stations across Iowa. Those stations got it, and they said, 'Don't run it. Cancel the ads.' " In a January 1 post on his blog, Cameron's Corner, Cameron wrote that "FOX News was the first to obtain a copy of the whole ad," which neither Hannity nor Colmes mentioned in response to Huckabee's assertion, notwithstanding Colmes' statement the night before. Cameron further reported that "[t]he final DVDs [of the ad] were printed for shipment to Iowa TV stations at 1 a.m. Monday morning" and that "Huck[abee] said [at the press conference that] they were not distributing it but told reporters repeatedly it had been sent to TV stations around Iowa to run at noon." On January 2, The Washington Post reported that the ads had been shipped to Iowa television stations before the campaign's decision not to run the ad:
The 30-second commercial was filmed in one day and shipped to stations across Iowa. [Huckabee national campaign chairman Ed] Rollins loved the ad for the way Huckabee lashed out at Romney's own record on gun control and abortion.
Then came Huckabee's morning run on Monday back in Des Moines. His head cleared from exercise and prayer, he told Rollins and others he'd changed his mind about the whole thing. He wanted it stopped.
But there wasn't much time. One radio spot prepared in connection with the TV ads had aired early in the morning and a whole slew of them were set to start at noon. Television time had been purchased. Moreover, in order to get some related direct-mail pieces out in time, the campaign had used first-class stamps. Now, the campaign had to stop the truck set to deliver them to the post office.
Similarly, a December 31 report on the CNN.com blog Political Ticker also stated that the ad had been sent to Iowa television stations:
If the ad ends up airing on Iowa TV stations, it will be because the stations have not yet had a chance to replace it in their schedules, Huckabee said.
Des Moines station KCCI told CNN it had been told this morning to run the ad -- then contacted shortly afterwards by the campaign to cancel the original order.
Additionally, during the January 2 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, Huckabee again acknowledged that the ad had been distributed to Iowa televisions stations, telling co-host Chris Cuomo, "I don't know how it got out there," adding, "And even the only network that said they had a copy said they didn't get it from us. They may have gotten it from one of the television stations who had it in the traffic."
From the January 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: Let's go to the controversy of the hour, which is this ad, this news conference that you had where you ran this ad, and then you said, "But I'm not going to run the ad." And there were even snickers among the press here. Let's roll the ad to remind our audience.
[begin video clip]
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney's record: over 700 million in new taxes, left office with a deficit, no executions, supported gun control, and Romney's government-mandated health plan provided a $50 co-pay for abortion.
HUCKABEE: If a man's dishonest to obtain a job, he'll be dishonest on the job. Iowans deserve better.
[end video clip]
HANNITY: Governor, it seems like -- you know what they're saying, that you had the benefit of running an attack ad but seemingly seeing like you're taking the high road on it by saying, "Well, I'm not going to run the ad," and then you ran it.
HUCKABEE: Well, we didn't run the ad, Sean. What we did, we pulled it. I knew that if we said we had made one and didn't reveal that it existed, there would have been this cynicism of the reporters that said, "Oh, you really didn't have one." But we did.
And I don't know how you obtained that copy because we didn't give it to anybody. We had a box of CDs of them. We gave them to no one. We showed it in that room for those reporters, and the only way they could have gotten it would be to tape it, I guess, off a camera from the screen.
But the fact is we pulled it. It was my decision. It was the right decision. I understand people are going to be cynical. But you know what? At the end of the day, what matters is the decision that we made to stay positive and not to go nuclear, not to engage in the same level of politics that has been relentlessly used against us and used against John McCain in New Hampshire.
HANNITY: But let me ask you -- but then, Governor --
HUCKABEE: We just need to change the course of the discussion.
HANNITY: But it's a fair question. And if you really felt that way about it, why would you run the ad while you're saying you're pulling the ad?
HUCKABEE: Well, for the reason that I said just a moment ago. Because if we didn't show the ad to the reporters, I think we thought, well, they would have said we didn't have one. So we didn't give them a copy of a big, thick folder of material that we had.
HANNITY: But you played it.
HUCKABEE: We destroyed that. We played it only for the room of those people. We did not give them the copies that we had. But Sean, more importantly is the fact that I think people have given me the position that I'm in in Iowa because it has been a positive campaign. No doubt that a lot of the negative attacks -- mailboxes have been full, phone calls every night, people have been inundated with television commercials. It's been very nasty, very negative. Not just with me. John McCain in New Hampshire is getting the same thing.
And we decided that, you know, if we talk about Ronald Reagan's legacy and his whole understanding of the leadership of the Republican Party -- you can't be Reaganesque if you violate the 11th Commandment of Ronald Reagan.
HANNITY: But you say about Governor Romney in this ad -- these are very hard words, Governor -- and you said about him, "If a man's this dishonest to obtain the job, he'll be dishonest on the job." Governor Romney responded. Let's roll that tape and get your reaction, sir.
ROMNEY [video clip]: I don't think Governor Huckabee was able to fool the media with his press conference. I don't think he'll fool the people of Iowa. It's a little like going up and saying, "I'm not going to call my opponent any names. But if I were going to call him some names, here are the names I'd call him."
HANNITY: Do you really believe he's dishonest?
HUCKABEE: If you tell things about somebody that aren't true, if you tell people that I cut meth sentences when I didn't, if you tell them that I spent money and created this huge budget, which I did not -- and The New York Times verified that those figures were wrong -- if you tell people things that even may have a sense of half truth but aren't the whole truth, they become the untruth.
The question that I had was, do I counterattack? And I finally decided, I can't fix in 30 seconds the damage that was done to a 10 1/2-year record I had as the longest consistent executive running a government in this presidential race.
But here's what I think people are looking for. They're looking for somebody who has consistency. And I had to ask this question, do I want someone to elect me because I've done a better job of disabling my opponent than he has done of disabling me? And I finally decided that's not what people are looking for in the next president.
COLMES: Hey, Governor, it's Alan Colmes. Welcome back to our show.
HUCKABEE: Thank you, Alan.
COLMES: Is Mitt Romney too dishonest to be president of the United States?
HUCKABEE: You know, I think that Mitt Romney has every reason to run for president. The voters are going to decide in Iowa and the rest of America who's consistent on issues like abortion and gun control, which one of us really comes forward with authenticity of our views and --
COLMES: Yeah, but I want to know if you stand by the words in that ad. Do you stand by the words in that ad?
HUCKABEE: I've never retracted the words, but I pulled the ad because I felt like that it is the tone and the spirit of the ad -- that that's not what we need. And I just want to believe that Americans really are looking for a different kind of approach to the political race of 2008.
COLMES: The point is, Governor, you stand -- you do stand by what that ad says. You're not disavowing what that -- that statement [unintelligible].
HUCKABEE: What I said was -- Alan, I've made it very clear that when you say things about an opponent's record that aren't true or say things about your own record which aren't true, I don't know else how you call that but dishonest. And if I make up things about my own resume, if I say I have endorsements that I don't have, the question is, do people want a president who have -- who has not been completely straightforward about endorsements, about positions, about events that have happened in his or her life? Those are serious questions that voters have to ask.
From the January 2 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
CUOMO: The polls are strong and in your favor. It has become about you and Mitt Romney very largely. The commercials, the negativism, a big issue for you. So, you have a press conference. You have a commercial that you film that's negative and that it does go after Romney and a little bit after McCain
HUCKABEE: No, it actually kind of endorses McCain and shows that he has been hit, too, by the same stuff that I have been hit by.
CUOMO: Joining forces that he has been a target as well.
CUOMO: You then say in the presser, "I'm not going to run this commercial, because I don't feel it's the right thing to do." But you then show the commercial to the media. Is that having it both ways? Was that a little deceptive?
HUCKABEE: No, not at all. In fact, because if I hadn't have done it, the same media that said, "Oh, you showed it to us," would have said, "You don't have one. You didn't show it to us." And we didn't give them DVDs -- which we, by the way, had multiple copies of prepared to give away, as well as a stack of documentation on the facts. But we said, "No, we're not going to do that." You know, this campaign -- Mitt Romney has just unleashed unbelievable attack ads against me, against John McCain, before that, against Rudy Giuliani. And I just decided, let's change the tone of this. Iowa people are sick of it. Every time they go to their mailbox, they're inundated with nasty stuff. It's like poison in the box. And their television set has become almost a sewer. And so we just decided we'd change the debate and let the voters decide.
CUOMO: If you could do it again, though, would you have showed that commercial to the media, knowing that it would run on cable for 24 hours? It is free. That's good from a financial aspect, but it got out there. You knew people were going to see it.
HUCKABEE: I don't know how it got out there. And even the only network that said they had a copy said they didn't get it from us. They may have gotten it from one of the television stations who had it in the traffic. I might have done it differently. But here's the real issue. The issue is not, did they get to see it in the press conference? The issue is, we pulled ours. We didn't run a negative campaign. Mitt Romney did. If we'd have stayed with it, we would have exposed some things about his record that, frankly, think would have probably made a difference here in these last days. But I think Iowa voters hopefully are going to look deeper than just these 30-second ads in which they smear somebody's 10 1/2-year record as a governor. And they're going to say, "You know what? Do I want a president who got there by telling me what's wrong with the other guy, rather than telling me what he actually did for his own state when he was governor?"
CUOMO: And at the same time, though, you feel that you do have to defend your record as governor. I mean, to the extent that Romney's ads have been a little bit different if they're negative, in that he says, "Oh, you're pro-life" -- he likes that. He says, "You're a good guy" -- he likes that. And then he attacks your record for pardons --
HUCKABEE: It's kind of like saying, "Oh, what a nice side of your face. By the way, let me knock you on this side." I mean, you know, come on. Nobody's that ridiculous to see that.
I think he was particularly trying to say we're both pro-life, but the truth is, we're really not both as pro-life as he would like for people to believe. You know, he's claimed endorsements that he didn't have from the NRA. His health plan has a $50 co-pay for abortion; he signed it. Those are things that are very troubling, not just to voters in Iowa. And it's not because of the issues, which are troubling enough, it's the fact that there's been a duplicity between what has been said and what actually was done in the record.