Interviewing Al Franken on CNN's American Morning, Kiran Chetry falsely claimed that Al Franken, in a 2005 appearance on David Letterman's show, "said some things about Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, saying they should be executed for treason." In fact, as Franken noted, he had said that "George H.W. Bush, the president's father, was the head of the CIA, and he has said that outing a CIA agent is treason. ... And so, basically, what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going to be executed." Chetry then denied having said that Franken "advocated" executing Rove and Libby.
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During an interview with Al Franken on the March 14 edition of CNN's American Morning, host Kiran Chetry falsely asserted to Franken, "You said some things about [former White House deputy chief of staff] Karl Rove and [former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney] Scooter Libby, saying they should be executed for treason." As the website Raw Story noted, Chetry was referring to an exchange Franken had with David Letterman on the October 21, 2005, edition of CBS' Late Show regarding Rove and Libby's roles in leaking the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame. However, during that interview, Franken did not assert that Rove and Libby "should be executed for treason." Rather, as Franken noted during his interview with Chetry, he asserted on the Late Show that "George H.W. Bush, the president's father, was the head of the CIA, and he has said that outing a CIA agent is treason," and then said, "what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going to be executed." Franken added, "I don't know how I feel about it because I'm basically against the death penalty, but they are going to be executed, it looks like."
In response to Chetry's claim that he "sa[id]" Rove and Libby "should be executed for treason," Franken stated, "I did not say that, Kiran," and later said, "I didn't even say that in a joking matter." After Franken described his original comments, Chetry asserted: "All I'm saying is, when you say things like that in the past ... and you're running, obviously those things come up." When Franken replied, "What you said was that I advocated the execution of Karl -- ," Chetry interrupted, and denied she made her earlier statement, saying, "I didn't say advocated. I didn't actually say you advocated [it]." Franken concluded of his Late Show remarks, "[T]he whole point of that was to show that outing a CIA agent is serious. That's what a satirist does."
From the March 14 edition of CNN's American Morning:
CHETRY: Now, you quoted something [Sen.] Norm Coleman [R-MN] said. You've said some controversial things in the past. You wrote a book called Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot. You said some things about --
FRANKEN: -- and Other Observations.
CHETRY: You said some things about Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, saying they should be executed for treason because they are --
FRANKEN: I did not say that, Kiran.
CHETRY: In a joking manner?
CHETRY: In a satirical way?
FRANKEN: No. I didn't even say that in a joking manner.
CHETRY: What did you say?
FRANKEN: I was on David Letterman's show, and he asked me, this is, like, the day after it was revealed that they had outed -- participated in the outing of Valerie Plame, and he asked me what was gonna happen to him. And I said that President George H.W. Bush, before he was president, was director of the CIA. And George H.W. Bush said that outing a CIA agent was treason. I said, "David, you know what the penalty is for treason." And David asked me what was gonna happen to them. I said, "So I guess they might be executed, which I'm against. I don't know how -- I'm against the death penalty. And I'm afraid that [Vice President Dick] Cheney and [President George W.] Bush might be involved in some way, and so we should pass a constitutional amendment to ban the execution of a sitting president, because that would be very demoralizing to the American people." This was, you know, this is exactly what the Republican Party is doing. They take things out of --
CHETRY: Well, this is a CBS Late Show quote. OK, so the CBS Late Show quote, just so we're clear -- if you say, I mean, you were joking, you were joking around with David Letterman, he's a comedian, too -- is: "And so basically what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going be executed because outing a CIA agent is treason." And then you said -- you went on to say, "We should never, ever, ever execute a sitting president." All I'm saying is, when you say things like that in the past, and you're running --
FRANKEN: But no, but what you said was --
CHETRY: -- obviously those things come up.
FRANKEN: What you said was that I advocated the execution of Karl --
CHETRY: I didn't say advocated. I didn't say you advocated. I'm just talking about when you say things in the past that can be perceived as divisive, how do you then come together and say, "You know what? I can be a senator for everyone in the state"?
FRANKEN: Because people know the difference between being a satirist, and the whole point of that was to show that outing a CIA agent is serious. That's what a satirist does. A satirist points out what is actually serious, and anyone -- and, you know, the trick here is, they are going to be taking things out of context, and you're right. The Republican Party in Minnesota said that I advocated the execution of those guys. And I wasn't. And that's -- it was very clear to the Letterman audience and anyone who saw that, and, look, this is just ridiculous. We should be talking about foreclosures on homes. We should be talking about gas prices. We should be talking about loss of jobs, and that's what I'm going to do.
CHETRY: No, I agree.
FRANKEN: The reason they want -- the reason they want to do this kind of distraction is that Norm Coleman has such a terrible record on these things. So I'm not gonna let them do that, and then when they say that I advocated these things, they're only shooting themselves in the foot. They came out with this the day I announced. The day I announced, the first poll came out, said I was 22 points down to Norm Coleman. The last poll has me three points ahead of Norm Coleman. This doesn't work. And if they -- let them continue to do this. I'm gonna talk about the problems that face Minnesotans.
CHETRY: OK. And I just want to ask you this --
FRANKEN: I'm gonna talk about getting to universal health care.
FRANKEN: Go ahead.
LETTERMAN: The feeling was that this report made the administration's decision to go to war look bad --
FRANKEN: Right. So they wanted to smear the guy who came back with the report, and so they outed his wife and said she sent him there, that she had -- and this is essentially -- you know, George H.W. Bush, the president's father, was the head of the CIA, and he has said that outing a CIA agent is treason.
LETTERMAN: It is treason, yes.
FRANKEN: And so, basically, what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going to be executed.
LETTERMAN: What? What? Really?
FRANKEN: Yeah. And I don't know how I feel about it because I'm basically against the death penalty, but they are going to be executed, it looks like.
LETTERMAN: The real crime is that there's an adult man walking around in the current administration named Scooter. I mean, we can agree on that, right?
FRANKEN: That, and -- but sooner or later he'll be executed, so -- and you worry about it because the president at some -- he said right away when [columnist Robert] Novak outed the CIA agent, Plame, said, "I want to get to the bottom of this." Well, now, Karl Rove is his right-hand man. Did he ask Karl? Did Karl lie to him? If so, we know now he should have fired Karl by now so that -- did Karl tell the truth to him? In that case, the president -- and I think, by the way, that we should never ever, ever, ever execute a sitting president.
LETTERMAN: It makes us look bad around the world, I think.
FRANKEN: It would. It would be heartbreaking, I think, and I think that we should have a constitutional amendment.
LETTERMAN: I see, yeah. Have we ever come close in the history to executing a seated president?
FRANKEN: No, this will be the closest.
LETTERMAN: This will be the closest, yeah.
FRANKEN: Unless we get that amendment passed now.