On CNN, Kurtz again falsely claimed Clark "strafed" McCain

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

On Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz again falsely claimed that, as Kurtz worded it this time, Sen. John McCain got "strafed by [retired Gen.] Wes Clark over his Vietnam service" during Clark's appearance on Face the Nation, and also said: "I would have bet a sizable sum of money that of all the possible attacks against John McCain, the Democrats would not have gone after his Vietnam War record, which, of course, includes his capture and torture in Hanoi. Well, I was wrong." But Clark neither "strafed" McCain's Vietnam service, nor went "after his Vietnam War record."

On the July 6 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, host Howard Kurtz repeated the false claim that Sen. John McCain got "strafed by [retired Gen.] Wes Clark over his Vietnam service" during Clark's June 29 appearance on CBS' Face the Nation. Kurtz previously wrote in a July 1 washingtonpost.com column that Clark "used" his Face the Nation appearance "to strafe John McCain over his Vietnam War record." Kurtz opened Reliable Sources by saying: "Waging war: McCain gets strafed by Wes Clark over his Vietnam service." He later said: "I would have bet a sizable sum of money that of all the possible attacks against John McCain, the Democrats would not have gone after his Vietnam War record, which, of course, includes his capture and torture in Hanoi. Well, I was wrong." He later said, "The latest round began this week when retired General Wes Clark appeared on Face the Nation and opened rhetorical fire on McCain's war record." But Clark did not "strafe[]" McCain, nor did he "go[] after his Vietnam War record." And while airing part of Clark's comments, Kurtz did not air Clark's praise of McCain as a "hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the Armed Forces as a prisoner of war."

After stating that Clark "opened rhetorical fire on McCain's war record," Kurtz aired an edited clip of Clark's comments on Face the Nation and claimed that the remarks were "all it took for the pundits to make yet another presidential campaign about a war that ended more than three decades ago." But in the video clip he aired of Clark's remarks, Kurtz omitted the portion of the exchange in which Clark described McCain as a "hero." On Face the Nation, Clark stated:

BOB SCHIEFFER (host): Well, you -- you went so far as to say that you thought John McCain was, quote -- and these are your words -- "untested and untried." And I must say, I had to read that twice, because you're talking about somebody who was a prisoner of war. He was a squadron commander of the largest squadron in the Navy. He's been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for lo these many years -- how can you say that John McCain is untested and untried, General?

CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy-making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents, and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Air -- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, "I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it" --

SCHIEFFER: Well --

CLARK: -- "publicly?" He hasn't made those calls, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Well -- well, General, maybe he --

CLARK: So --

SCHIEFFER: Could I just interrupt you? If --

CLARK: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean --

CLARK: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

SCHIEFFER: Really?

CLARK: But Barack is not -- he is not running on the fact that he has made these national security pronouncements. He's running on his other strengths. He's running on the strengths of character, on the strengths of his communication skills, on the strengths of his judgment -- and those are qualities that we seek in our national leadership.

On Reliable Sources, Kurtz aired only portions of the exchange that followed Clark's comments that McCain was a "hero." From Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: The latest round began this week when retired General Wes Clark appeared on Face the Nation and opened rhetorical fire on McCain's war record.

[begin video clip]

CLARK: He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, "I don't know if whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not."

[video break]

SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean --

CLARK: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

SCHIEFFER: Really?

[end video clip]

KURTZ: That was all it took for the pundits to make yet another presidential campaign about a war that ended more than three decades ago.

As Media Matters for America noted, in a July 1 washingtonpost.com column, Kurtz asserted that "Clark used an appearance on 'Face the Nation' Sunday to strafe John McCain over his Vietnam War record." Kurtz later stated: "No one's saying that being a POW entitles you to the Oval Office or places you above criticism. But Barack Obama frequently prefaces his criticism of McCain with a nod to his honorable service. Which raises the question: What was Wes thinking?"

Also, on the July 5 edition of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, while reporting on an exchange between spokesmen for opposing Iraq war veterans groups, guest host Linda Wertheimer said that the two were "arguing about whether former General Wesley Clark went too far in attacking John McCain's military record." As Media Matters has repeatedly noted, Clark did not "attack[] John McCain's military record."

From the July 6 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Waging war: McCain gets strafed by Wes Clark over his Vietnam service. Obama still battling rumors about his patriotism and his religion.

[...]

KURTZ: I would have bet a sizable sum of money that of all the possible attacks against John McCain, the Democrats would not have gone after his Vietnam War record, which, of course, includes his capture and torture in Hanoi. Well, I was wrong. And I was reasonably certain that by now the media would set the record straight on these scurrilous rumors that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, or in the latest crazy iteration, a gay Muslim. But plenty of people are telling reporters they still believe it. Which leads me to this question: Do journalists have the will and the ability to police unfair attacks and deep-six the garbage?

The latest round began this week when retired General Wes Clark appeared on Face the Nation and opened rhetorical fire on McCain's war record.

[begin video clip]

CLARK: He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, "I don't know if whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not."

[video break]

SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean --

CLARK: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

SCHIEFFER: Really?

[end video clip]

KURTZ: That was all it took for the pundits to make yet another presidential campaign about a war that ended more than three decades ago.

[...]

KURTZ: Sure, it made national news. But it went on to day three and four and five. And by the way, the Obama campaign did say to me, among others, that they certainly did not tell General Clark to say that.

DAVID CORN (Mother Jones Washington bureau chief): Well, it made national news because national media loves nothing better than a catfight. And the McCain camp saw an opportunity to make it a catfight. Over and over again this week, the headline was that Wesley Clark attacks John McCain's military record in Vietnam.

I've read this; I don't think it's an attack on his military record. In the same comments he said, "He was a hero to me." You don't call someone a hero if you're attacking them. But he was making the argument, whether true or not -- and this is what we can evaluate -- whether his military service and what happened to him as a POW has any bearing on whether he should be president or not. Now people can make -- can argue that point, but it wasn't a criticism of what he did in Vietnam the way the Swift Boat people criticized and actually called Kerry a fraud for what he did. So I think that's -- I think the media has actually misportrayed this in a pretty fundamental way.

From the July 5 edition of National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Saturday:

WERTHEIMER: The shouting matches this week on cable TV had a military air.

[begin audio clip]

[crosstalk]

HEGSETH: Senator Obama --

SOLTZ: The entire --

HEGSETH: Jon, let me speak. Senator Obama --

SOLTZ: The entire blogosphere is supporting Senator -- or General Clark.

HEGSETH: The blogosphere, the Daily Kos and the Huffington Post and all those folks on the far left -- let me speak --

[end audio clip]

WERTHEIMER: Pete Hegseth and Jon Soltz, here on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, arguing about whether former General Wesley Clark went too far in attacking John McCain's military record. Hegseth and Soltz lead opposing veterans' organizations -- one conservative, one liberal -- in a year when veterans may have an unusually strong political voice. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Howard Kurtz
Show/Publication
Reliable Sources
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine, 2008 Elections
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