CNN aired McCain's false suggestion that Obama opposed designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

CNN anchors Kyra Phillips and Campbell Brown each uncritically aired Sen. John McCain's false suggestion that Sen. Barack Obama opposed designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. In fact, Obama co-sponsored a bill in 2007 that would have designated the group a terrorist organization.

On separate July 9 CNN programs, anchors Kyra Phillips and Campbell Brown uncritically aired Sen. John McCain's false suggestion that Sen. Barack Obama opposed designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and that McCain, by contrast, "voted to condemn" them as such. During a press availability earlier that day, McCain said: "It's my understanding that this missile test was conducted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. This is the same organization that I voted to condemn as a terrorist organization when a amendment was on the floor of the United States Senate. Senator Obama refused to vote, called it provocative. Called it a provocative step. And the fact is, this is a terrorist organization and should have been branded as such." Neither CNN anchor noted that Obama said he would have voted against the bill McCain referenced -- the Kyl-Lieberman amendment -- because it "states that our military presence in Iraq should be used to counter Iran," not because the resolution expressed the sense of the Senate that "the United States should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization." Indeed, Obama co-sponsored a different bill in 2007 that also would have designated the group a terrorist organization.

Moreover, neither Phillips nor Brown noted in response to McCain's assertion that McCain also did not vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment. The McCain campaign put out a press release touting McCain's assertion that he "voted to condemn" the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization that cites the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, but no other amendment or bill.

During the 2 p.m. ET hour of CNN Newsroom on July 9, Phillips said: "John McCain and Barack Obama are calling the Iranian missile test a dangerous situation, but they differ on how they would handle the threat from Iran. Obama favors direct diplomacy with Tehran. McCain wants to work with European and regional allies. Well, the Arizona senator had this to say at a campaign stop just this morning in Pennsylvania." She then aired McCain's July 9 remarks and read a statement from Obama about the missile tests, but did not challenge the accuracy of McCain's remarks.

Similarly, on the July 9 edition of CNN Election Center, Brown said: "Today's test brought out some strong reaction from both presidential candidates. Senator Barack Obama spoke on NBC's Today show. Senator John McCain talked to reporters." Brown then aired McCain's remarks and Obama's statement on Today about how to achieve "a coherent policy with respect to Iran." However, Brown did not challenge the accuracy of McCain's statements.

From the 2 p.m. ET hour of CNN Newsroom on July 9:

PHILLIPS: On the political front, John McCain and Barack Obama are calling the Iranian missile test a dangerous situation, but they differ on how they would handle the threat from Iran. Obama favors direct diplomacy with Tehran. McCain wants to work with European and regional allies. Well, the Arizona senator had this to say at a campaign stop just this morning in Pennsylvania.

McCAIN [video clip]: It's my understanding that this missile test was conducted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. This is the same organization that I voted to condemn as a terrorist organization when a amendment was on the floor of the United States Senate. Senator Obama refused to vote, called it provocative. Called it a provocative step. And the fact is, this is a terrorist organization and should have been branded as such.

PHILLIPS: In a statement, Obama says, quote, "Iran now possesses the greatest strategic challenge -- or poses the greatest strategic challenge to the United States in the region in a generation. And as president, I will do everything in my power to eliminate that threat. And that must begin with direct, aggressive, and sustained diplomacy."

Now, here's a closer look at the long-range missile reportedly fired this morning by Iran.

From July 9 edition of CNN Election Center:

BROWN: Today's test brought out some strong reaction from both presidential candidates. Senator Barack Obama spoke on NBC's Today show. Senator John McCain talked to reporters. Take a listen.

McCAIN [video clip]: This missile test was conducted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. This is the same organization that I voted to condemn as a terrorist organization when a amendment was on the floor of the United States Senate. Senator Obama refused to vote, called it provocative.

OBAMA [video clip]: It's so important for us to have a coherent policy with respect to Iran. It has to combine much tougher threats of economic sanctions with direct diplomacy, opening up channels of communication, so that we avoid provocation, but we give strong incentives for the Iranians to change their behavior.

BROWN: And we want to talk this over with our panel of experts tonight in Washington. Nile Gardiner is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank. Brian Katulis -- I hope I'm saying that right, Brian -- is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, who is a left-leaning think tank. He's also an informal unpaid adviser to the Obama campaign. His latest book is The Prosperity Agenda: What the World Wants From America and What We Need in Return. And in Los Angeles, Reza Aslan, a professor at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of the book No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.

Welcome to everybody. Nile, I want to start with you. You know, we just heard Barack Obama say that direct diplomacy is what needs to happen here, that the Bush administration policy hasn't worked so far. Why not give that a try?

GARDINER: Well, I think Senator Obama sends completely the wrong signal here. After all, the European Union has been negotiating directly with Tehran for several years now. Those negotiations have achieved absolutely nothing at all. They bought the Iranian regime valuable time to develop its nuclear program. Today's missile tests were there -- were an extremely provocative, hostile act by a brutal dictatorship. We should send a very clear signal to the Iranians that these actions have consequences.

Absolutely, we should place the use of force firmly on the table as a threat against the Iranian regime, and we should support, of course, even stronger economic sanctions against Iran. But the Bush administration's doing that already. So, Obama is saying nothing new on the sanctions front.

BROWN: Brian, if Obama's diplomacy plans don't work, then what? I mean, won't Iran just keep running out the clock here?

Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Kyra Phillips, Campbell Brown
Show/Publication
CNN Newsroom, CNN Election Center
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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