CNN's King reads Kissinger statement without noting accusation against Obama is false

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

On CNN, John King read a statement issued by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in response to Sen. Barack Obama's citation during the presidential debate of Kissinger's support for direct negotiation with Iran without preconditions. The statement read: "Senator [John] McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level." But King did not point out that, contrary to Kissinger's suggestion, at no point during the debate that night did Obama suggest that Kissinger had previously endorsed presidential-level talks between the United States and Iran.

Following the September 26 presidential debate, CNN chief national correspondent John King read a statement issued by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in response to Sen. Barack Obama's citation of Kissinger's support for direct negotiation with Iran without preconditions. The statement read: "Senator [John] McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level." But King did not point out that, contrary to Kissinger's suggestion, at no point during the debate did Obama suggest that Kissinger had previously endorsed presidential-level talks between the United States and Iran. During the debate Obama said, "Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who's one of his advisers, who, along with five recent secretaries of state, just said that we should meet with Iran -- guess what -- without precondition. This is one of your own advisers," and, "When we talk about preconditions -- and Henry Kissinger did say we should have contacts without preconditions -- the idea is that we do not expect to solve every problem before we initiate talks." During the debate, McCain repeatedly purported to correct Obama by saying Kissinger would not support presidential-level talks with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Each time, Obama made clear that was not his contention -- that, instead, he was accurately saying Kissinger supported talks between the United States and Iran at levels below the president.

In fact, Obama's comments during the debate accurately reflected Kissinger's comments during a September 15 forum. Kissinger said, "Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually preferred doing it at the secretary of state level so that we -- we know we're dealing with authentic -- with authentic proposals." Asked by CNN's Frank Sesno, "To put at a very high level right out of the box?" Kissinger responded:

Initially, yes. And I always believed that the best way to begin a negotiation is to tell the other side exactly what you have in mind and what you are -- what the outcome is that you're trying to achieve so that they have something that they can react to.

Now, the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Japan and Germany, have all said nuclear weapons in Iran are unacceptable. They've never explained what they mean by this. So if we go into a negotiation, we ought to have a clear understanding of what is it we're trying to prevent. What is it going to do if we can't achieve what we're talking about?

But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations. We ought, however, to be very clear about the content of negotiations and work it out with other countries and with our own government.

From CNN's September 26 post-debate coverage:

KING: Someone's watching our discussion. The McCain campaign just released a statement by none other than Henry Kissinger, who says, quote: "Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next president of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality." So, this is the post-debate, things move quickly.

From CNN's transcript of its September 21 special report The Next President: A World of Challenges:

KISSINGER: Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually preferred doing it at the secretary of state level so that we -- we know we're dealing with authentic -- with authentic proposals.

SESNO: To put at a very high level right out of the box?

KISSINGER: Initially, yes. And I always believed that the best way to begin a negotiation is to tell the other side exactly what you have in mind and what you are -- what the outcome is that you're trying to achieve so that they have something that they can react to.

Now, the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Japan and Germany, have all said nuclear weapons in Iran are unacceptable. They've never explained what they mean by this. So if we go into a negotiation, we ought to have a clear understanding of what is it we're trying to prevent. What is it going to do if we can't achieve what we're talking about?

But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations. We ought, however, to be very clear about the content of negotiations and work it out with other countries and with our own government.

Posted In
Elections, National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
John King
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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