Hannity and O'Reilly conveniently ignore accusations that CIA misled Congress

››› ››› HANNAH DREIER

Though Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and their guests criticized Nancy Pelosi for alleging that the CIA gave her false information, they have yet to note the report by several Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee that CIA director Leon Panetta disclosed to them that the CIA withheld information from Congress for years during the Bush administration.

In May, Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and their guests sharply criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for alleging that in 2002, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) gave her false information about enhanced interrogation techniques, often suggesting it was ridiculous to claim the agency would ever deliberately mislead Congress. However, neither host has yet noted reports that in a closed-door meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee, CIA director Leon Panetta disclosed that the CIA withheld information from Congress for years during the Bush administration.

In a July 10 article, The Washington Post reported:

Four months after he was sworn in, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta learned of an intelligence program that had been hidden from Congress since 2001, a revelation that prompted him to immediately cancel the initiative and schedule a pair of closed-door meetings on Capitol Hill.

The next day, June 24, Panetta informed the House and Senate intelligence committees of the program and the action he had taken, according to Democratic and Republican members of the panels.

The incident has reignited a long-running dispute between congressional Democrats and the CIA, with some calling it part of a broader pattern of the agency withholding information from Congress.

The Post reported the reaction of Democrats:

"The full committee was stunned," said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (Calif.).

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (Tex.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, called Panetta "a stand-up guy."

Eshoo said the intelligence panels should investigate how and why the program was concealed from Congress. Rep. Rush D. Holt (N.J.) suggested "a major commission" or other entity to conduct a much broader investigation of intelligence practices. "A lot of people are trying to turn this into an inside-the-Beltway political matter," Holt said, emphasizing that the dispute goes to the heart of the intelligence committees' oversight function.

While O'Reilly and Hannity have yet to address the reports, the hosts and their guests harshly criticized Pelosi for her allegation that the CIA had misled her, in some cases broadly rejecting the idea that the CIA would ever mislead Congress:

  • On the May 14 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly hosted Fox News vice president of news and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, who said of Pelosi's statements, "I think that is a very large and serious accusation to make. It's fraught with political peril. It's like accusing the IRS of some grave crime on national television. You know what's going to happen next. I mean, this is the speaker of the House accusing the CIA of lying. If you don't think the CIA is now going to find a way to disclose all the notes about the various times she was briefed, you've got another thing coming." O'Reilly responded, "Well, I already got a call from the CIA. I already got a call from them a couple hours ago, and what they say this is -- Ms. Pelosi is not telling the truth. She is impugning the agency. And the agency will correct the record, so you're absolutely right. I already got that call. But here's what I want to know. I think that most people understand that Ms. Pelosi is not telling the truth at this point. Now, how bad it is or what -- I don't know. I can't possibly say. What happens now? Can anything happen to her?"
  • On the May 15 edition of his show, O'Reilly said of Pelosi, "Yesterday, she got hammered by the press because it looks like she simply did not tell the truth about being briefed on enhanced interrogations by the CIA. And even worse, Ms. Pelosi has called the Central Intelligence Agency liars. And that might not be a smart thing to do." O'Reilly later added, "Well, what does the Democratic Party do? Do they try to get her out of the House position because she's tainted? Look, everybody knows she didn't tell the truth unless you're a loon, unless you are crazy. So everyone -- all Americans know. So now we have a third in line for the presidency, a woman who has been publicly dishonest about a very important issue. So what do you do? Do they get her out of there? Or do they circle the wagons and try to protect her?"
  • On the May 18 edition of his show, Hannity said of Pelosi, "I think just for national security purposes she's got to go because, first of all, she lied and then got caught, and then she accused the CIA of lying, which effectively renders them impotent in doing their job and keeping us safe, which I think really renders her -- she's not qualified for this position." Hannity also hosted Fox News contributor Dick Morris, who said, "But the basic point here is, Sean, Sean, is that Pelosi's days are numbered. You cannot have a Democratic speaker feuding with the Democratic CIA chief without the president looking terrible, and you're not going to remove the CIA director, for goodness sakes, and you can't leave him there. If you undercut him and you go with Pelosi -- Pelosi is expendable in this situation."
  • On the May 20 edition of his show, Hannity invited former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) to discuss the controversy, and said, "Mr. Speaker, as it relates to Nancy Pelosi, you have said she is unworthy to be speaker. You said shame on her. You said she has made America less safe; she has damaged America's safety; she has made America less secure by sending a signal to men and women defending our country that they can't count on their leaders to defend them. And, every day we spend worrying about the political -- that she is being politically persecuted is a day we are made more vulnerable to a nuclear attack on one of our cities." Gingrich stated that Pelosi "went on to say that the CIA lies all the time to Congress. That is a terrible falsehood. It is illegal." He also stated: "I felt that, to smear every man and woman in our intelligence service who is out there risking their life trying to defend America from terrorists, trying to defend America from other major powers -- worried about North Korea, worried about Pakistan, worried about Iran -- for those folks to have, as speaker of the House, third in line to be president, somebody who had that level of contempt and that level of dishonesty was simply unacceptable." Hannity commented, "I agree wholeheartedly with everything you're saying."

From the May 14 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

SAMMON: I think that's a very large and serious accusation to make. It's fraught with political peril. It's like accusing the IRS of some grave crime on national television. You know what's going to happen next. I mean, this is the speaker of the House accusing the CIA of lying. If you don't think the CIA is now going to find a way to disclose all the notes about the various times she was briefed, you've got another thing coming.

O'REILLY: Well, I already got a call from the CIA. I already got a call from them a couple hours ago.

SAMMON: Well --

O'REILLY: And they say this is -- Ms. Pelosi is not telling the truth. She is impugning the agency. And the agency will correct the record, so you're absolutely right. I already got that call.

SAMMON: Well --

O'REILLY: But here's what I want to know. I think that most people understand that Ms. Pelosi is not telling the truth at this point. Now, how bad it is or what -- I don't know. I can't possibly say. What happens now? Can anything happen to her?

SAMMON: I think there's a real question about whether her speakership is in peril. And it's not because of Republicans. It's because of Democrats. She, you know, Bill, the torture debate is supposed to hurt Republicans. That's what it's all about.

O'REILLY: Yeah, it's hurting Democrats worse. Absolutely.

SAMMON: It's hurting Democrats.

O'REILLY: Sure.

SAMMON: And the Democrats are very, very acutely aware of that. She is now the story. She is standing in the way of any truth commission. She's standing in the way of any Department of Justice investigation or any congressional hearings into this because, you know, she's the issue. If -- at some point it may occur to Democrats that if she gets out of the way, they can get on with their show trials and their witch hunts to put it in critic words.

O'REILLY: Well, she's going to have to be put under oath.

But here's what worries me, Bill. If she's going to go out in front of the world and say that she was lied to, misled, and information was withheld from her, why wouldn't she say it on the witness stand under oath?

SAMMON: Not only that, it's a crime to lie to Congress. She's essentially accusing the CIA of criminal activity.

From the May 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: "Factor Follow-Up" segment tonight: These are tough days for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Yesterday, she got hammered by the press because it looks like she simply did not tell the truth about being briefed on enhanced interrogations by the CIA. And even worse, Ms. Pelosi has called the Central Intelligence Agency liars, and that might not be a smart thing to do. The once-powerful speaker losing friends fast. Only the far-left loons at MSNBC and radical left politicians like Congressman Jerrold Nadler are standing by her today.

The question: How badly will Ms. Pelosi be hurt in the long run? Joining us now from Washington, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who will be talking about this on Fox News Sunday.

So, today, Leon Panetta, and I know you have a copy of this memo -- Senate memo to the CIA employees which, of course, you got, I got. They leaked it to us, like, seconds after they got it. And Panetta is basically saying Pelosi is full of what?

WALLACE: Well, what he says first of all, this is really -- and it wasn't a matter of leaking, this was just put out to the press. It's a memo to the CIA, saying -- there's a long history of making political hay out of the CIA. And it reached a new decibel level. And then, he basically is saying to the members -- you know, remember, this is Barack Obama's appointee to be CIA director. He is saying we have nothing to apologize for. We haven't lied. And he says this, I just want to quote it specifically. "Our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that the CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing," quote, "the enhanced techniques that had been employed." Now, remember, this is the previous month. August of 2002, Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times.

O'REILLY: Yeah.

WALLACE: And he's saying that our contemporaneous records indicate that our briefers briefed Pelosi and briefed her truthfully on the techniques that had been employed.

O'REILLY: OK, so Panetta, a longtime Democratic operative and a very close friend of the White House, is throwing Nancy Pelosi overboard. The White House had to know he was going to do that before he did it. They had to approve it. So this says that Nancy Pelosi is in big trouble. How do you see it going forward?

WALLACE: Yeah. Well, I agree she's in trouble. Remember, Leon Panetta was a Democratic congressman from California. He was the chief of staff to Bill Clinton. And now he is Barack Obama's CIA director. And he is saying to the world, in addition to the CIA members, we told the truth. And the speaker, in effect -- he doesn't say that, but the speaker didn't.

O'REILLY: Right.

WALLACE: And so, you know, I think that with her -- I think yesterday she made a terrible mistake, and you're exactly right. You don't want to get in a fight with the CIA because they have all kinds of information and all kinds of ways of making it known explicitly and also through leaks. And I think they're going to fight back.

O'REILLY: OK, but let's --

WALLACE: And so I think you are going to have it --

O'REILLY: Let's take it to the political realm. Look, the CIA is not going to stand for this. And you'll never hear another word from Nancy Pelosi about the CIA. I can guarantee it. She'll never even mention it again.

Well, what does the Democratic Party do? Do they try to get her out of the House position because she's tainted? Look, everybody knows she didn't tell the truth unless you're a loon, unless you are crazy. So, I mean, all Americans know. So now we have a third in line for the presidency, a woman who has been publicly dishonest about a very important issue. So what do you do? Do they get her out of there? Or do they circle the wagons and try to protect her?

WALLACE: Well, the answer is nobody knows. And it depends on how it plays out.

From the May 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

MORRIS: Good to see you, and I have a video on there about Miss Pelosi right now. You can get it on that site.

HANNITY: All right. First, I think the most important question that you could explain to our audience, having been in a White House, is there any way the CIA director would come out against the speaker of the House of her own party and accuse her of lying without the approval of and without telling the administration ahead of time?

MORRIS: Yes, I think there is. I think that Panetta has a very specific task now, which is to win the respect and the affection of his agency because he has a reputation as a liberal, and the CIA doesn't like that type, and CIA's pretty important to the anti-terror strategy, and Obama wants Panetta to become popular with them. So I think Panetta probably played this one straight with the agency, and I'm not sure he asked the White House for permission to unload on Pelosi. I think he probably did that at the prompting of his agency.

But the basic point here is, Sean, is that Pelosi's days are numbered. You cannot have a Democratic speaker feuding with the Democratic CIA chief without the president looking terrible, and you're not going to remove the CIA director, for goodness sakes, and you can't leave him there. If you undercut him and you go with Pelosi -- Pelosi is expendable in this situation.

HANNITY: All right, but --

MORRIS: And --

HANNITY: Go ahead --

MORRIS: The die is cast. You can't get into this kind of fight with the CIA and expect to win it.

HANNITY: Well, now, Steny Hoyer, it was revealed last week, he seemed to be pulling back from her. You don't really hear a lot of Democrats offering a really strong defense, but there's speculation, Dick, that it might go a little bit deeper inasmuch as maybe the White House wants a weakened speaker. Maybe -- or perhaps they want Steny Hoyer and will help him get that position. You don't think that's --

MORRIS: Well, that's -- that's possible. They don't want a weakened speaker. But what's going on in the House now is, you know, Hoyer lost by only 118 to 95. It was a pretty close vote -- Hoyer ran against Pelosi for speaker. And what's happening now is probably many of the people that voted with Pelosi but were in play and could have gone either way are now figuring that Hoyer will take over, so they're busy making sure that they're not too closely tied to Pelosi.

HANNITY: Yeah.

MORRIS: And I think that soon, some of Pelosi's friends like [Rep. John] Murtha [D-PA] and others are going to go to her and say, "Hey, Nancy, you better step aside."

Let's realize how low the bar is for a speaker. It's not like she's the head of an agency, it's not like she's vice president or head of a Cabinet. Her job is to pass the president's program, and the only word that counts with the speaker is the word "effective" or "ineffective." Those are the only two things she can be. And right now she is so distracted and so mired that she's ineffective, and when she goes to her members and say, "Toe the line," they say, "Well, how long are you going to be in office, lady? I think you're on your way out, so why should I listen to you?"

HANNITY: You see, I think she's now a huge liability. I think just for national security purposes she's got to go because, first of all, she lied and then got caught, and then she accused the CIA of lying, which effectively renders them impotent in doing their job and keeping us safe, which I think really renders her -- she's not qualified for this position.

From the May 20 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: And we continue now with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, as it relates to Nancy Pelosi, you have said she is unworthy to be speaker. You said shame on her. You said she has made America less safe; she has damaged America's safety; she has made America less secure by sending a signal to men and women defending our country that they can't count on their leaders to defend them. And every day we spend worrying about the political -- that she is being politically persecuted is a day we are made more vulnerable to a nuclear attack on one of our cities. Well, I really -- explain that in detail why this is so important and why you have been so outspoken.

GINGRICH: Well, there are two parts to this. The first is Nancy Pelosi, as a San Francisco congresswoman, can believe anything she wants to. And she can be -- she can represent the kookiest wing of her constituency. And, as a congresswoman, that would be fine. There are 435 members of the House, and that we have a fair number at any given time on the right and the left might be a little bit unusual or a little bit out to lunch on certain issues.

But speaker of the House is the only constitutional office in the legislative branch. The speaker is third in line to be president. The speaker has a direct concern for national security. The speaker has to be available to be briefed on any issue that involves this country's future and to be briefed on secrets that are, frankly, pretty darn important. I thought that, measured as speaker of the House, what Speaker Pelosi did last Thursday was totally unacceptable. And if you watched the press conference, which I think is now available on YouTube, you will see how unacceptable it was.

The first issue was whether or not, in 2002, she was, as the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, being given certain information. She claims she was not given it. Other people claim she was given it. That should be a matter for investigation by the House as to whether or not she's lying.

But the second thing she did was, in trying to defend herself, she went on to say that the CIA lies all the time to Congress. That is a terrible falsehood. It is illegal. And, in fact, I was very impressed on Friday when former Democratic congressman, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, Leon Panetta, now the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, sent out an email to all of his employees at the Central Intelligence Agency pointing out very explicitly -- this is a former Democratic congressman -- saying that they did brief in 2002 accurately; saying that it is a falsehood to suggest that the CIA lies to the Congress, that that is against the law, and the CIA, as an institution of the United States government, must obey the law.

I felt that to smear every man and woman in our intelligence service who is out there risking their life trying to defend America from terrorists, trying to defend America from other major powers -- worried about North Korea, worried about Pakistan, worried about Iran -- for those folks to have, as speaker of the House, third in line to be president, somebody who had that level of contempt and that level of dishonesty was simply unacceptable.

HANNITY: I -- I agree wholeheartedly with everything you're saying.

Posted In
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Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity
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