Fox uses falsehood, cropped video to hype unsolicited email claims

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

Even while asserting that he wasn't suggesting anything "nefarious" on the part of the White House, Fox News' Major Garrett did just that while recounting an exchange he had with White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, in which Garrett relayed complaints from people who, according to Garrett, said they received an unsolicited email from the White House. Garrett based his report in part on the false claim that it was Gibbs who first used the word "list" in reference to people receiving the email, when in fact it was Garrett himself who introduced the notion of a targeted "list" of recipients -- as well as the actual word -- into the exchange.

Garrett falsely claims, "I never said 'list' until Robert Gibbs said 'list.' He said it first"

From the August 14 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:

GARRETT: I have three times now told Robert Gibbs I have emails to present to him or anyone else he assigns at the White House to look into this, provided I receive substantive answers back as to how these people's names ended up on a White House list. And remember, I never said "list" until Robert Gibbs said "list." He said it first, then I repeated the word "list," so apparently there is one. I don't say that; he said it.

Fox airs deceptively edited video to support Garrett's false claim

Leading in to Garrett's August 14 appearance, Happening Now showed an edited version of Garrett's August 13 exchange with Gibbs that falsely suggested that Gibbs was the first to reference "the list." Here's what Fox aired:

GIBBS: -- assume that somebody is violating the law and mixing up political --

GARRETT: -- I receive e-mails from people who have never, ever signed up for anything related to this White House, Senator Obama as a candidate, Senator Obama as anything, and have received e-mails from David Axelrod. How could that be?

[Fox's video cut]

GIBBS: I'd be interested to see who you got that e-mail from and whether or not they're on the list. I don't --

[Fox's video cut]

GIBBS: Again, I just want to be -- but I just want to be very --

GARRETT: So what you're telling me is I need to give you these people's e-mails so you can check them on a list? I'm just asking.

GIBBS: Well, you're asking me if they're on a list.

GARRETT: No, they're telling me --

GIBBS: If you can figure out a different way of checking without asking me to double-check the name, I'm happy to --

GARRETT: Perhaps I'm not phrasing this correctly. They're telling me they're not -- they can't be on a list because they never asked for an e-mail from the White House.

Fact: Garrett referenced "the list" first

Garrett initiated discussion of purportedly unsolicited emails by asking about "the list." During his August 13 exchange with Gibbs about a mass email sent by White House adviser David Axelrod, Garrett was the first to refer to "the list" of people it was sent to, asking Gibbs: "Speaking of the e-mail, how was the list for who would receive it determined?" The video shown on Happening Now omitted Garrett's question that referenced "the list" but did show Gibbs' first mention of "the list."

Here's the transcript of what actually happened at the August 13 briefing (video available here), with references to the "list" in bold and the reference Happening Now omitted in bold italics:

GARRETT: Robert, a couple things on public option. It wasn't listed in the email that David Axelrod sent out today where he was defining principal goals for health care reform. By my reading of it, I didn't see any mention of a public option as a mechanism of achieving what you just outlined. Was that an oversight or is this -- are there other --

GIBBS: I'd have to go back and reread the email.

GARRETT: Are there other priorities that take a higher precedent --

GIBBS: Well, again --

GARRETT: -- for the president than a public option?

GIBBS: Let me be clear -- I thought I was a minute ago, but I'll take another whack at it -- this is an option that provides choice and competition in an otherwise narrow or closed insurance market. That's the president's goal, is to ensure that if you didn't get your health insurance through your employer, you didn't have those type of options, that you would have something that might compete with the only game in town. That's -- I think that's in David's email, choice and competition.

GARRETT: Speaking of the email, how was the list for who would receive it determined?

GIBBS: I believe it's for people that have signed up to receive email updates from the White House.

GARRETT: The reason I ask is I have received emails from people who did not, in any way, shape, or form, seek any communication from the White House, who have never registered on OFA, who have never registered on a campaign website --

GIBBS: Well, hold on, let's --

GARRETT: Let me finish my question, let me finish my question.

GIBBS: No, no, no, but let's be clear, because --

GARRETT: Let me finish my question.

GIBBS: No, no, no, but let's be clear before you -- I'm going to give you a chance to finish your question. You've done this a couple of times, Major, and I just want to be very clear, OK? OFA -- no, no, no, no, don't look funny. OFA, whether Obama for America or Organizing for America, has nothing to do with, never has had anything to do with what -- if you sign up for, through whitehouse.gov, to receive emails, so let's just -- the reason I interrupted you is because I want you to rephrase your question that doesn't continue to assume that --

GARRETT: Well, all I'm trying to get at is --

GIBBS: -- somebody is violating the law and mixing up political --

GARRETT: -- I receive e-mails from people who have never, ever signed up for anything related to this White House, Senator Obama as a candidate, Senator Obama as anything, and have received e-mails from David Axelrod. How could that be?

GIBBS: I'd have to look at who you said got the email.

GARRETT: I mean, do you seek other pieces of information identifying who might be curious about health care outside of people who have asked for emails?

GIBBS: I'm sorry, say that again.

GARRETT: Do you in any way seek databases or information about people who might be interested in health care?

GIBBS: I will certainly check. I will certainly check. I am not under that impression. But again --

GARRETT: I mean, folks have emailed me -- I just want to know -- would like to know how they get an e-mail from the White House when they have never asked for one.

GIBBS: I'd be interested to see who you got that e-mail from and whether or not they're on the list. I don't --

OTHER REPORTER: May I follow up politely on one of Major Garrett's --

GIBBS: Well, let me -- let me finish needling Major.

OTHER REPORTER: -- this row, please.

GIBBS: Again, I just want to be -- but I just want to be very --

GARRETT: So what you're telling me is I need to give you these people's emails so you can check them on a list? I'm just asking.

GIBBS: Well, you're asking me if they're on a list, and --

GARRETT: No, they're telling me --

GIBBS: -- if you can figure out a different way of checking without asking me to double-check the name, I'm happy to --

GARRETT: Perhaps I'm not phrasing this correctly. They're telling me they're not -- they can't be on a list because they never asked for an e-mail from the White House.

Fox Nation also hypes "The List"

Fox Nation asks: "What Is 'The List' & Who's on It?" Like Garrett's false report on Happening Now, an August 13 post on the Fox Nation suggested that Gibbs' reference to "the list" somehow indicated shady actions on the part of the White House. Fox Nation asked, "Why Is Axelrod Sending Them E-mails? What Is 'The List' & Who's on It?" The post, which includes the full video of Gibbs' exchange with Garrett, also invites readers to "send Major Garrett e-mails you've received from the White House!"

thelist

Transcript

From the August 14 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:

[begin video clip]

GIBBS: -- assume that somebody is violating the law and mixing up political --

GARRETT: -- I receive emails from people who have never, ever signed up for anything related to this White House, Senator Obama as a candidate, Senator Obama as anything, and have received emails from David Axelrod. How could that be?

[video cut]

GIBBS: I'd be interested to see who you got that email from and whether or not they're on the list. I don't --

[video cut]

GIBBS: Again, I just want to be -- but I just want to be very --

GARRETT: So what you're telling me is I need to give you these people's e-mails so you can check them on a list? I'm just asking.

GIBBS: Well, you're asking me if they're on a list, and --

GARRETT: No, they're telling me --

GIBBS: -- if you can figure out a different way of checking without asking me to double-check the name, I'm happy to --

GARRETT: Perhaps I'm not phrasing this correctly. They're telling me they're not -- they can't be on a list because they never asked for an email from the White House.

[end video clip]

GREGG JARRETT (anchor): Well, you may have caught that exchange live on Fox News yesterday. Our own Major Garrett grilling press secretary Robert Gibbs on health care emails sent by the White House. Now, Fox has learned from folks who claim they have received the emails without ever asking to be on any kind of a list. If that's true, how did the White House get their names? Major Garrett is live at the White House with more on this developing story. Great job trying to get some answers. Have you gotten some answers? What's been the fallout to all of this?

GARRETT: No answers; that's the simple fallout. I'm working on it. I engaged Robert Gibbs after the briefing, after we had what I would diplomatically describe as a spirited conversation in his office. As you saw, and as our viewers saw, and as the White House transcript lays out perfectly clearly, Robert Gibbs established a standard for follow-ups on this question: provide the emails. The reason I hesitated at the briefing is that I did not obtain -- had not obtained any permission from anyone who had asked me about this to submit their emails to the White House.

I have since obtained permission from many, many emailers to do that. I have three times now told Robert Gibbs I have emails to present to him or anyone else he assigns at the White House to look into this, provided I receive substantive answers back as to how these people's names ended up on a White House list. And remember, I never said "list" until Robert Gibbs said "list." He said it first, then I repeated the word "list," so apparently there is one. I don't say that; he said it.

Three times I have given him the opportunity to take these emails and the names of the people who gave them to Fox and to me. I've heard nothing back from the White House. We'll continue to pursue it.

JARRETT: Major, I want to put this in perspective. Some people may be scratching their heads, saying, wait a minute, did these White House emails go out to people who disagree with the president -- that is to say, dissenters? And, you know, if so, that conjures up a dissenters list that could be used arguably for nefarious purposes, though it may be completely innocuous. Are these dissenters who've received emails?

GARRETT: I have received a lot of emails. There have been a tremendous number of comments sent to our White House blog, which is "Row 2, Seat 4." I've also received quite a few communications at Twitter on MajoratWH.

And they range a broad spectrum, Gregg, and I want to be very specific about this. Some people say they've never even access the White House website at all, to be pro or con or neutral. Many people have said that they have sent emails or letters to their congressman or to their senator but never to the White House, and they wonder if that could possibly be a chain of access. Other people have said to me that they have gone to the White House website -- sent a comment to the White House on a separate issue not related to health care and yet received these emails.

And some people say, "I have commented on the White House website specifically about health care, but I never asked to hear anything back from the White House as to why I should believe or listen to the White House on health care necessarily. I asked for them to respond to my specific criticism." I would say most of the people who have sent emails to me -- I'm not suggesting it's a representative sample -- were either neutral or may be, in some regards with their congressman or senator or with the White House website, critical.

I'm not suggesting that that's any kind of list that is nefarious. I'm just saying that might be a possible explanation. All I'm doing is asking questions, and I await some answers.

JARRETT: Well, we'd love to have the answers, so let us know if you get them. Major Garrett, live at the White House. Great job, Major, thanks.

Posted In
Government, The Presidency & White House
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Major Garrett
Show/Publication
Happening Now
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