Criticizing Carter, Fox News' Carlson repeated falsehood that McCain rarely talks about his POW experience
Research ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN
On Fox & Friends, Gretchen Carlson said that the "first time" Sen. John McCain "really did start sharing some personal moments" about his prisoner of war experience in Vietnam was during his August 16 appearance at a forum at Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, adding that "most people would say that John McCain hasn't talked enough about his POW experience." In fact, McCain has discussed his POW experience, including "personal moments," during the current campaign as well as on numerous previous occasions.
Echoing a falsehood she has made before, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson said that the "first time" Sen. John McCain "really did start sharing some personal moments" about his prisoner of war experience in Vietnam was during his August 16 appearance at a forum at Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church. Referring to the assertion by former President Jimmy Carter that "I think that John McCain is milking every possible drop of advantage from that unfortunate experience in his early military life," Carlson claimed on the August 29 edition of Fox & Friends: "On its face, it's an amazing statement, but it's also amazing when you start to analyze it because most people would say that John McCain hasn't talked enough about his POW experience, and the first time that he really did start sharing some personal moments about that, which were very tough for him to do, was during the Saddleback forum with Rick Warren a few weeks ago."
Previously, while discussing McCain's appearance at Saddleback during the August 19 edition of Fox & Friends Carlson asserted that McCain "doesn't like to talk about when he was a POW." In fact, McCain repeatedly referred to his POW experience before the Saddleback forum, including during the current campaign -- for instance, during a July 9 interview with Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV.
Further, in an August 28 Time article headlined "Is McCain Overplaying the POW Card?" Michael Scherer reported:
When he first ran for Congress in Arizona nearly three decades ago, John McCain had one clear liability: he wasn't from the state, and he could count the number of years he had lived there on a couple of fingers.
So his primary opponent, state senator Jim Mack, attacked him as a Johnny-come-lately. To counter the charge, at a candidate forum, McCain offered a decidedly pointed response. "I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the first district of Arizona, but I was doing other things," he said. "As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi."
McCain's heroic biography, as a Navy veteran and former prisoner of war, gave him a clear out for the carpetbagger critique. It was widely seen as a devastating response -- and a key turning point in McCain's early political career.
Twenty-six years later, McCain has returned to the same tactic, but some critics say he is overplaying his trump card.
Indeed, from the beginning of the campaign, McCain has consistently made his time in captivity a feature of his stump speech. On tours through New Hampshire and Iowa, he told a cycle of stories: a tale about a prison mate who was caught and beaten for sewing an American flag, and one about a North Vietnamese prison guard who drew a cross in the dirt to demonstrate to McCain his Christian faith. He has also described in some detail the painful rope bonds that his captors would tie him in overnight.
Moreover, contrary to Carlson's assertion that McCain had not shared his "personal moments" relating to his POW experience before appearing at Saddleback, McCain has repeatedly specifically talked about his refusal to accept early release from the North Vietnamese. For instance, McCain repeatedly refers to his refusal to accept an early release in his 1999 book, Faith of My Fathers (Random House). For example, on Page 235 of the paperback edition, McCain writes:
I wanted to say yes. I badly wanted to go home. I was tired and sick, and despite my bad attitude, I was often afraid. But I couldn't keep from my own counsel the knowledge of how my release would affect my father, and my fellow prisoners. I knew what the Vietnamese hoped to gain from my release.
From the August 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Now think about the Democratic National Convention that we saw: all the big names -- Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, of course, Barack Obama, himself -- John Kerry is speaking yesterday as well. Who are we missing? What big-name Democrat --
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Sure.
KILMEADE: -- did not have a prominent role?
DOOCY: Well, I think you're forgetting the guy who won the Nobel Prize for peace in the world.
CARLSON: Which one?
DOOCY: Well, I'm talking this time about Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter sat down for an interview with USA Today and the Gannett News Service, and what he said about John McCain's biography and the campaign is extraordinary. Listen to this.
CARTER [video clip]: I think that John McCain is milking every possible drop of advantage from that unfortunate experience in his early military life.
DOOCY: Did you hear that? He said, "John McCain is milking every possible drop of advantage" from his POW status.
CARLSON: Well, it's an amazing statement.
DOOCY: Milking that he was a POW.
CARLSON: On its face, it's an amazing statement, but it's also amazing when you start to analyze it, because most people would say that John McCain hasn't talked enough about his POW experience, and the first time that he really did start sharing some personal moments about that, which were very tough for him to do, was during the Saddleback forum with Rick Warren a few weeks ago.
KILMEADE: He said that every question that went his way, that went his way from Rick Warren, he put it back to his POW status. And I'll tell you what, Jimmy Carter is and was a naval officer for seven years, but now you talk about --
DOOCY: Which is kind of scary, Brian, because he was on one of those tactical nuclear submarines, this guy, with his finger on the button.
KILMEADE: Yeah, I know.
DOOCY: That doesn't scare you?