Fox News' double standard on who can question the CIA


In May 2009, several Fox News hosts repeatedly attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's statement that the CIA misled Congress on the use of enhanced interrogation tactics. But after Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) recently claimed the CIA's newly released account of a 2003 briefing on interrogation videos is not true, these Fox News hosts ignored the conflict.

Fox & Friends was incredulous after Pelosi questioned CIA's honesty

Kilmeade: The CIA's "integrity's been impugned." On May 15, 2009, the day after Pelosi said in a press conference that "[t]he only mention of waterboarding" at the September 2002 briefing by the CIA "was that it was not being employed," Fox & Friends repeatedly attacked Pelosi for "accus[ing]" the CIA of "lying." Co-host Brian Kilmeade asked, "Is it smart to call out our intelligence agency?" to which co-hosts Steve Doocy and Gretchen Carlson both replied, "No." Kilmeade later said to former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer: "[T]hey basically called the CIA liars, flat-out liars. Your integrity's been impugned, you personally -- they gave out a very docile statement in response. But what does the CIA do from here to make sure they retain some credibility?"

Doocy: Pelosi is "damaged goods now. She's going down a slippery slope." Doocy stated on May 15, "For the speaker of the House from his own party to be calling essentially all the people in the intelligence community liars, and serial liars and serial misleaders, that is not helpful to the president, and it certainly is not helpful to the CIA." Reporting the responses of Fox News viewers to the question, "Who's lying here, Nancy or the CIA?" Doocy stated, "I can't find anybody who thinks the CIA is fibbing," and later added, "Well she's damaged goods now. She's going down a slippery slope."

Carlson: "She shouldn't go on the record and say that the CIA lied to her to cover her own A-S-S." Carlson said on May 15, "[W]e don't have a war on drugs anymore and we don't have a war on terror, but we now do have a war on the CIA -- at least if you're Nancy Pelosi, which I find highly interesting." Carlson later stated that Pelosi "shouldn't go on the record and say that the CIA lied to her to cover her own A-S-S."

Fox & Friends silent on Republican senator's denial of CIA account of briefing

Roberts denied claim in CIA memo that he "assent[ed] to the destruction of" interrogation videotapes. Politico reported on February 22 that "Roberts (R-Kan.) is denying a CIA claim that he gave the go-ahead to destroy tapes that showed agency officials waterboarding terror suspect Abu Zubayda, disputing a recently released CIA document that claims the former Intelligence Committee chairman knew about plans to destroy waterboarding evidence." Politico noted that a February 4, 2003, CIA memo stated that during the briefing, CIA general counsel Scott Muller and CIA deputy director for operations Jim Pavitt "briefly described the circumstances surrounding the existence of tapes of the Zubayda debriefing. ... 'Muller indicated that it was our intention to destroy these tapes, which were created in any case as but an aide to the interrogations. ... Senator Roberts listened carefully and gave his consent.' " Politico reported that Roberts' spokeswoman, Sarah Little, responded to the memo with the following statement:

At no time did Senator Roberts assent to the destruction of any videotapes. Sen. Roberts today called on the Justice Department to release all the memoranda that exist regarding briefings for all members of Congress. ... As the memorandum clearly states, Sen. Roberts received his initial briefing on the CIA interrogation program on February 4, 2003. He was briefed by the CIA's General Counsel that the interrogations were lawful according to the National Security Council and the Justice Department, including the Criminal Division and the Attorney General.

Noting CIA documents mentioned Roberts, Kilmeade says that's not "the story" and did not mention the dispute. On February 23, the day after Roberts denied the CIA's statement that he assented to the destruction of interrogation videotapes, Kilmeade noted that the newly released documents "showed that he did know that they were doing waterboarding." But Kilmeade went on to say that Roberts "did know about the enhanced interrogation practice, but that wasn't the story. The story was who else knew about it." Fox & Friends then repeatedly falsely claimed that the newly released documents showed that Pelosi "was there when they were talking about waterboarding" Zubaydah. Fox & Friends did not mention that the CIA documents said Roberts "gave his assent" when Muller told him in a February 2003 briefing that the CIA intended to destroy videotapes of interrogations of Zubaydah, nor did Fox & Friends note that Roberts said the CIA's statement is not true. Fox & Friends again discussed the newly released documents on February 24 to attack Pelosi, but did not mention Roberts.

Other Fox News hosts who attacked Pelosi haven't mentioned CIA-Roberts dispute

Hannity: "[S]hould she remain speaker?" During the May 14, 2009, edition of his Fox News program, Sean Hannity stated of Pelosi's press conference earlier that day, "It's obvious to me that the speaker of the House of Representatives lied." On May 15, Hannity said, "Nancy Pelosi is out there, accusing our CIA of lying. Leon Panetta fights back today. Newt Gingrich, I think rightly so, says she is unworthy to serve as the speaker of the House of Representatives." Hannity then asked, "[S]hould she remain speaker?" Hannity later added, "She accused our CIA of lying to Congress, which is a crime." [accessed from Nexis]

O'Reilly: Not "smart" to "call the Central Intelligence Agency liars." Bill O'Reilly stated on the May 14, 2009, edition of his Fox News program, "I already got a call from the CIA ... and they say this is -- Ms. Pelosi is not telling the truth. She is impugning the agency. And the agency will correct the record." O'Reilly added: "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 May 15, O'Reilly added: "[S]he 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." [accessed from Nexis]

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