Fox News host Sean Hannity applauded Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for his attack on Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel, claiming that Cruz' questioning during the Hagel's hearing demonstrated that he had made anti-American and anti-Semitic comments. But Cruz' claim that Hagel had accused Israel of a "sickening slaughter" was based on distorted quotes from heavily cropped sound clips.
On the January 31 edition of his Fox News program, Hannity aired a portion of Hagel's confirmation hearing in which Cruz referenced an Israeli attack on Hezbollah and claimed that Hagel described Israel's actions as a "sickening slaughter." Cruz went on to ask, "Do you think it's right that Israel was committing, quote, a 'sicking slaughter,' as you said on the floor of the Senate?":
Despite Hannity's approval of Cruz' line of questioning, Hagel was not accusing Israel of engaging in a "sickening slaughter" of Lebanon, he was decrying the escalation of violence by all parties in the region. As Slate's Dave Weigel points out, Hagel "described the conflict that way--a sickening slaughter was occuring--blaming both sides, and quickly following up by criticizing Iran and invoking the 'special relationship.' Cruz's truncation of the quote completely changed the meaning." The full quote shows that Cruz was distorting Hagel's words:
Questioner: How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend, the country and people of Lebanon, is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?
HAGEL: The sickening slaughter on both sides must end, and it must end now. President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop. The Middle East today is more combustible and complex than it has ever been. Uncertain popular support for regime legitimacy continues to weaken governments in the Middle East. Economic stagnation, persistent unemployment, deepening despair, and wider unrest enhance the ability of terrorists to recruit and succeed.
Hannity also applauded a portion of the hearings in which Cruz used deceptively edited footage again to claim Hagel called the U.S. the bullies of the world after playing edited sound clips of an interview Hagel conducted in 2009. Hannity aired Cruz dismissing Hagel's denials, and called Cruz' questioning a "checkmate" on Hagel:
In fact, the full context of the statements made by Hagel were not presented during the hearing, nor later on Hannity's show. As NBC's First Read blog pointed out, as the interview continued past the cropped version played during the hearing and on Hannity's show, it's clear that Hagel's answer had to do with America's perception in the world following the two wars started under the Bush administration. Hagel expressed his hope that future foreign policy decisions would change the image of America as a bully.