Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told three lies about Senator John Kerry on the August 1 edition of FOX Broadcasting Company's FOX News Sunday. After airing host Chris Wallace's pre-recorded interview of Kerry and Senator John Edwards, Gingrich appeared along with Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd to present the Republican response.
Lie #1: Kerry accusation on flawed intelligence is "factually false"
Gingrich falsely claimed that an assertion Kerry made during his interview with Wallace -- that the Bush administration had been "warned" about questions surrounding the allegation that Iraq attempted to procure uranium from Africa -- was "factually false." Kerry was referring to the now-famous 16 words from President George W. Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
GINGRICH: Your interview just now -- what he said about uranium from Niger is factually false. Now, is it tearing Senator Kerry down to say that the Butler commission said what he just said is false? The Senate Intelligence Committee, on a bipartisan basis, said what he said is false. That three European intelligence agencies -- Britain, France, and Italy -- have all said what he just said is false. Is that tearing him down, or is that putting facts into the race?
But the Central Intelligence Agency agrees with Kerry. In July 2003, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet publicly stated that the 16 words "should never have been included in the text written for the president" because "we differed with the British dossier on the reliability of the uranium reporting." Moreover, deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley and communications director Dan Bartlett admitted in a joint briefing in July 2003 that "[t]he CIA sent two memos to the White House in October  voicing strong doubts" about the uranium claim and that the agency asked that the claim be removed from a Bush's major October 5, 2002, speech on Iraq. Much of the CIA's doubts about the uranium intelligence stemmed from its discovery that a set of documents purporting to chronicle the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq were, in fact, forged.
In arguing that findings by the Butler Commission (a British panel investigating British intelligence failures surrounding the Iraq war) contradict Kerry's assertion, Gingrich mischaracterized the commission's report. The Butler Commission merely reaffirmed British intelligence's long-held view of the African uranium question. But since Tenet has publicly stated that U.S. intelligence disagreed with the British assessment in January 2003 when Bush delivered the 16 words, the Butler report does not discredit Kerry's statement that Bush was "warned" about the African uranium intelligence.
Until October 2002 when the Intelligence Community obtained the forged foreign language documents on the Iraq-Niger uranium deal, it was reasonable for analysts to assess that Iraq may have been seeking uranium from Africa based on CIA reporting and other available intelligence.
After October 2002, as Conclusion 12 suggests, it was unreasonable to conclude that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa. Since the disputed 16 words occurred in January 2003, the report actually supports Kerry's allegation against the Bush administration.
Gingrich's invocation of alleged British, French, and Italian intelligence is also highly misleading. None of these governments have made public statements endorsing the Niger-uranium intelligence. Rather, Gingrich was apparently referencing a June 28 Financial Times article (registration required) that relied on unnamed "European intelligence officers" in reporting the existence of independent intelligence untainted by the forged documents that allegedly corroborated the Niger-uranium claim. Other conservatives, including New York Times columnist William Safire, spun the FT article as a vindication of Bush, even though the article did not reveal the content of the untainted alleged intelligence. But on August 1 -- the same morning that Gingrich accused Kerry of lying -- the Times of London contradicted (registration required) a central element of FT's story, casting serious doubt on the credibility of its anonymous sources.
Lie #2: Bush "inherited" a recession from Clinton
In defending Bush against criticisms of his economic policy, Gingrich repeated the common conservative falsehood that the recession of 2001-2002 actually began under former President Bill Clinton. "On the economy, the president [George W. Bush] inherited a recession. That's now clear it started in 2000," Gingrich said. But as Media Matters for America has documented, this oft-repeated claim is false.
Lie #3: Kerry is the "most liberal member of the Senate," Edwards "fourth-most liberal"
Continuing his misleading analysis of the presidential election, Gingrich echoed a dishonest Republican National Committee (RNC) charge that Kerry and Edwards are among the "most liberal" members of the Senate. Gingrich asked rhetorically, "[D]o you really want the most liberal member of the Senate and the fourth most liberal member of the Senate, people to the left of [Senator] Teddy Kennedy, people to the left of Hillary Clinton?" As MMFA has repeatedly documented (here, here, here, and here), this charge is based on a narrow, one-year sample of Kerry's and Edwards's Senate votes. Independent analyses of both senators' voting records place both Kerry and Edwards to the right of Senator Edward Kennedy.