In recent days, Republican media pundits have continued to misrepresent former Vermont governor Howard Dean's remarks about Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's announcement that the threat advisory level in certain cities would be raised from yellow (elevated) to orange (high).
On the August 9 edition of FOX News Channel's FOX & Friends, GOP strategist Frank Donatelli asserted that Dean complained the administration "put too much information out." Meanwhile, on the August 6 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, Republican strategist Jack Burkman claimed that Dean was speaking for Senator John Kerry when he allegedly accused President George W. Bush of "treason" and "a crime." What Dean actually said was that while be believed there was "a real threat" and that the specificity of the information released was "very helpful," he questioned the political motivations behind the timing of the announcement; as Media Matters for America has previously noted, Kerry has distanced himself from Dean's remarks.
It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it. ... The question is, do I believe this is being fabricated? No, of course I don't believe that. But I do think that there is politics in this, and the question is, how much is politics and how much is a real threat? I have no doubt there's a real threat here, but I also -- this is a long history of orange to yellow, yellow to orange, orange to yellow without a lot of explanation.
On August 4, Dean told CNN: "There's one of two possibilities here. One, we need a new president so we can really take care of intelligence needs and the defense of the United States of America against terrorism. Or two, they're playing politics with their timing of the release of these documents."
Contrary to Donatelli's assertion that Dean said the administration "put too much information out," Dean praised the specificity of the information that was released: "I give the administration some credit for this. This is the first warning since September 11th, almost three years ago, where we have actually seen specifics," Dean said as a guest on CNBC's Capital Report on August 4, "I think it's very helpful." And in fact, Dean's original comments on CNN explicitly encouraged the Bush administration to provide more information: "It would be very helpful if the federal government would be much more specific about exactly what they'd like to us watch out for as they're raising all these levels."
Burkman misrepresented Dean's remarks as well, and erroneously insisted that Kerry refused to distance himself from them:
Howard Dean does speak for John Kerry. He has been a surrogate all over the place. He is a commissioned surrogate. And more than that, I have not seen John Kerry come out and denounce Howard Dean's comments. Howard Dean virtually came out and accused the president of treason. He accused him of a crime. He suggested that the president of the United States and Tom Ridge and the national security team would use the Department of Homeland Security and would use these terror alerts for political motive.
As MMFA noted on August 5, Kerry's senior foreign policy adviser, James P. Rubin, spoke for the campaign and rejected Dean's opinion: "This matter is too important to our safety; we have no reason to believe that this information that was most recently released was released for political reasons."