In a segment on the September 14 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, correspondent Ed Henry misled viewers about Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's (D-CT) role in former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael D. Brown's ascension to that job, selectively editing Lieberman's videotaped comments in order to create the false impression that Lieberman supported Brown's ascension.
Henry's piece included video clips of Lieberman -- who chaired the Senate's Governmental Affairs Committee (now known as Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs) when Brown was confirmed as deputy director of FEMA in June 2002 -- responding to questions during a September 13 press conference. But Henry specifically edited out Lieberman's statement that Lieberman opposed a provision in the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that resulted in Brown's elevation from deputy director to director without a second confirmation hearing. Worse, Henry not only omitted Lieberman's statement that he opposed the provision, but he also implied that Lieberman had actually supported it.
Henry asserted that "Senate Democrats also allowed the president to elevate Brown to director of FEMA without a second confirmation hearing when the agency was folded into the Department of Homeland Security."
But Henry had video of Lieberman specifically denying this point. The full video of Lieberman's comments from the press conference shows that he stated that he opposed the provision in the DHS legislation that ultimately allowed Brown to be promoted without a second hearing:
LIEBERMAN: This is one of those classic cases, deputy to an organization, where you say the president has earned the right to make the choice of who he wants to serve him. Congress has to decide not whether I would have chosen the person, but whether the person is acceptable for the job. And at that point, he sure looked like it. In the aftermath of what's come out in the last week, I'd say information -- that it seems that either consciously or unconsciously, there was an element of his resume that was wrongly stated, that suggested he had more background in emergency management than he did. I want to say just one thing: He became director of FEMA without a hearing, and that was wrong. That was as a result of a section of the law creating the Department of Homeland Security that I opposed but that the administration fought to keep in, where they could take somebody who had experience that was germane to the position for which they were being nominated in the new department and put them in without a hearing. I thought that was wrong. Needless to say, the replacement for Michael Brown will receive quite a hearing.
Henry carefully edited Lieberman's comments to exclude the statement about Brown's ascension and the DHS provision. How carefully? Henry aired both the sentence immediately before Lieberman's comments about Brown's ascension and the sentence immediately after it. He edited out Lieberman's comments about opposing the provision -- then told viewers that Democrats "allowed" it.
From the September 14 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
HENRY: Democrats have acted surprised and outraged that the president's FEMA director had next to no experience.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA, House Democratic leader): He appointed a person to head FEMA who had absolutely no credentials.
HENRY: But Democrats were running the Senate when Brown was easily confirmed as FEMA's deputy director in June 2002. The Democrat in charge of the confirmation hearing, Joe Lieberman, declared he would support Brown because of his, quote, "extensive management experience." Only four of 17 senators on the committee showed up for that hearing, which lasted only 42 minutes with no tough questions about Brown's nine years running an Arabian horse association. When pressed by CNN about whether he did a tough enough job scrutinizing Brown, Lieberman put the onus on the president.
LIEBERMAN: The president has earned the right to make the choice of who he wants to serve him. Congress has to decide not whether I would have chosen the person, but whether the person is acceptable for the job. And at that point, he sure looked like it.
HENRY: Lieberman noted Brown's resume suggested back in the late '70s he was in charge of emergency services in a small Oklahoma town, a claim now in question.
LIEBERMAN: In the aftermath of what's come out in the last week, I'd say information -- that it seems that either consciously or unconsciously, there was an element of his resume that was wrongly stated, that suggested he had more background in emergency management.
HENRY: Some senators acknowledged Democrats could have been tougher.
SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D-NJ): The majority did a bad job. That's what I think.
HENRY: Other Democrats defended their level of oversight. But in retrospect, 42 minutes is an easy amount of scrutiny.
SEN. DANIEL AKAKA (D-HI): That's for one person, that's an appropriate time.
HENRY: Senate Democrats also allowed the president to elevate Brown to director of FEMA without a second confirmation hearing when the agency was folded into the Department of Homeland Security. Lieberman is now vowing to be much tougher.
LIEBERMAN: Needless to say, the replacement for Michael Brown will receive quite a hearing.
HENRY: But about an hour before Lieberman made that very promise, his Homeland Security Committee was considering four other nominees, including one who will be crafting labor policy for the Homeland Security Department. Most lawmakers only had staff at the hearing. Many senators themselves, including Lieberman, were absent.
This is not the first time Henry has misrepresented videotaped comments. During a July 15 report about the investigation of the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, husband of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, Henry told viewers that "Joe Wilson himself has suggested that she was not undercover at the time" her employment at the CIA was revealed. Henry was apparently basing this on Wilson's statement the day before on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports that "My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that [syndicated columnist and then-CNN commentator] Bob Novak blew her identity." Wilson's statement clearly meant that she was no longer undercover once she had been outed -- not that she was not undercover to begin with. Media Matters for America pointed this out when the Associated Press made the same error; the AP quickly corrected its mistake. Two months later, Ed Henry still has not.