Fox Tries To Drum Up Scandal Over Routine Admin. Review Of General's Testimony
Fox & Friends is promoting accusations that the White House "pressured" Air Force Gen. William Shelton "to change his testimony" over a plan allegedly favored by the White House. But congressional testimony is routinely reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) "to ensure that the [Department of Defense], and ultimately the entire Administration, speak with one voice," and Shelton's spokesperson has "denied there was any improper influence."
Fox & Friends Pushes Suggestion That White House "Pressured" General "To Change His Testimony"
Carlson: Shelton "Announcing Now That He May Have Been Pressured To Change His Testimony Over A White House Project." On the September 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed Air Force Gen. William Shelton "announc[ed] that he may have been pressured to change his testimony over a White House project." From Fox & Friends:
CARLSON: [N]ow you have a top level general, General William Shelton, announcing now that he may have been pressured to change his testimony over a White House project. Now, he used to be the head of the Air Force Space Command and he was going to give testimony about a Virginia-based satellite company called LightSquared.
Now, apparently, I don't want to get too technical on this, but what they wanted to do was come up with a 4G phone network that was going, you know, to surpass any technology that we've already seen out in the world. Well, members of the military were concerned that that might affect their GPS systems, so General Shelton was apparently going to go and testify to that. And then he told a closed House committee that in a classified briefing, that he was pressured to change that testimony. Now, we don't know who pressured him to do that. We don't know if it was the White House. We don't know if it was the Department of Defense or the Office of Management and Budget, but now that story is starting to percolate. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/16/11]
Bolling: "Most Disturbing Of All ... Someone Asked Him To Change His Testimony." Later on Fox & Friends, Carlson again promoted the claim that Shelton is "saying ... that he was pressured to change those comments." Guest host Eric Bolling also claimed that what's "most disturbing of all" is "that someone asked him to change his testimony." From Fox & Friends:
CARLSON: [T]here's a high ranking general -- General William Shelton, head of the Air Force Space Command -- who was supposed to testify about this new company, LightSquared, a Virginia-based satellite company, that was developing a new 4G phone network. Well, the general, in his prepared remarks, was actually going to say that it might be detrimental to the military --
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Doesn't work.
CARLSON: -- because the way in which it would affect or have problems with the GPS of the military. Now, he's saying, this general, that he was pressured to change those comments, to be more lock and step with what maybe the White House or the administration wanted to hear about this particular company. So now we've got yet another thing that's starting to percolate. Nobody knows yet who pressured him, but he's saying that he was pressured.
KILMEADE: They wanted him to say, (unclear), yeah, it's a problem but it's solvable. He goes, I don't think it's solvable. They all say that. No. And when they started questioning this guy, this general, they wanted the head of the FCC there, because he would be the one that would be pushing back on the general, but evidently he was too busy to show up at the hearing.
BOLLING: And most disturbing of all of it is not whether or not the technology is good or bad or it's going to supersede the military technology -- is that someone asked him to change his testimony. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/16/11]
Shelton, White House Have Denied Any Improper Influence On Testimony
Wash. Post: White House, Shelton Spokeswoman "Denied There Was Any Improper Influence." From The Washington Post:
The White House denied trying to influence Shelton's testimony. Col. Kathleen Cook, a spokeswoman for Shelton, also denied there was any improper influence. She said the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department routinely review congressional testimony and can weigh in with their own ideas to ensure consistency in policy across agencies.
And, even so, "I can assure you Gen. Shelton's testimony was his own, supported by and focused purely on documented tested results," she said.
But the episode, first reported by The Daily Beast, created new headaches for troubled Reston-based LightSquared. Lawmakers were further agitated when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski decided not to appear at Thursday's subcommittee hearing. The FCC has been accused of rushing to give a provisional green-light to LightSquared. [The Washington Post, 9/15/11 ]
The Hill: "Both The White House And The Air Force Deny Any Inappropriate Pressure." A September 15 article in The Hill on Shelton's testimony noted: "Both the White House and the Air Force deny any inappropriate pressure." [The Hill, 9/15/11 ]
And In Fact, Defense Dept. Testimony Is Routinely Reviewed And Coordinated By Admin. Agencies
OMB Mission Includes "Clearance Of Agency Testimony" Before Congress. The mission of the White House Office of Management and Budget includes clearing "agency views on legislative proposals and testimony to ensure consistency in the Administration's policy positions." OMB explains:
Clearance of Agency Testimony and Letters on Pending Legislation. If agencies are asked by congressional committees to testify or send letters on pending legislation, or wish to volunteer a letter, similar clearance procedures are followed as for legislative proposals, described above. [The Mission and Structure of the Office of Management and Budget, WhiteHouse.gov, accessed 9/16/11 , emphasis original]
Defense Dept.'s Legal Counsel: "Extensive Coordination Is Required" In Testimony For The Administration To "Speak With One Voice." From the Department of Defense's (DoD) Office of Legislative Counsel (OLC):
Congress frequently invites DoD leaders to testify before various committees and subcommittees. Because the subject of the testimony often crosses jurisdictional boundaries with other DoD components and government agencies, once again extensive coordination is required to ensure that DoD, and ultimately the entire Administration, speak with one voice. OLC facilitates this process. ["An Overview of DoD's Legislation Program, Department of Defense Office of Legislative Counsel," 10/31/06 ]