FOX News hosts revived lie about MoveOn and Hitler ad

››› ››› AVI ZOLLMAN

After a respite from false charges that MoveOn.org aired television ads comparing President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads attacking Senator John Kerry's service in Vietnam have come under scrutiny, Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie revived the misleading allegation during an August 24 press conference in New York City. FOX News Channel hosts and analysts have repeated it since.

When asked at the press conference if he thought the "content" of the Swift Boat Veterans' ad was "fair," Gillespie deflected the question by referring to the "content" of ads by "MoveOn.org comparing President Bush to Hitler."

As Media Matters for America has previously noted, the ads to which Gillespie referred were not created by MoveOn.org; they were submitted for a contest held by MoveOn.org. As the nonpartisan Columbia Journalism Review's website The Campaign Desk noted in its "Distortion" column, while "at least one [ad] was posted briefly on the organization's website ... MoveOn quickly removed it and disassociated itself from the offending ads."

Nevertheless, FOX News Channel hosts have continued to look for every opportunity to levy the false charge. On the August 25 edition of Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity twice claimed that MoveOn.org aired the ad. First, Hannity complained that "John Kerry went to a MoveOn.org event, organization that compared George Bush -- ran an ad that compared George Bush to Hitler." Later in the same show, while comparing the money spent by different progressive groups to that of their conservative counterparts, Hannity claimed that, of the overall spending, "87 percent of the dollars have gone to liberal-leaning groups, $65 million have gone in ads calling -- calling Bush every name in the book, including comparing him to Adolf Hitler."

Piling on the next morning during the August 26 edition of FOX & Friends, co-host E.D. Hill repeated the charge twice as well, first while drawing a comparison to Benjamin Ginsberg, who resigned from his post as chief outside counsel to the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign on August 25 after acknowledging that he had also counseled the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:

HILL: I noticed that when researching the lawyers for both Bush and Kerry and what other organizations they work for, you have got Robert Bauer, who is a counsel for the Kerry campaign, working for America Coming Together and through the Media Fund that put out that Bush-Halliburton ad; you have got Joe Sandler, a lawyer for the DNC, with MoveOn.org which put out the ad that compared Bush to Hitler. ... Why haven't they [the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign] gone after the guys on the Kerry campaign that are doing the exact same thing if it's so bad?

FOX & Friends guest Bill Sammon, Washington Times senior White House correspondent and FOX News Channel political analyst, repeated the charge while naming Zach Exley, former director of special projects for MoveOn.org's political action committee, as another example of crossover between campaigns and activist organizations. "They [Kerry-Edwards '04] directly hired him from MoveOn.org, which is known for its ads comparing Bush to Hitler," Sammon said.

Hill made the false charge a second time during the August 26 show, claiming 45 minutes later that MoveOn.org is notable because it "ran the ad that compared Bush to Hitler," and repeated it again on August 27, noting erroneously that "[o]ne of the other 527s compares Bush to Hitler."

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