After Senator John Kerry's September 20 foreign policy speech at New York University, in which he declared that "Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell," members of the right-wing media echoed GOP spin, falsely claiming that Kerry would prefer to have former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in power. On September 21, network evening news broadcasts aired President George W. Bush's distortion of Kerry's remarks without clarifying or debunking it. ABC World News Tonight was the notable exception.
Some examples of the right-wing echoes:
James Taranto, editor of The Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web Today" column:
Yesterday, while everyone else was preoccupied with the CBS scandal, John Kerry gave a speech at New York University in which he said America would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power and then offered his "plan" for dealing with Iraq. [9/21/04]
Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh:
At the same time in the speech, he ends up saying it'd have been better off with Saddam still in power. He didn't use those words, but that was the message, that Saddam -- Saddam deserves his own special place in hell, but it's not worth doing anything about. So the way you extrapolate that -- OK, Saddam should still be in power. [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/20/04]
Nationally syndicated radio host Michael Savage:
We're going to talk about John Kerry going over to the other side, literally promoting the enemy; it's astonishing. In my time, he would have been arrested for sedition. Today, it's considered simply politics. It's not politics as usual. What John Kerry did today, saying that the -- the Iraqis would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power is ennobling the enemy while your boys are out there getting shot and killed. That is not running for office, that is running your boys into a -- into a shallow grave. [Savage Nation, 9/20/04]
On September 21, President George W. Bush similarly distorted Kerry's position, and CBS's and NBC's primetime news programs aired his comments without opposition or rebuttal. On the September 21 edition of CBS Evening News, chief White House correspondent John Roberts reported Bush's claim that for Kerry to say "he would not have invaded Iraq," is "absurd." Then CBS showed a video clip of Bush with Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi:
BUSH: My opponent has taken so many positions on Iraq, he is no longer credible.
The September 21 edition of NBC Nightly News simply played Bush's distortion, with no rebuttal or context:
BUSH: The idea that somehow that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power is an absurd notion.
ABC World News Tonight was the only one of the three primetime network news broadcasts to point out on September 21 that Bush was lying:
PETER JENNINGS [Anchor and senior editor]: We were struck today by a very pointed attack by Bush on John Kerry. First of all, this is what Mr. Bush said:
BUSH [in a video clip]: We agree that the world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell. And that stands in stark contrast to the statement my opponent made yesterday, when he said that the world was better of with Saddam in power. I strongly disagree.
JENNINGS: And this is what Mr. Kerry actually said:
KERRY [in a video clip]: Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell. But that was not, that was not, in and of itself, a reason to go to war.
The satisfaction that we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.