Media continue to ignore contradictions in Dobson's claims about "confidential" information on Miers
Research ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER
The media have continued to uncritically report Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson's claim that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers's conservative Christian beliefs and opposition to a pro-choice American Bar Association (ABA) policy constituted "confidential" information that he received from the White House and could not previously disclose publicly. But those two facts he claims he is now free to disclose -- but wasn't free to disclose before -- were previously disclosed by Dobson himself on the day of Miers's nomination, in the same television appearance in which he also declared that "I do know things that I am not prepared to talk about here."
At least as late as October 5, Dobson was claiming that he could not reveal the "confidential" information that had led him to support the Miers nomination. Responding to concern from senators of both parties about his meeting with White House senior adviser Karl Rove and calls for Dobson to be subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dobson claimed on October 12 that two days prior to Miers's October 3 nomination, Rove told Dobson of three facts about Miers that led Dobson to support her nomination. Rove purportedly informed Dobson that: 1) Miers "is an Evangelical Christian ... from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life"; 2) she "had taken on the American Bar Association on the issue of abortion and fought for a policy that would not be supportive of abortion"; and 3) she "had been a member of the Texas Right to Life."
As Media Matters for America has documented, all three facts Dobson cited had already been widely reported following Miers's nomination, even as he was claiming he couldn't disclose them because they were confidential. Therefore, either Dobson was not telling the truth then -- and was not in fact in possession of confidential information about Miers -- or he is not telling the truth now and has yet to disclose the confidences Rove shared with him. And, by continuing to uncritically repeat what Dobson now claims to have learned from Rove, the media are letting Dobson get away with not telling the truth about that conversation.
Moreover, as the weblog LiberalOasis has noted, Dobson freely and publicly stated two of those facts on the day that Miers was nominated, while simultaneously stating that there was other information he had obtained that he could not disclose. On the October 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Dobson cited the facts he would later claim constituted the "confidential" information, shortly after noting that "I do know things that I am not prepared to talk about here":
BRIT HUME (host): It sounds almost as if you are saying the main reason that you are supporting Harriet Miers is that you believe the president.
DOBSON: Well, that's part of it. And I do believe the president on this issue. I haven't always agreed with the president on his decisions and will continue to disagree with him when I feel like I need to. But, in this matter, he has been consistent. And I have been impressed by the quality of the judges that he has put on the court. And I do trust him. Beyond that, I do know things that I am not prepared to talk about here.
HUME: Is there anything beyond the fact that you trust the president and you trust the judgment of these people whom you have mentioned that know her? Anything specific that you can cite in her record that gives you confidence in her?
DOBSON: I think that you have covered some of it. She is a woman of incredible accomplishment. In her long career, she has been willing to stand up against the American Bar Association with regard to its policy on abortion. That took a lot of courage. She has -- she is a conservative Christian.
DOBSON: You know, you already quoted [conservative radio host] Rush Limbaugh, and he said that on his show today, that she was an evangelical Christian, and I know that to be a fact.
Yet, despite the clear evidence that Dobson has not truly come clean about what information he obtained from the White House, numerous media outlets continued to report his claim without comment. For example, on the October 12 edition of NBC's Nightly News, chief White House correspondent David Gregory portrayed Dobson's claim as fact by uncritically reporting that Dobson "repeated what Karl Rove told him privately last week." In addition to citing Dobson's purported disclosure, October 13 articles in The Washington Post and USA Today reported that Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) may have more questions about the nature of Dobson's discussion with Rove but without noting that the information Dobson claimed to be revealing had already been widely disclosed, including by Dobson himself.
Even on the October 12 edition of Fox's Special Report -- the same show on which Dobson initially declared that Miers was a conservative Christian who opposed the ABA's pro-choice policy nine days earlier -- senior White House correspondent Jim Angle repeated Dobson's claims about the "confidential" information he says he received:
ANGLE: Those White House contacts with activists became an issue because one supporter, James Dobson, created a controversy by telling listeners last week he knew things about Miers he shouldn't know. In a radio broadcast today, he explained what he meant.
DOBSON (audio clip): What did Karl Rove say to me that I knew on Monday that I couldn't reveal? That Harriet Miers is an evangelical Christian, that she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life.
ANGLE: That was a characterization of her personal views, not an indication of how she might rule in any particular case. And Dobson says that question -- about how she might rule on abortion or any other matter -- was never discussed.
DOBSON (audio clip): Karl would not have told me that. That's the most incendiary information that's out there. And it was never part of our discussion.