Gingrich recycled old falsehoods regarding Wilson's trip to Africa

››› ››› JOE BROWN

On Hannity & Colmes, Newt Gingrich falsely claimed that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was sent on a fact-finding trip to the African country of Niger "because his wife got him the job," that Wilson "implied that [Vice President Dick] Cheney had gotten him the job," and that Wilson "lied about his own report" on the findings of his trip. Media Matters for America has previously debunked each of these falsehoods.

On the April 12 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, former House Speaker and Fox News political contributor Newt Gingrich (R-GA) recycled a series of false claims regarding former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, the author of a July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed criticizing the Bush administration's use of intelligence information to justify the invasion of Iraq. Gingrich falsely claimed that Wilson was sent on a fact-finding trip to the African country of Niger "because his wife got him the job," that Wilson "implied that [Vice President Dick] Cheney had gotten him the job," which Gingrich said "was a lie," and that Wilson "lied about his own report" on the findings of his trip. Media Matters for America has previously debunked each of these falsehoods.

Falsehood: Wilson's wife "got him the job"

During a discussion with co-host Alan Colmes, Gingrich asserted that Wilson "got the job to go to Africa because his wife" - then-CIA agent Valerie Plame -- "got him the job." But as Media Matters previously noted, various intelligence officials dispute this allegation. An October 25, 2005, Washington Post article reported that "[t]he CIA has always said ... that Plame's superiors chose Wilson for the Niger trip and she only relayed their decision." As Media Matters also noted, unnamed intelligence officials quoted in the media assert that the CIA -- not Plame -- selected Wilson for the mission to Niger. Further, CIA officials have disputed the accuracy of a State Department intelligence memo that reportedly indicates that Plame "suggested" Wilson's name for the trip.

Falsehood: Wilson "implied" that Cheney sent him to Niger

Also during his discussion with Colmes, Gingrich claimed that Wilson "implied that Cheney had gotten him the job" to go to Niger, "which was a lie." But as Media Matters previously noted, Wilson never said that Cheney sent him to Niger. This allegation was first advanced by the Republican National Committee (RNC), which misrepresented Wilson's Times op-ed and distorted a remark he made in an August 3, 2003, interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. In fact, Wilson clearly stated in the op-ed that "agency officials" had requested he travel to Niger, and during his CNN appearance, he stated it was "absolutely true" that Cheney was unaware he went on the trip.

Falsehood: Wilson "lied about his own report"

Gingrich also claimed that Wilson "lied about his own report" on the findings of his trip -- a fact-finding mission to investigate allegations that Saddam Hussein's regime had purchased uranium from Niger. Gingrich's remarks echo claims made by other conservatives, who have asserted that Wilson misrepresented the findings of his trip in his Times op-ed. But as Media Matters noted, while the CIA report on Wilson's findings is still classified, the Senate Intelligence Committee disclosed much of its contents in its 2004 "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Pre-War Intelligence Assessments on Iraq." The descriptions contained in the committee's report indicate that the findings and version of events Wilson disclosed to the CIA did not contradict those detailed in his op-ed.

From the April 12 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES: You know, I want to talk about [former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis] "Scooter" Libby for a second. There's some talk here that the prosecutor is backtracking. That's what some conservatives are saying.

And yet, the same story points out that this essential charge is not being undercut here, mainly that Libby told a grand jury that Cheney said he sought Mr. Bush's approval for disclosure of information from the intelligence estimate to [former New York Times reporter] Judith Miller.

Do you have any doubt that this administration attempted to smear Joe Wilson because of what he was saying?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I don't think telling the truth about Joe Wilson is smearing him. Joe Wilson got the job to go to Africa because his wife got him the job. Joe Wilson lied about it. He implied that Cheney had gotten him the job, which was a lie, and Wilson knew it. Joe Wilson then lied about his own report.

And if you look, Alan, at the Senate Intelligence Committee on a bipartisan basis, they said Joe Wilson was not honest and not truthful. So, let's not talk about smearing.

COLMES: Now, they did not lie about Joe Wilson. As a matter of fact, Joe -- they lied -- they lied about Joe Wilson, rather. Joe Wilson did not lie about them. They didn't like what he was saying. But you didn't answer my question. Did you have any doubt that there was an attempt to smear him?

GINGRICH: But -- they -- how -- wait a second. How is smearing somebody telling the truth? The truth was -- the truth was --

COLMES: For outing his wife, letting -- letting them know she was a CIA agent.

GINGRICH: No.

COLMES: She had a -- she lost her job.

GINGRICH: The truth was that Joe Wilson got that assignment because of his wife.

COLMES: That's not the truth, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: Now, he didn't -- he didn't say --

COLMES: With all due respect, she -- they -- she --

GINGRICH: She didn't recommend him?

COLMES: -- may have mentioned his name, but she couldn't make that decision. She couldn't sign off on it. She couldn't pull the trigger to get him the job.

GINGRICH: She -- she wrote a memo -- Alan, she didn't mention it. She wrote a memo recommending him. And Wilson was going around town saying that Cheney was the reason he went there. It was not true.

Now, but let's go a step further. I want -- 'cause I do think the president at some point should make a calm, methodical, historic speech outlining what the administration was trying to accomplish, why they were trying to do it, why he thought what he was doing was legal. And I think that the country needs to hear from the president at some point a clear-cut chronology of that period because I do think it's now so confusing, it is so murky, it is so wrapped up in this prosecutor, that it's hard even for people like you and me, who pay a lot of attention to truly follow, day-to-day, what's the real information.

COLMES: Joe Wilson said --

GINGRICH: And I think the president should tell the country.

COLMES: He said the vice president's office. He didn't specifically say Cheney. Is there any doubt that people like Libby in the vice president's office were out to get him and that they got information from Bush and Cheney about him and his wife to try to discredit the things he was saying about the Bush administration?

GINGRICH: There's no question that the Bush administration was trying to communicate accurately the background of Joe Wilson, which was different than what Joe Wilson was claiming. Where you and I differ is, I don't think telling the truth about somebody is a smear. And I think when you tell the truth about Joe Wilson, he looks pretty bad.

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Newt Gingrich
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