UPDATE: O'Reilly apologizes for Murtha misquote

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN & BEN ARMBRUSTER

On the June 29 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly apologized for "pick[ing] up" a quote from a South Florida Sun-Sentinel article that incorrectly reported that Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) had claimed that the "American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran." The Sun-Sentinel issued a correction on June 28, stating that Murtha was actually citing a recent Pew Research Center poll of public opinion in the United States and 14 European, African, and Asian countries.

On June 26, O'Reilly cited the Sun-Sentinel report to allege that Murtha's "kind of extreme thinking, based on little evidence, by the way, is putting all Americans in danger." After the Sun-Sentinel published its correction, O'Reilly stated on June 29 that "[t]he newspaper has apologized, and since we picked up the paper's quote, we should apologize, as well," adding: "I should have checked it out myself and called Murtha's office. Next time, we will do that."

From the June 29 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: The South Florida Sun-Sentinel misquoted Congressman John Murtha in remarks about who is dangerous to the world. The newspaper has apologized, and since we picked up the paper's quote, we should apologize, as well.

We didn't -- we did, I should say, source the Sun-Sentinel, but I should have checked it out myself and called Murtha's office. Next time, we will do that.

Several conservative media figures have issued corrections for reporting Murtha misquote; what about all the others?

On June 25, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, reported that while delivering a speech to a small Miami crowd, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) claimed that the "American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran." The Sun-Sentinel did not offer a direct quote of Murtha's alleged comments. The same day, at around 2 p.m. ET, Internet gossip Matt Drudge posted the story on his website, The Drudge Report. The following day, numerous conservative media figures reported the comments that Murtha had allegedly made, some using them as a basis to launch vicious attacks against Murtha or even suggest that Congress should censure him. The Sun-Sentinel has since issued a correction, stating that Murtha was actually citing a recent Pew Research Center poll covering the United States and 14 European, African, and Asian countries. The survey found that respondents in 10 of the 14 foreign countries polled said that the U.S. presence in Iraq is seen as a greater threat to global security than North Korea and Iran. While Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and Fox News anchor Brit Hume noted the correction after reporting the story, many other conservative media figures who touted the Sun-Sentinel report have yet to do so.

After the weblog Think Progress first noted the Sun-Sentinel's error, the newspaper issued the following correction on June 28 to its report on Murtha's speech:

Correction: An article in Sunday's editions misinterpreted a comment from U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., at a town hall meeting in North Miami on Saturday. In his speech, Murtha said U.S. credibility was suffering because of continued U.S. military presence in Iraq, and the perception that the U.S. is an occupying force. Murtha was citing a recent poll, by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, that indicates a greater percentage of people in 10 of 14 foreign countries consider the U.S. in Iraq a greater danger to world peace than any threats posed by Iran or North Korea.

Several conservatives have noted the Sun-Sentinel's correction. During the "Political Grapevine" segment on the June 26 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume reported that the Sun-Sentinel had claimed Murtha "says the American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than from nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran." On the June 28 edition of Special Report, with on-screen text that read "Murtha Mischaracterized," Hume corrected the error:

HUME: The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is now officially backing off a Sunday report claiming that anti-war Congressman Jack Murtha called the U.S. presence in Iraq a greater threat to global security than Iran or North Korea, a story we mentioned here on Monday. Instead, the paper says in a correction that Murtha was citing a recent global Pew poll showing that more people worldwide think the U.S. is a threat than think that of Iran or North Korea.

In addition, in the June 26 edition of his "On the Trail" Wall Street Journal column, John Fund also cited the Sun-Sentinel report, adding that "Mr. Murtha has been sticking his foot in his mouth a lot lately." OpinionJournal.com appended a "clarification" to the end of the column noting the Sun-Sentinel correction.

However, many conservative media figures who noted Murtha's purported statement have not issued corrections, and many conservative pundits who used the report to smear Murtha have not apologized for their remarks.

Think Progress flagged these comments by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, Fox News political analyst Newt Gingrich, and MSNBC host Tucker Carlson:

Bill O'Reilly, Fox News, 6/26:

Murtha has lost all perspective and did months ago, but his message is firmly entrenched in America's far-left precincts. ... [T]hat kind of extreme thinking, based on little evidence, by the way, is putting all Americans in danger.

Tucker Carlson, MSNBC, 6/26:

What is really going on here, and you know it as well as I, is that Jack Murtha has been intoxicated by the amount of publicity that he has gotten from his anti-war crusade, and he has become progressively more unreasonable, progressively more left-wing as the days go on, and he is in the thrall of people who, I think, have hostility towards the United States.

Newt Gingrich, Fox News, 6/26:

For an American congressman to say that is beyond any acceptable behavior, and I would hope the Congress would move to censure him.

The following conservative media figures also used the Sun-Sentinel report to attack Murtha and have not retracted their remarks:

  • Discussing the Sun-Sentinel report during his June 26 radio show, Neal Boortz compared Murtha to Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Whitman, who shot dozens of people from atop a tower in Austin, Texas, in 1966. Boortz said that "Moonbat" Murtha "has lost his mind," later adding that "the Democrats need to get ready to throw this man under the bus."
  • On the June 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, guest host Mike Gallagher, discussing Murtha's alleged comments with Gingrich and co-host Alan Colmes, asked: "Is this guy having some kind of mental meltdown? Is he crazy like a fox or just plain crazy?" Gingrich added that "the most logical explanation" for Murtha's supposed comments is that "it's conceivable that Murtha woke up one day a year ago and said, 'You know, if I don't start bashing America, and bashing the military, and repudiating everything I've stood for my whole life, these guys aren't going to allow me to be chairman of the committee that spends the money.' "
  • On the June 26 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, Republican Strategist Jack Burkman claimed that with Murtha's comments, as originally reported by the Sun-Sentinel, "did nothing but disparage our troops."

In addition to the examples noted by Think Progress, these conservative media figures reported the Sun-Sentinel story as fact and have not issued corrections:

  • On June 26, Greg Pierce of The Washington Times reported that "[t]he U.S. presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran, Rep. John P. Murtha told an audience of more than 200 in North Miami on Saturday afternoon."
  • Similarly, on June 28, a Washington Times editorial discussing Murtha's alleged comments, stated: "[T]hat's a pretty spectacular claim to make, not to mention spectacularly silly." The Washington Times has yet to issue a correction to either Pierce's story or the editorial.
  • Guest-hosting for Rush Limbaugh on the June 26 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Paul W. Smith asserted: "Imagine Murtha saying that the U.S. poses the top threat to world peace. The U.S. poses the top threat to world peace. American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran. That according to Rep. John Murtha. Imagine that." Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn replied: "Well, that guy has flown the coop."

From the June 26 edition of Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show:

BOORTZ: Jack Murtha has lost his mind. The Democrat from Pennsylvania, Jack Murtha, now, ladies and gentleman -- you know, he's the one that was calling the Marines murderers before, shooting down civilians in cold blood. Now he says that the United States of America is the greatest threat to world peace. That we, not the strange little gargoyle in North Korea. You know, the one that goes out there and kidnaps Japanese movie stars and has them brought to Pyongyang to be his sexual slaves. The one that now claims nuclear weapons and wants to fire off a rocket toward the United States. No. Or the madmen, the mad mullahs of Iran and their drive to develop nuclear weapons and their statements that Israel ought to wiped off the face of the map. No. No. It is the United States that is the greatest threat to world peace, according to Moonbat Murtha from Pennsylvania. So we'll certainly have something to say about that.

[...]

BOORTZ: Jack Murtha has -- the Democrats need to get ready to throw this man under the bus. Jack Murtha says that our troops are a worse threat to world peace, that the United Nations is more -- excuse me, the United States is more of a threat to world peace than North Korea or Iran. He's the new Cindy -- the male Cindy Sheehan. That the United States is a greater threat to world peace -- how do you like those Democrats, folks? That we are the greatest threat to world peace out there, the United States. Jack Murtha. And don't give me this, "Oh, he's a former Marine." So was Lee Harvey Oswald. So was Charles Whitman. Being a former Marine does not give you all that much moral authority where you can make statements like that and be completely free of any criticism.

From the June 26 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

SMITH: Imagine Murtha saying that the U.S. poses the top threat to world peace. The U.S. poses the top threat to world peace. American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran. That according to Rep. John Murtha. Imagine that.

STEYN: Well, that guy has flown the coop. And to be honest, I think it's a measure of the complete intellectual bankruptcy of the Democratic Party that he is being promoted on [NBC's] Meet the Press and all these other TV shows as if he's some great font of wisdom.

You know, as one always has to say in this situation -- one respects his service in Vietnam. That's not the war we're fighting now, and given the way, you know, Bob Dole got no credit for what he went through in World War II when he ran for president, I'm a little suspicious of this way that the only military service that counts with the left these days is service in a cause America lost with great, great problems for the world and the years afterwards.

From the June 26 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha, who has called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and their removal to Okinawa, Japan, now says the American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Murtha not only said that, but also denounced what he called the military's cover-up of the deaths of Iraqi civilians at the hands of U.S. Marines in Haditha at a town meeting in Miami this weekend, despite a Pentagon report last week that found no evidence of a knowing cover-up.

From the June 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is now officially backing off a Sunday report claiming that anti-war Congressman Jack Murtha called the U.S. presence in Iraq a greater threat to global security than Iran or North Korea, a story we mentioned here on Monday. Instead, the paper says in a correction that Murtha was citing a recent global Pew poll showing that more people worldwide think the U.S. is a threat than think that of Iran or North Korea.

From the June 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

GALLAGHER: Thanks for watching Hannity & Colmes. I'm Mike Gallagher, filling in tonight for Sean.

Well, Congressman John Murtha is once again drawing fire for comments he made over the weekend while speaking in Florida. Murtha once again called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and said that the United States is more dangerous to world peace than either Iran or North Korea.

We continue now with former speaker of the House and Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Speaker, there's something very definitely going on with Jack Murtha. He goes from calling U.S. Marines cold-blooded murderers before there was even a preliminary investigation of Haditha to this latest outrage. Is this guy having some kind of mental meltdown? Is he crazy like a fox or just plain crazy?

GINGRICH: Well, you know, it may be that Murtha thinks the Democrats are going to gain control of the House and that only if he appeases the hard-line left in the Democratic Party will he be able to become the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

If you look at what's happening to Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, where a hard-core anti-war Democrat is giving him a very tough race in the primary, and you realize how much more left-wing the House Democratic Caucus now is, it's conceivable that Murtha woke up one day a year ago and said, "You know, if I don't start bashing America, and bashing the military, and repudiating everything I've stood for my whole life, these guys aren't going to allow me to be chairman of the committee that spends the money."

I'm not saying that's the case --

GALLAGHER: Right.

GINGRICH: -- but it's the most logical explanation.

However, notice that attacking America first is something that Dick Durbin [IL] did, the Democratic whip in the Senate, who compared the United States to Stalin's Russia, to Pol Pot's Cambodia, and to Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, and Murtha has now said something which almost no rational American can believe.

GALLAGHER: Right. It's so left. It's so active -- I mean, it's like a male Cindy Sheehan. I mean, this is something that's way, way, out of touch with mainstream Americans, even, I would think, even for Democrats.

From the June 26 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

SCARBOROUGH: In tonight's Scarborough Country "Showdown," Democratic Congressman John Murtha at it again this weekend in Florida. While repeating his call to bring home U.S. troops, the congressman took it one step further according the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper, saying this, quote, "American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran." That is an amazing statement. You know what? Democrats across America may generally agree with Congressman Murtha, but his own party in Washington seems to be running scared.

[...]

BURKMAN: Joe, I will tell you, I am so outraged. This is worse than [filmmaker] Michael Moore. For him to say this, he is openly disparaging our soldiers. And I'll tell you something else. This is a man -- It's time to go to John Murtha's background. This is a man --

SCARBOROUGH: Is he attacking soldiers or he is he attacking the president of the United States' strategy in Iraq.

BURKMAN: He is allowed to attack the president's strategy, but when he goes over the line and starts to question the character and fitness of the president and the character and fitness of our military men, which is what he is now doing, that opens the door to question his background.

[...]

BURKMAN: But if somebody like [fellow guest] Mike [Papantonio], who does nothing on his radio show and Air America but disparage our soldiers on a daily and weekly basis, that's what they do for a living. And if somebody like John Murtha -- you know John Murtha, is proud of his Vietnam War, his Marine record, but I'll tell you something else, he came out this weekend and did nothing but disparage our troops.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.