Dobbs misrepresented Kerry's remarks, as CNN ignored AP report supporting Kerry's explanation

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN, BEN ARMBRUSTER, ROB DIETZ & ROB MORLINO

CNN's Lou Dobbs misrepresented remarks made by Sen. John Kerry, adopting the White House's interpretation of them and running an Internet poll asking, "Do you believe John Kerry owes our troops in Iraq an apology?" Moreover, CNN's live coverage regarding the remarks failed to note an Associated Press report that supports Kerry's explanation for them.

Leading off the October 31 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs misrepresented Sen. John F. Kerry's (D-MA) remarks during an October 30 speech at a campaign rally in Pasadena, California. Adopting the White House's characterization of Kerry's statement, Dobbs alleged that Kerry said "students should think about getting stuck in Iraq if they don't work hard at school." An Internet poll on the page for Lou Dobbs Tonight on the CNN website similarly adopted the White House's interpretation of Kerry's remarks, asking: "Do you believe John Kerry owes our troops in Iraq an apology?"

In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Kerry said, "Education, you know, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." According to Kerry, he was referring to President Bush's poor preparation for the war, not the lack of education of members of the U.S. military. Kerry said he botched a joke, and according to CNN's own reporting, was supposed to have said: "I can't overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq."

Moreover, a Media Matters review* of CNN's live news coverage throughout the day on October 31 showed that, in reports airing on CNN Newsroom, Your World Today, and The Situation Room about Kerry's remarks and criticism of them, at no point did any CNN anchor or guest note that an October 31 Associated Press report supports Kerry's explanation for his remarks. In contrast, MSNBC host Chris Matthews read from the AP article during the October 31 edition of Hardball, noting that Kerry "opened his speech ... with several one-liners, joking at one point that Bush had lived in Texas but now 'lives in a state of denial.' Then he said: 'You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.'" Matthews further described the White House's characterization of Kerry's remarks as a "violent interpretation," then later, during an interview with former House Republican Leader Dick Armey (TX), said:

MATTHEWS: [I]f you listen to the transition of words there, it clearly looks like he was talking about President Bush being in a state of denial, not realizing when he took us into Iraq what he was going to face because he didn't study hard in school. President Bush says today, no, he wasn't saying that. Isolating the few words in the middle of that statement, he said, he was trashing the military for being uneducated and the kinds of people who flunk out of school and end up in the military and then get stuck in Iraq.

Matthews then asked Armey which was the "correct interpretation," and Armey concluded: "Look, I think John Kerry's right. He's making a defense of himself. He's saying, 'Look, I was not maligning the troops. I was maligning the president of the United States.' "

From the October 31 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: Outrage tonight after Senator John Kerry says students should think about getting stuck in Iraq if they don't work hard at school. President Bush is demanding an immediate apology from the senator. What is the impact on Democrats and these midterm elections? We'll have that special report and a great deal more, straight ahead here tonight.

From the October 31 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Good evening, I'm Chris Matthews, and welcome to Hardball. Today with the violence getting worse in Iraq and the election just a week away, Republicans found their weapon of mass distraction. In a choreograph of press releases, Republicans collaborated in a chorus of attack on former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for something he said last night. In a string of attacks on President Bush last night, Kerry ridiculed Bush's lack of education on the Middle East, which Kerry said got us stuck in Iraq.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Republicans from Rush Limbaugh to [White House press secretary] Tony Snow to [Sen.] John McCain [R-AZ] to [House Speaker] Denny Hastert [R-IL] have said Kerry was really maligning the troops, implying that American service people only join up because they are educational failures. This violent interpretation of Kerry's words led the senator to issue this blistering counterattack today.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Well, you never know when a politician says something whether he made that statement by error or he made that on purpose. And in the case the case of what the president just said, it's possible that he doesn't know the context in which John Kerry was speaking yesterday.

Just to remind you who are watching, this is the Associated Press account of what John Kerry said yesterday at Pasadena College. "Kerry opened his speech at Pasadena City College with several one-liners, saying at one point that President Bush had lived in Texas but now, quote, 'lives in a state of denial.' He then said, 'Education, you know, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.'

That, Kerry said, was a reference to the president, and if you listen to the transition of words there, it clearly looks like he was talking about President Bush being in a state of denial, not realizing when he took us into Iraq what he was going to face because he didn't study hard in school.

President Bush says today, no, he wasn't saying that. Isolating the few words in the middle of that statement, he said, he was trashing the military for being uneducated and the kinds of people who flunk out of school and end up in the military and then get stuck in Iraq.

What's the correct interpretation, Dick Armey?

ARMEY: Well, of course, this is a perfect example of politics in America. Perception is reality. The president wants the people to perceive the president of having maligned our troops. The president --

MATTHEWS: If you slapped the president into a lie detector right now, what would do you believe would be the results? Truth or dishonesty?

ARMEY: Of the president?

MATTHEWS: Right now. Was he telling the truth?

ARMEY: Oh, no, no, no. Well, first of all, that's not a fair test. You're talking about politics here.

MATTHEWS: [laughter] We're talking about politics! I love this! You can't ask --

ARMEY: What does truth or honesty have to do with politics?

MATTHEWS: In other words we're never gonna -- that's right. Someday you are going to be able to watch politicians, and when they talk, we're gonna know whether they're telling the truth or not.

ARMEY: Look, I think John Kerry's right. He's making a defense of himself. He's saying, "Look, I was not maligning the troops. I was maligning the president of the United States." And if John Kerry wants to say, "I stand on my defense of having said that the president of the United States is not a bright fellow, that he's made critical mistakes, didn't make the advantage of his education." If that's what -- Kerry's kinda gotten himself a bit in a old bind situation. I know the situation he's in. It's been a hard lesson for me, too. But contrary, quite frankly, to what is the common practice in politics, I can tell you from my own experience, it's better to stay away from personalities.

From the October 31 Associated Press report by Jennifer Loven:

The White House accused Sen. John Kerry on Tuesday of troop-bashing, seizing on a comment the Democrat made to California students that those unable to navigate the country's education system "get stuck in Iraq."

"Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who've given their lives in this," White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "This is an absolute insult."

Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran and Bush's rival in 2004, fired back, saying the president and his administration are the ones who owe U.S. troops an apology because they "misled America into war and have given us a Katrina foreign policy that has betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it."

[...]

The Massachusetts senator, who is considering another presidential run in 2008, had opened his speech at Pasadena City College with several one-liners, joking at one point that Bush had lived in Texas but now "lives in a state of denial."

Then he said: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

* Review of October 31 CNN transcripts, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, for CNN Newsroom and Your World Today; review of October 31 CNN broadcast of The Situation Room, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Lou Dobbs
Show/Publication
Lou Dobbs Tonight
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, 2006 Elections
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