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On the "All-Star Panel" segment of the February 26 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, nationally syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer falsely claimed that Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT),* in his 2006 re-election campaign, "ran openly and did not hide anything " when he "risked his career" by supporting the Iraq war "in a blue state." By winning re-election, Krauthammer said, Lieberman "essentially ... won a mandate on that issue since it was the main issue of the election," and therefore, if Lieberman decided to caucus with the Republicans because of the war, "it would be a credible position." But, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly pointed out, Lieberman -- although a strong supporter of the war both before and since the campaign -- distanced himself from his pro-war rhetoric during various campaign events after his August 2006 Democratic primary loss to challenger Ned Lamont. During his general election campaign, he also repeatedly promised that he would caucus with the Democrats if he won re-election and would not switch parties.
During his successful general election campaign, Lieberman emphasized his intent to end the war and to bring U.S. forces home in a television ad and in a press release, during a debate (payment required), and at a press conference. Further, contrary to Krauthammer's assertion that Lieberman won a mandate on Iraq, exit polls indicate that Lieberman won his re-election campaign despite his support for the war, not because of it.
In addition, like Krauthammer, both Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume and Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes falsely suggested that Lieberman had made no commitment to remain affiliated with Senate Democrats. Agreeing with Krauthammer's assertion that Lieberman could credibly switch parties, Barnes added that Lieberman was not "beholden to ... a majority of Democratic votes" because he "only got a little over a third of the votes of Democrats" in winning the general election. Earlier in the discussion, Hume pointed out that many of Lieberman's Senate Democratic colleagues supported Lamont in the general election. Hume asked, "[H]e [Lieberman] is a free man, isn't he?" In fact, as Media Matters has noted, Lieberman made repeated pre-election promises to the voters of Connecticut that he would caucus with Democrats. For example, in October 2006, blogger spazeboy posted a video in which Lieberman was asked: "Would you unequivocally ... caucus with the Democrats?" Lieberman responded: "I've said that 1,200 times." When asked to clarify with a "yes or no" answer, Lieberman responded: "Yes. Yes." And, prior to his August 2006 loss in the Democratic primary but while collecting signatures for his independent bid, Lieberman told New York Magazine: "I've been a Democrat for 40 years, I'll die a Democrat, I'll probably be a Democrat after my death, I may still be voting Democrat in some cities in Connecticut postmortem."
From the February 26 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
KRAUTHAMMER: Lieberman says that a switch in party is remote -- a remote chance of that happening, but I think this is a serious threat. I think he knows exactly what he's doing. It's like the president saying to Iran, "I'm not taking anything off the table" in reference to a military attack. He's saying, "I'm not taking anything off of the table" and he means -- look, he ran as an Independent, that means he has the option of switching --
HUME: Yeah, he is a free man isn't he? Because a lot of people -- his Senate colleagues kind of bailed on him.
KRAUTHAMMER: He doesn't owe any of them anything. All of them supported his opponent in the general election. And unlike Jim Jeffords, who ran as a Republican, he switched and you had Phil Gramm, who was a Democratic Republican, the congressman in Texas, he switched --
HUME: But he switched and then ran again.
KRAUTHAMMER: He resigned and then he ran again. But if you're an Independent, you don't quite have that kind of obligation, and Jeffords, of course, he felt no obligation; he switched without the resigning and running. But there's another element here, in terms of him switching. He ran on the war, he didn't run away. He risked his career by supporting an unpopular war in a blue state, and he ran and he essentially -- he won a mandate on that issue since it was the main issue of this election. So, if he were to switch and to say, "The reason I'm doing this is because, on the war, an issue on which I ran openly and did not hide anything, my party is running away and destroying our chance of success, I feel obliged to switch." I think it would be a credible position. And, he said this afternoon, on Fox, the party -- "the Democratic Party used to stand for a strong foreign policy, I fear it has gone from that." That's a clear warning. He cares about national security. If his party abandons it, he'll abandon the party. I take it as a serious step.
BARNES: Yeah, there's one other thing. To follow up on what Charles said: He didn't win in Connecticut on Democratic votes. He only got about a little over a third of the votes of Democrats in that Senate race and so he won with Republican votes and Independent votes. So, he's not beholden to Democrat -- the majority of Democratic votes --
HUME: The truth is, he could remain nominally an Independent and simply vote to organize with the Republicans.
HUME: Suppose he threatens, and they don't back off. Would he switch?
KONDRACKE: You know, I honestly don't think that he's going to switch.
HUME: OK, I got you. Mort says he won't switch, Fred thinks it's possible, Charles does too.
*Lieberman pledged repeatedly throughout the 2006 election campaign that, while he was running as an independent, he would caucus with Senate Democrats if re-elected. He has said he prefers the label "Independent Democrat" but would choose "Independent" if the compound label was not accepted.