On the May 10 broadcast of Sean Hannity's nationally syndicated radio show, radio hosts Jim Quinn and Rose Tennent repeated baseless allegations that they had reportedly made on their own radio show* that Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean was behind Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' assertion that equipment shortages due to the war in Iraq had impaired the Kansas National Guard's ability to respond quickly after a tornado leveled the town of Greensburg, Kansas. Quinn told host Sean Hannity that, according to his source, Sebelius called Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) after she had publicly made her complaint about the Guard shortages "to apologize for the statement she had made and she explained that she did not believe those statements really to be true -- that they actually had more than enough National Guardsmen showing up." Sebelius, Quinn continued, then said that " 'Howard Dean called me around 5 o'clock' -- we [Quinn and, presumably, Tennent] assume that's 5 o'clock in the morning -- 'and told me not to ask the White House for any help or make any statements until I heard back. Dick' -- and we don't know who that is; my source assumes it's [Assistant Senate Majority Leader] Dick Durbin [D-IL], but I can't, I don't know -- 'Dick called me an hour or two later, and that's when he told me that we needed to use this and talk about the Guard all being at war.' "
Quinn said that, according to his source, Sebelius had justified her actions as a political necessity. "You know how political everything is right now," Sebelius supposedly told Brownback, "and we're not allowed to let an opportunity like this pass." Tennent later continued on this theme, saying that Sebelius "then went on to explain and she said that the Speaker [Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)] and Harry -- we're assuming [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV] -- are feeling the heat from both sides over the war and that they need to get the press on something else. She said she didn't think it was right to use this but she didn't have much choice, she said, considering the climate she was in." Tennent then claimed that Sebelius "promised" Brownback that she would "try to move away from the comment when she and Brownback were to meet up later ... but she had to do so without disappointing Dean and Pelosi, and those were her words, supposedly."
Quinn later told Hannity, that "[t]hey're all going to deny it, because Brownback doesn't want to screw up his relationship with the governor. ... [W]e're prepared for that. Our source absolutely stands by her or his story." As support for his assertion, Quinn said that Sebelius, appearing on television with Brownback to look over the damage in Greensburg, "look[ed] like a woman who's really embarrassed about being there. ... This is a woman whose body language is just screaming out that she just feels awful about something."
The DNC has issued a cease-and-desist letter to XM Radio stating that the allegations are "false and defamatory [and] libelous and slanderous" and demanding that Quinn and Tennent broadcast "an express and specific retraction of these statements" on their show.
Moreover, Quinn's claim that Dean and other national Democratic leaders instigated Sebelius' statements about Guard resources being depleted because of the war in Iraq is undermined by Sebelius' numerous past statements of concern about the impact on the Kansas Guard of the war in Iraq. As Media Matters for America has documented, Sebelius has -- on several occasions well before the Greensburg tornado -- highlighted the need for additional National Guard funding and equipment because of deployments for the Iraq war:
- On January 21, 2006, The Kansas City Star reported: "In a Dec. 30  letter to [then-] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Sebelius urged the return of Kansas National Guard equipment shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan. 'The Guard was critical to responding to recent blizzards and floods in Kansas, yet its ability to respond to similar situations is being diminished by a lack of equipment,' she wrote. She said Rumsfeld had not responded."
- On June 29, 2006, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Sebelius provided Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey with a list of equipment the state of Kansas lost to the Iraq war, noting, "Sebelius and other governors have said the loss of equipment leaves states vulnerable in emergencies or natural disasters."
- On September 5, 2006, the AP reported that "Kansas' congressional delegation, Sebelius and governors from around the country have been lobbying the Pentagon for increased funding to replace National Guard equipment that has been left in Iraq or damaged beyond repair after repeated use in war."
- On February 27, 2007, Sebelius' office issued a press release stating: "The reliance on National Guard troops and equipment in Iraq is leaving states vulnerable. ... Sebelius expressed strong concern that sending the National Guard on repeated tours through Iraq compromises states' ability to respond to natural disasters, terrorist acts, and other threats to public safety."
Moreover, a May 9 New York Times article on Sebelius' comments reported that Guard officials in Kansas and elsewhere echoed Sebelius' concerns about the depletion of Guard resources:
In Kansas, the National Guard is operating with 40 percent to 50 percent of its vehicles and heavy machinery, local Guard officials said. Ordinarily, the Guard would have about 660 Humvees and more than 30 large trucks to traverse difficult terrain and transport heavy equipment. When the tornado struck, the Guard had about 350 Humvees and 15 large trucks, said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the state's adjutant general. The Guard would also usually have 170 medium-scale tactical vehicles used to transport people and supplies -- but now it has fewer than 30, he said. On the other hand, General Bunting said, it had more cargo trucks than it needed.
The issue is not confined to Kansas.
In Ohio, the National Guard is short of night vision goggles and M-4 rifles, said a Guard spokesman, Dr. Mark Wayda. "If we had a tornado hit a small town, we would be fine," Dr. Wayda said. "If we had a much larger event, that would become a problem."
Two recent reports have raised questions about Guard preparedness. An independent military assessment council, the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, released a report in March that stated: "In particular, the equipment readiness of the Army National Guard is unacceptable and has reduced the capability of the United States to respond to current and additional major contingencies, foreign and domestic."
Another report, released in January by the Government Accountability Office, concluded that the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have "significantly decreased" the amount of equipment available for National Guard units not deployed overseas, while the same units face an increasing number of threats at home.
From the May 10 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
HANNITY: Well, why don't you tell us, because Jim, I understand you guys were able to break this story this morning about a connection that, in fact, that the governor had gotten a call -- the governor of Kansas had gotten a call from Howard Dean -- why don't you pick it up from there?
QUINN: Yeah, OK, Rose, why don't you start out?
ROSE TENNENT (Quinn & Rose co-host): Well, it seems that on Sunday -- it was a few hours after Kansas governor made her remarks about Bush being negligent and she underplayed the National Guard response blaming it on Bush and saying that, you know, of course, he had so many people in Iraq that they were unable to respond to her effectively. She then -- you know, and the thing is too, Sean, she had - she has a decent relationship with Brownback and the Kansas Republicans because she's mostly acted as a moderate rather than a liberal. So anyway, she was calling, apparently, Brownback to apologize to the senator for making the political statements the she had made, and she explained that she did not believe those statements really to be true, but that they actually had -- actually more than enough National Guardsmen showing up. She admitted that herself to Brownback.
HANNITY: Well, did you guys speak to Brownback on this, or is this just a source you guys have?
TENNENT: Can't say. Can't say.
QUINN: Now here -- yeah, here's the deal. It's a source that I have used before. This source has been very reliable. This source told me why his source is unassailable, and I can't tell you why, because if I do I'll blow him in. I'll -- what I'll do is blow his cover if I tell you why, but I can tell you -- I can tell you privately off the air, but I can't tell you on the air.
HANNITY: Now, look, I'm -- nobody should have to reveal sources. But let me go through this, Jim, if I can a little bit more slowly here so people fully comprehend this. First of all, this is a disaster. I mean, we literally have people -- their lives have been uprooted, everything they have worked for in their lives have been destroyed, we have a country like in the case of Katrina -- we're trying to rally around these folks, and get them the food and supplies and medicine and the help and the assistance and the rescue that's necessary for all these people, and the governor comes out of nowhere and makes sort of like a statement like the mayor of New Orleans, like [Mayor Ray] Nagin when he said, "Yeah, This city will be a chocolate city." Remember?
QUINN: Yeah, I remember that.
HANNITY: And she basically politicizes the tornado and ties it into Iraq. But you're saying that this was connected or orchestrated from the top from Howard Dean.
QUINN: Yeah. Here's how it went down, OK? Governor Sebelius, as you know, placed this call to apologize to Sam Brownback because later on in the day, she had to meet him, they were going to surveil the -- or take a look at all the destruction. So here's how it went down, and my source has quotes around these statements. Now, I wasn't there, so I can't vouch for the total accuracy of this, but here -- they are in quotes. Governor Sebelius explained to Mr. Brownback: "Sam, you know how political everything is right now, and we're not allowed to let an opportunity like this pass," unquote. Let that sink in for a second.
QUINN: Let me finish with the quotes here so everything stays in context, OK?
QUINN: Governor Sebelius explained, "Sam, you know how political everything is right now, and we're not allowed to let an opportunity like this pass," unquote. She continued, quote: "I made sure not to blame you or Pat" -- that would be Senator Roberts -- "or anybody outside the White House. With his" -- Bush's -- "numbers, you can't really blame me for using that," unquote. Then, Governor Sebelius, according to our source, explained the path to her comments. After Brownback told her that he was very disappointed in her, she pleaded, quote, "You know me, Sam. I wouldn't have said it if I didn't have to," unquote. She said, "Howard Dean called me around 5 o'clock" -- we assume that's 5 o'clock in the morning - "and told me not to ask the White House for any help or make any statements until I heard back. Dick" -- and we don't know who that is; my source assumes it's Dick Durbin, but I can't, I don't know -- "Dick called me an hour or two later, and that's when he told me that we needed to use this and talk about the Guard all being at war," unquote.
TENNENT: Well, you know, then she -- she then went on to explain that -- her reasoning behind all of this, and she said that the speaker and Harry -- and we're assuming Harry Reid -- are feeling the heat from both sides over the war and that they need to get the press on something else. She said she didn't think it was right to use this, but she didn't have much choice, she said, considering the climate that she was in. Then apparently, she apologized a few more times and promised that she'd try to move away from the comment when she and Brownback were to meet up later and tour the damage, but she had to do so without disappointing Dean and Pelosi, and those were her words, supposedly.
HANNITY: Well, I've -- I've gotta tell you, if we can confirm and corroborate this, this woman needs to be removed from office --
HANNITY: -- and we need to demand that Howard Dean be removed from the DNC.
QUINN: They're all going to deny it, because Brownback doesn't want to screw up his relationship with the governor. So be -- we're prepared for that. Our source absolutely stands by her or his story, and -- but I can tell you -- what is amazing about this is that when -- the last thing that Rose said about her apologizing a few more times and promising that she would move away from the comment later on when they met, I saw a videotape of her, and I believe this was where she and Brownback were looking at the wreckage, and I remember thinking to myself, this looks like a woman who's really embarrassed about being there. Her shoulders are hunched over, she doesn't look at the camera, she doesn't look at the -- she looks at the floor. This is a woman whose body language is just screaming out that she just feels awful about something.
Correction: This item incorrectly suggested that XM Radio produces Quinn and Tennent's radio show, The War Room with Quinn & Rose. In fact, while XM broadcasts the show live, it originates out of Clear Channel-owned Pittsburgh radio station WPGB and airs on several other radio stations.