Media echoed, applauded Giuliani's distortion of Paul's comments about 9-11 attacks

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

Several media figures mischaracterized a response that Rep. Ron Paul gave at the Republican debate, with some asserting that Paul had "blamed" the United States for the 9-11 terrorist attacks and others simply accepting Rudy Giuliani's misrepresentation of Paul's statement -- that the United States had "invited the attack." In fact, Paul did not blame the United States for the 9-11 attacks or say that the United States had "invited" them.

Covering the May 15 Republican presidential debate at the University of South Carolina, some media figures mischaracterized a response by Rep. Ron Paul (TX), asserting that Paul had "blamed" the United States for the 9-11 terrorist attacks. In other cases, they simply accepted former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's misrepresentation of Paul's statement -- that the United States had "invited the attack." Paul did not blame the United States or say that the United States "invited the attack." He said the attacks were a response to U.S. actions in the Middle East and stressed the importance of understanding the motivations of those who want to attack the United States. Moreover, the media largely ignored Paul's further comments on those remarks after the debate, including his assertion that "Americans didn't do anything to cause" the attacks.

During the debate, Paul asserted that terrorists attacked the United States on September 11 "because we've been over there; we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East." When asked by co-moderator and Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler if he was suggesting that "we invited the 9-11 attack," Paul replied: "I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it." Giuliani immediately responded to Paul claiming that what he had said was "an extraordinary statement ... that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq." Giuliani added: "I don't think I've heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th." From the debate:

PAUL: No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there; we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East -- I think Reagan was right.

We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican. We're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)

GOLER: Are you suggesting we invited the 9-11 attack, sir?

PAUL: I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, "I am glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier." They have already now since that time -- (bell rings) -- have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don't think it was necessary.

GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That's really an extraordinary statement. That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.)

During a postdebate interview, Fox News host Sean Hannity asked Paul: "Are you suggesting the United States of America caused the attack on 9-11?" Paul replied: "No, I think that's a cop-out." Hannity then asked: "Are you suggesting that our policies are causing the hatred of people that would cause them to want to kill us?" Paul responded: "I think it contributes significantly to it, and this is exactly what our CIA tells us. Paul later stated explicitly: "[T]he Americans didn't do anything to cause [9-11]."

Yet when describing the confrontation between Paul and Giuliani during the debate, numerous media figures claimed that Paul "blamed" the United States for 9-11 or said that the United States was "responsible" for the attacks, and they made no mention of his subsequent clarification. In addition, some not only accepted Giuliani's interpretation of what Paul said but praised Giuliani's response.

For example, on the May 16 edition of CNN's American Morning, Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei said that "Rudy Giuliani came off terrific" during the debate, "mostly because he got that softball, where Ron Paul lobs it to him and basically blames the U.S. for the 9-11 attacks." In response to VandeHei, co-host John Roberts mimicked a baseball swing with his arms and said, "Ron Paul -- lob ball, and boom." VandeHei then concluded: "You dream of those moments when you're a candidate, that's for sure." Later in the program, Roberts said that Paul "did kind of stick his foot in it, though, when he suggested last night that it was U.S. intervention overseas that was responsible for the 9-11 attacks."

A May 16 Politico.com report on the debate by Jonathan Martin mentioned the dispute between Paul and Giuliani and uncritically quoted Giuliani campaign manager Mike DuHaime's claim that Giuliani "is not going to sit there and let somebody say that [9-11] was our fault."

From Fox News' postdebate coverage:

HANNITY: I want to go back to this exchange you had with Mayor Giuliani here for just a second. Are you suggesting the United States of America caused the attack on 9-11?

PAUL: No, I think that's a cop-out.

HANNITY: Our policies?

PAUL: When people imply that what you're saying is that, "If you don't endorse my foreign policy, you're un-American, you're unpatriotic."

HANNITY: I never said anything like that. I'm not saying


PAUL: No, I don't say you --

HANNITY: You're suggesting --

PAUL: No, but I think that was the point in the debate that if I didn't endorse this foreign policy, you turn it around or they -- he turned it around.

HANNITY: I'm not saying that, but what specifically then are you saying? Are you suggesting that our policies are causing the hatred of people that would cause them to want to kill us?

PAUL: I think it contributes significantly to it, and this is exactly what our CIA tells us. And anybody who's done any research on this has found out -- [inaudible]

HANNITY: What have we done to cause the attack --

PAUL: Wait, wait, let me answer.

HANNITY: What did America do to cause the attack on 9-11?

PAUL: OK, the Americans didn't do anything to cause it, but policies over many years caused an elicited hatred toward us, so somebody was willing to commit suicide. For instance, the occupation with our military troops on their holy land in Saudi Arabia, bombing a Muslim country for 10 years, putting on sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of people. So that caused that anger.

From the May 16 edition of CNN's American Morning:

VANDEHEI: I thought Rudy Giuliani came off terrific, mostly because he got that softball, where Ron Paul lobs it to him and basically blames the U.S. for the 9-11 attacks.

ROBERTS: Let's take a quick look at that and then you can keep going on that. Take a look.

[begin video clip]

PAUL: They attack us because we've been over there; we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years.

GIULIANI: That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've ever heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.

[end video clip]

ROBERTS: So, Giuliani, in the California debate that you were at, was criticized for kind of not showing the type of, you know, heavily, sharply focused leadership that he is well known for, obviously taking that opportunity there.

VANDEHEI: You can't buy opportunities like that in politics. I mean, this is a guy whose entire campaign is based on, "I can keep you safe, I'm the 9-11 warrior." And here he's able to, you know, stand up in front of this Republican audience and say, "That's absurd. Withdraw your remark." It was great TV.

ROBERTS: Ron Paul -- lob ball, and boom.

VANDEHEI: You dream of those moments when you're a candidate, that's for sure.

ROBERTS: Yeah, absolutely.

[...]

KIRAN CHETRY (co-host): So, who is Ron Paul? Well, he's the man described by some of the political analysts as, quote, "the longest of long shots in the GOP field." He's a nine-term congressman from Texas, an OB/GYN from the Houston area, actually. And he is barely registering in the polling. In fact, in our CNN polls, I think he's under 1 percent.

He's also the libertarian candidate -- he was -- for president back in 1988. Didn't do so well, drawing just about 400,000 votes nationwide. He also voted against the defense spending bill and against the 2002 authorization for the war in Iraq. He believes, as he said, in limited government. He's actually calling for, John, the abolishing of the Homeland Security Department, and he wants to take away a lot of the power of the Federal Reserve.

ROBERTS: Yeah, I saw that. That's how he would cut the federal budget, by abolishing the Department of Homeland Security. He did kind of stick his foot in it, though, when he suggested last night that it was U.S. intervention overseas that was responsible for the 9-11 attacks, which drew that sharp response from Rudy Giuliani, which drew applause from the audience. So it looks like --

CHETRY: That's right, and he didn't back down from it either, so he --

ROBERTS: He didn't, yeah, you're right.

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.