On the June 24 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace reported on Sen. James Inhofe's (R-OK) disputed claim that he had overheard Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) discussing a "legislative fix" for right-wing talk radio, but Wallace did not note that Inhofe had altered a crucial element of the story since his allegations were first made public. Wallace said Inhofe "says that he overheard Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton three years ago complaining about talk radio and saying there should be a legislative fix." Wallace was referring to comments Inhofe had made during a June 22 interview on Fox News' Your World. However, as blogger Greg Sargent observed, Inhofe had first asserted during a June 21 interview on Los Angeles radio station KFI 640 AM's The John Ziegler Show that he had overheard the conversation between Boxer and Clinton "the other day" but then said on Your World that the conversation had occurred "three years ago."
As Wallace reported and Media Matters for America has noted, the offices of both Boxer and Clinton deny that the conversation ever took place.
Inhofe asserted during his June 21 appearance on The John Ziegler Show that "I was going out to vote the other day" and he "was walking with two very liberal gals," later identified as Clinton and Boxer, who "were outraged by something" a conservative talk radio host said. Inhofe claimed that Clinton and Boxer stated: "We've got to do something about this. These are nothing but far right-wing extremists. We've got to have a balance. We have got to have a legislative fix to this."
But during an interview with host Neil Cavuto on the June 22 edition of Fox News' Your World, Inhofe claimed to have "told this story well over 100 times on the radio, on TV, in the last three years." He continued: "[T]his is about three years ago. ... They are yelling and screaming and complaining about right-wing radio. 'They're all right wing, we can't let them keep doing that. There has to be a fix to this.' "
By contrast to Wallace's reporting, during the June 22 edition of Fox News' Special Report, guest host Bret Baier accurately reported that Inhofe had altered the timeline of his story:
BAIER: And Republican Senator James Inhofe said on Fox this afternoon that a conversation he overheard between Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer about wanting a, quote, "legislative fix" for conservative talk radio actually occurred three years ago. Inhofe told a Los Angeles radio station yesterday that he overheard the senators complaining about something they had heard on the air, quote, "the other day". Inhofe quoted the two senators as saying "We've got to do something about this. These are nothing but far right-wing extremists. We've got to have a balance. There's got to be a legislative fix to this."
But the offices of both Senator Clinton and Senator Boxer had the same response to Fox News, saying the conversation never happened, and today, Inhofe clarified the timeline on this story, saying he's recounted a three-year-old conversation well over 100 times on radio and TV since then.
In a June 22 interview with Scott Baker, a correspondent for the online news portal Breitbart.tv, Inhofe claimed that he knew immediately that he had originally misrepresented the timeline of his alleged account, but decided not to correct it: "Well, I thought about that right when I said it, but I've told this story so many times I thought, 'Well, if the other day's not today' -- no, this is a long time ago." Breitbart.tv was founded by former Drudge colleague Andrew Breitbart.
From the June 24 edition of Fox News Sunday:
WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator [Dianne] Feinstein [D-CA]. Oklahoma Senator Inhofe says that he overheard Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton three years ago complaining about talk radio and saying there should be a legislative fix. Both of them deny it ever happened. But let me ask you about yourself. Do you have a problem with talk radio, and would you consider reviving the Fairness Doctrine, which would require broadcasters to put on opposing points of view?
FEINSTEIN: Well, in my view, talk radio tends to be one-sided. It also tends to be dwelling in hyperbole. It's explosive. It pushes people to, I think, extreme views without a lot of information. This is a very complicated bill. It's seven titles. Most people don't know what's in this bill. Therefore, to just have one or two things dramatized and taken out of context, such as the word amnesty, we have a silent amnesty right now, but nobody goes into that, nobody goes into the flaws of our broken system. This bill fixes those flaws. Do I think there should be an opportunity on talk radio to present that point of view? Yes, I do, particularly about the critical issues of the day.
From the June 22 edition of Fox News' Your World:
CAVUTO: On to politics: Who is lying here? What is the big question right now after Democratic Senators Clinton and Boxer flatly deny having a conversation that this guy swears they did? If he's telling the truth, the Sean Hannitys and Rush Limbaughs of talk radio could be big targets. On the phone with us right now, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Senator, the senators I just mentioned say they never had this conversation where they more or less implied they were going to go after right-wing radio. What do you say?
INHOFE: I never said that. What I said was, and here's the funny thing, Neil, I've told this story well over 100 times on the radio, on TV in the last three years. I was going up the elevator with them -- this is about three years ago -- to vote. They are yelling and screaming and complaining about right-wing radio. "They're all right wing, we can't let them keep doing that. There has to be a fix to this." And I said, "You girls don't understand, it's market-driven, and there's no market for your liberal tripe." Now -- and I've said that story so many times because it is funny, and people -- liberals don't understand that.
From a June 22 interview on Breitbart.tv:
BAKER: Well, let me ask you this, because I believe, in the account that you gave on the radio last night, the one that we put up on Breitbart.tv, you said this happened the other day, so now you're saying it was a little bit longer ago.
INHOFE: Well, I thought about that right when I said it, but I've told this story so many times I thought, "Well, if the other day's not today" -- no, this is a long time ago. And the reason I know how long ago it was, Scott, is because when I keynoted the Republican convention about a month ago, this was the Oklahoma convention, I was talking to someone who had had the, what I had said in the past, and I said, "Now tell me what stories not to tell, that I've told before." And they said, "Well, you ought to tell your elevator story again, even though you've told it twice before at two other conventions. It brings down the house." And so I said -- so it's been at least that long.