CNN's Costello echoed Politico falsehood about Democrats being "Zero for 40 on Iraq"

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

Echoing the false assertion in a Politico article that Democrats are "Zero for 40" on passing "bills limiting President Bush's war policy," CNN's Carol Costello reported, "Forty times Democrats have forced a vote to curtail the Iraq war and 40 times they've lost." In fact, in April, both the House and Senate passed war funding legislation that included a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal, which President Bush vetoed.

Echoing the false assertion in a November 13 Politico article originally headlined "Democrats Zero for 40 on Iraq" -- that "Democrats have forced 40 votes on bills limiting President Bush's war policy," but "[n]ot a single one has passed both chambers, even though both are run by Democrats" -- CNN correspondent Carol Costello reported on the November 13 edition of The Situation Room, "If ever there was an example of political paralysis, this is it. Forty times Democrats have forced a vote to curtail the Iraq war and 40 times they've lost, even though they control both the Senate and the House." In fact, in April, both the House and Senate passed war funding legislation that included a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal, which President Bush vetoed.

Costello reported that the "zero for 40" claim was "the big story on Politico" and aired a video clip of one of the authors of the Politico article, executive editor Jim VandeHei, who stated, "It's a reflection of the partisanship in Washington. The fact to keep going at something that is your top priority and to lose this many times is demoralizing to a lot of Democrats." However, neither Costello nor VandeHei noted that the Politico revised the article later in the morning on which it was posted, changing the headline from "Democrats Zero for 40 on Iraq" to "Democrats Stalled on Iraq," noting that Democrats successfully passed legislation that President Bush vetoed. As Media Matters for America documented, Politico revised its story after, according to Tim Grieve of Salon.com's War Room blog, Grieve sent an "email to VandeHei this morning pointing out the error" and informing him that Democrats had in fact passed a war funding bill through both chambers. Grieve wrote that VandeHei "responded with a message saying that he 'agreed' and that the story has been 'updated.' " The revised article stated that Democrats "forced 40 votes on bills limiting President Bush's war policy" and noted "[o]nly one of those has passed both chambers." Nevertheless, Costello repeated the phrase "zero for 40" during her report. Only at the conclusion of her report did Costello add, "And I want to point out the Democrats did get one bill that included a troop withdrawal plan through both houses of Congress, but the president vetoed it. And the Democrats couldn't get enough votes to override the veto, so it failed."

Additionally, during the November 13 edition of his MSNBC show, host Tucker Carlson teased a segment about the Politico article by stating, "USA Today reports the number of roadside bombs in Iraq dropped 38 percent in September, that's down from March. Well that positive news coincides with the Politico.com piece pointing out that the congressional Democrats have forced 40 votes this past year on bills to limit the president's freedom of movement in Iraq. And 40 times the majority party has failed." He later teased the segment by asserting, "Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, and the Democratic Congress have had a year to force President Bush to change course in Iraq. Their record: 0-for-40. Is the war over the war over now?" It was not until the actual segment in which he discussed the Politico article at length that Carlson noted that Congress had in fact passed legislation that included a timetable for troop withdrawal.

As Media Matters noted, Politico updated the article later in the morning on November 13, changing the headline to "Democrats remain stalled on Iraq" and including the passage, "Only one of those [bills] has passed both chambers, even though both are run by Democrats. That one was vetoed by Bush." However, as Grieve noted at the time, there was no acknowledgement in the article "that the original story was wrong or that it has been corrected." The Politico subsequently posted what it called an "Update" at the end of the article, rather than a "correction," even while acknowledging that the article had been inaccurate:

UPDATE: The original version of this story inaccurately stated that none of the 40 Democratic efforts to limit the Iraq war cleared Congress. None were signed into law, but one bill did make it to President Bush for his veto.

It is unclear, however, when the update acknowledging that the original article contained the inaccurate claim was added to the story. Politico's own Mike Allen, who cited the "ZERO FOR 40" claim and touted it as a "never-before-reported, debate-changing figure" at his Playbook blog, has apparently not yet noted that the figure is false.

From the November 13 edition of CNN's Situation Room:

BLITZER: They may control Congress, but President Bush is still running the war in Iraq, despite 40 attempts by Democrats to try to change the course. Let's go back to Carol Costello, she's watching this story for us.

Carol, Democrats have, I guess it is fair to say, have had a pretty dismal record in trying to change the course of this war through legislation.

COSTELLO: Well, you know, I wish I could give you an easy answer as to why, but it's just not that simple. Unfortunately for Democrats, voters who put them into office only see black and white.

[begin video clip]

COSTELLO: Zero for 40. If ever there was an example of political paralysis, this is it. Forty times Democrats have forced a vote to curtail the Iraq war and 40 times they've lost, even though they control both the Senate and the House. It's the big story on Politico.

VANDEHEI: It's a reflection of the partisanship in Washington. The fact to keep going at something that is your top priority and to lose this many times is demoralizing to a lot of Democrats.

COSTELLO: And it's demoralizing for many Americans who oppose the war.

RICHARD BELZER (actor): The Democrats give up too easily and it's heartbreaking because they were put in office to stop the war and they're just showing their true colors, which is timidity and beholden to special interests.

COSTELLO: Yes, that is actor Richard Belzer. Hey, it's New York. Other anti-war Americans we've found on the street echoed his comments.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Congress has no guts to do what they have to do.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Politicians do what it takes to get elected.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I think it's a failure of nerve.

COSTELLO: But it's not quite that simple. Some congressional observers say Democrats have been too tough, refusing to compromise with even moderate Republicans. Listen to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's [D-NV] latest comments on Iraq.

REID: We simply cannot buy victory in Iraq. This year has been the bloodiest year in history of the war.

COSTELLO: Tough talk, and not likely to win over Republicans or the president. Keep in mind: Democrats outnumber Republicans 51 to 49 in the Senate, but only because two independents vote on their side. And they haven't come close to getting enough Republican votes to override a veto by the president.

STUART ROTHENBERG (Rothenberg Political Report): I think they failed because they really don't control the legislative process the way Americans think that they do. Yes, they can get any piece of legislation through the House, but, no, they can't through the Senate. And of course, they need the president's signature.

COSTELLO: Some observers say perhaps it's time for Democrats to soften the rhetoric to compromise with, yes, even the president. But as Senator Reid's office told me today, Democrats remain committed to changing the course in Iraq.

[end video clip]

COSTELLO: And I want to point out the Democrats did get one bill that included a troop withdrawal plan through both houses of Congress, but the president vetoed it. And the Democrats couldn't get enough votes to override the veto, so it failed.

House Speaker Pelosi's office did contact me and said, "Despite Republicans' obstructionist tactics, Democrats will continue to push to change the course of the war." Wolf?

BLITZER: Carol, thank you. Carol Costello reporting.

From the November 13 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:

CARLSON: USA Today reports the number of roadside bombs in Iraq dropped 38 percent in September, that's down from March. Well that positive news coincides with the Politico.com piece pointing out that congressional Democrats have forced 40 votes in the last year on bills to limit the president's freedom of movement in Iraq. And 40 times the majority party has failed. Why can't the Democrats get things done? Are we lucky they can't?

[...]

CARLSON: Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, and the Democratic Congress have had a year to force President Bush to change course in Iraq. Their record: 0-for-40. Is the war over the war over now?

[...]

CARLSON: Meanwhile, there was the same old news in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said today that Democrats in Congress will not approve more money for the Iraq war unless President Bush agrees to start drawing down U.S. forces.

Well you'd pardon Mr. Bush if his reply was as simple as "Oh, yeah?" Because Politico.com today reviewed the Democratic Congress' record imposing its will on President Bush's war policy, and here's what it found. The Congress is 0-for-40; 40 votes to restrict the president's discretion as commander in chief, 39 failures to pass both Houses both controlled by Democrats by the way, and one veto that was not overridden. A year since its election, has Congress lost the war against the war?

Posted In
Government, The House of Representatives, The Senate
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Carol Costello
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
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