CNN, Chicago Tribune uncritically reported Hastert's claim that he "tried [his] best" to restore "civility"
Research ››› ››› BRIAN LEVY
On The Situation Room, Dana Bash said that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is resigning, "presided over a politically polarizing era. He said that was his biggest regret." A November 16 Chicago Tribune article also reported that Hastert "bemoaned the 'pool of bitterness' he believes exists in the nation's capital and urged his colleagues to try and work together in civility after he is gone." But neither Bash nor the Tribune noted Hastert's own history of partisan attacks.
On the November 15 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, congressional correspondent Dana Bash said that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who is resigning, "presided over a politically polarizing era. He said that was his biggest regret." Bash showed a video clip of Hastert stating: "I continue to worry about the breakdown of civility in our political discourse. I tried my best, but I wish I had been more successful." Also, a November 16 Chicago Tribune article headlined "Hastert urges Capitol Hill civility in farewell" reported that Hastert "bemoaned the 'pool of bitterness' he believes exists in the nation's capital and urged his colleagues to try and work together in civility after he is gone."
But neither Bash nor the Tribune noted Hastert's own history of partisan attacks, which includes the following:
- As the Associated Press noted in September 2006, following a vote on the Military Commissions Act, Hastert issued a written statement that said: "Democrat [sic] minority leader Nancy Pelosi and 159 of her Democrat colleagues voted today in favor of more rights for terrorists. ... So the same terrorists who plan to harm innocent Americans and their freedom worldwide would be coddled, if we followed the Democrat plan." The bill lifted habeas corpus protections for non-U.S. citizens, effectively granting the president the authority to detain any non-citizen in the United States or outside, without the ability to challenge his or her detention under the habeas corpus protections of the U.S. Constitution.
- As the blog Think Progress noted, on the September 29, 2006, edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, Hastert defended his remarks, claiming "the 130 most treacherous people probably in the world, and they [Democrats] want to put them and -- and release them out in the public eventually." Guest host David Asman responded: "Well, they -- to -- to be fair, Speaker, they -- they would say they don't want to necessarily release them." Similarly, a September 30, 2006, Los Angeles Times news analysis noted that "[n]o Democrat in Congress has called for releasing the detainees considered most dangerous at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or proposed that the United States surrender to terrorists."
- In a September 24, 2004, Washington Post analysis, Washington Post staff writer Dana Milbank noted that Hastert "said at a GOP fundraiser: 'I don't have data or intelligence to tell me one thing or another, [but] I would think they would be more apt to go [for] somebody who would file a lawsuit with the World Court or something rather than respond with troops.' Asked whether he believed al Qaeda would be more successful under a Kerry presidency, Hastert said: 'That's my opinion, yes.' "
- As Media Matters for America noted, following Rep. John P. Murtha's (D-PA) call for a withdrawal from Iraq on November 17, 2005, Hastert released a statement that said:
I am saddened by the comments made today by Rep. Murtha. It is clear that as Nancy Pelosi's top lieutenant on armed services, Rep. Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run.
Rep. Murtha and other Democrats want us to retreat. They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world. It is unfortunate that this is all politics all the time. We need to have a strong consistent policy that will protect our men and women who are fighting to protect us overseas. We must not cower like European nations who are now fighting terrorists on their soil.
This is the highest insult to the brave men and women serving overseas.
CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux noted Hastert's comment on the November 17, 2005, edition of The Situation Room.
In contrast to the CNN and Tribune reports, in a November 15 post on the Politico's blog The Crypt, staff writer Patrick O'Connor wrote that "the understated former speaker urged his colleagues to restore civility to an institution that has grown rife with partisan squabbling, even though much of that slide occurred during his tenure atop the House."
From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the November 15 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: Hastert's seat is one of several held by the GOP that will be up for grabs in the coming election. The fact that the party is scrambling to hold on to what it has, that's a fact that has emerged in recent weeks and months.
Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now. She's back in Washington. Dana, can we expect Hastert to be gone by the first of the year?
BASH: Apparently so, Wolf. And, you know, Dennis Hastert, he was really a beneficiary of the Republican rise of the 1990s, but today, he's very much a symbol of its fall from grace and continuing struggles.
[begin video clip]
BASH: A rare moment of bipartisanship for a farewell address from the longest-serving Republican speaker of the House.
HASTERT: After 21 years of serving the people of Illinois in this house, the time has come for me to make my last speech from this podium.
BASH: Dennis Hastert was an accidental speaker, thrust into the job in the wake of scandal, and presided over a politically polarizing era. He said that was his biggest regret.
HASTERT: I continue to worry about the breakdown of civility in our political discourse. I tried my best, but I wish I had been more successful.
BASH: Hastert was speaker when Republicans lost the House last year. That he is quitting Congress in the middle of his term is emblematic of his party's continued troubles.