Fox & Friends First claimed that Clinton "allegedly planted question" at GOP debate without noting denials
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On Fox & Friends First, Alisyn Camerota teased a report by stating, "Details on another alleged planted question by the Clinton camp at last night's [CNN/YouTube Republican] debate," referring to a questioner at the debate, retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, a member of committees associated with Hillary Clinton's campaign. During a discussion of Kerr's involvement in the debate, on-screen captions read: "HILLARY'S STAND-IN: CLINTON PLANTS STAFFER AT DEBATE" and "PLANT MEDIA: GOP YOUTUBE DEBATE." But several hours earlier -- unmentioned on Fox & Friends First -- Fox News political field producer Jake Gibson reported online that Kerr told him that Kerr "was not contacted by the Clinton campaign to do this," had appeared at the debate without the prior knowledge of the campaign, and did not work for the Clinton campaign. Gibson added that Kerr's answer "seems genuine."
During the November 29 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Alisyn Camerota teased a report by stating, "All right, coming up, another blunder by CNN. Details on another alleged planted question by the [Sen. Hillary] Clinton camp at last night's [CNN/YouTube Republican] debate," referring to a questioner, retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans for Hillary Clinton steering committee and a co-chairman of Clinton's Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary Committee. Earlier in the show, during a discussion of Kerr's involvement in the debate, on-screen captions read: "HILLARY'S STAND-IN: CLINTON PLANTS STAFFER AT DEBATE" and "PLANT MEDIA: GOP YOUTUBE DEBATE." At no point during the show did anyone note that several hours earlier, Fox News political field producer Jake Gibson had reported that Kerr told him that Kerr "was not contacted by the Clinton campaign to do this," had appeared at the debate without the prior knowledge of the campaign, and did not work for the Clinton campaign. Further, Gibson reported that Kerr told CNN that "he's done no work for the Clinton campaign" and that the Clinton campaign stated that Kerr "is not a campaign employee and was not acting on behalf of the campaign."
Gibson's video report on Kerr's statement was posted on November 29 at 1:18 a.m. ET on Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron's blog, Cameron's Corner. Gibson reported that he had just spoken with Kerr and that Kerr "seems genuine that he ... was not contacted by the Clinton campaign to do this." Gibson also reported:
GIBSON: [Kerr] is a Clinton supporter, he receives e-mails from them, he's on a couple of lists -- gay veterans for Clinton, veterans for Clinton. He's been invited to a fundraiser in San Francisco and has told them he probably will attend. He could give some token amount like $100 but as of yet has given no contribution. He is, however, on the Clinton steering committee for gay and lesbian issues.
The same blog entry also included a statement from the Clinton campaign denying that Kerr was working on behalf of the campaign:
CLINTON CAMPAIGN OFFICIAL @ 1:17 AM
'HE IS NOT A CAMPAIGN EMPLOYEE AND WAS NOT ACTING ON BEHALF OF THE CAMPAIGN.'
Also, during the Fox & Friends First segment discussing the incident, co-host Brian Kilmeade repeated the allegation that Wolf Blitzer, host of the November 15 Democratic presidential debate, was "warned evidently that he should be easier on her and not to target her," echoing an anonymously sourced blurb posted on the Drudge Report website November 13. But like several other members of the media, Kilmeade did not note that Blitzer has denied that report. As Media Matters for America has noted, Blitzer said on CNN's The Situation Room, "No one has pressured me. No one has threatened me. No one is trying to intimidate me. ... No one has even called me to try to pressure me or anything like that. ... I have not felt any pressure whatsoever."
From the November 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends First:
DOOCY: Last night, CNN had the YouTube debates on their air. Now, you would think that after the last time CNN did a debate where they took so much flak because there was actually a 2003 Arkansas state Democrat [sic] Party member in the audience who asked a question, you would think that they would vet their questioners. Not the case. We've got some video of a man by the name of Keith Kerr. He -- revealed as gay -- a retired U.S. army colonel and a brigadier general in the California national reserve. He was asking a question about don't ask, don't tell. Well, as it turns out, he's working on the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign.
CAMEROTA: Yeah, he didn't mention that part.
DOOCY: And CNN didn't even apparently ask him if he had political ties.
KILMEADE: And he had it -- all the candidates had to respond to this: Do you agree with the don't ask, don't tell? He's also part of a -- he's part of a steering committee -- with the gay and lesbian steering committee for Hillary Clinton. Says he hasn't given any money to her, but that should have been apparent. Plus, Steve, you mentioned vetting. This is the ultimate vetting. They had to look through thousands of videos of submissions of questions --
KILMEADE: -- and decide, is there going to be a snowman involved here?
KILMEADE: How are they going to be criticized? And how widespread are the questions going to be.
CAMEROTA: You know, I didn't watch the debate. So they got the YouTube videos in earlier. This wasn't live.
DOOCY: Five thousand. Five thousand videos came in, and they selected this guy to run his video. Not only did they run his video, but they also flew him in at CNN's expense, and they never vetted his background. Anyway, by the end of the show, [CNN host] Anderson Cooper -- who, by the way, did a terrible job hosting the event -- Anderson Cooper --
CAMEROTA: I don't see that in my notes.
DOOCY: Well, you didn't see it -- you didn't see the event. Anderson Cooper had to do some 'splaining for CNN. Listen to this.
COOPER [video clip]: Brigadier General Keith Kerr, who asked a question about gays in the military during this debate, was on a steering committee for Sen. Hillary Clinton. That was certainly something unknown to us, and had we known that, would have been disclosed by us. It turns out -- we have just looked at it -- apparently there was a press release from some six months ago. Hillary Clinton office saying he had been named to some steering committee. We don't know if he's still on it. We're trying to find out that information. But certainly had we had that information, we would have acknowledged that in using his question, if we had used it at all.
KILMEADE: The thing is, there's a bit of a pattern here. Remember the last debate after Hillary Clinton was really knocked to the floor verbally by her counterparts? Then all of a sudden CNN gets the debate. Wolf Blitzer is the moderator and was warned evidently that he should be easier on her and not to target her. And then all of a sudden, she had a pro-Hillary crowd there last week, and then this happens this week.
DOOCY: But here's the extraordinary thing about this big mistake that CNN made: CNN hosted it with YouTube, right? YouTube is owned by Google. Had they simply Googled the man's name, this press release from six months ago that he's on this Hillary Rodham steering committee would have popped up. But they didn't even Google the guest.
CAMEROTA: Interesting. Well, they've now said that they're -- I also like that Anderson Cooper says, "We're looking into it. We're trying to find out."
KILMEADE: He's, "our best people are on it."
CAMEROTA: Why don't you ask him? Let's just ask him.
KILMEADE: Yeah. He's actually in the audience.
CAMEROTA: He's right there. Let's ask him.
KILMEADE: He's staying at the Four Seasons.
DOOCY: During the actual program, they were receiving word from one of the questioners and -- one of the people on the panel. Bill Bennett said, "Hey, I'm getting email from friends who say that guy works for Hillary Clinton." So, CNN didn't figure it out. One of the guys on the panel, Bill Bennett, figured it out because his friends were emailing him.
CAMEROTA: All right, coming up, another blunder by CNN. Details on another alleged planted question by the Clinton camp at last night's debate.
KILMEADE: Who put you up to that tease?
From the video posted on Cameron's Corner:
GIBSON: So we spoke with the Brigadier General Kerr, who had the question about gays in the military in the CNN debate and has turned out to be a huge blunder for them because it turns out he's a Clinton supporter. He says CNN never asked him if he was a Clinton supporter, so he never told. He is a Clinton supporter. He receives emails from them, he's on a couple of lists -- gay veterans for Clinton, veterans for Clinton. He's been invited to a fundraiser in San Francisco and has told them he probably will attend. He could give some token amount like $100 but as of yet has given no contribution. He is, however, on the Clinton steering committee for gay and lesbian issues. He submitted the question a couple of months ago, and last CNN -- just last CNN -- just last Saturday, CNN called him and said they'd like him to come to the debate. They paid for his flight, they paid for his hotel, his transportation to and from the event. Historically, he'd been a Log Cabin Republican for a long time and recently changed in California from a Republican to no preference or an independent. He says he was Republican for a long time but that these guys are just too partisanly homophobic. The general does seem genuine; that he didn't think this would embarrass CNN. He seems genuine that he didn't -- was not contacted by the Clinton campaign to do this. Unfortunately for CNN, genuine or not, it's still a major gaffe for them, and you know, oh well, bummer.