Russert misquoted Clinton one day, falsely stated Clinton's and Obama's positions on NAFTA the next

››› ››› ADAM SHAH & JOHN DELICATH

On The Tim Russert Show, Russert falsely claimed that Sen. Hillary Clinton said in 2004: "[O]n substance, NAFTA's been good for New York and America." In fact, what Clinton said in 2004 was: "I think on balance NAFTA has been good for New York and America, but I also think that there are a number of areas where we're not dealt with in an upfront way." On Meet the Press, Russert claimed that a video clip showed Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama "coming out against NAFTA"; as the clips made clear, neither candidate "c[ame] out against NAFTA."

On the March 1 edition of MSNBC's The Tim Russert Show, host Tim Russert distorted a 2004 comment from Sen. Hillary Clinton, falsely claiming that she said: "[O]n substance, NAFTA's been good for New York and America." In fact, what Clinton said in 2004 was: "I think on balance NAFTA has been good for New York and America," adding, "but I also think that there are a number of areas where we're not dealt with in an upfront way in dealing with our friend to the north, Canada, which seems to be able to come up with a number of rationales for keeping New York agricultural products out of Canada" (emphases added). Russert's comments came while discussing answers Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama gave about NAFTA during the February 26 Democratic primary debate. The following day, introducing video clips from the debate on the March 2 edition of Meet the Press, Russert falsely asserted "Here are both Democratic candidates coming out against NAFTA. Let's watch." In fact, as the clips Russert played made clear, neither Clinton nor Obama "c[ame] out against NAFTA."

Introducing video clips from the debate on The Tim Russert Show, Russert said: "What a difference 15 years makes in terms of Democratic thinking towards free trade. Let's watch." After airing a brief portion of what was said during the debate, Russert asserted: "What a change." He later falsely claimed: "Because in '04, she [Clinton] said, on substance, NAFTA's been good for New York and America." However, Russert did not air other portions of the debate where Clinton spoke about her full record of comments on NAFTA, nor did he mention Clinton's answers during the debate in which she argued that NAFTA had worked in some areas and not in others.

During the debate, Clinton first responded to a question about NAFTA from NBC's Brian Williams, in which she said, in part:

You know, I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning. I didn't have a public position on it, because I was part of the administration, but when I started running for the Senate, I have been a critic. I've said it was flawed. I said that it worked in some parts of our country, and I've seen the results in Texas. I was in Laredo in the last couple of days. It's the largest inland port in America now. So clearly, some parts of our country have been benefited.

But what I have seen, where I represent up-state New York, I've seen the factories closed and moved. I've talked to so many people whose children have left because they don't have a good shot. I've had to negotiate to try to keep factories open, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, because the companies got tax benefits to actually move to another country.

[...]

So I would hope that, again, we can get to a debate about what the real issues are and where we stand because we do need to fix NAFTA. It is not working. It was, unfortunately, heavily disadvantaging many of our industries, particularly manufacturing. I have a record of standing up for that, of chairing the Manufacturing Caucus in the Senate, and I will take a tough position on these trade agreements.

Later, when Clinton was asked by Russert, "You will get out. You will notify Mexico and Canada, NAFTA is gone in six months, Clinton said: "No, I will say we will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it, and we renegotiate on terms that are favorable to all of America. But let's be fair here, Tim. There are lots of parts of New York that have benefitted, just like there are lots of parts of Texas that have benefitted. The problem is in places like upstate New York, places like Youngstown, Toledo, and others throughout Ohio that have not benefitted. And if you look at what I have been saying, it has been consistent." When Russert said, "You said it was good on balance for New York and America in 2004, and now you're in Ohio and your words are much different, Senator. The record is very clear," Clinton replied, "Well, I -- I -- you don't have all the record because you can go back and look at what I've said consistently. And I haven't just said things; I have actually voted to toughen trade agreements, to try to put more teeth into our enforcement mechanisms. And I will continue to do so," and later added: "It has worked in some parts of America. It has not worked in Ohio. It has not worked in upstate New York. And since I've been in the Senate -- neither of us voted on this. That wasn't something either of us got to cast an independent vote on. Since I have been in the Senate, I have worked to try to ameliorate the impact of these trade agreements."

Introducing video clips from the debate on the Meet the Press, Russert falsely asserted "Here are both Democratic candidates coming out against NAFTA. Let's watch." In fact, the very clips Russert then played did not show either Clinton or Obama "coming out against NAFTA." Rather, Clinton stated "I'm confident that as president when I say we will opt out unless we renegotiate. We will be able to re-negotiate." Similarly, Obama stated: "I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about. And I think, actually, Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. I think should we use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced." The clip did not contain the segment in which Russert asked Clinton, "You will get out. You will notify Mexico and Canada, NAFTA is gone in six months," to which she replied, "No, I will say we will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it, and we renegotiate on terms that are favorable to all of America."

Media Matters for America has documented a pattern in which Russert has asked Clinton questions during Democratic presidential debates that included false assertions of fact and suggestions that she was being inconsistent or not forthcoming.

From the March 1 edition of MSNBC's The Tim Russert Show:

RUSSERT: This is what -- the exchange I had with Senator Clinton and with Senator Obama on Tuesday. And what a difference 15 years makes in terms of Democratic thinking towards free trade. Let's watch.

[begin video clip]

RUSSERT: Let me button this up. Absent the changes you're suggesting, you are willing to opt out of NAFTA in six months.

CLINTON: I'm confident that as president when I say we will opt out unless we renegotiate.

RUSSERT: Simple question: Will you as president say to Canada and Mexico, "This has not worked for us. We are out"?

OBAMA: I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about. And I think, actually, Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. I think should we use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced.

[end video clip]

RUSSERT: What a change.

DEE DEE MYERS (former Clinton White House press secretary): Well, not really, because when -- during the NAFTA debate within the Clinton White House, the then-first lady was always quite skeptical of it. She wasn't an enthusiastic backer of NAFTA inside the White House in my memory. And in fact, you know, she had a lot of questions, she had a lot of reservations, not only about the content of NAFTA but about the strategic placement in terms of that versus health care and, you know, what constituencies were we going to have to tap in order to pass NAFTA that might come back to haunt us as we tried to pass a universal health care plan.

RUSSERT: So it was more strategic. She wanted health care to go --

MYERS: It was both.

RUSSERT: It was both? It was substantive?

MYERS: It was both. It was strategic and it was substantive. Absolutely. And when she says that, everyone goes, "Yeah, yeah, right," but it -- first of all, it's true. And second of all, you know, we pass a lot of bills, treaties in this country, and then 10 or 15 years later, they don't always work exactly like we had hoped, and so you have to go back in and re-look at it and rethink it. And I think that's what she's doing, but she's not being given much latitude to do that.

RUSSERT: Well, because in '04 she said on substance, NAFTA's been good for New York and America.

MYERS: Right, which -- you know, but at the time, I mean, she had some really serious, substantive reservations about it.

From the March 2 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: Let me show you another issue where there will be a big difference between John McCain and either Obama or Clinton, and that's NAFTA, [Republican strategist] Mary Matalin. North American Free Trade Agreement. Bill Clinton, a centerpiece of his presidency in 1993. What a difference 15 years makes. Here are both Democratic candidates coming out against NAFTA. Let's watch.

[begin video clip]

RUSSERT: Let me button this up. Absent the changes you're suggesting, you are willing to opt out of NAFTA in six months.

CLINTON: I'm confident that as president when I say we will opt out unless we renegotiate. We will be able to renegotiate.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, simple question: Will you as president say to Canada and Mexico, "This has not worked for us. We are out"?

OBAMA: I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about. And I think, actually, Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. I think should we use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced.

[end video tape]

MATALIN: Oy. So wrong on so many levels.

Posted In
Economy, Trade
Network/Outlet
MSNBC, NBC
Person
Tim Russert
Show/Publication
Meet the Press
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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