CNN's Borger falsely asserted McCain "absolutely" "called for [Rumsfeld] to be fired"
Research ››› ››› BRIAN LEVY
On The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger falsely claimed that "[Sen. John] McCain has said over and over again, you know, 'I would have fired [former Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld.' ... [H]e called for him to be fired while -- in the Senate." In fact, McCain did not call for Rumsfeld to resign or to be fired.
On the March 5 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer asked about Sen. John McCain: "[C]an he disassociate himself ... distance himself from the president?" After CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said it would be "[t]otally impossible," CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger responded: "[B]ut on the war, McCain has said over and over again, you know, 'I would have fired [former Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld.' " When Toobin interrupted, asking: "Did he call for Rumsfeld to be fired?" Blitzer said "Yes" and Borger agreed, saying: "He did. He did." Despite Toobin's further protestations, Borger said of McCain's purported call for Rumsfeld to be fired: "[H]e called for him to be fired while -- in the Senate," "Yeah. Oh, absolutely," "No, he did," and "[H]e said I think Rumsfeld ought to be fired, you know, a long time ago. Yeah." In fact, McCain did not call for Rumsfeld to be fired, nor did he call for his resignation.
A February 9 Washington Post article uncritically reported McCain's claim that he had called for Rumsfeld's resignation. Following a Media Matters for America item about the February 9 Post article, the Post reported on February 16 that McCain "overstate[d] his public position on Rumsfeld" and never called for him to resign. According to the article: "[D]uring a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., aired on CNN, McCain said, 'I'm the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go.' A McCain spokesman acknowledged this week that that was not correct. 'He did not call for his resignation,' said the campaign's Brian Rogers. 'He always said that's the president's prerogative.' "
While McCain expressed "no confidence" in Rumsfeld in 2004, the Associated Press reported at the time that McCain "said his comments were not a call for Rumsfeld's resignation." Further, when Fox News host Shepard Smith specifically asked McCain, "Does Donald Rumsfeld need to step down?" on November 8, 2006 -- hours before President Bush announced Rumsfeld's resignation -- McCain responded that it was "a decision to be made by the president."
As the February 16 Post article noted: "McCain's false account has been unwittingly incorporated into the narrative he is selling by some news organizations, including The Washington Post."
From the March 5 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: Well, can he disassociate himself --
BLITZER: -- distance himself from the president?
JACK CAFFERTY (CNN commentator): I don't know. Oil was $28 a barrel when George Bush was sworn in. It's 104 right now and could go to 120 soon.
Now, why do you suppose that is? It wouldn't have to do with the policies of the Bush administration or the relationship they have with the oil companies, would it?
TOOBIN: Totally impossible to disassociate himself from Bush. I mean, it's the same party. They're allied on most of the key issues. Yes, they didn't like each other many years ago. But George Bush and John McCain are politically tied at the hip.
BORGER: Well, but on the war, McCain has said over and over again, you know, "I would have fired Donald Rumsfeld." I think the --
TOOBIN: Did he call for Rumsfeld to be fired?
BORGER: He did. He did.
TOOBIN: No, not -- not --
BORGER: No, no, no, he called for him to be fired while -- in the Senate, even be --
TOOBIN: Did he?
BORGER: Yeah. Oh, absolutely.
BLITZER: He also had very tough words for Dick Cheney --
BORGER: Absolutely, absolutely.
BLITZER: -- but he backed away from that later.
BORGER: No, he did.
BLITZER: He was focusing primarily on Rumsfeld.
TOOBIN: I don't remember that.
BORGER: He said -- he said I think Rumsfeld ought to be fired, you know, a long time ago. Yeah.
CAFFERTY: He also -- he also came back from a tour of Baghdad and told us what a lovely day it was to go shopping at the bazaar there. And we found out two days later there were 100 Apache gunships and a couple of thousand Marines guarding the area where he was doing his walking tour. So, I mean, he's in bed with Bush on the war all the way.