Fox News' Doocy distorted Dean's comments about McCain

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Fox News' Steve Doocy asserted that Sen. John McCain "has not really talked much about his time in the Hanoi Hilton for five years, and what happened to him, and they are including some of that archival stuff in a [campaign] video. And now, Howard Dean says that that is 'blatant opportunism.' " In fact, Dean said: "John McCain can try to reintroduce himself to the country, but he can't change the fact that he cast aside his principles to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with President Bush for the last seven years. While we honor McCain's military service, the fact is Americans want a real leader who offers real solutions, not a blatant opportunist who doesn't understand the economy and is promising to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years."

On the March 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy asserted that Sen. John McCain "has not really talked much about his time in the Hanoi Hilton for five years, and what happened to him, and they are including some of that archival stuff in a [campaign] video. And now, [Democratic National Committee chairman] Howard Dean says that that is 'blatant opportunism.' " In addition, on the March 31 editions of Fox & Friends and Fox News' The Live Desk, hosts Martha MacCallum and Gretchen Carlson asserted that "people" are "sa[ying]" that Dean accused McCain of "blatant opportun[ism]" for referencing his military service as part of his presidential campaign. Neither MacCallum nor Carlson cited anyone in particular who was making this claim; on March 29, Republican National Committee chairman Robert Duncan issued a statement that falsely accused Dean of "stating that Senator McCain is a 'blatant opportunist' for discussing his record of military service with the American people." In fact, McCain repeatedly used his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam during his 2000 presidential campaign, and Dean did not say that McCain's reference to his military record constituted "blatant opportunism."

In a March 28 statement, Dean said:

The American people have been waiting for a president who understands the challenges they face, not another out of touch Bush Republican who promises four more years of the same failed leadership. John McCain can try to reintroduce himself to the country, but he can't change the fact that he cast aside his principles to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with President Bush for the last seven years. While we honor McCain's military service, the fact is Americans want a real leader who offers real solutions, not a blatant opportunist who doesn't understand the economy and is promising to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years.

Yet on The Live Desk, after showing footage from a McCain campaign advertisement, MacCallum asserted that "some people have said -- Howard Dean says it's blatantly opportunistic for him to use this service as part of his campaign, I guess." Likewise, after reading a portion of Dean's criticism of McCain on Fox & Friends, Carlson asserted, "He [Dean] called him 'a blatant opportunist.' And so many people now, of course, saying, 'Well, he must be pointing to his military service,' and the fact that he believes John McCain is taking that over the top by talking about it?" Doocy went on to assert, "Mr. McCain has started a biography tour where he's getting people acquainted with his personal history. You know, he's -- during his public service, he has not really talked much about his time in the Hanoi Hilton for five years, and what happened to him, and they are including some of that archival stuff in a video."

Notwithstanding Doocy's assertion that McCain "has not really talked much about his time in the Hanoi Hilton for five years," McCain's experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam played a prominent role in his 2000 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and was used in his campaign advertisements and a stump speech that year, as Media Matters for America has documented.

From the March 31 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk:

MacCALLUM: And John McCain releasing a new ad titled "Character Forged by Family" on McCain's history of service to our nation. And today he was on the trail launching this week-long biography tour, is what they're calling it, hoping to cement in the public's mind his personal history and his family's connection to commitment -- that's his mother right there; she's about 95 I think, his mom -- and their service to the country -- and his daughter, and his wife, of course.

But now some are saying that McCain's focus on his service could show his life, career, and global outlook are informed by war and its consequences. That's been raised by a couple of people. So we'll talk about that and that that could highlight his unpopular position on the war in Iraq. So let's see what our panel has to say about this.

Griff [Jenkins, Fox News correspondent], let me start at that end of the desk right now. You know, when you look at this ad -- and we're going to play a bit of it in just a second -- you know, obviously, it highlights his greatest strength, which is his lifelong commitment, and his family's lifelong commitment, to service. Is there any downside in that, do you think?

JENKINS: Well, I think -- look, his story is a remarkable story, and he should tell it, but why right now? I mean, you have -- the oldest rule in politics is when your opponents are clubbing each other, let them do it and stay out of the way. This puts a lot of emphasis on war -- Vietnam War, of course, the centerpiece of this heroic four years in captivity, and everything else he's done. But for Obama -- independent young voters that you may want to woo -- they don't want Vietnam. They don't want this. And so I guess it doesn't hurt, but there is a downside to risking, actually, picking up some negatives and becoming a story you don't want to when you've got Obama and Hillary going at it left and right.

MacCALLUM: Do we have that ad ready to take a look at it? Well, let's take a look at that. They'll just roll while we're talking, how would that be? Here it comes.

AD NARRATOR [video clip]: His grandfather, an aviator. His father, a submariner. They were his first heroes, and earning their respect has been one of the lasting ambitions of his life. They gave their lives to their country and taught young John McCain lessons about honor, courage, duty, perseverance, and leadership.

MacCALLUM: All right. There's a part of the ad. You know, Joe [Watson, author and businessman], when you look at this, some people have said -- Howard Dean says it's blatantly opportunistic for him to use this service as part of his campaign, I guess.

From the March 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

CARLSON: All right, let's talk about Howard Dean for a moment, because sometimes when he speaks, controversy is attached to it, and this time he's talking about John McCain, of course -- the enemy on the other side. He says that McCain's military service, while we honor it, "The fact is Americans want a real leader who offers real solutions, not a blatant opportunist who doesn't understand the economy."

DOOCY: Wait a minute --

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-anchor): Is that [unintelligible]?

DOOCY: He called him what? He called him "a blatant opportunist"?

CARLSON: He called him "a blatant opportunist." And so many people now, of course, saying, "Well, he must be pointing to his military service," and the fact that he believes John McCain is taking that over the top by talking about it? Trust me, if you have any experience at all in this election campaign, you're talking about it --

DOOCY: Sure.

CARLSON: -- because the attack on the other side of the fence is that maybe those two candidates don't have as much experience, and if you look at the math, it doesn't take much to know that that's probably the case.

DOOCY: Absolutely right. And so what would cause him to do this? Well, Mr. McCain has started a biography tour where he's getting people acquainted with his personal history. You know, he's -- during his public service, he has not really talked much about his time in the Hanoi Hilton for five years, and what happened to him, and they are including some of that archival stuff in a video. And now, Howard Dean says that that is blatant opportunism.

What's interesting -- and Brian brought this up a little while ago -- is, if somebody wants to take Howard Dean's words and then put them in an ad for John McCain, it would actually make perfect sense, because a couple of years ago when he was supporting John Kerry, Howard Dean said, "Who would you rather have in charge of the defense of the United States of America -- a group of people who never served a day overseas in their life, or a guy who served his country honorably and has three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star on the battlefields of Vietnam?" Of course, Hillary nor Barack have served their country. When he was talking about the three Purple Hearts, certainly Mr. --

CARLSON and DOOCY: -- McCain --

DOOCY: -- has outdone John Kerry. He wound up with a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Flying Cross.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Steve Doocy, Martha MacCallum, Gretchen Carlson
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends, The Live Desk
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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