Hannity distorted Clinton's remarks about Mandela, falsely cited it as part of "a series of attacks" on McCain's "military record"

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

On Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity aired a deceptively cropped statement from Bill Clinton's remarks at the Aspen Ideas Festival in asserting that Clinton was "obviously taking a shot at Senator [John] McCain," omitting the context showing that Clinton was discussing what Nelson Mandela means to him. Hannity also falsely asserted that Clinton's statement and recent comments by Wesley Clark were part of "a series of attacks on Senator McCain's military record."

On the July 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity aired a deceptively cropped statement from former President Bill Clinton's July 5 remarks at the Aspen Ideas Festival in asserting that Clinton was "obviously taking a shot at Senator [John] McCain." However, as the full statement and context of Clinton's remarks make clear, Clinton was discussing what former South African president -- and political prisoner -- Nelson Mandela means to him. Hannity provided no evidence to support his assertion that Clinton's comments were a "shot at Senator McCain." Hannity also falsely asserted that Clinton's statement and recent comments by retired Gen. Wesley Clark were part of "a series of attacks on Senator McCain's military record."

Asked during a July 5 appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival about what Mandela has meant to him, Clinton responded in part:

CLINTON: I told him [Mandela] that the day he was released for the last time, and you may all remember they -- it was beautifully staged for television, the way it was on an early Sunday morning in the United States. And he walked -- he took last -- one long last walk down a dusty road, went through a gate, and then got in the car and rode away.

I said to him, "Now, tell me the truth." I said, "I know you're a great man, but you're also a great politician. And you did the right thing getting all those people in your government, but when you were taking those last steps, didn't you really relive those 27 years, and didn't you hate them again?" He said, "Sure, I did." It's great, you know, you reach a certain age and you're not running for anything, you can pretty well say what you want.

And he said, "Sure, I did. For a moment, I did." He said, "I felt anger and hatred and fear. And I realized that if I kept hating them once I got in that car and got through the gate, I would still be in prison. So, I let it go, 'cause I wanted to be free." There is a --

[applause]

There is -- every living soul on the planet has some often highly justified anger. Everybody. And just learning that you have to practice -- and by the way, I said this at his birthday. I'm probably one of the few people who's actually seen him mad on more than one occasion. You know, it's just like, if you know anybody that who was ever a POW for any length of time, you will see that you go along for months or maybe even years, and then something will happen, it'll trigger all those bad dreams, and they'll come back, and it may not last 30 seconds. That's the thing that makes his life so monumental. It's not like all that stuff just went away, but he disciplined himself and his mind and his heart and his spirit to always work to constantly overcome it every day.

However, from that exchange about Mandela, Hannity & Colmes aired only the portions of the statement in which Clinton said:

  • "[E]very living soul on the planet has some often highly justified anger."
  • "[I]f you know anybody who was ever a POW for any length of time, you will see that you go along for months or maybe even years, and then something will happen, it'll trigger all those bad dreams, and they'll come back, and it may not last 30 seconds."
  • "It's not like all that stuff just went away."

Additionally, the editing of the last part cut off the end of Clinton's sentence: "It's not like all that stuff just went away, but he disciplined himself and his mind and his heart and his spirit to always work to constantly overcome it every day" [emphasis added].

Hannity further asserted: "Now, there's been a series of attacks on Senator McCain's military record. [Sen.] Tom Harkin [D-IA] is one, and more recently, Wesley Clark. That attack by Bill Clinton. I think it's pretty outrageous."

Hannity was referring to Clark's June 29 interview on CBS' Face the Nation. However, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, Clark did not attack McCain's Vietnam War record during his June 29 interview.

From the July 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

CLINTON [video clip]: [E]very living soul on the planet has some often highly justified anger. [video break] [I]f you know anybody that who was ever a POW for any length of time, you will see that you go along for months or maybe even years, and then something will happen, it'll trigger all those bad dreams, and they'll come back, and it may not last 30 seconds. [video break] It's not like all that stuff just went away.

HANNITY: That was former President Bill Clinton, obviously taking a shot at Senator McCain. We continue now with former presidential candidate, former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney.

Now, there's been a series of attacks on Senator McCain's military record. Tom Harkin is one, and more recently, Wesley Clark. That attack by Bill Clinton. I think it's pretty outrageous. What do you think of those remarks, in particular, considering Senator McCain served five and a half years as a prisoner of war and was beaten regularly?

ROMNEY: Well, those remarks were below the belt. That was just completely off base and part of President Clinton -- he's been known to do that from time to time, but I think he stepped in it again. I think every veteran in this country, and frankly people who love those who have served the country, are going to be offended by anyone who's casting aspersions at John McCain's military career and his service of this country, and to suggest that he's anything other than a highly tested and proven individual after 25 years in the U.S. Senate is completely off base.

HANNITY: I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president. Well, you know, the big resume-building quality, I guess, of Barack Obama, his big experience, is that he's a community organizer, Governor. A community -- we keep hearing -- I don't even know what a community organizer -- what is a community organizer?

[...]

COLMES: Governor, you know who said that military service absolutely does not make someone better equipped to be president?

ROMNEY: No.

COLMES: John McCain did. And that was the point Wesley Clark was making, not denigrating his service, but simply saying that, in and of itself -- as John McCain himself has said -- does not make you necessarily the best choice to be president of the United States.

ROMNEY: Well, certainly, no one would say that simply in your life having served in the military is sufficient qualification to be president to the United States. No one's saying that. Of course, John McCain wouldn't say that, that that's the only criteria for becoming president.

But it's certainly a source of leadership and experience which tests a person's mettle, and in any way for Democrats to try and critique or criticize John McCain's military service, as you heard from Bill Clinton, that's really quite astounding, frankly.

COLMES: Well, I'm not sure I got that from what he said. We may --

ROMNEY: And I think it --

COLMES: We may disagree about that.

From Bill Clinton's July 5 comments at the Aspen Ideas Festival:

WALES: Nelson Mandela turns 90 in a couple of weeks. He is someone with whom you've been extremely close over the years. I wanted you to say a word about what he has meant, not only to South Africa, to Africa, to the world, but also to say something about what he's meant to you personally.

CLINTON: Well, I think the importance of his life for all of us is that, first of all, he proved that -- he really did give up his freedom, almost a full third of his life, so that everybody could be free, including his oppressors. He paid as high a price as you can pay without getting killed for it to prove that freedom has to be a universal commodity. And then he governed in a way that was consistent with what he said.

Everybody knows, for example, that he invited his jailers to his inauguration. Not as many people know that he put the leaders of all the groups that oppressed him into his cabinet. And keep in mind, he was elected with two-thirds of the vote, so he did not have to do that. There is no constitutional system in the world that would have required him to do it. He did it because he knew that the country could not govern without the skills and knowledge and the psychological balance that would be provided by doing that. So he did that. That's the first thing he did.

The second thing he did, which is very important in the [Robert] Mugabe case, is to show us that you don't have to be in office to do public service. You can do much public good as a private citizen. And your ability to do it is enhanced if you leave office as required by the laws of your country with good grace, and then you use the stature you acquired from having held the job to try to continue to be of public service. And he did it in his later years, when no one would have blamed him if he had retreated to that amazing game preserve he has up -- that a friend of his built him a house in in northern South Africa.

And the third thing he did was to show us all how to live, that's the thing he meant most to me about. I mean, he just -- you know, he really did realize that -- if you read his memoirs -- I wrote about this in my book, but he said -- I ask him -- I told him [Mandela] that the day he was released for the last time, and you may all remember they -- it was beautifully staged for television, the way it was on an early Sunday morning in the United States. And he walked -- he took last -- one long last walk down a dusty road, went through a gate, and then got in the car and rode away.

I said to him, "Now, tell me the truth." I said, "I know you're a great man, but you're also a great politician. And you did the right thing getting all those people in your government, but when you were taking those last steps, didn't you really relive those 27 years, and didn't you hate them again?" He said, "Sure, I did." It's great, you know, you reach a certain age and you're not running for anything, you can pretty well say what you want.

And he said, "Sure, I did. For a moment, I did." He said, "I felt anger and hatred and fear. And I realized that if I kept hating them once I got in that car and got through the gate, I would still be in prison. So, I let it go, 'cause I wanted to be free." There is a --

[applause]

There is -- every living soul on the planet has some often highly justified anger. Everybody. And just learning that you have to practice -- and by the way, I said this at his birthday. I'm probably one of the few people who's actually seen him mad on more than one occasion. You know, it's just like, if you know anybody that who was ever a POW for any length of time, you will see that you go along for months or maybe even years, and then something will happen, it'll trigger all those bad dreams, and they'll come back, and it may not last 30 seconds. That's the thing that makes his life so monumental. It's not like all that stuff just went away, but he disciplined himself and his mind and his heart and his spirit to always work to constantly overcome it every day.

And I think, in some ways, when you look at how we're gonna -- what will happen in the aftermath of Mugabe's going? There will be an enormous -- let's suppose the best of all worlds happened, and he woke up tomorrow and he says, "I've had a terrible attack of conscience. I'm tired of this general running me. I don't care how old I am. I have some good sense left. I'm out of here. Goodbye. I love my country. I wish you well." Think of all the people on the other side who would be tempted to go kill other people. I mean, this is a universal lesson that all of us have to keep struggling with in our lives.

So I think he proved freedom has to be a universal commodity. He served with enormous distinction out of office as well as in, and he taught us a lot about how all of us should be trying to live. And that's -- those three things are why I think he's -- he, along with [former Israeli prime minister] Yitzhak Rabin, are the two most remarkable people I ever knew.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Sean Hannity
Show/Publication
Hannity & Colmes
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Bill Clinton, Propaganda/Noise Machine, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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