Why did CNN's Roberts interview Roger Stone, "professional dirty trickster" and founder of C.U.N.T.?


CNN's John Roberts interviewed "Republican political consultant" Roger Stone, who advanced the oft-repeated conservative smear that Sen. Barack Obama would be "dangerous" as president. Although Roberts said Stone is "famous for running some very, very effective negative campaigns over the course of American political history," he didn't mention Stone's recent efforts, such as the anti-Hillary Clinton 527 group Citizens United Not Timid, which emphasized its acronym on its website and on T-shirts.

During the October 13 edition of CNN's American Morning, host John Roberts interviewed Roger Stone, described by Roberts as a "Republican political consultant," who advanced the oft-repeated conservative smear that Sen. Barack Obama would be "dangerous" as president. Although Roberts said Stone is "famous for running some very, very effective negative campaigns over the course of American political history," he gave no indication that Stone established the anti-Hillary Clinton 527 group Citizens United Not Timid, which emphasized its acronym on its website and on T-shirts, or that Stone was forced to resign from the campaign of New York state Sen. Joseph Bruno in August 2007 after "allegations that he left a threatening telephone message at the office of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's father," according to an August 22, 2007, New York Times report.

During the interview with Roberts, Stone twice described Barack Obama as "dangerous," a smear that Roberts did not challenge. Many conservatives have described Obama as "dangerous" or the choice to vote for Obama as "dangerous," including self-described former terrorist Walid Shoebat during the September 10 edition of G. Gordon Liddy's radio show, radio host Michael Savage during the September 8 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, and guest host Kevin Fischer during the August 22 edition of The Mark Belling Late Afternoon Show.

As Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, media have devoted attention to Stone, who has been called a "professional dirty trickster and high priest of political hijinks" by the Weekly Standard, and to baseless rumors and smears he has spread about Barack and Michelle Obama. In addition to the October 13 edition of CNN's American Morning:

  • During the June 1 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, Stone asserted that "there is a buzz, which I believe now to be credible, that some indelible record exists of public remarks that Michelle Obama allegedly made, which are outrageous at worst -- but at best, but could be termed racist, including some reference to white people as 'whiteys,' allegedly." No such "indelible record" has surfaced, the Obama campaign has stated that "no such tape exists," and Politico reporter Ben Smith noted on June 5 that "there's just zero credible evidence" for the "rumor." Additionally, as the Obama campaign noted, the day after appearing on America's Election HQ, Stone admitted on the June 2 broadcast of Sean Hannity's nationally syndicated radio program that he had "not yet spoken to anyone who has eyeballed the video."
  • In a February 24 Associated Press article, staff writer Nedra Pickler reported that "[c]onservative consultants" have said that patriotism "could be an issue for Obama in the general election." The article quoted "Republican consultant" Stone saying that Americans will find "offensive" the photo of him "not putting his hand over his heart during the National Anthem." Stone added, "Barack Obama is out of the McGovern wing of the party, and he is part of the blame America first crowd."

From the October 13 edition of CNN's American Morning:

ROBERTS: Roger Stone is a Republican political consultant who has worked with several GOP presidents and supports John McCain. He joins me now from Miami. Roger, it's good to see you. First of all, what do you make of Bill Kristol's statement there on McCain's campaign?

STONE: Well, I think Kristol is right. McCain is better than his campaign. Look, a campaign is about having one driving, compelling, comparative message that wins you votes. It's what George Bush did to John Kerry in the closing days of that campaign, making the case that Kerry wasn't ready to be commander in chief. John McCain's got to go out and make the case as to why he is better than Barack Obama; and it's not about the past, it's about the future.

ROBERTS: So, when you're talking about what we're seeing on the campaign trail in the last week or so -- Sarah Palin talking about Barack Obama "palling around with terrorists," making the link between him and former Weather Underground member William Ayers or talking about Reverend Wright -- is that useful for the McCain campaign? Is it a legitimate form of attack? Is it something that Republican voters will respond to, and also not just Republican voters, but those all-important independents?

STONE: First, the answer is yes. That is what Sarah Palin, who is the other end of this ticket, should be doing. It's the vice-presidential candidates' job to continually jab, and there's no question that, particularly among the base and some swing moderate to conservative independents, that those are telling issues. But this is not about Barack Obama's past association with Bill Ayers or certain Palestinian interests in Chicago, it's really about the future. John McCain has to put real differences between he and his opponent on immigration, on taxes, on national security. Look, Barack Obama wants to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, he wants to give Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants -- it's on his website. Those are driving issues that demonstrate that he would indeed be dangerous as president. That is what McCain has to say, and that's what he has to do.

ROBERTS: You know, something else that Bill Kristol had to say in that same article was "the McCain campaign, once merely problematic, is now close to being out-and-out dysfunctional." He thinks he should junk all the negative advertising, put the money into televised town halls and half-hour addresses in prime times to talk about the issues, talk about McCain policies. Would you agree?

STONE: I do agree. I mean, first of all, the McCain campaign puts out a video for the media that they're not really airing any place as paid advertising, but they're diffuse - they're all over the place. They don't have one central theme. This is very, very simple -- because of his worldview, because of his lack of experience because of his extreme views, Barack Obama is a dangerous choice to be president. The McCain campaign needs to make that case in a comparative way. It's not negative to compare your position, say, on illegal immigrants, with Barack Obama's. That is precisely what McCain should do, and I agree with Kristol -- he should scrap his campaign and go right to the people.

ROBERTS: Of course, Roger, you're famous for running some very, very effective negative campaigns over the course of American political history. Did this idea of painting Barack Obama as dangerous -- you know, what Congressman John Lewis said over the weekend, had some very harsh words for Senator McCain and Governor Palin, saying that he's sowing the seeds of division and hatred -- a reminder of George Wallace's 1972 campaign. He said, quote, "George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. ... As public figures with the power and influence to persuade ... Senator McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all."

McCain responded: "Congressman Lewis' comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that's shocking beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama's record and positions could be compared to George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign." Was Senator McCain -- or were Senator McCain and Governor Palin -- were they over the line in what they were doing, or was John Lewis just misinformed?

STONE: No, absolutely not. First of all, I admire John Lewis as one of the real pioneers of the civil rights movement in this country. I have huge respect for him. In this particular case, I think he's made a huge error to say that John McCain or Sarah Palin countenanced bigotry or prejudice or hatred, is just false. It is not hateful, it is not divisive to compare your positions, your records, your worldview with those of your opponent, in this case Barack Obama. Barack Obama is out of the mainstream -- it is out of the mainstream to give Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants, for example. That is out of the mainstream, and that discussion needs to be had. There's nothing racist or divisive or negative about that. Those are dollars-and-cents issues that are going to affect the future of the country. So, I think John Lewis, who again I have huge respect for, has made a huge mistake here.

ROBERTS: All right. Roger Stone talking to us this morning from Miami. Roger, it's good to see you. We'll see you again, thanks.

STONE: Great to be with you.

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