Couric, Gibson falsely claim "no member" of Congress offered to take Guantánamo detainees

››› ››› GREG LEWIS

Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson both falsely claimed that "no member" of Congress wanted detainees from Guantánamo Bay transferred to prisons in their districts. In fact, at least two have made such an offer.

During the May 20 broadcasts of the CBS Evening News and ABC's World News, anchors Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson, respectively, falsely claimed that "no member" of Congress wanted detainees being held at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, transferred to prisons in their districts. In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, at least two congressional representatives have offered to hold detainees from Guantánamo Bay at prisons in their districts.

During the broadcast of the CBS Evening News, Couric stated, "The Senate today followed the House in blocking the president from closing the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay because no member wants any of the detainees there sent to his or her home state or district." Similarly, on World News, Gibson said of the detainees: "No member of Congress wants these guys transferred to prisons in their districts." Chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos responded, "That's right."

In a May 9 op-ed in The Washington Post, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) offered use of the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse and Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia. In the op-ed, Moran noted that "the '20th hijacker,' Zacarias Moussaoui, who participated in planning the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon, was held and prosecuted in the Alexandria courthouse" and stated that "should President Obama determine that Alexandria needs to play a reasonably limited role in a nationwide effort to bring justice to the Guantanamo detainees and close this unfortunate chapter of American history, I am confident that Alexandrians will stand strong as they always have."

Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) has also said that he is willing to house detainees from Guantánamo Bay at a prison in his district if a maximum security prison were built, according to a January 21 FoxNews.com report:

Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., says he'd be willing to house prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in his congressional district if President Obama makes good on a plan to close the U.S. prison there.

[...]

Murtha only has a minimum security prison in his district. But he says he'd have no reservations about holding detainees there in a maximum security prison.

"Sure, I'd take 'em," said Murtha, an outspoken critic of the Iraq war. "They're no more dangerous in my district than in Guantanamo."

Murtha added that there was "no reason not to put 'em in prisons in the United States and handle them the way they would handle any other prisoners."

Additionally, as the blog Think Progress noted, during a May 20 speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said:

And, yes, we have maximum security prisons in California eminently capable of holding these people as well, and from which people -- trust me -- do not escape. So, I believe that this has really been an exercise in fear-baiting. I hope it's not going to be successful.

On the CBS Evening News, chief White House correspondent Chip Reid aired a portion of Feinstein's floor speech in which she said that the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado -- the so-called "supermax" prison -- "has 490 beds. They are reserved for the worst of the worst." But Reid did not air her assertion that "maximum security prisons in California" are "eminently capable of holding these people as well."

From the May 20 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: But, George, what's the problem here? We have, as Jake [Tapper, senior White House correspondent] mentioned and Senator Feinstein said on the Senate floor, we have terrorists in U.S. prisons, so why not the guys from Guantánamo?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Charlie, I think this is one of the ultimate NIMBY issues. You're right on that point. On the other hand, the senators have not yet seen a plan. And you've got the FBI director out there saying he's not sure it's going to be safe, either. Senate sources I've talked to today and the administration believe there is a chance they're going to be able to get the Senate to agree to having some detainees come into prisons later this year, once the plan by the president is released. But there is no way they're going to approve release of any prisoners in the United States.

GIBSON: And when you say it's a NIMBY problem, you mean --

STEPHANOPOULOS and GIBSON [in unison]: Not in my back yard.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely right, Charlie.

GIBSON: No member of Congress wants these guys transferred to prisons in their districts.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right.

From the May 20 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

COURIC: Well, if you're still counting, it happened on Day 121 of the Obama administration, right behind me at the Capitol: the new president's first major legislative defeat. The Senate today followed the House in blocking the president from closing the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay because no member wants any of the detainees there sent to his or her home state or district. The vote in the Senate wasn't even close, 90 to 6.

Chip Reid is at the White House, and Chip, all but six Democrats abandoned the president on this one.

REID: Well, that's right, Katie. Democrats weighed appeals from the president on the one hand against anger from their constituents on the other, and the president lost in a big way.

[...]

REID: The prison houses 240 suspected terrorists. If it's closed, many could be transferred to the U.S., including about 20 high-ranking members of Al Qaeda. But the president's supporters say critics are fearmongering.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): The reality is, we are holding some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world right now in our federal prisons.

REID: Like the Supermax Prison in Colorado, which holds, among others, shoe bomber Richard Reid and Al Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui.

FEINSTEIN: It has 490 beds. They are reserved for the worst of the worst.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
CBS, ABC
Person
Charlie Gibson, Katie Couric
Show/Publication
ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News
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