CNN's Dana Bash uncritically reported the assertion by Sen. John McCain's campaign that he simply “misspoke” when he falsely claimed Iranian operatives are training members of Al Qaeda. In fact, McCain has made that error more than once. Also, Wolf Blitzer adopted the McCain campaign talking point that McCain -- in Blitzer's words -- “usually takes pride in” his “straight talk,” despite McCain's repeated falsehoods and his stark inconsistencies on numerous issues.
On the March 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, congressional correspondent Dana Bash uncritically reported the assertion by Sen. John McCain's campaign that he simply “misspoke” when he falsely claimed Iranian operatives are training members of Al Qaeda. Also during the program, host Wolf Blitzer adopted the McCain campaign talking point that McCain -- in Blitzer's words -- “usually takes pride in” his “straight talk,” despite McCain's repeated falsehoods and his stark inconsistencies on numerous issues.
“We all misspeak from time to time”
In a report that was shown twice on the March 20 edition of The Situation Room, Bash uncritically aired McCain's assertion that “We all misspeak from time to time,” which he made in response to criticism of his admittedly false claim during a March 18 press conference in Amman, Jordan, that Iranian operatives are “taking Al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back” to Iraq. However, Bash did not note that McCain made this false claim more than once. As Media Matters for America noted, McCain made the same error twice during the press conference. Moreover, as the blog Think Progress noted, on the March 17 broadcast of Salem Radio Network's The Hugh Hewitt Show, McCain similarly said: “As you know, there are Al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they're moving back into Iraq.”
As Media Matters noted, on the March 18 edition of The Situation Room, Blitzer aired a video clip that had been spliced in a way that suggested that McCain made the misstatement only once and that no time had elapsed between McCain's misstatement and correction, which was prompted by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT). Blitzer also falsely claimed that McCain “quickly corrected” himself, echoing the McCain campaign's assertion that McCain “immediately corrected himself.”
McCain “made a point of reining in the straight talk he usually takes pride in”
During Bash's report, on-screen text read: “McCain Reins In 'Straight Talk': Stresses Diplomacy in London.” Before the report aired, Blitzer said, “The presidential nominee in waiting also met with British officials and he made a point of reining in the straight talk he usually takes pride in.” In response, Bash said, “McCain, an ardent supporter of keeping troops in Iraq, has publicly balked at [British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown's plan to cut some British forces from Basra. But here he wouldn't go there.” Media Matters has documented other instances of CNN personalities uncritically referring to McCain's "straight talk," despite McCain's flip-flops and growing list of false assertions. For instance, on the February 25 Situation Room, Blitzer and Bash both characterized as “straight talk” McCain's assertion, which he retracted, that he will “lose” the presidential election if, as Bash reported, “he doesn't convince voters that the U.S. policy in Iraq is succeeding.” Blitzer said of McCain's remark and retraction, “There was a lot of, I guess a lot of straight talk from John McCain today, but some are suggesting maybe it was a little too much straight talk,” while Bash later said, “He realized his straight talk was too straight, Wolf.”
From the March 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: Republican John McCain is responding today to a verbal slap from Barack Obama, and he did it long distance from London. The presidential nominee-in-waiting also met with British officials, and he made a point of reining in the straight talk he usually takes pride in.
Let's bring in Dana Bash. She's watching this story for us.
Did we see a more diplomatic John McCain today?
BASH: That did seem to be the goal, Wolf. You know, Great Britain didn't contribute to the military surge in Iraq. That is something obviously that John McCain is closely associated with and calls a big success. But you didn't hear John McCain mention that or anything but careful diplo-speak on the world stage.
[begin video clip]
BASH: Day five of John McCain's overseas trip took him to 10 Downing Street, a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and evidence the presumptive Republican nominee is trying to show he can bite his tongue for the sake of diplomacy.
McCain, an ardent supporter of keeping troops in Iraq, has publicly balked at Brown's plan to cut some British forces from Basra. But here, he wouldn't go there.
McCAIN: I fully appreciate that British public opinion has been frustrated by sometimes our lack of progress in both areas. But all I can do is express my gratitude to the British government and people.
BASH: McCain emphasized his support for a global agreement on climate change, a difference with the current president, on an issue that contributed to his unpopularity here.
McCAIN: I believe it is a compelling issue for the world's environment. And I am committed to it.
BASH: McCain insists he's traveling as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not a presidential candidate, yet offered a transatlantic response to Democrat Barack Obama's dig at him for mistakenly suggesting Iran, a Shiite government, is helping Al Qaeda, mostly Sunni.
OBAMA: We heard Senator McCain confuse Sunni and Shia, Iran and Al Qaeda. Maybe that is why he voted to go to war.
McCAIN: Just as Senator Obama said he was looking forward to meeting the president of Canada, we all misspeak from time to time. And it's very clear that I have a lot of experience in Iraq.
BASH: And other evidence presidential politics is part of his government-funded trip, McCain attended a fundraiser for his campaign. For $1,000 a plate, $2,300 for a photo op, American citizens only were invited to lunch at London's historic Spencer house.
[end video clip]
BASH: And you can see that invitation -- that campaign invitation -- fundraising invitation I should say, right on the wall behind me, Wolf. Now, what the McCain campaign says is that before they sent that invitation out, they got it approved by the Senate Ethics Committee and on the condition that U.S. taxpayers would be reimbursed by the campaign.
And we're told today that they will actually send back to the U.S. government about $3,000. They say that that's going to be for the cost of McCain's London hotel room, for the cost of the car to his event and the cost of his trip, his plane fare back here to the U.S.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much. Dana, watching this story for us.
A thousand dollars a plate. That's 1,500 euros. It's -- I guess for the people who are dealing in euros, it's relatively cheap.
BASH: But only Americans can go.
BLITZER: That's right, thanks very much.