Interviewing Coleman, Fox & Friends repeatedly misinforms on Coleman-Franken race

During an interview with Norm Coleman, Fox & Friends co-hosts Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade advanced a slew of misinformation about the Minnesota Senate race.

On the April 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade teased an interview with former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) by claiming that Coleman is “not close to giving up, even though some Democrats are vowing to make it impossible for him to win.” During the segment with Coleman, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed, "[T]he last time I checked, Norm Coleman won the election after election night." However, while Coleman was ahead in the vote count after election night, he was not certified the winner; his opponent, Al Franken (D), now leads by 225 votes after the results of a recount mandated by state law because of the closeness of the results.

Carlson further suggested that the Minnesota Senate election should be redone, stating: “Senator, call me crazy, but with all the money that's being spent to fight this, why not just have a new election?” Kilmeade responded, “Like Georgia.” However, unlike in Minnesota, Georgia election law requires that "[i]n instances where no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, a run-off primary, special primary runoff, run-off election, or special election runoff between the candidates receiving the two highest numbers of votes shall be held."

Kilmeade also referred to Coleman having filed a “defamation suit” against Franken and said to Coleman, “this guy has gone after you personally.” However, Kilmeade did not note that an administrative law judge dismissed the Coleman campaign's complaint alleging that Franken violated a Minnesota statute by knowingly authorizing false political advertising attacking Coleman. The administrative law judge held that the ad in question was “substantially accurate, if not literally true in every detail.”

From the November 2008 ruling on Coleman's complaint:

The Complaint concerns the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race. The Complainant, who is Senator Norm Coleman's campaign manager, alleges that Al Franken knowingly authorized and broadcast on television and radio false political advertising designed to injure or defeat the candidacy of Senator Coleman. The television advertisement at issue stated that Senator Coleman is "[r]anked the 4th most corrupt senator in Washington" by a “bipartisan watchdog group,” and displayed a reference to “Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Government” [CREW]. The radio advertisement similarly stated that “a bipartisan watchdog group has named Norm Coleman the fourth most corrupt Senator in America.”


After reviewing the Complaint, its attachments, and the additional evidence and argument offered by the parties at the probable cause hearing, the Administrative Law Judge concludes that the Complainant has not established probable cause to believe that Respondent violated Minn. Stat. § 211B.06 with respect to the advertisements at issue. The CREW report and website did not rank the members of Congress identified in each category or explicitly rank or name Senator Coleman the fourth most corrupt Senator. However, CREW's listing of the twenty “most corrupt” and the “four to watch” did identify, in total, just four senators, with Senator Coleman being one of CREW's “four to watch.” Moreover, based on the reference in CREW's Executive Summary to the “list of 24,” there is an objective basis for the inference drawn in the Franken advertisements that Senator Coleman was the fourth Senator on the overall list of 24. As noted above, the statute does not prohibit the making of unfavorable deductions or inferences based on fact. Because the statement made in the Franken advertisements accurately captures the “gist” or “sting” of Senator Coleman's placement in the CREW listing of the 20 “most corrupt” members of Congress and “four to watch,” there is not probable cause to believe that a violation of the statute has occurred. The statement is substantially accurate, if not literally true in every detail. Hearing that Senator Coleman is the “fourth most corrupt Senator” according to CREW produces essentially the same effect on the mind of an individual seeing or hearing the advertisements as hearing that he is one of only four Senators named in the CREW report on congressional corruption. [Emphasis added.]

Kilmeade also ignored reported evidence of a pattern of Coleman or his supporters filing lawsuits against his electoral opponents. In an October 30, 2008, article about Coleman's complaint against Franken, Huffington Post political reporter Sam Stein reported that "[t]his is now the fourth time that the Minnesota Republican has filed a suit late in the course of his runs for office." Stein wrote:

If the move seems dramatic, it shouldn't. This is now the fourth time that the Minnesota Republican has filed a suit late in the course of his runs for office.

During the gubernatorial race in 1998, Coleman filed and later dropped a complaint against his Democratic rival Hubert Humphrey III over an issue of unfair campaign practices. In 2002, the state's Republican party (operating, ostensibly, on Coleman's behalf), filed a complaint against then Senator Paul Wellstone, accusing him of inciting “union thugs” to rough up a GOP cameraman. And, again in 2002, the Coleman campaign filed a separate suit against Wellstone for distorting his stance on social security.

From the April 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: All right, it's been five months since the election and the race still undecided. And Republican Norm Coleman not close to giving up, even though some Democrats are vowing to make it impossible for him to win. He will join us in a matter of moments.


KILMEADE: But let's talk to somebody --

STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Let's talk American politics.

KILMEADE: Let's talk American politics. Do you know there's -- we have been one senator short since November?

CARLSON: I hadn't noticed.

KILMEADE: Especially in your home state of Minnesota.

CARLSON: Exactly.

KILMEADE: It's been a brutal battle between Senator Norm Coleman and comedian Al Franken.

CARLSON: Yeah, the last time I checked, Norm Coleman won the election after election night. But let's ask him what's going on. Senator Coleman joins us now from live from D.C. Good morning to you, Senator.

COLEMAN: Great to be here. By the way, was there anything to the promo with my story first and the cat with nine lives the next story after that?

KILMEADE: Yeah, that would be very interesting.

DOOCY: That's what you're waiting for, isn't it? For you to be defrosted and be the U.S. senator again?

CARLSON: Well, let me --

COLEMAN: Listen, we're not -- we're not done yet, Gretchen.

CARLSON: Yeah, well let me ask you this, Senator, because I remember after election night -- weren't you ahead by 200-some votes?

COLEMAN: I was actually ahead by over 700 votes election night. I was ahead by 215 votes after the machines were checked. And the canvassing board got done, we got in to open up absentee ballots that had not been counted election night, and I was down 225. A three-judge panel just issued a ruling saying they'll open up 400 more votes, which is about a tenth of the number of votes that we believe should be open. And they should be opened. These are absentee ballots, because the same kind of absentee ballots have already been counted throughout the state.

DOOCY: Senator --

COLEMAN: So we're prepared to go to the Supreme Court in the next -- right after the three-judge panel does its work. So the case -- the race isn't over. I do expect to win when all the votes are counted.

DOOCY: Right. Senator, you talk about how they are going to look at 400 but they should look at 4,000. That sounds like Florida all over again, where they kind of cherry-picked those couple of states. Why just 400 and not 4,000?

COLEMAN: Well, listen, these are not bad judges. What they did is they looked at the ballots in front of them and they said that we're going to have a very strict standard. We're going to make that sure every facet of the law is complied with, and just 400 more ballots we're going to open up. The problem is ballots -- over 4,000 ballots that should be open are exactly like ballots that have already been opened on election night. And you're right, it is the law. The Constitution, which was played out in Florida, says that you can't have different standards for opening ballots either between counties or even within counties. So all we're arguing for is a uniform standard similar to what's already been in play, what was done on election night. And if we do that, we believe there are enough votes for me to get back the lead I had election night.

KILMEADE: So there was a report earlier this week, Senator, that you were going to -- this is over. They took 400 ballots in a mostly Franken district, and they're going to open it up. And you told us on the radio, there's no way it's over, you're going to keep fighting this all the way through. Today the story is, will there be pressure on Gov. [Tim] Pawlenty [R-MN] after they count these ballots if it doesn't meet -- if it doesn't put you over the top, and which it doesn't look like percentage-wise it will, will there be pressure on Governor Pawlenty to go ahead and certify -- certify Franken?

COLEMAN: Actually, I don't think the Republican governor or the Democratic secretary of state will be certifying anybody after a three-judge panel. Minnesota law is very, very clear. It says that there is no certification until the judicial proceedings in Minnesota are completed. And they're not completed. There will be an appeal to the Supreme Court. They will move expeditiously. Listen, it's taken a long time, but this is not judicial fast food.


COLEMAN: This is making sure that every voter has their vote counted, and that the person who got the most votes is actually declared the winner of this Senate seat.

CARLSON: Senator, call me crazy, but with all the money that's being spent to fight this, why not just have a new election?

KILMEADE: Like Georgia.

COLEMAN: It's not crazy. In fact, that would have been the best way. I think folks on all side agree with that. We have probably spent, between both sides, over $12 million on this recount to date. If we just would have run it again, we wouldn't be where we are at. This race is technically closer than that New York [District] 20 race. I think the separation of that congressional race was about 15 votes, but that was out of 150,000 cast. The separation here is 200 votes out of 3 million cast. Gretchen, we should have run this again. We could've got it -- could've had it done. The law doesn't set that up. For the next time we go through this, in another 50 years perhaps in Minnesota, they will probably have changed the law to make it clearer, make it simple, and make it less confusing.

KILMEADE: Now, Senator, Al Franken -- you have filed a defamation suit against him. This has been an ugly campaign. Is there any way -- and by the way, we asked him to come on. He has our control room number, and if he feels that he wants to hop on a phone, which maybe he hasn't been on the air in a while -- he's gone into seclusion. Maybe he's too nervous to get on with us, or we're too rough for him on the show. But this guy has gone after you personally. He's gone after your wife. I mean, what is the message here? Not only do you want your Senate seat because you want to win like everybody else. But isn't there -- is there an effort here to keep a guy like him out of the Senate?

COLEMAN: Listen, I have served for 32 years. I believe I can provide the kind of service that Minnesota needs. Al Franken has not served in his career -- as a really hard-edged satirist comedian, I don't think is what we need in Washington today. But in the end, listen, these are tough contests. Look what happened in Alaska -- Ted Stevens, you know, went through that prosecution, lost by a hair and now they dropped the charges. You can't put things back together. You can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I can only look forward. I served the state, I want to continue serving, and I --

KILMEADE: Senator, but this guy who writes a book calling Rush Limbaugh a big fat idiot. He makes his life personally attacking people, makes his living there. How could -- and he goes and attacks your wife during this. How could you sit there calmly, and say this, this isn't --

DOOCY: Calm on the outside.

KILMEADE: -- and call him out?

COLEMAN: Because politics is a very, very tough business. And the real -- listen, the reality is the voters will make a choice. Washington doesn't need more anger today and it doesn't need more division. We got the biggest challenges I've seen in 32 years in public -- in all our lifetimes, in all our lifetimes. Listen, to me it was clear. I could provide the kind of leadership Al Franken couldn't. The voters have voted. Let's get all the votes counted, and when they're done, I'm still confident I'll win.

CARLSON: And no doubt, Senator, if there is any lesson to be learned in any of this besides changing law, it's that every vote counts. When people think they don't need to go to the polls, my goodness. In this state --

COLEMAN: Well, you're looking at -- you're looking at a thousandth of a percent that's separating two candidates for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Gretchen, every vote counts, and our principle is I want to make sure that every vote is counted. That's exactly what we are fighting for right now.

DOOCY: OK. Norm Coleman joining us today from D.C. Thank you, sir, for that.

COLEMAN: Great. By the way, it's still snowing in Minnesota.

CARLSON: I wasn't going to ask. I didn't want to depress you.

DOOCY: Right through June. All right, Senator, thank you very much. Look at that -- action news and the weather.

CARLSON: Take care.

KILMEADE: Plus, he's tough enough to show already that he can handle it. I'm not.

CARLSON: All Minnesotans handle the snow, Brian.