Even more Tony Snow falsehoods

Media Matters for America documented a number of Tony Snow's false or misleading claims when it was reported that he was on the shortlist for the position of White House press secretary. Following are numerous additional claims advanced by Snow in print and on the air.

Speculation that the Bush administration will tap Fox News' Tony Snow to succeed Scott McClellan as White House press secretary has intensified in recent days. The New York Daily News reported on April 20 that Snow “is emerging as the front-runner to replace McClellan,” and an April 21 New York Times article disclosed that he is “in negotiations for the job.” Snow is a syndicated columnist, host of Fox News Radio's The Tony Snow Show, and co-hosts Fox News' Weekend Live with Brian Wilson.

Media Matters for America documented a number of Snow's false or misleading claims when it was reported that he was on the shortlist. Following are numerous additional claims advanced by Snow in print and on the air.

Warrantless domestic surveillance

  • Suggested Democrats objected to Bush's warrantless spying because they think the “government should not be able to listen to Al Qaeda”: While speaking to Fox News political analyst Bob Beckel, Snow suggested that “Democratic opposition” to the warrantless domestic surveillance program arose from the belief that “the government should not be able to listen to Al Qaeda people talking to American citizens.” Further, Snow claimed that the lack of additional domestic terrorist attacks was “a sign of [the program's] success.” As Media Matters has noted, this false claim was first made by White House senior adviser Karl Rove during an address to the Republican National Committee at its winter meeting and was quickly spread as a talking point by numerous conservatives. But, contrary to Rove and Snow's assertion, no national Democratic figure -- member of the Democratic leadership in Congress, Democratic governor, or Democratic Party official -- has said that the United States should not be intercepting calls suspected to involve Al Qaeda. Moreover, Snow's claims about the program's effectiveness are not supported by the evidence.
  • Claimed that Carter and Bush both authorized warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens: Snow asserted that former President Jimmy Carter had “signed an executive order that authorized the attorney general to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information.” Snow went on to claim that this represented “exactly what the president is doing.” But Snow ignored a crucial difference: Carter, unlike Bush, prohibited such surveillance of U.S. citizens. Indeed, Carter's order specifically required the attorney general to certify that the surveillance will not contain "the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party." [Fox News' Weekend Live, 12/24/05]
  • Claimed that the FISA probable cause standard kept the FBI from inspecting Moussaoui's laptop: Snow said that FBI agents in possession of Zacarias Moussaoui's laptop “decided not to go ahead and look at the contents because they ... had no definite proof that the guy was a terrorist” and, therefore, couldn't meet the probable cause standard necessary for a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). But Snow ignored the bipartisan finding by the Senate Judiciary Committee that the investigators had possessed sufficient evidence but that FBI attorneys had applied a too-stringent standard for establishing probable, preventing the investigators from petitioning the court for authorization. [Fox News' Weekend Live, 12/24/05]
  • Claimed that 2002 FISA review court opinion allowed for warrantless domestic surveillance: Snow stated that a 2002 opinion (In re: Sealed Case No. 02-001) by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review “says the president's inherent authority allows him” to eavesdrop on the international communications of U.S. residents. But the claim misrepresents the 2002 decision, in which the court said only that the president has inherent authority to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance without a warrant. The court did not rule on the question of whether a president has the constitutional authority to spy on people in the United States without a warrant, in apparent violation of FISA.

CIA leak investigation

  • Falsely claimed that Wilson said Cheney had sent him to Niger: Snow claimed in his July 15, 2005, column that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV said he “had been dispatched by [Vice President] Dick Cheney to conduct a secret mission to Niger.” In fact, Wilson never claimed that Cheney sent him on the trip. To the contrary, he wrote in his July 6, 2003, op-ed in The New York Times that the CIA requested he go on the mission “so they could provide a response” to questions raised by Cheney regarding allegations that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from the African country.
  • Claimed that Intel Committee “discovered” that Plame recommended Wilson for the Niger mission: In his July 15, 2005, column, Snow further claimed that the Senate Intelligence Committee, in its 2004 "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq," “discovered that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, did indeed recommend him for the trip” to Niger. But the committee did not officially conclude that she had been responsible for Wilson's assignment. Media Matters previously noted that Snow had falsely asserted that Wilson said his wife “wasn't covert for six years” before she was exposed as a CIA operative by syndicated columnist Robert Novak.


  • Falsely accused Clinton of rejecting bin Laden offer: Snow advanced the discredited claim that Sudan had offered to “hand over” Osama bin Laden to the United States in the 1990s, but that the Clinton administration responded, “Nah, don't want to do it.” But this claim is derived from an August 11, 2002, article on right-wing news website NewsMax that distorted a speech Clinton made in 2002. Indeed, the bipartisan 9-11 Commission found (page 3) “no reliable evidence to support” the claim that Sudan offered bin Laden to the United States and determined that, based on Clinton's testimony, in “wrongly recounting a number of press stories he had read,” Clinton had “misspoken” in his 2002 speech. [Fox News' Weekend Live, 2/25/06]
  • Claimed botched CIA attack on Ayman Al-Zawahiri “was a success”: Snow claimed the January 13 CIA drone attack in western Pakistan targeting top Al Qaeda official al-Zawahiri “was a success.” Further, Snow and guest Richard Miniter both claimed the attack “knocked off four to five key Al Qaeda” figures. In fact, the strike reportedly killed at least 18 civilians, sparking widespread Pakistani condemnation and protests. Initially, U.S. officials claimed that, at minimum, some high level Al Qaeda officials were among those killed in the attacks, but this claim was never officially confirmed. A January 20 Financial Times report (subscription required) noted: “Pakistani intelligence official confirmed the identities [of alleged Al Qaeda officals] were made on the basis of intelligence information and not 'facts gathered through DNA tests or any other means.' ” [Fox News' Weekend Live, 1/21/06]
  • Deemed Gitmo “the most humane prisoner-of-war facility in history”: In a June 15, 2005, column, Snow wrote that the Pentagon's military detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, “may be the most humane prisoner-of-war facility in history.”


  • Called immigrants rights protestors “idiots”: In response to Republican strategist Linda Chavez's claim that the flying of Mexican flags by Mexican-Americans at a 1994 protest led to the passage of California's controversial Proposition 187, Snow said, “So, to quote the famous movie Napoleon Dynamite --'idiots.' " [Fox News' Weekend Live, 4/1/06]

From the December 24, 2005, edition of Fox News' Weekend Live:

SNOW: Shortly after its [FISA's] passage, your then-president, Jimmy Carter, signed an executive order that authorized the attorney general to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order and then, subject to having the attorney general sign off. That's exactly what this president is doing, corrrect?


CHAVEZ: The president has the inherent authority under the Constitution. There have been a series of Supreme Court rulings. There's been a most recent ruling by 2002 of the FISA appeals court.

SNOW: It was the FISA court -- something called In re: Sealed Case 2002 [sic], where it says the president's inherent authority allows him to do this.


SNOW: As a matter of fact, when they seized the laptop of Zacarias Moussaoui, FBI agents decided not to go ahead and look at the contents because they were afraid they couldn't establish probable cause because they had no definite proof that the guy was a terrorist.

From the January 21 edition of Weekend Live:

SNOW: What seems also odd about this is that the tape was released just about a day after it became perfectly obvious that the CIA strike -- the Predator strike in western Pakistan -- was a success.

MINITER: A great success.

SNOW: They not only -- they not only hit a place where Zawahiri had met earlier with [Abu Faraj] al-Libbi -- who has since fallen into American clutches -- but also, it knocked off four to five key Al Qaeda guys.

MINITER: Right, including the head of the Kunar Province operations, which is the main battleground in Afghanistan against U.S. forces at the moment. And their top bomb maker and poison gas maker. You know, it's a great hit from the “war on terror” perspective. Also, they werevery careful to wait until the sun had set, because, by that time, the meal would have been put down, and men and women eat separately in that part of Pakistan, so the Predator waited, hoping to avoid civilian casualties -- a point that gets lost in all this coverage.

SNOW: Well, it does get lost in the coverage mainly because people don't -- you know, they don't understand the end of the eye -- they don't understand any of that stuff.


SNOW: Bob, let me ask you a different question. On the surveillance front: You've got a bin Laden tape -- there've been people saying the government should not be able to listen to Al Qaeda people talking to American citizens. What does that do politically to the Democratic opposition to the surveillance plan, if anything?

BECKEL: Well, first of all, I'll tell you, it obviously says more -- I don't -- if you've got a surveillance plan -- I haven't seen one single thing come out of this surveillance plan. I would assume, by now, that somebody in the administration --

SNOW: But, wait a minute, is that not a sign of success? If you have surveillance and you don't have crime, that would seem to be a sign of success.

From the February 25 edition of Weekend Live:

SNOW: You know also that some of those people who were lunching with bin Laden offered to hand him over -- to serve as the go-between between the government of Sudan and the U.S. -- during the Clinton years. And the Clinton administration said, “Nah, don't want to do it.” So, it's an interesting tale.

From the April 1 edition of Weekend Live:

SNOW: Give me your response to sort of pro-immigrant groups that are doing rallies like this and waving Mexican and other flags -- are they doing more harm than good to their cause?

CHAVEZ: They're doing a lot of harm. And, in fact, back in 1994, when California considered an anti-immigrant provision -- Proposition 187 -- that was -- that initiative was actually going down in the polls. It was ahead a week before the election by only one point, then 70,000 Mexican-Americans took to the streets flying Mexican flags and -- guess what? -- it won by 59 percent. So, these folks would do a whole lot better if they would only fly the Red, White, and Blue.

SNOW: So, to quote the famous movie Napoleon Dynamite --“idiots.”