On Tuesday, after Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called for a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General Eric Holder perjured himself during testimony about the botched ATF gunrunning sting Operation Fast and Furious, we noted that Fox News had previously devoted little coverage to Democratic calls in 2007 for a perjury investigation of Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Our analysis found that the network's evening lineup had devoted only three segments and less then twelve minutes of coverage in their first three broadcasts after Senate Democrats called for a special counsel to review Gonzales' testimony about President Bush's domestic surveillance program. All three segments ran on Special Report; the rest of the Fox evening programs we reviewed were silent on the subject.*
By contrast, in their first three broadcasts after Smith's call for a special counsel to investigate Holder, the Fox evening programs that we reviewed devoted 43 minutes to the story. In addition to Special Report, The Five, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, and On the Record all covered the story at least once.**
Smith and media outlets are pointing to the following exchange between Holder and House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) as potentially perjurous:
ISSA: Mr. Attorney General, we have two Border Patrol agents who are dead, who were killed by guns that were allowed, as far as we can tell, to deliberately walk out of gun shops under the program often called Fast and Furious.
This program, as you know -- and the president's been asked about it; you've been asked about it -- allowed for weapons to be sold to straw purchasers. And ultimately, many of those weapons are today in the hands of drug cartels and other criminals.
When did you first know about the program officially, I believe, called Fast and Furious? To the best of your knowledge, what date?
HOLDER: I'm not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.
Smith and media outlets are claiming that this statement is contradicted by recently leaked memos sent to Holder in 2010 which reference the operation. According to the Justice Department, Holder misunderstood Issa's question and thought Issa was asking when Holder learned about the controversial tactics used in the operation, not when he first saw references to the existence of the program. DOJ also says that the references to Fast and Furious came in routine weekly reports that often run to more than 100 pages. Even National Review has noted that the documents do not provide information on Fast and Furious tactics.
*With regard to the calls for a special counsel to investigate Gonzales, Media Matters reviewed the Nexis database's transcripts of Fox programs between 5 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. ET on July 26, 27, and 30, 2007, (The Big Story with John Gibson, Special Report, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity and Colmes, and On The Record with Greta van Susteren) then reviewed the segments using our recordings of those programs. The Fox Report was not included because it is not in Nexis. We searched for “perjury and Alberto Gonzales and (special prosecutor or special counsel or independent prosecutor or independent counsel).”
**With regard to the calls for a special counsel to investigate Holder, on October 4-6 we reviewed the following Fox programs between 5 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. ET live: The Five, Special Report, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, and On The Record with Greta van Susteren. For consistency, we did not include coverage of the topic on The Fox Report.