On Scarborough Country, Schlussel misrepresented Hillary Clinton, defended Coulter

On MSNBC's Scarborough Country, right-wing radio host Debbie Schlussel falsely claimed that “there wasn't a peep” from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton when Suha Arafat, wife of former Palestinian National Authority president Yasir Arafat, stated that Israelis “poison Palestinian water and air and cause cancer for them.” In fact, Clinton disavowed Arafat's remarks after receiving an official translation. Schlussel also joined other conservatives and media figures in defending right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's recent attacks against widows of victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


On the June 14 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, right-wing radio host Debbie Schlussel misrepresented Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) record, claiming that “there wasn't a peep” from Clinton when Suha Arafat, wife of former Palestinian National Authority president Yasir Arafat, stated that Israelis “poison Palestinian water and air and cause cancer for them.” Schlussel also joined other conservatives and media figures in defending right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's recent attacks against widows of victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

During a discussion with host Joe Scarborough about Clinton's condemnation of Coulter's attacks on 9-11 widows, Schlussel misrepresented Clinton's record when she proclaimed she was “really amazed” Clinton criticized Coulter for her comments because “there wasn't a peep” from Clinton “when Suha Arafat told [Clinton] that Jews like me poison Palestinian water and air and cause cancer for them.” Contrary to Schlussel's claim that Clinton did not make “a peep” about Suha Arafat's controversial remarks made during a trip Clinton took to the West Bank in 1999, an October 6, 2000, New York Times article reported that Clinton disavowed Arafat's remarks after receiving an official translation “hours later.”

From the Times article:

On the trip, Mrs. Clinton was photographed kissing the wife of Yasir Arafat, after Mrs. Arafat, speaking in Arabic, accused the Israeli government of employing toxic gas against Palestinian women and children. Mrs. Clinton condemned Mrs. Arafat hours later, after receiving, she said, an official translation of her remarks.

When Mrs. Clinton was asked by a Jewish Week questioner whether she would have done anything differently with the benefit of hindsight, she responded briskly. “I wouldn't have gone -- that's the first thing,” she said. Mrs. Clinton said the encounter, which some of her advisers view as the low point of her campaign, led to “a misimpression about my strong feelings and support of Israel.”

Regarding Coulter's attack on 9-11 widows, Schlussel declared that Coulter is “100 percent correct” and said while Coulter's “language was incorrect,” and “provocative,” Coulter “made a great point” saying “liberals” give “Cindy Sheehan and these four women liberal infallibility because they lost somebody.” In characterizing Coulter's personal attacks on the 9-11 widows as “provocative” and agreeing that Coulter's “point is 100 percent correct,” Schlussel echoed other conservative media figures -- as well as reporters such as Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz and ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper -- who have suggested that the underlying argument Coulter was making in going after the widows -- that Democrats and liberals use victims as advocates for particular causes because they are insulated from criticism -- was “correct.” In fact, far from being immune from challenge, the individuals Coulter cited as examples of “infallible” advocates promoted by Democrats have faced strong Republican opposition and, quite often, ad hominem attacks from conservatives, as Media Matters for America has documented. Moreover, as Media Matters has also documented, contrary to Coulter's claim, echoed by others, that the GOP and conservatives have demonstrated a great willingness to use victims and their families to advocate their candidates and causes.

From the June 14 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

SCARBOROUGH: Now let's bring in radio talk show host Debbie Schlussel. Debbie, you actually support what Ann Coulter said. How do you defend that?

SCHLUSSEL: Well, Joe, I don't support saying that widows enjoyed their husbands' deaths or that they're harpies. I think her language was incorrect. But her point is 100 percent correct. And I think we all know that Ann uses this kind of polemical kind of language in order to get her point across. I think if she would have just said what she meant without using those words, that her point would not have gotten attention.

And I'm really amazed, Joe, that Hillary Clinton is very upset at what Ann Coulter said, but there wasn't a peep from Hillary Clinton when Suha Arafat told her that Jews like me poison Palestinian water and air and cause cancer for them. She didn't seem to care about that. And I'm just amazed at the uproar over what Ann says. People in this country are not half as upset, the ones that are against Ann, as they are about people who genuinely hate us. And I think people need to make the distinction between a political polemicist and people who say things that really are genuinely dangerous for our country.

SCARBOROUGH: But Debbie, the thing is, Ann's not just trying to make points here, she's trying to sell books. And this is a very successful device for her, isn't it. I mean, she's number one in The New York Times [bestseller list]. She's number one on Amazon. I mean, it's -- her -- this book is one of the biggest political books over the past year, year-and-a-half, and it's because she knows she's just throwing kerosene on the fire, right?

SCHLUSSEL: Well, but her last two books, for example, Treason [Crown Forum, 2004] did very well, and they also were at the top of Amazon and the top of the New York Times bestseller list for a while, and she didn't say those kind of things. So yes, she's a smart marketer, but I think she made a great point. The fact is that liberals do give people like Cindy Sheehan and these four women liberal infallibility because they lost somebody. And the fact is that they are saying things that make them political figures, and I think they should be questioned.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, do you agree, though -- you agree with me, you agree with Michael Smerconish, you agree with others that her words used were inappropriate? And do you believe she should apologize for saying it?

SCHLUSSEL: I don't agree with her choice of words. I don't think she should apologize for the points that she made.

SCARBOROUGH: I'm sorry. I couldn't hear you. Somebody was talking in my ear. Did you say she should apologize?

SCHLUSSEL: I don't believe she should have used that language, but I don't think she should apologize for saying that these women should not use the deaths of their husbands for political purposes. I think she's right in that point.

SCARBOROUGH: What about saying that they may profit off the deaths, they may appear in Playboy, that they seem to actually enjoy what happened because of the deaths?

SCHLUSSEL: Yes, I -- like I said, I don't agree with that choice of words. I don't --

SCARBOROUGH: Should she apologize for those statements?

SCHLUSSEL: Well, I don't think that people need to apologize when they are political columnists and they write provocative things to bring a point across. I've heard people say things that are far more offensive to get their point across, and nobody cared -- for example, Ward Churchill. Where is Hillary Clinton or [Rep] Anthony Weiner [D-NY] or any of these people asking Ward Churchill to apologize to the 9-11 widows for calling their relatives “little Eichmanns” ? They're nowhere to be heard on that.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Debbie, I think they're wrong for only attacking the other side. And I think conservatives that don't hold their own people accountable are also incorrect. Hey, Debbie, thank you for being with us.

SCHLUSSEL: Thank you.