Discussing the recent conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on the March 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC chief foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell claimed that polling “indicates that most people think, in fact, that he should be pardoned -- Scooter Libby should be pardoned.” Mitchell did not indicate to what specific “polling” she was referring. But a CNN poll released earlier that same day indicated that an overwhelming majority of Americans do not believe Libby should be pardoned.
The CNN poll, released at 4 p.m. ET on March 12, found that 69 percent of respondents felt President Bush “should not pardon” Libby, while only 18 percent felt the president “should pardon” him. CNN appears to be the only major news outlet thus far to have posed the question in a poll since Libby's March 6 conviction on federal charges of perjury and obstructing justice in connection with an investigation into the leaking of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Mitchell's claim was originally highlighted by the weblogs Talking Points Memo, Eschaton (written by Media Matters for America senior fellow Duncan Black), and Crooks and Liars -- all of which noted the CNN poll.
Media Matters has previously noted several examples of Mitchell misstating or misrepresenting polling data as favorable to Bush or Republicans:
- On the November 6, 2006, edition of MSNBC's election special, Decision 2006: Battleground America, Mitchell cherry-picked polls to claim that Republicans were “gaining ground” on the generic congressional ballot. She ignored other polls -- including a poll taken by MSNBC partner Newsweek -- which showed Democrats with strong leads.
- During the January 25 edition of NBC's Nightly News, Mitchell claimed that polling on President Bush's authorization of warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA) showed “little public outcry over the program, especially when [the administration] tell[s] people it is limited only to those who talk to Al Qaeda.” But Mitchell did not note is that the administration's characterization of the program as limited to Al Qaeda communications significantly understates its reported scope. Moreover, polling at that time demonstrated that support for the program was at best split, even when respondents were asked whether they approve or disapprove of the program based on the administration's limited and disputed characterization.
- On the September 24, 2004, edition of Hardball, Mitchell asserted -- contrary to numerous polls -- that President Bush was “a very well-liked, popular president.”
From the March 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MITCHELL: Well, I think that they are going to resist those subpoenas, if those officials are subpoenaed, because they can dodge behind -- the appeals are still in play, the request for a new trial is still in play. I think they're going to try to really tamp this down and appeal to the polling, which indicates that most people think, in fact, that he should be pardoned -- Scooter Libby should be pardoned. There isn't a whole lot of American public sympathy in this whole thing, but it still will be a political issue for the Democrats.