In an October 1 segment on NBC's Today show devoted to fact-checking assertions by both candidates at the September 30 presidential debate, NBC News senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers distorted Senator John Kerry's statements to cast them as misleading.
FLAWED FACT CHECK #1: Cost of Iraq war
Myers claimed that Kerry had flip-flopped by criticizing President George W. Bush at the debate for spending "$200 billion [in Iraq] that could have been used for health care, for schools, for construction," "A year ago, Kerry had a different position, arguing the U.S. should spend more in Iraq," Myers said, citing Kerry's August 23, 2003, appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, when Kerry expressed support for increasing funding for Iraq. Here's what Kerry told Meet the Press host Tim Russert (Myers played this clip):
RUSSERT: Do you believe that we should reduce funding that we are now providing for the operation in Iraq?
KERRY: No. I think we should increase it.
RUSSERT: Increase funding.
RUSSERT: By how much?
KERRY: By whatever number of billions of dollars it takes to win.
But there's no inconsistency in asserting that launching the Iraq war was a "mistake" -- and, therefore, that the money spent on the war would have been better spent elsewhere -- but that since the invasion is now complete and irreversible, it's necessary to spend "whatever number of billions of dollars it takes" to ensure that Iraq does not become a permanent haven for terrorists.
FLAWED FACT CHECK #2: Iran sanctions
Myers also criticized Kerry for a factual distortion by "accusing the president of not putting sanctions on Iran to stop its development of nuclear weapons." Myers played a clip of Kerry at the debate, saying: "If they [the Iranians] weren't willing to work a deal, then we could have put sanctions together. The president did nothing." Then came a clip of Bush at the debate insisting, "We've already sanctioned Iran. We can't sanction them any more. There are sanctions in place on Iran." Myers confirmed that "[o]n this, President Bush is right. President Clinton imposed sanctions on Iraq in 1996, and Mr. Bush renewed them."
But Myers ignored the rest of what Kerry said. The United States currently imposes unilateral sanctions on Iran. Kerry was criticizing Bush for not dealing with Iran in concert with European allies, which Kerry said would enable the possibility of multilateral sanctions: "Only the United States put the sanctions on [Iran] alone, and that's exactly what I'm talking about. In order for the sanctions to be effective, we should have been working with the British, French and Germans and other countries. And that's the difference between the president and me."