Memo to Mehlman interviewers: RNC chair tells the same lies over and over about Rove controversy


In recent media appearances, Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Ken Mehlman has issued numerous distortions and falsehoods regarding allegations of White House senior adviser Karl Rove's involvement in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Cable news hosts Wolf Blitzer and Chris Matthews failed to question Mehlman's various falsehoods, allowing him to misinform unchallenged and at length. Media Matters for America offers the following breakdown of Mehlman's lies, and the facts that rebut them.

Mehlman is scheduled to appear on the July 17 editions of NBC's Meet the Press and CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.

Lie #1: Wilson falsely claimed Cheney sent him to Niger

In an attack on the credibility of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, Plame's husband, Mehlman twice claimed that Wilson said it was Vice President Dick Cheney who sent him to Niger in 2002 to investigate a rumored sale of yellowcake uranium to Iraq. As Media Matters for America noted, Wilson claimed the CIA -- not Cheney -- sent him to Africa. In his July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed, and in an August 3, 2003, interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Wilson noted that the CIA sent him to Niger to investigate a question from Cheney's office about the uranium issue. The RNC cropped and twisted quotes from the Times op-ed and the CNN interview to back up this false talking point.

From Mehlman's July 12 appearance on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports:

MEHLMAN: Karl was right; Joe Wilson was wrong. The story was false. It was based on a false premise, and, of course, the conclusion was false. [...] What Joe Wilson alleged was that the vice president, then he said the CIA director, sent him to Niger.

From Mehlman's July 13 appearance on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MEHLMAN: Karl Rove said to a reporter that you ought not include the Joe Wilson report because it's inaccurate. And Karl was right. Mr. Wilson was wrong. The report was inaccurate. He was wrong in the sense that the vice president had not sent him down.

Lie #2: Rove did not reveal Plame's name, so he did nothing wrong

In an email summarizing a conversation with Rove, Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper stated that Rove referred to Plame as "Wilson's wife." Relying on this report, Mehlman claimed that Rove did not leak Plame's identity because he did not reveal her name. But, as is clear from the language of the statute and Rove's own lawyer, this defense has no legal merit. Moreover, as a practical matter, anyone with access to Google could very easily have come across Wilson's Corporate & Public Strategy Advisory Group bio, which noted: "He is married to the former Valerie Plame."

Lie #3: Rove didn't even know her name

Mehlman also cited the Newsweek article containing Cooper's email as evidence that Rove "didn't even know" Plame's name at the time he talked to Cooper. But as Think Progress pointed out, a July 15 New York Times article reported that Rove told investigators that three days before his July 11, 2003, conversation with Cooper, he learned Plame's name from syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who outed Plame in a July 14, 2003, column.

From the July 12 Wolf Blitzer Reports:

MEHLMAN: The fact is, Karl Rove did not leak classified information. He did not, according to what we learned this past weekend, reveal the name of anybody. He didn't even know the name, so he couldn't have revealed it.

From the July 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

MEHLMAN: One article last weekend was an article in Newsweek, which I thought exonerated Karl Rove in many ways. What it said was Karl Rove was not leaking anybody's name, he didn't know that name.

Lie #4: Wilson claimed his mission to Niger "positively proved" that the country had not sold nuclear materials to Iraq

During his recent appearances, Mehlman has attempted to impugn Wilson's credibility by falsely alleging that he claimed his Niger findings conclusively refuted the allegation that Iraq had purchased or attempted to purchase nuclear materials from Niger.

The CIA sent Wilson to the African nation in February 2002 to investigate such allegations. Upon his return, he disclosed his findings in a CIA debriefing, which were later disclosed to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Wilson's New York Times op-ed presented his personal interpretation of his findings -- specifically, that they did not support President Bush's claim in his 2003 State of the Union address that "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

From the July 12 Wolf Blitzer Reports:

BLITZER: When you say the story was false, is there any evidence Niger was sending uranium, enriched uranium to Iraq?

MEHLMAN: What Joe Wilson alleged was that the vice president, then he said the CIA director sent him to Niger. He then alleged that he wrote a report which positively proved that, in fact, that wasn't occurring and that the vice president sat on the report.

BLITZER: But the upshot of his bottom line report to the CIA was there was no evidence uranium, enriched uranium, yellowcake as it's called, was being sent to Iraq. So he was right on that.

MEHLMAN: Well, both the Senate Intelligence Committee and others who have studied it have found that, in fact, his report was largely irrelevant to that finding.

From the July 13 Hardball:

MEHLMAN: Joe Wilson's comments on Newt Gingrich, like his comments on so many other things, who sent him to Niger, the definitiveness of his report, whether the vice president reviewed his report, all of these allegations have been disproved by the Senate Intelligence Committee and by others who have studied it who are objective sources. Once again, what Joe Wilson said is not supported by the facts.

But Wilson never claimed that he had provided definitive evidence that the Bush administration's Niger claim was unfounded. Rather, he wrote in his Times op-ed that on the day after the 2003 State of the Union address, "I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them."

Moreover, Wilson's personal assessment of his findings, as conveyed in his Times op-ed, concurred with the assessment by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) that the intelligence failed to support the Niger allegation and, more broadly, that Iraq had not reconstituted its nuclear program. As the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA have admitted, Wilson and INR turned out to be right.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
CIA Leak Investigation, Media Ethics
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