CNN's "John Bolton: Behind the Mustache" attacked Democrats, whitewashed Bolton


In its coverage of President Bush's recess appointment of John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, CNN featured a segment by State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel, titled "John Bolton: Behind the Mustache." The report characterized Democratic senators as having "demonized" Bolton but made no mention of evidence marshaled against Bolton -- including that he may have lied on a Senate committee questionnaire required as part of the nomination process.

CNN anchor Kyra Phillips introduced "John Bolton: Behind the Mustache" by saying: "Our State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel takes a closer look at him now, and what he believes, and why some senators are a bit concerned." The segment began with a voice-over of Koppel saying that "John Bolton has been downright demonized by Democrats" (emphasizing the word "demonized"), then proceeded to show video clips of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) saying Bolton "needs anger management," Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD) saying Bolton "has a reputation for being abusive," and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) comparing sending Bolton to the United Nations to "sending a bull into a china shop."

But beyond these short clips, CNN gave no other indication as to why Democratic -- and Republican -- senators "are a bit concerned" over Bolton's nomination, completely ignoring allegations that Bolton manipulated intelligence, harassed colleagues, and gave false information to the Senate on a questionnaire.

While Koppel featured Democrats voicing concerns about Bolton's purported short temper, she omitted far more serious allegations of harassment of colleagues at the State Department. As undersecretary of state for arms control, Bolton drafted a speech in 2002 in which he reportedly mischaracterized Cuba's biological weapons capabilities as a "program," rather than an "effort" -- a distinction considered important by the intelligence community. When the language was corrected by an intelligence analyst, Bolton allegedly lashed out at the analyst and "berated him," according to a July 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee report on prewar intelligence on Iraq. The report further noted: "The analyst said that six months after the incident, when his new office director met with the Under Secretary, the Under Secretary asked to have the analyst removed from his current worldwide chemical and biological weapons portfolio." Also, the White House refused a Democratic request for National Security Agency (NSA) documents to answer questions regarding Bolton's conduct in the State Department: specifically, why "Mr. Bolton had previously acknowledged using his authority as undersecretary of state to obtain from the N.S.A. information about the identities of Americans mentioned in intercepted communications" [The New York Times, 5/26/05]. Democratic senators cited the White House's refusal as a primary reason for delaying the vote on Bolton's nomination -- another fact CNN omitted.

Former special envoy for negotiations with North Korea Jack Pritchard criticized Bolton's incendiary rhetoric and said he undermined U.S. efforts to develop "an effective policy toward North Korea." According to a September 2, 2003, New York Times article, former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage "distanced himself" from an inflammatory speech Bolton gave on North Korea in Seoul, South Korea.

Most recently, Bolton has been accused of giving a false answer on a Senate questionnaire as part of his nomination to the U.N. ambassadorship. According to a July 30 Los Angeles Times article:

On a routine, sworn questionnaire that the Senate committee requires of nominees, Bolton answered "no" when asked whether he had been interviewed by an inspector general of a government agency or a grand jury during the past five years.

On Thursday, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying he had learned that Bolton, the former undersecretary of State for arms control, had been interviewed during that five-year period by the inspectors general of the State Department and the CIA.

The interviews were connected to efforts by the two agencies to determine how assertions that Iraq sought to purchase uranium from Niger had found their way into the president's 2003 State of the Union address.

Contrary to Koppel's suggestion, it was not only Democrats who expressed concern over Bolton's nomination. Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) emerged as one of Bolton's most vocal critics. According to a May 25 New York Times article, Voinovich sent a letter regarding Bolton to his Republican colleagues in the Senate, in which he wrote: "In these dangerous times, we cannot afford to put at risk our nation's ability to successfully wage and win the war on terror with a controversial and ineffective ambassador to the United Nations." According to a May 6 Washington Post article, former Secretary of State Colin Powell "has pointedly refused to endorse Bolton and privately told some senators he had concerns about Bolton's judgment." Powell's former chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, said Bolton would be an ''abysmal ambassador'' to the United Nations [The New York Times, 4/19/05]. Additionally, Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), expressed misgivings about Bolton before ultimately voting to advance his nomination to the full Senate without an endorsement.

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