Hannity quoted Pelosi out of context, falsely suggesting she changed her position on the Iraq war
Research ››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN
On the November 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, host Sean Hannity selectively quoted from two speeches given by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in an apparent effort to suggest -- falsely -- that Pelosi had changed her position on the Iraq war. Speaking to Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), Hannity cited an October 10, 2002, floor speech in which Pelosi stated her belief that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Hannity then apparently quoted from the Democratic Party's September 25, 2004, radio address delivered by Pelosi, saying, "Now she says, 'This war has been a grotesque mistake.' " Hannity then asked, "How do you go from that position to that position, if it's not transparently political?"
But the full context of the earlier Pelosi quote makes clear that her position on the war has been consistent: She opposed the war in October 2002, and she opposed it in September 2004. Hannity appears to have taken the misleading comparison from a November 20 New York Post editorial that purported to compare the pre-invasion and post-invasion statements made by prominent Democrats. Pelosi's 2002 statement had previously appeared -- without its full context -- in a November 2 Republican National Committee press release.
Pelosi delivered her 2002 speech shortly before voting against the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. While she acknowledged her belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, Pelosi told the House, "I rise in opposition to this resolution on national security grounds." She argued that war in Iraq would jeopardize the fight against Al Qaeda:
It is from the perspective of 10 years on the Intelligence Committee that I rise in opposition to this resolution on national security grounds. The clear and present danger that our country faces is terrorism. I say flat out that unilateral use of force without first exhausting every diplomatic remedy and other remedies and making a case to the American people will be harmful to our war on terrorism.
For the past 13 months, we have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with President Bush to remove the threat of terrorism posed by Al Qaeda. Our work is not done. Osama Bin Laden, Mullah Omar and other Al Qaeda terrorist leaders have not been accounted for. We have unfinished business. We are risking the cooperation that we have from over 60 nations who are sharing their intelligence and helping us in the war on terrorism. We cannot let this coalition unravel.
Others have talked about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Yes, he has chemical weapons, he has biological weapons, and he is trying to get nuclear weapons. There is a threat not only from Iraq, but from other countries of concern in the past.
Let us show our greatness. Vote no on this resolution.
Pelosi's subsequent criticism of the war was consistent with her 2002 speech. In the 2004 radio address to which Hannity was apparently referring, she argued that "[presidential candidate Sen.] John Kerry [D-MA] and a Democratic Congress would signal a new message of cooperation and respect to our allies that would stand in stark contrast to the Bush administration's condescension and go-it-alone policy." She added:
Republicans should remember that the reason Osama bin Laden is still able to threaten the United States, three years after the September 11th attacks, is the utter failure of the Bush administration to catch bin Laden and to destroy his terrorist network. We would be much safer today if President Bush had kept his focus on Al Qaeda, rather than diverting crucial resources from the war on terror in Afghanistan to a war of choice in Iraq.
The president must be held accountable for this war. This diversion has cost more than 1,000 of our soldiers' lives, thousands more injured for life, and hundreds of billions of dollars. This war has been a grotesque mistake that has diminished our reputation in the world and has not made America safer.
Pelosi has referred to the war as a "grotesque mistake" at least three times since her 2004 radio address. In a June 16 floor speech, she said, "Each passing day confirms that the Iraq war has been a grotesque mistake." In a June 20 floor speech, Pelosi said: "This is a war that each passing day confirms what I have said before and I will say again. This war in Iraq is a grotesque mistake; it is not making America safer, and the American people know it." And in a November 17 press conference, Pelosi told reporters:
Well, my views on Iraq are well-known. I have said from the start that the war was a grotesque mistake. I have said that when it came to the execution of the war, the president showed no leadership because he had no judgment, he had no knowledge, and he had no experience. I said that the emperor had no clothes. Did I say that already?
And so I have been a critic of the war from the start. The president took us into a war on the basis of a false premise, without supplying our troops with the adequate equipment to protect them so they could do the job and come home safely and soon, without adequate intelligence to know what he was getting into, without a plan after the fall of Baghdad, and without an exit strategy. But that was then, and this is now.
From the November 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: John Kerry voted for the war and then not to fund the war.
MEEKS: You know what the old saying is? The buck stops where? Here. Who is the president of the United States?
HANNITY: Let me ask you this: Who's the head -- Nancy Pelosi is your minority leader, right? Nancy Pelosi says, "Yes, he has chemical weapons. Yes, he has biological weapons. He's trying to get nuclear weapons." That's what she said before. Now she says, "This war has been a grotesque mistake." How do you go from that position to that position, if it's not transparently political?
MEEKS: Because the truth comes out. All the members of Congress had to go by was information that was given to them by the administration.