Brzezinski continues pattern of MSNBC hosts not challenging false assertion that McCain called for Rumsfeld's resignation


On MSNBC Live, Mika Brzezinski failed to correct Mitt Romney's false assertion that Sen. John McCain "said that [Donald] Rumsfeld needed to go." Although a McCain spokesman reportedly acknowledged that McCain "did not call for his resignation," MSNBC hosts have repeatedly failed to correct guests' assertions that he did so.

On the July 16 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Mika Brzezinski failed to correct former Republican presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's false assertion that Sen. John McCain "said that [former Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld needed to go." As Media Matters for America has documented, McCain did not call for Rumsfeld's resignation, but MSNBC hosts have repeatedly failed to correct guests' assertions that he did so. While McCain expressed "no confidence" in Rumsfeld in 2004, the Associated Press reported at the time that McCain "said his comments were not a call for Rumsfeld's resignation." Further, when Fox News host Shepard Smith specifically asked McCain, "Does Donald Rumsfeld need to step down?" on November 8, 2006 -- hours before President Bush announced Rumsfeld's resignation -- McCain responded that it was "a decision to be made by the president."

The Washington Post reported in a February 9 article that McCain "regularly reminds audiences that he also criticized Bush's management of the war and called for Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation as defense secretary." After Media Matters noted the article's failure to report that McCain's repeated assertions that he called for Rumsfeld's resignation were false, the Post published a February 16 article reporting that McCain "overstate[d] his public position on Rumsfeld" and that he had never called for him to resign. According to the February 16 article: "[D]uring a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., aired on CNN, McCain said, 'I'm the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go.' A McCain spokesman acknowledged that that was not correct. 'He did not call for his resignation,' said the campaign's Brian Rogers. 'He always said that's the president's prerogative.' " The February 16 Post article also noted that "McCain's false account has been unwittingly incorporated into the narrative he is selling by some news organizations, including The Washington Post."

On March 27, MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell issued a "clarification" on MSNBC Live after falsely claiming on March 26 that McCain "called for Don Rumsfeld's resignation." Nevertheless, on May 29 on MSNBC Live, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell failed to correct Republican strategist Trent Duffy's claim that McCain "was one of the first to call for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation." And on the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews did not challenge Republican strategist Todd Harris' false claim that "it was Senator McCain who called for Don Rumsfeld to be sacked."

From the 1 p.m. ET hour of the July 16 edition of MSNBC Live:

BRZEZINSKI: All right, both candidates are now focusing on Afghanistan and during today's Obama campaign conference call, Susan Rice slammed McCain's position. Take a listen to this.

RICE [video clip]: Yesterday, he woke up and came to the sudden conclusion that indeed Afghanistan merited more strategic focus -- something that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been saying for months -- and that he would therefore be willing to put in additional combat brigades. But then he got confused again as to whether those needed to be American, or NATO, or some combination thereof, and it leaves you all, and us, wondering what his strategic rationale is.

BRZEZINSKI: Hmmm, Susan Rice does not hold back, Governor Romney. How do you respond to these attacks on McCain's rationale here, and is he flip-flopping?

ROMNEY: You know, I sure hope that the Obama campaign decides to really focus on military strategy and try and distinguish themselves from John McCain. I'm afraid it's a losing battle for them. John McCain understands military strategy. He, after all, was the person who authored some time ago the philosophy that said a surge would work in Iraq. He said that Rumsfeld needed to go, and you know what? He ended up being right, and Barack Obama said the surge would not work. Guess who was wrong on that one?


ROMNEY: John McCain has been talking about Afghanistan for a long, long time. Even back in our debates, when there was primary going on, we talked about Afghanistan, and his posture there is absolutely right. And look, he understands what it takes to be successful on foreign battlefields because he's been there. He's been trained there. Barack Obama hasn't. And if it's going to be an issue of foreign policy and keeping America safe, there's no question who comes out ahead.

BRZEZINSKI: Governor Mitt Romney, very nice to see you. You've got to come on to Morning Joe sometime soon.

ROMNEY: Thanks Mika, good to be with you.

BRZEZINSKI: All right, take care.

Mika Brzezinski
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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