Scarborough repeats McCain's falsehood that he called for Rumsfeld's resignation, despite MSNBC's previous correction


On MSNBC's Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough repeated the falsehood that Sen. John McCain called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, saying, "I think he [McCain] was saying that Rumsfeld should be fired." Although MSNBC previously corrected this falsehood, and 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 17 broadcast of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough repeated the falsehood that Sen. John McCain called for the resignation of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, saying, "I think he [McCain] was saying that Rumsfeld should be fired." Scarborough made his comments after airing a clip from the July 16 edition of MSNBC Live, during which Mika Brzezinski failed to correct former Republican presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's false assertion that McCain "said that Rumsfeld needed to go." In fact, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, McCain did not call for Rumsfeld's resignation. Moreover, MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell issued a "clarification" after falsely claiming in March that McCain "called for Don Rumsfeld's resignation."

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."

According to a February 16 Washington Post 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 this week 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 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."

Nevertheless, despite O'Donnell's correction and the Post's report, MSNBC hosts have repeatedly failed to correct guests' assertions that McCain called for Rumsfeld to be fired.

From the July 17 broadcast of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

BRZEZINSKI: But the surge -- the surge has definitely had an impact that changes the conversation a bit. I mean --

SCARBOROUGH: It does. And why did it -- why did it work? It's because Bush finally got rid of Rumsfeld, brought in a great new secretary of Defense, General Petraeus. They -- he finally --

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, that wasn't John McCain?

SCARBOROUGH: He finally put the right team together. Now, let's --

BRZEZINSKI: What? Are you sure?

SCARBOROUGH: -- let's talk about the what the McCain camp --

BRZEZINSKI: It was John McCain.

SCARBOROUGH: -- were saying yesterday that was wrong, Willie.

BRZEZINSKI: He did it.

GEIST: Well, the irony also is that John McCain yesterday was tying Barack Obama to George Bush, saying, as you said --

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, no. I'm confused.

GEIST: -- you said Barack Obama's feet are in cement, and --


GEIST: -- and John McCain said that's exactly right, much like this past administration.



GEIST: Hasn't America seen enough?

SCARBOROUGH: You are kidding me?

GEIST: Their policy is not flexible. They won't change given conditions on the ground. So, sort of a creative way of --



SCARBOROUGH: He compared Bush and Obama?

GEIST: Bush -- he tied -- he did. He tied them together.

SCARBOROUGH: Are you serious?

GEIST: He did it on a conference call and --


GEIST: and then -- yeah, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Mitt Romney, though, out yesterday --


GEIST: -- looking very vice-presidential --


GEIST: -- talking about the fact that the surge -- John McCain's idea.



ROMNEY [video clip]: 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?


SCARBOROUGH: All right. So, there -- that's fine. But, I mean, it was George Bush's surge. I will say John McCain was the one man in Washington who supported that, it seemed at the time, but I wouldn't go around saying that was McCain's idea.


GEIST: Yeah.

BRZEZINSKI: I'm thinking, yeah.

GEIST: Or that -- or that he was the one who wanted Rumsfeld out, either.




SCARBOROUGH: He did not like Rumsfeld.


BRZEZINSKI: He did. We gave him the credit for not liking Rumsfeld.

SCARBOROUGH: He did that. He was after Rumsfeld.

BRZEZINSKI: There was a little friction there. I think.

SCARBOROUGH: Actually, I think he was saying Rumsfeld should be fired, but --

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, no, I think there was legitimate friction there.

TIKI BARBER (NBC News correspondent): So did a host of other people.


SCARBOROUGH: Well, OK. Everybody in America, but George Bush. Talk about your feet in cement.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Joe Scarborough
Morning Joe
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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