What The Media Should Know About The Anti-Hagel Smear Campaign

Media figures have smeared President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), by misrepresenting Hagel's support for sanctions against Iran and his support for Israel. The media have also cast doubt on the bipartisan support for Hagel's nomination.

What are Hagel's views on sanctions against Iran?

What is Hagel's stance on Israel?

Is Hagel a bipartisan pick?

What have other officials said about Hagel's assertion that the war in Iraq was related to oil?

MYTH: Hagel Opposes Sanctions Against Iran

Fox's Baier And Williams Agree That Hagel “Was Opposed To” Sanctions On Iran. On the January 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox contributor Juan Williams said that “most people would view [Hagel's] position on Iran as questionable, to put it politely.” He went on to say that the U.S. should build up its naval presence in the Strait of Hormuz to present a more “credible” threat to Iran “in order for the sanctions to have their maximum impact.” Host Bret Baier replied, “Sanctions that Hagel was opposed to.” Williams agreed, saying, “Again, that he was opposed to.” [Fox News, Special Report, 1/7/13]

CNN's Sambolin Uncritically Repeats GOP Claim That Hagel Is Unwilling “To Back Sanctions Against Iran.” On the January 7 edition of CNN's Early Start, co-host Zoraida Sambolin said that “GOP leaders” are “questioning Hagel's support of Israel and his unwillingness to back sanctions against Iran.” A clip then aired of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) attacking Hagel's credentials and calling Hagel “an incredibly controversial choice.” [CNN, Early Start, 1/7/13, via Media Matters]

Wash. Post's Rubin: “President Obama Believes In Tough Sanctions Against Iran; Hagel Does Not.” In a January 2 post on her Washington Post blog, Jennifer Rubin listed a string of criticisms of Hagel, including the claim that “President Obama believes in tough sanctions against Iran; Hagel does not.” [The Washington Post, Right Turn, 1/2/13]

FACT: Hagel Supports Multilateral Sanctions Against Iran

Hagel Has Repeatedly Voted In Favor Of Bills Imposing Sanctions On Iran. As a senator, Hagel voted for H.R. 2709 in 1998, which “impose[d] certain sanctions on foreign persons who transfer items contributing to Iran's efforts to acquire, develop, or produce ballistic missiles.” He voted for a similar measure, the Iran Nonproliferation Act, in February 2000. [Senate.gov, accessed 1/8/13, accessed 1/8/13]

Hagel: U.S.'s Iran Strategy Should Include “Working With Our Allies On Multilateral Sanctions Applying Financial Pressure.” In a 2007 speech for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Hagel said that elements of the U.S. strategy with respect to Iran should include “working with our allies on multilateral sanctions applying financial pressure” and “working in the UN Security Council on a third sanctions resolution.” [CSIS.org, 11/8/07]

J Street: Hagel “Supports Multilateral Sanctions.” In a fact sheet on Hagel, J Street, a liberal pro-Israel organization, noted that Hagel “is skeptical of unilateral sanctions, but supports multilateral sanctions which we have seen, in concert with allies, put tremendeous pressure on Iran.” [JStreet.org, accessed 1/8/13]

Hagel Has Opposed Unilateral Sanctions Against Many Countries. Hagel has opposed unilateral sanctions against North Korea, Syria, Libya, and Cuba as well as against Iran. In a January 7 interview, Hagel told the Lincoln Journal Star, “I have not supported unilateral sanctions because, when it is us alone, they don't work and they just isolate the United States.” [Foreign Policy, The Cable, 12/17/12; Lincoln Journal Star, 1/7/13]

MYTH: Hagel Is Anti-Israel

Bill Kristol: “Anti-Israel Propagandists Are Thrilled” About Hagel's Nomination. In a December 24 column, Weekly Standard editor and Fox News contributor Bill Kristol wrote that "[a]nti-Israel propagandists are thrilled" about the potential nomination of Hagel for secretary of defense. Kristol added that “Hagel certainly does have anti-Israel, pro-appeasement-of-Iran bona fides” and claimed that Hagel “has a record of consistent hostility to Israel over the last decade.” [The Weekly Standard, 12/24/12]

Fox's Kelly: Hagel's “Stance With Respect To Israel Has Been ... Neutrality At Best.” On the January 7 edition of Fox's America Live, host Megyn Kelly said that Hagel's “stance with respect to Israel has been, sort of, neutrality at best, but that doesn't seem to be an acceptable stance for even, you know, some Democratic senators.” Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt said that among pro-Israel groups “in the middle and on the right, there is broad, broad belief” that Hagel “does not believe that we should be taking [Israel's] side in their ongoing conflicts with their neighbors.” [Fox News, America Live, 1/7/13]

Rush Limbaugh: “Apparently Hagel Doesn't Like ... Israel Much.” On the January 7 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said, “Apparently, Chuck Hagel doesn't like Obama -- Israel, much.” He added, “Some people have said Hagel's anti-Semitic, and then they've retracted that.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/7/13]

FACT: Hagel Is Pro-Israel

Hagel Wrote That U.S. Has “A Special And Historic Bond With Israel Exemplified By Our Continued Commitment To Israel's Defense.” In his 2008 book, America: Our Next Chapter, Hagel wrote, “At its core, there will be a special and historic bond with Israel exemplified by our continued commitment to Israel's defense.” He added, “A comprehensive solution should not include any compromise regarding Israel's Jewish identity, which must be assured. The Israel people must be free to live in peace and security.” [America: Our Next Chapter, 2008, via JStreet.org]

Five Former Ambassadors To Israel Have Endorsed Hagel. In an open letter, nine former U.S. ambassadors, five of whom were ambassadors to Israel, endorsed Hagel for defense secretary. The letter stated that Hagel “has invariably demonstrated strong support for Israel and for a two state solution and has been opposed to those who would undermine or threaten Israel's security.” [Foreign Policy, The Cable, 12/20/12, via Slate]

Former Israeli Consul General Alon Pinkas: Hagel “Is Not Anti-Israeli.” In a piece for Al-Monitor's Israel Pulse, former Israeli consul general Alon Pinkas, who was also an adviser to Israeli President Shimon Peres, wrote that Hagel “is not anti-Israeli.” He concluded that Hagel “is completely on board with the US-Israel relationship.” [Al-Monitor, Israel Pulse, 12/23/12]

J Street: Mideast Expert Aaron David Miller Called Hagel “A Strong Supporter Of Israel.” J Street quoted Aaron David Miller, who served as Mideast adviser to six secretaries of state, as writing, “Hagel is a strong supporter of Israel and a believer in shared values.” [JStreet.org, accessed 1/8/13]

MYTH: Nominating Hagel Is Not Bipartisan

Fox's Scott Suggests Hagel Nomination Is An Attempt To “Fracture Republicans In The Senate.” On the January 7 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott read from two op-eds that argued Hagel is a bipartisan selection. Later in the segment, Scott said to Fox News host Bret Baier, “Call me a cynic, but in appointing a Republican who is going to raise the ire of his fellow Republicans, at least some of them, does the president maybe get to -- a chance, at least, to fracture Republicans in the Senate?” [Fox News, Happening Now, 1/7/13]

Fox's Stirewalt: Obama Nominated Hagel In Part To “Teach The Republicans A Lesson” And “Make The Republicans Choke On It.” On the January 7 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Megyn Kelly asked Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt why Obama chose to nominate Hagel. Stirewalt replied, “Well, part of it is he wants to teach the Republicans a lesson. He wants Republicans to look more like Chuck Hagel. ... And having seen Susan Rice, who was widely speculated to be his choice for secretary of state, to see her have to withdraw her potential nomination, the president, I think, has decided he's going to make it stick and make the Republicans choke on it when it comes to Chuck Hagel.” [Fox News, America Live, 1/7/13]

FACT: Hagel Is A Republican Whose Nomination Has Broad, Bipartisan Support

Hagel Served 12 Years As A Republican Senator. Hagel was elected as a U.S. senator from Nebraska in 1996 and served in Congress as a Republican from 1997-2009. [Congress.gov, accessed 1/8/13]

Robert Gates, Colin Powell Endorsed Hagel. Foreign Policy magazine blog The E-Ring reported that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, both Republicans, released statements supporting Hagel's nomination. [The E-Ring, ForeignPolicy.com, 1/7/13]

Former GOP Sen. John Warner: Hagel Is “Uniquely Qualified To Maintain Confidence And Morale Among The Troops.” The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reported that former Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who is also a former secretary of the Navy, is part of a group of Hagel's allies who are campaigning in support of his nomination. Bedard quoted Warner as saying that “Chuck Hagel's strength naturally brings a certain amount of criticism,” but that "[h]e's a soldier's soldier and uniquely qualified to maintain confidence and morale among the troops." [The Washington Examiner, Washington Secrets, 1/3/13]

Letter Expressing “Strong Support” For Hagel Signed By Republican Adviser Scowcroft, Former Sen. Kassebaum-Baker, Former Defense Secretary Carlucci. A bipartisan group of 11 former public officials signed a letter to Obama expressing their “strong support” for Hagel. Among them were former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, who served under Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush; former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum-Baker (R-KS); and former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, who served under President Reagan. [Bipartisan group letter to President Obama, accessed 1/8/12]

Former GOP Sen. William Cohen: Hagel Is “Enormously Qualified.” Politico reported that William Cohen, who served as a Republican in the House and the Senate and was defense secretary under President Clinton, defended Hagel's nomination. Cohen told Politico that “Hagel is 'enormously qualified,' and praised him for being a moderate Republican, a diminishing breed on the Hill.” [Politico, 12/20/12]

Numerous Democratic Members Of Congress And Former Public Officials Have Expressed Support For Hagel. J Street has released a list of former public officials and Democrats currently in Congress who support Hagel's nomination. [“The Facts on Chuck Hagel,” JStreet.org, accessed 1/8/13]

MYTH: Hagel's Comments Connecting The Iraq War And Oil Are Disqualifying

Hagel: “People Say We're Not Fighting For Oil. Of Course We Are.” At a 2007 event at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., Hagel reportedly said to law students, “People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are. ... They talk about America's national interest. What the hell do you think they're talking about? We're not there for figs.” [Foreign Policy in Focus, 10/19/07]

Bill Kristol: Hagel's Comments On Iraq War And Oil “Could Be The Straw That Breaks The Back Of Hagel's Chances.” In a January 5 blog post for The Weekly Standard, Kristol highlighted Hagel's comments and wrote, “I also wonder if it could be the straw that breaks the back of Hagel's chances.” Kristol called the notion that the Iraq war was “a war for oil” a “far-left trope.” [TheWeeklyStandard.com, 1/5/13]

Free Beacon Calls Hagel's Comments About Iraq War And Oil “Controversial.” In a January 4 post, the conservative website Washington Free Beacon referenced Hagel's comments and wrote, “Hagel's controversial comments could come under scrutiny by senators on Capitol Hill should he be nominated for the Pentagon's top post.” [Washington Free Beacon, 1/4/13]

FACT: Prominent Figures, Including Some Conservatives, Have Made Similar Observations

President Bush Said Terrorist Leaders Could Seize Iraqi Oil Fields To “Fund Their Ambitions.” In a 2005 speech, President George W. Bush warned that if Al Qaeda leaders Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden “gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks ... They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition.” [Associated Press, 8/31/05]

Alan Greenspan: “The Iraq War Was Largely About Oil.” From a September 2007 Agence France-Presse article about former Federal Reserve Bank chairman Alan Greenspan's book The Age of Turbulence:

The most explosive charge in Greenspan's memoir, “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” is that the George W. Bush administration was driven to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in a large part by a lust for Iraq's oil.

“I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows -- the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he wrote in reported excerpts of the book, which hits bookstore shelves Monday. [Agence France-Presse, 9/17/07]

Ret. Gen. John Abizaid: “Of Course It's About Oil.” During a 2008 panel discussion at Stanford University, retired Army Gen. John Abizaid was asked about Greenspan's statement that the Iraq war was about oil. Abizaid replied, “Of course it's about oil. It's very much about oil, and we can't really deny that.” Abizaid went on to say that the United States should wean itself off oil from the Middle East as a matter of national security. [YouTube, 3/7/08]