On July 20, ABC radio host Sean Hannity thrice repeated the false claim that former President Bill Clinton refused a 1996 offer from Sudan to hand Osama bin Laden over to the United States. Hannity has previously propagated this claim, for which the 9-11 Commission found “no reliable evidence to support.”
As Media Matters for America has noted, the false claim originated in an August 11, 2002, article on right-wing news website NewsMax.com that distorted a statement Clinton made on February 15, 2002. While addressing the Long Island Association's annual luncheon, Clinton said he “pleaded with the Saudis” to accept Sudan's offer to hand bin Laden over to Saudi Arabia. Sudan never offered bin Laden to the United States, and Clinton did not admit to the Sudan offer in that speech or anywhere else. (Clinton's statements are posted here).
From the July 20 edition of The Sean Hannity Show:
HANNITY: [W]e've got Bill Clinton on tape admitting he was offered by the Sudan to get Osama bin Laden and he didn't take them. They have the video tape and they ignored it.
HANNITY: How can you plead with the Saudis to take Osama bin Laden if you don't have Osama bin Laden? How can you say, [imitating Bill Clinton] “At the time, he committed no crime against America, so I couldn't bring him here.” How could you even contemplate bringing him here if that offer from the Sudan wasn't real and viable?
Hannity attempted to bolster his assertion that the Sudanese offer of bin Laden was “real and viable” by citing “evidence gathered by the 9-11 Commission” :
HANNITY: I think another source of potentially damaging revelations as far as the Clinton people would be concerned, evidence gathered by the 9/11 Commission backing up the allegation that President Clinton refused the offer from the government of Sudan for Osama bin Laden, which is a tape that we have been pointing out to you often.
The “evidence” to which Hannity referred is the 9-11 Commission report's statement: "[F]ormer Sudanese officials claim that Sudan offered to expel Bin Ladin to the United States." But the report immediately continued: “Clinton administration officials deny ever receiving such an offer. We have not found any reliable evidence to support the Sudanese claim.” Hannity, therefore, endorsed the claims of former officials of Sudan -- a country that the U.S. Department of State has designated as a state sponsor of terrorism every year since 1993 -- rather than the testimony of Clinton administration officials and the findings of the 9-11 Commission.
While Hannity had asserted on his radio program that the 9-11 Commission had “gathered” evidence “backing up the allegation” that Clinton had refused an offer for bin Laden, two days later -- on FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes -- he claimed the commission had “ignored” the allegation. Referring to Clinton's 2002 address to the Long Island Association, Hannity said: "[D]oesn't that seem to validate the idea that the Sudan in fact did offer us bin Laden and we passed on him and that the commission ignored that? Are they not ignoring one of the most important failures of our intelligence leading up to this attack?"
As Media Matters for America has noted, Clinton further refuted the allegation in a June 20 interview on CBS's 60 Minutes. He said: “There was a story which is factually inaccurate that the Sudanese offered bin Laden to us. ... As far as I know, there is not a shred of evidence of that.”