Letter to Washington Times requesting retraction of incorrect McCaslin column

September 24, 2004

Mr. Wesley Pruden
Editor in Chief
The Washington Times
3600 New York Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002-1996

Dear Mr. Pruden:

I am writing to you today requesting that The Washington Times print a retraction regarding John McCaslin's September 24 “Inside the Beltway” column that included false information. McCaslin reports that while appearing on a 1997 edition of CNN's Crossfire, Senator John Kerry advocated a unilateral and preemptive attack on Iraq, allegedly saying, according to McCaslin, “We know we can't count on the French. We know we can't count on the Russians. ... We know that Iraq is a danger to the United States, and we reserve the right to take pre-emptive action whenever we feel it's in our national interest.” McCaslin's column further claimed that “no 'Crossfire' transcripts from 1997 are available.”

Kerry's actual quote does not resemble the one McCaslin used in his column. A quick Nexis search located the transcript for the Crossfire episode McCaslin stated was not “available” ; upon review, Media Matters for America found that Kerry expressed frustration with French, Russian, and Chinese policies, but stood firm on a multilateral effort: “I don't think anybody can deny that we would have liked it to have threatened force and we would have liked it to carry the term serious consequences will flow. On the other hand, the coalition is together.” Furthermore, he did not advocate taking “pre-emptive action whenever we feel it's in our national interest.” Rather, Kerry said that the United States “will reserve the right to act in its best interests” when there is a “finding of material breach.” The exact transcript from Nexis, an archival news service that retains print, network, and cable news transcripts dating back to 1990, is attached.

As the transcript makes plain, McCaslin wrongly used quotation marks to attribute words to Kerry that he never said. McCaslin is also wrong in writing that “no 'Crossfire' transcripts from 1997 are available.”

I trust that you will make the necessary retraction of the McCaslin item.


David Brock
President and CEO
Media Matters for America

cc: Francis B. Coombs Jr., Managing Editor
John McCaslin, “Inside the Beltway” Columnist