Right-Wing Media Quote-Cropping Tactics On Display At Hagel Confirmation Hearing

Chuck Hagel

After former Sen. Chuck Hagel was nominated as defense secretary, right-wing media outlets attacked him with distorted quotes, and similarly deceptive uses of those quotes surfaced at Hagel's hearing on Thursday.

During the hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) highlighted a statement that Hagel made in a 2006 speech about the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah that was occurring in Lebanon at the time. Cruz claimed that Hagel had accused Israel of committing a “sickening slaughter.”

But as Slate's Dave Weigel pointed out, this echoes a distortion promoted by The Weekly Standard. In reality, Hagel said that the “sickening slaughter on both sides must end” (emphasis added). As Weigel explains, Hagel “described the conflict that way -- a sickening slaughter was occurring -- blaming both sides, and quickly following up by criticizing Iran and invoking the 'special relationship'” between Israel and the United States.

Cruz also showed video of Hagel answering questions on an Al-Jazeera show in 2009. One of the questions Hagel fielded on the show was an email that asked:

Can the rest of the world be persuaded to give up their arsenal when the image of the U.S. is that of the world's bully? Don't we indeed need to change the perception and the reality before asking folks to lay down their arms (nuclear or otherwise)?

On the program, Hagel responded, “Well, her observation is a good one, and it's relevant. Yes to her question.”

According to Cruz, the clip showed Hagel “explicitly” agreeing that the United States is “the world's bully.”  This echoes the take of the Washington Free Beacon, which discussed this exchange in a January 9 post misleadingly headlined “Hagel Agrees that America is 'the World's Bully.' ” But as is clear from the question itself, Hagel agreed that there is an image of the U.S. as a bully that needs to be corrected.

Both BuzzFeed and NBC's First Read blog noted that Cruz adopted the same distortion during the hearing. They also noted that Hagel went on to blame that perception on Bush administration policies.