Last night on MSNBC, host Keith Olbermann discussed Bill O’Reilly’s outrage at Scott McClellan’s recent revelation that the White House regularly gave Fox News talking points and that the channel’s pundits and commentators “were useful” to the Bush administration. O’Reilly called McClellan “crazy” and “a liar.” But Olbermann said that he knows from “personal experience” that McClellan “didn‘t make this stuff up”:
OLBERMANN: We know the White House sent out talking points. McClellan says this and I can tell you, from personal experience, I still have them. In 2004 — in retrospect, this looks like one of the great wastes of all time—they sent me a set of talking points, not fully understanding the nature of the show even in 2004, before I sat down and interviewed Joe Wilson. McClellan didn’t make this stuff up.
Interviewed on MSNBC last week, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Fox News pundits and commentators “were useful to the White House,” stating that they were given “talking points” to repeat on air:
Q: Did people say call Sean, call Bill, call whoever? Did you do that as a regular thing?
McCLELLAN: Certainly. Certainly. It wasn’t necessarily something I was doing, but it was something that we at the White House, yes, were doing.
On his radio show yesterday, Bill O’Reilly let loose on McClellan, calling him a “liar” and an “idiot” for saying O’Reilly accepted the talking points. Today, McClellan went on O’Reilly’s show and in a tense back and forth, O’Reilly got McClellan to apologize for the “talking points” statement. “Do you owe me an apology?” O’Reilly asked. McClellan responded:
McCLELLAN: The truth is I messed up. I was specifically not trying to single anyone out, including you. But the way a couple of the questions were phrased in that interview along with my response left things open to interpretation and I should not have let that happen. … I understand why you got upset. … You’re the Big Kahuna at Fox News, and some people tried to paint in a black and white term through a preconceived notion.
Despite McClellan’s apology, O’Reilly yelled at McClellan later in the segment, blaming McClellan for getting “played’ by Chris Matthews and accusing him of being a “liar” and “crazy”:
O’REILLY: Matthews played you. … He played you! You should be mad at him!
McCLELLAN: So you don’t owe me an apology for calling me a liar? –
O’REILLY: You are a liar! You said I received talking points and I didn’t!
McCLELLAN: No I didn’t! I was not confirming that. I’m telling you right now —
O’REILLY: Oh you’re parsing the damn thing! Come on, be honest! … He baited you! He baited you! … You’re crazy! You’re partners with [NBC] in selling your book!
McClellan, however, did stand by his original point. “I stand by what I said in terms of the larger things and everything.” Without pointing out specific names or networks, McClellan vaguely claimed: “There were other people that were friendly and sympathetic to us.”
Interviewed on MSNBC’s Countdown last week, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Fox News pundits and commentators “were useful to the White House,” adding that they were given “talking points” to air. On his radio show today, Bill O’Reilly let loose on McClellan, calling him a “liar” and an “idiot”:
McClellan goes on NBC. Hehe, I guess he lives there now. I never got a talking point in my life from anybody. And McClellan’s lying. Okay, Scott? Got it? I’m calling you a liar. Lost all respect for you. I treated you courteously when you came on the program. No respect for you now. … He’s an idiot. He wants to sell his stupid book.
On MSNBC’s Hardball last night, host Chris Matthews asked former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan if he saw “FOX television as a tool” to get the White House’s “message out” while he was in the Bush administration. “Certainly there were commentators and other, pundits at FOX News, that were useful to the White House,” replied McClellan, adding that they were given “talking points.”
Making a distinction between journalists like Brit Hume and commentators like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, McClellan admitted that “certainly” the White House used Fox News talking heads as “spokespeople” with “a script”:
MATTHEWS: So, you wouldn’t use Brit Hume to sell stuff for them, but you’d use some of the nighttime guys?
MCCLELLAN: Yeah, I would separate that out, and certainly I, you know, they’ll say, that’s because they agree with those views in the White House.
MATTHEWS: Well, they didn’t need a script though, did they?
MCCLELLAN: No, well, probably not.
McClellan later told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann that “it was done frequently, especially on high-profile issues” and that Fox often gave the White House “its desired results.” Current Press Secretary Dana Perino would only tell Olbermann, “I’m not aware of that.” Watch it:
Fox News’s close relationship to the Bush administration should come as no surprise to anyone, considering Fox’s Neil Cavuto once ran a segment asking if George W. Bush was “the best President.” But, as Olbermann notes, it “is one of those things you assumed to be true all along, yet you are shocked when the hard confirmation actually shows up on your door.”
Not only is Fox the network the White House turned to when Vice President Dick Cheney had to explain how he shot his friend in the face, but the network has also produced sympathetic documentaries on both Cheney and President Bush.
But in a podcast interview with ABC News’s Jake Tapper yesterday, McClellan disavowed his previous defenses of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies. “I would have never made those comments from the podium had I known exactly what was happening,” said McClellan.
He then told Tapper that because of “waterboarding and some other harsh interrogation methods” used by the administration, he “could not say honestly today that this administration does not believe in torture”:
Now, looking back on that, I hold a very different view when I know today that were engaged in waterboarding and some other harsh interrogation methods and I would have never made those comments from the podium had I known exactly what was happening in some of those settings. Whether or not it was illegal is a matter for other people to address, but I could not say honestly today that this administration does not believe in torture, does not engage in torture.
Earlier this month, after he had himself waterboarded, journalist Christopher Hitchens wrote, “believe me, it’s torture.” “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture,” said Hitchens.
Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan appeared on CBC Radio One’s “The Current” this morning to discuss his recent memoir, in which, he asserts that the Bush administration waged a “propaganda” campaign in order to “sell the war” in Iraq to the public.
Inquiring about Vice President Dick Cheney’s motivations to go to war, host Jim Brown noted that Cheney “doesn’t strike me as someone who would be particularly motivated by idealistic visions.” McClellan agreed, adding that Iraq’s oil occupied Cheney’s mind more than anything else:
MCCLELLAN: Certainly you can’t discount the large oil reserves inside Iraq and how much that plays into our national security interests and I don’t think you can discount how much that plays into the vice president’s thinking.
BROWN: Or his portfolio for that matter.
MCCLELLAN: Or his portfolio for that matter, absolutely with that being a former chief executive officer for Halliburton and that certainly played heavily into his thinking more so I think than the idea of transforming the Middle East into a beacon of democracy.
McClellan later added that he believes that Bush never “would have made the decision to go in and invade Iraq” if “he could see what had happened.” But when asked if Cheney “would do it differently a second time around,” McClellan said flatly: “No.”
BROWN: Do you think Dick Cheney would do it differently a second time around?
MCCLELLAN: No. Well he might have done some military things differently but I think he was determined to see Saddam Hussein removed from power and would have continued to encourage that.
During a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco last month, McClellan suggested some book titles for Cheney should he choose to write a memoir of his own after leaving office: “The Lies I Told,” or “I Upped Halliburton’s Income – So Up Yours.”
In a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco last night, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan offered cutting criticism of Vice President Dick Cheney, saying he “had a terribly negative influence over this president.” At one point, McClellan suggested “some ideas for book titles Cheney might consider“:
McClellan who is clear that he has no great admiration for Cheney, joked to the audience that his national book tour has given him some ideas for book titles Cheney might consider: “The Lies I Told,” or “I Upped Halliburton’s Income – So Up Yours.”
McClellan also offered potential book title ideas for Karl Rove and Scooter Libby: “The Lies I Told to Whom and Why” and “Well, Pardon Me,” respectively.
Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson released a statement following former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s testimony yesterday, saying that while his statements “shed some light” on the smear campaign by the Bush administration, they would continue to pursue their civil suit to press for more answers:
Scott McClellan’s book and his congressional testimony shed some light on — as we alleged in our lawsuit — the decision by senior government officials to betray the identity of a covert CIA officer, Valerie Plame Wilson. Many questions, however, such as the role of Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney remain unanswered. Our civil suit, now before the Court of Appeals, is designed to permit us to uncover the truth, to hold to account those who would use their public positions to engage in private political vendettas, and to ensure that future generations of public servants do not engage in such despicable behavior against fellow Americans.
Mr. McClellan’s testimony today underscores why we need to continue to pursue our rights under the American judicial system, and why Congress should also fully investigate the circumstances of the leak, and the subsequent obstruction of justice which is ongoing.
Last month, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan published a memoir asserting that the Bush administration waged a “propaganda” campaign used to “sell the war” in Iraq to the public. He also said that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby deliberately sent him to the press to lie about their connection to the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity.
Today, McClellan is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. In his opening statement, the committee’s ranking member Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), one of Bush’s most loyal defenders, derided the hearing as the committee’s “first book-of-the-month-club meeting,” and suggested the next book should one by right-winger Ann Coulter. Lamar also compared McClellan to Judas, insisting he was “selling out the president” for “a few pieces of silver”:
SMITH: Welcome to the House Judicary Committee’s first book-of-the-month-club meeting. I propose that next time we consider Ann Coulter’s book, “How To Talk To A Liberal If You Must.” It’s hard to take Mr. McClellan or this hearing too seriously. … Scott McClellan alone will have to wrestle with whether it was worth selling out the president and his friends for a few pieces of silver.
There’s no comparison between Coulter — who never served in the administration — and McClellan, who was a member of Bush’s inner circle for most of the past decade. Later in the hearing, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) apologized to McClellan for the “aspersions as to your motives…that we heard a few minutes ago.” “Such character assassination has no business in this committee,” Nadler said.
Lamar’s attempts to dismiss McClellan’s testimony echoes the strategy on the right to write off McClellan’s complaints as unimportant and disloyal. McClellan’s former boss Ari Fleischer insisted that only “Washington and people who follow Washington” cared about McClellan’s allegation. “I’m bored,” Bill O’Reilly complained, while Former House Speaker declared, “I’m more concerned about American Idol than I am about Scott McClellan.” White House officials also blasted him as a “traitor” and a “Benedict.”
Last year, President Bush infamously commuted the prison sentence of former Vice President Cheney aide Scooter Libby, who was convicted in the CIA leak scandal. “As to the future, I rule nothing in and nothing out,” Bush said afterwards, referring to a future pardon. Testifying before Congress today, Scott McClellan said Bush should not pardon Libby:
Mr. Chairman, I believe that it would signal a special treatment, the same thing that happened with the commutation. And the President has always held a certain standard for a granting pardons, even going back to when he was governor, and I worked for him then. And that is, that the person must first repay his debt to his society, and second, must express remorse for the crimes which he committed. And we have seen neither of that from Scooter Libby at this point.
Earlier this month, McClellan said Bush should have fired Karl Rove for his involvement in exposing an undercover CIA agent. “He said we were going to set the highest of standards, we didn’t live up to that,” said McClellan.