Thursday, June 28, 2007
Coulter Continues to Spread Lies to the American Public, Chris Matthews Allows it.
On the June 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, right-wing pundit and syndicated columnist Ann Coulter falsely claimed that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "was working with Al Qaeda's top agents" and expressed surprise that host Chris Matthews "did not know that Saddam had sent his top agents to work with top agents from Al Qaeda." Coulter later compared Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's relationship with the Taliban to Saddam's relationship with Al Qaeda, saying, "Saddam was working with Al Qaeda, too!" However, investigations by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the 9-11 Commission found no evidence of an operational relationship between Saddam's regime and the terrorist organization. During her Hardball appearance, Coulter also falsely asserted that Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards "charge[d] a poverty group $50,000 for a speech" and that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) accused "evangelicals" of "hijacking America" in a June 23 speech.
Contrary to Coulter's claim that Hussein "was working with Al Qaeda" and that he "sent his top agents to work with top agents from Al Qaeda," a September 8, 2006, Senate Intelligence Committee report noted that "[p]ostwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa'ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa'ida to provide material or operational support." The report further noted that "[p]ostwar information indicates there were three instances in which al-Qa'ida communicated with representatives of Saddam's regime." The committee cited a meeting between an Iraqi intelligence officer and bin Laden in 1995, in which the officer reportedly rebuffed the Al Qaeda leader's request for support. The committee also noted intelligence indicating that an Al Qaeda operative traveled to Iraq in 1998 and 2002 to request a meeting with Saddam, but was refused in both cases.
The 9-11 Commission similarly found "no evidence" that contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda "developed into a collaborative operational relationship." Also, on April 5, the inspector general of the Defense Department declassified a report that reviewed the prewar intelligence-gathering activities conducted by the department's Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group (PCTEG), run by then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith. The report noted that the PCTEG had released alternative intelligence assessments asserting that "Iraq has been complicit in supporting al-Qaida terrorist activities." The report went on to describe the office's intelligence handling as "inappropriate" and specifically rebutted its assertion of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties. The report stated that "[t]he Intelligence Community discounted conclusions about the high degree of cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida," adding in a footnote that it is "noteworthy" that the postwar debriefings of Saddam and other former high-ranking Iraqi government officials confirmed the intelligence community's assessment:
Noteworthy is that post-war debriefs of Saddam Hussein, [former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister] Tariq Aziz, [former Iraqi intelligence official Barzan Ibrahim Hasan] al-Tikriti, and [Al Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh] al-Libi as well as document exploitation by DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] all confirmed that the Intelligence Community was correct: Iraq and al-Qaida did not cooperate in all categories. The terms the Intelligence Community used to describe the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida were validated, "no conclusive signs," and "direct cooperation ... has not been established."
Coulter's made her false claim after Matthews noted that "40 percent of Americans believe that it was Iraq, Saddam Hussein, who attacked us on 9-11" and asked, "Does that concern you, that people are misinformed?" However, while Matthews prefaced the discussion by describing those who believe Saddam was behind 9-11 as "misinformed," he did not correct Coulter's subsequent false assertion Saddam "was working with Al Qaeda's top agents." Matthews clearly knew that was the case, having noted the Defense Department inspector general's report on the April 6 edition of Hardball, during which he asserted, "It's official. Saddam was not allied with Al Qaeda. Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11."
Later on the June 26 edition of Hardball, Coulter falsely claimed that Edwards "charge[d] a poverty group $50,000 for a speech." In fact, according to Edwards' personal financial disclosure for 2006, Edwards did not "charge a poverty group $50,000 for a speech."
According to that disclosure, Edwards received the following fees for speaking in 2006:
- $35,000 from the Hunter College Foundation Inc., City University of New York
- $32,000 from the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan
- $12,000 from the Gonzaga University Law School
- $32,000 from the International Housewares Association
- $16,000 from Mount Union College
- $32,000 from Regberg and Associates Inc.
- $40,000 from the Stanford in Government Public Policy Forum
- $32,000 from the Stanford Washington Research Group
- $44,000 from the University of California, Davis, Mondavi Center
- $40,000 from the University of Judaism
- $40,000 from the University of Texas-Pan American Foundation
- $40,000 from the Vanderbilt University Impact Series
- $20,000 from the Simmons School of Management Leadership Conference
Coulter was apparently distorting an earlier story about Edwards, noted by Media Matters for America, in which several media outlets reported that Edwards charged the University of California-Davis $55,000 for a January 2006 speech without noting that the cost was offset by ticket prices, according to the Edwards campaign.
Later in the program, Coulter falsely claimed that Obama "just gave this speech on evangelicals hijacking America." In fact, in the June 23 speech to which Coulter was apparently referring, Obama did not blame "evangelicals" for "hijacking America." Rather, he said "somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us." From the speech:
So doing the Lord's work is a thread that's run through our politics since the very beginning. And it puts the lie to the notion that the separation of church and state in America means faith should have no role in public life. Imagine Lincoln's Second Inaugural without its reference to "the judgments of the Lord." Or King's "I Have a Dream" speech without its reference to "all of God's children." Or President Kennedy's Inaugural without the words, "here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own." At each of these junctures, by summoning a higher truth and embracing a universal faith, our leaders inspired ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.
But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us. At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design. There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich. I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it doesn't jibe with my version.
As Media Matters noted, on the June 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, in reference to the same speech, Coulter said, "I do think anyone named B. Hussein Obama should avoid using 'hijack' and 'religion' in the same sentence."