White House's Gillespie Takes NBC News Complaint To Fox
So, the story so far is this: Last week, George W. Bush, making an appearance before the Knesset, said this:
"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along...We have heard this foolish delusion before...As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American Senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
This was widely perceived as an attack on Senator Barack Obama, who favors diplomatic engagement with Iran, because he is not an insane person. Certainly it was a plausible attack on Democrats in general. At the very least, twas a broadside aimed at left-leaning Invisible Straw Men, who are a constant and bedeviling hallucination for Republicans. Anyhoo, Democrats were quick to rain down criticism on Bush with some Samuel L. Jackson style vengeance, and ever since, the White House has been desperately walking it back.
As a part of this effort, White House Counsel Ed Gillespie has lapsed into apoplexy over an interview Bush did with NBC's Richard Engel, and, because NBC News did not edit it to the White House's liking, he's been jumping up and down like a meemie in an attempt to obscure the story by insisting that all Bush did was clarify White House policy, not launch a political attack. Resident HuffPo heroine Rachel Sklar, with surgical precision, demonstrated that Gillespie did "not have a leg to stand on." But that did not stop Gillespie from going on Fox News this morning, where he worked his bruised stumps for all they were worth.
Appearing before Fox's Megyn Kelly, who seemed to have a palpably difficult time wrangling her own sense of skepticism, Gillespie complained of how MSNBC dared edit their interview, and how they were forcing viewers to use "streaming video" to see the unexpurgated session between Bush and Engel. He said that NBC News cut the interview "very artfully" - you know, like a White House sponsored Video News Release? - and that the news organization engaged in "deceptive" "masking" - like, say, the White House/Pentagon "message force multiplier" program did!
Then Gillespie - whilst on Fox News, mind you! - said this:
Our concern is, frankly, and I raised it that when you have people like Keith Olbermann and Christopher Matthews and MSNBC and the frequently blurring of the lines between that commentary, that advocacy on their part on behalf of certain candidates with the NBC news division increasingly commingling, there may be a spillover effect here that is disconcerting.
And that caused the Anvils Of Irony to plummet from the sky like it was "raaaaay-eeeeee-aaaaain on your wedding day."
Finally, Gillespie asked Fox viewers to please please please go to MSNBC's website, causing a salty discharge to well up against the wall of Roger Ailes' cauterized tear ducts, the end.
KELLY: It gets a little confusing. But, just so our viewers understand, the reporter asked President Bush -- he said, President Bush, you said negotiating with Iran is pointless and that it is appeasement. Were you referring to Barack Obama when you made those comments? Now in response, President Bush said to him -- you did not get that exactly right, and he went on to clarify his actual position on negotiating with Iran. And then he said that bit about my positions haven't changed but the political calendar has. You say NBC selectively edited that exchange, for what purpose?
GILLESPIE: To take out the part where the premise of the question was challenged by the President where he rejected the notion. He said, read the speech, you did not get that exactly right either. Then he went on to say here is what I said. They removed that, very artfully, by the way, if you look at the clip you wouldn't know that there was a removal of an edit of the President's remarks that was masked by NBC, and that's why I say it was deceptive. But we have asked that they run the full response by the President. Let his words speak for themselves. Do not take them through editing out of context and make it seem like he was affirming the charge being made by the interviewer there. They have said they're not going to do that because even though they aired that deceptively edited piece on The Today Show and NBC Nightly News, they said that viewers can go on the web site and stream video of the actual answer itself. So if people want to see the truth, they can go on the web site and download it.
KELLY: So at the end of the day, your charges are that NBC viewers are left with the impression that the President agreed with the reporter's premise, that negotiating with Iran is pointless, when in fact the President actually said that is not what I said, and my position has always been that we would talk to Iran if they suspended their uranium enrichment program.
GILLESPIE: Two things. The President's position on Iran has been clear which we're bringing multilateral pressure on Iran to abandon any effort to obtain a nuclear weapon, and if they suspend verifiably their nuclear enrichment programs, then they can come to the table with the international community. We have always said that. That part of the question was ignored or the answer was ignored. More importantly, when the President states American policy and the policy of this administration somewhere, that it can be taken as an attack on anyone, and in this case, an attack on Barack Obama. And the President said read the speech, he did not get it exactly right. His policies had been clear for a long time. We believe that we need to stand by Israel as a friend and ally in the Middle East. We believe that we shouldn't allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. We don't believe that we should negotiate with terrorists like Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda. And that is the longstanding policy of the United States. And if people disagree with the position, they're free to, but it is not an attack on anyone. We're not going to allow people to say as fact that the President attacked anyone on the floor of the Knesset. He asserted American policy and we will continue to do so.
KELLY: And let me ask you, because NBC came out and said editing is part of journalism, and that is true. We in the news are hard pressed to pick clips that will fit into a two-minute piece and so on, and they have those pressures there as well. What is your response to that defense? They also say that it is a gross misrepresentation of the facts to say that they engaged in deceitful editing.
GILLESPIE: All I can ask is to allow your viewers, and of course they can go on the web site, msnbc.com, to find at the actual airing of what the President said, but they did not just truncate the President's comments. They excerpted the part where he took exception to the premise of the question and made it seem like he was agreeing with the premise of the question when he absolutely, utterly did not. That is what is misleading about it and they masked the edit. You couldn't tell that that response had been edited by NBC news. Our concern is, frankly, and I raised it that when you have people like Keith Olbermann and Christopher Matthews and MSNBC and the frequently blurring of the lines between that commentary, that advocacy on their part on behalf of certain candidates with the NBC news division increasingly commingling, there may be a spillover effect here that is disconcerting. We also asked NBC if they still considered Iraq to be in civil war when we have seen the unity government of moderate Shia and Sunni go after Shia and Sunni extremists in Iraq, reclaim the port of Basra. They still have this public hand-wringing over deliberating in coming to a conclusion that Iraq was in civil war. They stopped saying it, that was in November of 2006, but they have never said if they're wrong to declare it in the first place or that they've declared it over. They've questioned whether or not official government data about the economy is believable. Why do they think that? They did not respond to those concerns at all.