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FOX News Sics Swift Boat Smearer On John Murtha

Reported by Ellen - May 19, 2006

Congressman John Murtha gave a blistering press conference yesterday (5/18/06) about Iraq in which he blasted the management of the war and the administration for misrepresenting the progress. Rather than address a single issue Murtha raised, “real journalism, fair and balanced” FOX News and Sean Hannity changed the subject to smear Murtha, instead.

Hannity was fiery with Hanctimony over Murtha’s statement, buried in his speech as almost an aside, that last November in Haditha, “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” Hannity’s fireworks were a convenient, albeit dramatic way to cover up the fact that Murtha was not making that claim, himself, but he was speaking about a Pentagon report that will come out with that conclusion. Also conveniently overlooked by Hannity and everybody else on the panel, too, was the gist of Murtha’s remarks – that our presence in Iraq is hurting, not helping the war on terror, not helping the Iraqis, not pacifying the insurgency, and creating unbearable demands on our military.

Democrat Bob Beckel said straight out that FOX News, itself, has reported that Murtha spoke the truth about the incident in Haditha and that three marines have been relieved of their command already. In fact, FOX News not only said that, it also quoted an anonymous commander as saying that the Pentagon report, due in a week or two, "is going to be ugly."

But Sean Hannity was on a mission to bulldoze over the facts, not discuss them. So with his bullyboy theatrics, he interrupted and berated Beckel. “He said it before they’ve had a trial, Bob!” Hannity apparently forgot that he saw no need to wait for a trial to arrive at a judgement, as he had just a few minutes earlier, while discussing the Duke rape case. Nor did he seem to “remember” that this was a Pentagon investigation into an incident, not a trial, and Murtha was not accusing any individual soldiers.

“Swift Boat Veteran For Truth” John O’Neill was the other panelist, ready to do for Murtha what O’Neill had done for Kerry. But Beckel was in a feisty mood, and before O’Neill got a word out, Beckel said, “Listen, you took John O’Neill’s fabricated incidents about John Kerry as fact.”

I’d like to say that Beckel ran with the ball from there but he turned and, as he usually does, knocked his own side. “I would frankly think it was not such a good idea to come out and say those things.” Beckel never talked about the broader context of Murtha's remarks.

It’s not as though Beckel’s Democrat-deprecating comments ever score any points with Hannity. Hannity moved directly into attacking Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and John Kerry, claiming that their criticism of the Iraq war were “attacks on our brave men and women.”

O’Neill jumped into the attacks with the false claim that Murtha, et al were vilifying our soldiers. Then O’Neill mischaracterized Murtha's statement even further. “If there are things (marines) do wrong, they should be properly investigated and so on but to hold a press conference highlighting them, gloating them, that’s immediately reported all over the Arab world, is extremely unfair to the people involved.” O’Neill called it abominable.

Beckel tried to interrupt but Hannity, who probably knew that O’Neill had just told a falsehood, bullied Beckel into silence. “I will stay on point,” Hannity disingenuously shouted. Jabbing his finger, Hannity said, “The issue here is this. This is the issue. If anybody deserves the presumption of innocence in this country, it’s the brave men who put their lives on the line. The world is listening to a United States congressman say definitively that we are killing innocent civilians in cold blood.”

“You’ve got to, as a Democrat and as an American, Bob Beckel, speak out against that type of tactic,” Hannity demanded.

I so wish that as a Democrat and as an American Beckel spoke out against Hannity’s type of tactics but no such luck. Beckel rightly pointed out that Murtha did not gloat. “That guy’s got more medals on his chest than you’ve got on yours,” Beckel said to O'Neill. But, despite the feisty comeback, Beckel allowed Hannity’s tactics to succeed. Nobody was talking about the incident in Haditha. Nobody was talking about the war.

O’Neill lied a bit more. “Why (Murtha) would have a highlighted press conference on a story that is four or five months old to be carried throughout the Arab world – maybe you can tell me, Bob.” Answer: THAT’S NOT WHAT THE PRESS CONFERENCE WAS ABOUT – IT WAS ABOUT THE DISASTROUS SITUATION OUR SOLDIERS ARE FACING EVERY DAY IN IRAQ.

When it was Alan Colmes’ turn, he tried to get to the real issues. Saying that Murtha was very clearly not attacking the troops, Colmes added, “This is an attack on a policy which has civilian casualties, collateral damage, which is unfortunately what happens in a war. That’s what Kerry talked about and that’s what John Murtha’s talking about.”

“Alan, that’s completely wrong,” O’Neill fallaciously responded and launched into an attack about Kerry and the swift boats.

“I don’t want to get back into arguing what we argued back in the last presidential election,” Colmes said. “You guys have been discredited about that. You weren’t on his boat and the people who were on his boat support him…. I’m not talking about the ’04 election.”

But Hannity, perhaps sensing that things might not be going his way, couldn’t stand to keep from interrupting. Despite the fact that he’s not supposed to intrude on Colmes’ time, Hannity broke in condescendingly. “Can we let John speak, please?”

Colmes, to his credit, only gave O’Neill about 10 seconds before going to Bob Beckel. Beckel said, “What John Murtha was saying was… that our troops were under too much pressure.”

Actually, what Murtha was really saying was that we need to pull our troops out of Iraq and he predicted that we will pull our troops out or else not replace them in the very near future. The last question put to him during the press conference was, “Is it possible that the administration will, in effect, do just what you outlined in your resolution and at the same time continue to criticize you for you it? And if so, what would you think of that?”

Murtha replied,”Well, I think that's entirely possible. I would hope, whether they continue to criticize me or not, that they do this, because the country can't stand this kind of divisiveness. I mean, every place I go people stop me, and mothers wearing 82nd Airborne stop me and said, ‘I've got two sons in Iraq, I agree with you.’ People in the military said, ‘Keep telling the truth.’’

You can read a transcript of Murtha’s press conference in its entirety on his website.

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