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FOX News Blames Attorney General Scandal On “Liberal Media”

Reported by Ellen - March 15, 2007 -

Once again FOX News pulled a sleight-of-hand over a Bush administration scandal. Rather than discuss the controversy swirling around Alberto Gonzales and the firings of eight US Attorneys straight up, FOX News producers tried to frame the issue on last night’s (3/14/07) Hannity & Colmes as a question of media bias because as Sean Hannity falsely stated – yup, you guessed it – Clinton did it, too. With video.

In tandem with President Bush, Hannity and, apparently, the FOX News producers erroneously tried to equate the firings of the eight prosecutors, each of whom had taken positions in investigations contrary to the Bush administration’s liking, to the uniform firings of all US attorneys done shortly after President Clinton took office.

Comment: It never ceases to amaze me how Clinton, ordinarily the uber-villain with the FOX News set, suddenly loses his tarnish whenever he can serve as a convenient excuse for Bush administration “me too” behavior.

Nevertheless, the analogy is a false one. As Alan Colmes pointed out in his portion of the discussion, Clinton fired all 93 of his US attorneys in March, 1993, at the beginning of his administration. The decidedly un-liberal Christian Monitor reported there was a kerfuffle over the fact that one of the attorneys had been prosecuting a powerful Democrat Dan Rostenkowski. However, the Monitor noted, that prosecution went forward and a conviction was obtained (Clinton later pardoned Rostenkowski).

The Monitor continues,

But the firing of a critical mass of US attorneys midterm is unusual, therefore raising more questions. Since 1981, only 54 US attorneys have not filled out their terms, according to a recent Congressional Research Service study. Of those, only eight appeared to be firings for cause. Reasons cited for dismissal in these eight cases include grabbing a TV reporter by the throat, disclosing information on an indictment, perjury, and biting a topless dancer on the arm after losing a big drug case, according to the CRS report.

The ever-clueless-on-FOX-News Lanny Davis seemed more interested in giving Bush a pass than he was in articulating the gist of the controversy. He made the incomprehensible claim, “I am not critical of this administration for replacing US attorneys for political reasons.” Despite the CRS report cited above by the Christian Science Monitor, Davis claimed that the eight firings were neither new nor shocking. “The problem is interfering with a criminal investigation,” he said. He forgot that the problem was also lying to Congress. The Monitor reports, "Now, members on both sides of the aisle also want to know if the attorney general and other officials deliberately misled them in briefings and testimony about the fired US attorneys."

Davis' words (and lack thereof) were music to Hannity’s ears, of course. “Then you are unlike the endless investigation calls of your fellow Democrats.”

Funny how Hannity couldn’t manage to defend Gonzales and tell the truth at the same time. As Colmes later pointed out, (and as was announced by the crawl on the screen during the segment), Republican Senator John Sununu is also calling for Gonzales’ resignation. Colmes also noted that conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham and James Sensenbrenner had also criticized Gonzales. So has Senator John Ensign.

Brent Bozell, of the Media Research Center, is supposedly devoted to truth in media but he also conveniently overlooked the distinctions between the Clinton firings and the Bush administration firings. “Not once did a single reporter ever point out that the Clinton administration did it,” Bozell said. Uh, maybe that was because the Clinton administration didn’t do it. Or is the Christian Science Monitor part of that evil liberal media, too?

Maybe we should be glad this story was discussed at all on “real journalism” FOX News. Though the issue has been front page news for at least a week, this was the first segment about it on Hannity & Colmes.

Still, a lot was left out: Fired attorney David Iglesias’ chilling testimony about the “unprecedented” pressure he felt coming from Senator Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson; the firing of prosecutor Frederick A. Black in Guam shortly after he started investigating Jack Abramoff’s dealings there; the possible involvement of Karl Rove in the pressuring and later firing of Washington attorney John McKay.

Despite Iglesias' testimony, Bozell asserted without offering any evidence, "The stuff about Domenici - Come on... a day doesn't go by where a member of Congress or the Senate doesn't write one of these attorneys inquiring about something. That's allowed."

But as Bozell should have known, Domenici didn't write Iglesias with a casual inquiry. Domenici called Iglesias at home then hung up as soon as Iglesias said the investigation into corruption cases involving Democrats would not be filed before the November election (which was a tight one for Rep. Heather Wilson). Wilson, herself, called Iglesias a few weeks before Domenici did to inquire about sealed indictments. As the transcript at Think Progress reports, “The second she said any question about sealed indictments, red flags went up in my head,” Iglesias said. “We specifically cannot talk about a sealed indictment.” Iglesias likened it to calling up a nuclear scientist and saying, “let’s talk about those secret codes, those launch codes.”

Before long, a crack appeared in the “blame the liberal media” spin. Bozell said “half the problem” is the press but the other half is the Bush administration not fighting back. I guess they couldn’t blame THAT on Clinton.

Hannity, forgetting himself for a moment, agreed that it was “beyond infuriating.”