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Hannity & Colmes Discussion On Rejected NBC Ad Rife With Errors And Bias

Reported by Ellen - December 8, 2007 -

Hannity & Colmes’ 12/7/07 discussion of NBC’s rejection of the Freedom’s Watch “Holiday Thank the Troops” ad repeatedly mischaracterized the reasons NBC rejected the ad, included only one guest (someone representing the ad) allowed the guest to misrepresent what was in the ad and what was controversial and then dodge questions about why the group chose not to make the slight edit that would have allowed the ad to pass muster with NBC. Lastly, a Center for Constitutional Rights ad rejected by FOX News, to which the Freedom’s Watch Ad was compared, was also mischaracterized. With video.
UPDATED 12/8/07 It also turns out the guest is not just some military man, as he was presented, but a candidate running for political office.

It’s worth noting that FOX’ prime time debate show offered no discussion about the uproar over the destroyed CIA tapes showing interrogations of Al Qaeda suspects. But the Freedom’s Watch ad was the top story for the night on Hannity & Colmes.

Alan Colmes started off the discussion by saying that NBC turned down the ad because “the final frame contains Freedom Watch’s website.” While that’s technically true, Colmes did not mention that it wasn’t the URL that NBC objected to, it was the website. NBC considered the Freedom’s Watch website too political and asked Freedom’s Watch to remove its link from the ad.

Colmes played the ad but without the final frame which says, “To learn how you can thank our troops, visit www.freedomswatch.org.” At that website, it states, “For too long, conservatives have lacked a permanent political presence to do battle with the radical special interest groups and their left-wing allies in government. Freedom’s Watch was formed to be the conservative voice fighting for mainstream conservative principles – today, tomorrow, and for generations to come. We engage in grassroots lobbying, education and information campaigns, and issue advocacy to further our goals and objectives. We create coalitions and collaborate with like-minded groups and individuals to further our common goals. Freedom’s Watch provides bold conservative solutions to pressing domestic and international issues to keep America strong, safe, and prosperous. Your support is urgently needed.” That’s pretty controversial language but the viewers of the “we report, you decide” network were never told about it.

Colmes continued, “Now there’s been no backlash against NBC for that decision but FOX News has received heavy criticism over deciding not to air an anti-Bush ad featuring Danny Glover. Now, it’s important to note, FOX News asked for some facts in the Glover ad to be verified. They never were verified which is why the ad was rejected.” Colmes was referring to an ad by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called Rescue the Constitution!

The only guest was someone from the Freedom’s Watch ad, Lt. Col. Steve Russell. There was nobody from NBC and nobody from CCR on the show.

Without fully explaining what NBC’s objections were, Colmes asked Russell if he could understand why the ad was considered an issue ad. Russell was so partisan, that it soon became clear that the war he was most intent on winning was the one he and FOX News had decided to start with NBC.

Russell dodged Colmes’ question, then proceeded to distort the issue. “The controversy apparently was raised because that web address was on the end of the commercial. The most controversial thing it is, ‘Thanks, we appreciate what the soldiers are doing and God bless you.’”

Colmes did not press Russell for an answer but, instead, replied, “They’re saying because it’s a non-profit, therefore the website can’t be included.” Actually, according to NBC’s head of standards and practices, Alan Wurtzel, it’s because the website asks readers to contact elected officials and exhorts them not to cut and run on the war on terror.

Colmes went on to say that he thought any network had the right to turn down any ad.

Russell agreed, then claimed that NBC had accepted the CCR ad, even though that ad had a website at the end. But according to CCR’s press release, the only networks their ad is running on are CNN and MSNBC. Referring to CCR’s ad, Russell said, “All of these things apparently were not an issue (to NBC) when (CCR) was trying to do something that would say that the president was destroying the Constitution and that called for political action that would release terrorists from Guantanamo.”

In fact, the CCR ad does not call for releasing anyone from Guantanamo. It calls on the Bush administration to adhere more closely to the Constitution. Glover says in the ad, “No trials, rendition, torture. The Bush administration is destroying the Constitution. But they can be stopped. Rescue the Constitution.” The website at the end of the ad, www.beyondguantanamo.org, states, “CCR will again represent Guantánamo detainees before the Supreme Court to demand their right to know why they are being held.”

Unfortunately, Colmes did not correct Russell on his numerous falsehoods. But, Colmes asked, “Why could you not have done the ad, have NBC carry it, and without the website or whatever it was that they found objectionable?”

Russell dodged the question. “Well, NBC has a right to not tell the soldiers thanks. They have that right. But fortunately all of the other networks and cable networks, such as FOX, had no issue with airing this ad and letting the American people express their gratitude to our troops and the things that they’re doing during this holiday season. If NBC thinks it’s bad business practice to not say thanks, well, then that shows where their true stance is.”

And if Russell can’t explain why Freedom's Watch wouldn’t remove the link while falsely claiming that NBC doesn’t want to “thank the soldiers,” well, then that shows where HIS true stance is.

To his credit, Sean Hannity straight out asked Russell, “Would you have been willing to take away the website part of it, which was part of the complaint?”

Russell dodged the question again. “Part of the complaint was based upon a website that essentially just said ‘Freedomswatch.org.’ It’s a non-profit organization and it has many things that say how they can help troops.”

Come, come, Col. Russell. Surely you could think of a less disingenuous response than that! Or maybe he was simply ignorant of what’s really on the Freedom’s Watch website. In that case, he should have taken the trouble to read it before taking it upon himself to describe it.

Hannity also allowed Russell to avoid the question and falsify the issues. Then, predictably (and Hannity is nothing if not predictable) Hannity ratcheted up his phony-baloney Hactimony at NBC, jabbed his pudgy finger in the air and melodramatically and falsely claimed that there was nothing controversial about the Freedom’s Watch ad. “The only issue is, we all ought to be thankful.”

Russell complained, “I appeared in the ad. In it, I just said, ‘Thank you. It was an honor to serve with you. God bless you.’ That’s pretty controversial? Maybe that is against good business practice for NBC. But most Americans can see through that. There’s another agenda here.”

There certainly was another agenda on Hannity & Colmes.

UPDATE 1: Thanks to our reader, Claudo, we discovered that Russell is not just the troop-supporter he was presented as but is also running for the state senate in Oklahoma.

UPDATE 2: "Support the troops" Russell was also accused of taking "unnecessary risks" with his soldiers' lives because, reportedly, he believed that God would protect him from bullets. (HT Claudo, again!)

UPDATE 3: NBC caved to the bullies.