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Greta Van Susteren Distorts Panetta’s Words To Malign Him

Reported by Ellen - June 16, 2009 -

Supposed Fox News liberal Greta Van Susteren misrepresented CIA Director Leon Panetta’s remarks about Dick Cheney in the opening headline of her discussion about it last night (6/15/09). In her introduction to an interview with Senator John McCain, Van Susteren said, “CIA Director Leon Panetta says former Vice President Dick Cheney wants America to be attacked. What provoked this statement?” In fact, Panetta did not say such a thing, as the actual quote that Van Susteren subsequently read proved. But not surprisingly, Van Susteren used it to goad McCain to attack the Obama administration. It was soon clear that Van Susteren must have known of McCain's stance against Panetta before the interview. It proved that her question was just a formality to give him a platform to demand that Panetta retract his statement. With video.

Van Susteren explained, “It all started with former VP Cheney’s speech on May 21st. The former vice president said banning enhanced interrogation methods (funny how “liberal” Van Susteren adopted the GOP-preferred term for what many call torture) would make America less safe and called it ‘recklessness cloaked in righteousness.’"

As she spoke, a banner on the screen read: CIA Director Leon Panetta says fmr VP Cheney wants U.S. to be attacked.

Van Susteren continued, “Well, now CIA Director Leon Panetta is taking on the former vice president, telling the New Yorker magazine, ‘I think he smells some blood in the water on the national security issue... When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again. I think that’s dangerous politics.’”

It’s perfectly clear to me that Panetta was not accusing Cheney of wanting the country to be attacked. Panetta was using a bit of hyperbole to make his point about the partisan lengths to which Cheney was going.

But in a masterful dodge away from the substance of Panetta’s remarks, Van Susteren framed the discussion as a partisan feud between Panetta and Cheney and gave a strong nudge to McCain for attacking Panetta. “What do you think about the director’s statements about the vice president?” Van Susteren asked.

McCain took the bait. “I think the director’s statements are totally uncalled for,” he said.

A banner immediately appeared on the screen saying, “Sen McCain: CIA Director Panetta should retract statements on Cheney.” McCain had said no such thing yet so he must have spoken out earlier elsewhere. In other words, Van Susteren and Fox knew McCain’s stance ahead of time and just set up a platform for him. Sure enough, McCain called on Panetta to retract his statements “immediately.”

Van Susteren further goosed McCain by highlighting as “interesting” Cheney’s reference to Panetta as “my old friend.” It’s hard to believe Van Susteren wouldn’t have known that Cheney and Panetta are or were friends, making it all the more remarkable that Panetta would have spoken out against Cheney the way he did. But as soon as McCain spun it to say that it was all the more reason that Panetta should have known better, Van Susteren dropped it, without suggesting what Panetta's view may have been (though she did later suggest that the White House may have put him up to it). There was no later guest offering a pro-Panetta perspective, either.