Matching CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC Distort McCain on Hamas in 2006

The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Friday conveyed Barack Obama's charge of hypocrisy by John McCain on dealing with Hamas, all based on one January 28, 2006 soundbite fed to them by the Obama campaign via the Huffington Post -- “They're the government, and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another” -- though, in fact, in an interview that same day with CNN, in the same snowy setting, McCain made clear the U.S. could deal with Hamas only if it were to “renounce” its “commitment to the extinction of the state of Israel. Then we can do business again.”

CBS's Dean Reynolds presumed Obama had caught McCain in a flip-flop: “Obama called McCain a hypocrite for backing Bush, and pointed to an earlier statement McCain had made about Hamas, which runs the Gaza strip.” After the “they're the government, and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another” McCain soundbite, Reynolds reported that “today McCain clarified,” as if he had to adjust his earlier view. On NBC, Lee Cowan highlighted how “Obama pointed to this interview two years ago when the Arizona Senator seemed to hint that eventually talking with Hamas might well be a political necessity.” Following the clip, Cowan allowed: “McCain says, though, that quote was taken out of context.”

ABC's David Wright played the McCain clip, but then uniquely acknowledged that it didn't match his point at the time, noting that McCain on Friday recalled “he went on to say, in that interview, that he would not negotiate with Hamas unless it renounced violence and recognized Israel.”

The 2006 clip favored by the media was put into play Friday morning, on CNN's American Morning, by current Clinton campaign operative Jamie Rubin who conducted the Sky News interview.

Rubin, a Clinton administration State Department official married to CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, and now working for the Hillary Clinton campaign, was invited aboard CNN to expound on his Friday op-ed in the Washington Post, “Hypocrisy on Hamas: McCain Was for Talking Before He Was Against It.”

Once contemporaneous interview video proved that Rubin's selected soundbite, fed to journalists by the Obama campaign, misrepresented McCain's policy position reporters should have ignored it -- or made an issue of the joint Clinton/Obama effort to distort McCain's record, just as they have spent the last 24 hours fulminating over the supposed distortion, by McCain and Bush, of Obama's position on talking to terrorist groups and leaders.

SkyNews is a British news channel owned by News Corporation.

As recounted in an earlier NewsBusters posting by the MRC's Matthew Balan, “CNN Lets Clintonista Denounce McCain’s 'Hypocrisy' on Hamas, But CNN's Own Tape Undercuts Claim,” CNN trusted “Rubin as the authority on what McCain’s stance was two years ago, instead of their own archival video” of the January 28, 2006 6 PM EDT edition of CNN Saturday which the MRC found in our archive:

CNN correspondent Elaine Quijano introduced the soundbite of McCain: "One prominent Senator says it's an untenable position to have a government in the Middle East led by a group committed to the destruction of its neighbor, Israel." McCain then said in the clip: "Hopefully, that Hamas -- now that they are going to govern, will be motivated to renounce this -- this commitment to the extinction of the state of Israel. Then we can do business again -- we can resume aid. We can resume the peace process. It's very, very important though that they renounce this commitment."

From the Friday, May 16 broadcast network evening newscasts, the coverage of the 2006 McCain soundbite, all portions of longer stories about Obama denouncing McCain and Bush for accusing him of “appeasement”:

CBS Evening News:
DEAN REYNOLDS: Obama called McCain a hypocrite for backing Bush, and pointed to an earlier statement McCain had made about Hamas, which runs the Gaza strip.

McCAIN, JANUARY 2006: They're the government, and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another.

REYNOLDS: Today McCain clarified.

McCAIN: I do not and would not sit down and negotiate with terrorist organizations and never have.

NBC Nightly News:
LEE COWAN: Or worse, he says, distorting the facts -- something he accused John McCain of doing.

BARACK OBAMA: John McCain has repeated this notion that I'm prepared to negotiate with terrorists. I have never said that. I've been adamant about not negotiating with Hamas.

COWAN: And that's something he says is not true of Senator McCain. Obama pointed to this interview two years ago when the Arizona Senator seemed to hint that eventually talking with Hamas might well be a political necessity.

McCAIN, JANUARY OF 2006, IN WEB VIDEO OF SKY NEWS: Sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another. [edit jump] It's a new reality in the Middle East.

COWAN: McCain says, though, that quote was taken out of context and told NBC's Kelly O'Donnell today:

McCAIN: My position was that I do not and would not sit down and negotiate with terrorist organizations and never have.

ABC's World News:
DAVID WRIGHT: Today McCain was also forced to debate himself. Specifically, the tough line he takes now.

McCAIN, MARCH 26: I would not negotiate with Hamas.

WRIGHT: How consistent is that with what he told Sky News two years ago, shortly after Hamas won the Palestinian election?

McCAIN, JANUARY 2006, IN WEB VIDEO: They're the government, and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another.

WRIGHT: Today McCain clarified that he went on to say, in that interview, that he would not negotiate with Hamas unless it renounced violence and recognized Israel.

McCAIN, TODAY: My position was that I do not and would not sit down and negotiate with terrorist organizations and never have.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center