Soledad O'Brien Grills Republican Over Susan Rice, But Lets Democrat Off the Hook

Showing an obvious double standard, CNN's Soledad O'Brien asked a GOP congressman whether Republicans were hypocritical for opposing Susan Rice's potential candidacy for Secretary of State, but she failed to ask tough questions of a Democratic congressman about Rice's qualifications.

O'Brien insisted that although some Republicans are opposing Susan Rice's candidacy because she circulated false information on the Libya attacks, "Isn't that exactly analogous of what happened with Condoleezza Rice, who John McCain supported and who Lindsey Graham supported?" she pressed Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.)

O'Brien was highlighting the alleged double standard of Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain who now oppose Susan Rice for Secretary of State. She followed up by pressing Heck to admit their hypocrisy by nominating Condoleezza Rice but opposing Susan Rice.

However, when she later hosted Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), O'Brien did not challenge him with criticisms from the right over, for example, Susan Rice's qualifications. Instead, she simply teed him up with the same question she pressured Heck with. "Do you see something analogous there?" she asked.

So O'Brien used the same talking point found on liberal blogs to question both a Republican and a Democrat, rather than asking tough questions of both sides.

Ruppersberger shot the analogy down. "You know, unfortunately there's too much at stake with these appointments to worry about what happened in the past or payback," he stated. "And I think that the President was reelected, and he's going to pick who he thinks is the best person for the job."

A transcript of the segments, which aired on November 15 on Starting Point beginning at 8:04 a.m. EST, is as follows:

[8:04]

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You heard -- I was just talking to Dan Lothian about what the President has said, backing the U.N. Ambassador, Susan Rice. We know that John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both senators, have said they would try to scuttle any nomination if that would happen. Would you support that scuttling? I mean, do you want to kill her nomination, in fact?

Rep. JOE HECK (R-Nev.): Well, the fact is you can't put somebody out as the face of the issue on all the Sunday morning talk shows and then turn around weeks later and say she knew nothing about the incident and had nothing to do with it. I mean, that is just plainly wrong. You don't put somebody out who doesn't know about the issue and just have them go out to feed us the information that the administration wants put out. So we have to get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi, and certainly the Senate will hold confirmation hearings, if she's nominated to be the Secretary of State, and I leave it to the Senate to decide.

O'BRIEN: But didn't that happen with Condi Rice? Yeah, I mean, Anderson was asking John McCain this yesterday, right? I mean, if you use that measurement, put someone out, for example, about weapons of mass destruction that turn out, ultimately, not to be the case and they're the face of that and then later you determine that they're not there and the information was wrong. Isn't that exactly analogous of what happened with Condoleezza Rice, who John McCain supported and who Lindsey Graham supported?

HECK: I don't believe so, because here we had a situation where the information was wrong, not coming back and saying the person had nothing to do with the situation. I mean, Condi Rice was in the position to be able to be the face. And the information was wrong. But here, we had wrong information and then weeks later, we had the administration coming back saying, well, this person had nothing to do with the situation. So –

(Crosstalk)

O'BRIEN: Let me walk through that more slowly so you don't lose me. So you're saying the issue in both cases, was the weapons of mass destruction and information intelligence coming to the U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, both cases the information was wrong. So what you take exception with is what the White House did later? Is that what you're saying?

HECK: Exactly. The fact is that what we have is a situation where somebody who had no firsthand knowledge is now put out to be the face of the incident, and then weeks later is saying, come and attack me because she had nothing to do with it. Look, we not only have to get to the bottom –

O'BRIEN: You've lost me completely. Let's back up again. I'm sorry. Forgive me. You've lost me. So in both cases you have someone who says we had intelligence. The intelligence was wrong. What I said was wrong because the intelligence was wrong. How is this not analogous to Ambassador Susan Rice, and to Condoleezza Rice?

HECK: Because nobody came out and said that Condoleezza Rice had nothing to do with the situation. Here's the difference, is that they put forward really a sacrificial lamb in Ambassador Rice, somebody who could go out, make statements, and then they could claim deniability after the information was proven to be wrong. That didn't happen.

O'BRIEN: So nobody said that Condoleezza – so, Charles Blow, help me. Forgive me. I'm not being facetious at all. I'm just truly trying to understand this. So, he is saying nobody said that Condoleezza Rice didn't have anything to do with the situation.

CHARLES BLOW, columnist, New York Times: What I'm trying to figure out is are you saying that Condoleezza Rice actually should have known, because she had more intimacy with the information and then still said something that she knew was wrong and that, in fact, Susan Rice is a sacrificial lamb because she was put out as the face of the administration for something that she didn't know anything? So, in fact, it's more of a defense of Susan Rice than it is a condemnation of Susan Rice.

O'BRIEN: That's what it sounds like to me.

BLOW: That's how it sounds to me.

O'BRIEN: So forgive me, sir. Will you walk us through that one more time? You think it's different because Condoleezza Rice actually had firsthand knowledge?

(Crosstalk)

HECK: Nobody came back after the fact in that situation with Condoleezza Rice to say she had no knowledge, had nothing to do with the situation. Here we're saying that Ambassador Rice was put out as the public face and then after the information blew up, was found to be wrong, was told -- was said that she had nothing to do with the situation and no knowledge. So why was she put out as the face of the administration on this issue? We have to get to the bottom of not only the response to the attacks in Benghazi, but also to the ultimate failures of the intelligence community to recognize the threat and prepare for the threat to mitigate the attack.

O'BRIEN: I feel like you're saying from your own comments that Susan Rice had nothing to do with either of those things. Right? She didn't have something to do with the intelligence failures, which I believe you just said. And it looks as if she also had no knowledge at the time. So, she's cleared on that front. Later, maybe the White House with his reiterating that she had no knowledge. So, why would you possibly blame her then?

HECK: Well, I'm not blaming Ambassador Rice. What I'm blaming is the administration for not putting forward the information that they had in a quick enough manner to put clarity to the situation to the American people and to the family of those that were lost. We still have conflicting information between the intelligence community and the administration and that's what we hope to get to the bottom of today, in the intelligence hearing that we'll be having with Director of National Intelligence Clapper and Acting Director Morell, as well as tomorrow when former Director Petraeus comes before the House Intelligence committee.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Joe Heck joining us this morning. Thank you, sir. We appreciate your time. And I appreciate you walking through that slowly for me, because I was getting a little confused about what you were telling me. Thank you.

(...)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Earlier I was talking to Joe Heck, congressman. And I was asking him if there are parallels – because my understanding is that he does not support Ambassador Rice being promoted to Secretary of State and he was talking about what has been asked of Senator McCain and Senator Graham, which is, is there some kind of analogy between what we see now with the Ambassador and what we have seen before with Condoleezza Rice when she was in the process of being nominated? Do you see something analogous there?

Rep. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D-Md.): You know, unfortunately there's too much at stake with these appointments to worry about what happened in the past or payback. You know, the election is over. We've got some serious issues. We've got national security issues, we've a lot of volatility out in this world. And I think that the President was reelected, and he's going to pick who he thinks is the best person for the job. And then the process is if the U.S. Senate will confirm (Inaudible) nomination.

I hope all members of Congress and the U.S. Senate will base it on facts and data and not political agendas or not political issues. We've had enough of that. And we have to move forward, not only in this arena, but the fiscal issue that we're going to be dealing with in the next couple of days and weeks also.


 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014