Schultz Defends His ‘McCain is a Warmonger’ Comment on CNN

Liberal talk show host Ed Schultz, appearing on Monday’s "American Morning" on CNN, defended his labeling of John McCain as a "warmonger" at a recent Obama campaign fundraiser, despite the statement being repudiated by Obama’s campaign. Twice, Schultz stated that "the man [McCain] is a warmonger" and used the term a total of five times during the course of the interview. Not only did Schultz defend his remark, he also claimed that McCain mistreated his fellow veterans with his votes on veterans’ benefits. [Audio available here.]

Co-host John Roberts, who interviewed Schultz, compared the talk show host’s remark to Bill Cunningham’s use of Obama’s middle name "Hussein" at a February 2008 McCain rally and how the Republican candidate repudiated Cunningham. At the same time, Roberts didn’t press Schultz too hard on the "warmonger" labeling.

The interview, which began 39 minutes into the 6 am hour of "American Morning," began with Roberts asking Schultz about Mark Penn’s resignation as chief strategist for the Hillary Clinton campaign, instead of starting with the "warmonger" comment. After Schultz answered, Roberts asked, "Your comments calling John McCain a ‘warmonger’ on Friday. Why did you call him a warmonger?" Schultz’s answer:

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterSCHULTZ: Because he is. Labeling a candidate is not being disrespectful. And his policies, John, fit the description. There's no question about that. This is a very serious time for Americans. We were quiet in 2002 and didn't speak up and I see a pattern taking place again today. We need to speak up and challenge these candidates. John McCain has no end game in Iraq. He's saber rattling with Iran. He wants to throw the Russians out of the G-8. And yesterday, on your network, he said he wants to increase the military. Now I ask Americans this morning, what kind of message does it sends to the world when we're occupying Iraq and we've got a candidate calling for more of a military buildup. This is outrageous. The man is a warmonger.

Roberts then read the Obama campaign’s statement repudiating Schultz, and brought up his Cunningham comparison. "This is somewhat similar to the Bill Cunningham incident where he kept calling Barack Obama, ‘Barack Hussein Obama,’ and people thought it was pejorative. After that, John McCain, threw him under the bus. Bill Cunningham told me ‘I got thrown under the Straight Talk Express.’ The Obama campaign didn't quite throw you under the bus here."

Without missing a beat, Schultz continued his defense of the label and brought up how McCain apparently "kicked the veterans to the side of the road like road kill with his votes" concerning veterans’ benefits.

After playing a clip of McCain commenting on the Obama campaign’s repudiation of Schultz, Roberts asked, "What about this idea, as John McCain is talking about, about holding a respectful campaign and where does the word ‘warmonger’ fit into that?" In reply, Schultz merely stuck to his talking points.

SCHULTZ: Well, his policies fit the description. Warmonger is a label. It is not a personal shot at John McCain. And I think that sound bite you just played by John McCain goes to show that he wants this story to go away. I think that this label of being a warmonger is really going to stick and it's really also going to bring to the forefront that we're still about this war. And we are spending billions of dollars. We have no end in sight. He wants an open-ended policy. He wants to continue what Bush has done. I'm sorry, John, but the label sticks. He is a warmonger.

The full transcript of the Ed Schultz interview from Monday’s "American Morning:"

JOHN ROBERTS: Coming up on 20 minutes now to the top of the hour and back to politics. Hillary Clinton's chief strategist Mark Penn, as we said, the latest casualty in a campaign that has had its share of collateral damage from comments by surrogates and supporters. You'll recall, Barack Obama adviser Samantha Power had to step aside last month after calling Hillary Clinton, quote, 'a monster.' Back in February, talk show host, Bill Cunningham, a John McCain supporter, felt the heat when he kept referring to Barack Obama in this way.

BILL CUNNINGHAM, TALK SHOW HOST: Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama.

ROBERTS: Obama campaign is backing away from comments by radio host, Ed Schultz. At an Obama fundraiser on Friday in North Dakota, Schultz called John McCain a ‘warmonger.’ He's going to be addressing it on the radio today. But before he does that he joins us here on 'American Morning' from Fargo, North Dakota. Ed, good to see you.

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Good to see you, John. Good to be with you.

ROBERTS: Hey, before I asked you about the McCain comments you made last week, let me ask you about Mark Penn. What do you think of this whole thing? What kind of impact do you think it's going to have on Hillary Clinton's campaign?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think it's a serious error in judgment by Mark Penn. But I think the Clintons are so far into this. I don't think it's going to have a real big effect on the campaign. Hillary Clinton knows what she wants to say to the American people. In fact, I thought she gave a fabulous speech in Grand Forks on Friday night. I listened to all of it and I thought she was spot on. So she's on point. She's on message. She's doing everything she can to get the nomination. I don't think Penn being around -- not being around anymore is going to affect her campaign at all.

ROBERTS: All right. Let's move to the topic you're going to be speaking to on the radio today. Your comments calling John McCain a ‘warmonger’ on Friday. Why did you call him a warmonger?

SCHULTZ: Because he is. Labeling a candidate is not being disrespectful. And his policies, John, fit the description. There's no question about that. This is a very serious time for Americans. We were quiet in 2002 and didn't speak up and I see a pattern taking place again today. We need to speak up and challenge these candidates. John McCain has no end game in Iraq. He's saber rattling with Iran. He wants to throw the Russians out of the G-8. And yesterday, on your network, he said he wants to increase the military. Now I ask Americans this morning, what kind of message does it sends to the world when we're occupying Iraq and we've got a candidate calling for more of a military buildup. This is outrageous. The man is a warmonger.

ROBERTS: Well, the Obama campaign disagrees with your comments. Here's what Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the Obama campaign said, quote, ‘John McCain is not a warmonger and should not be described as such. He is a supporter of a war that Senator Obama believes should have never been authorized and never been waged.’ This is somewhat similar to the Bill Cunningham incident where he kept calling Barack Obama, ‘Barack Hussein Obama,’ and people thought it was pejorative. After that, John McCain, threw him under the bus. Bill Cunningham told me ‘I got thrown under the Straight Talk Express.’ The Obama campaign didn't quite throw you under the bus here.

SCHULTZ: Well, that's because it's two different situations. Cunningham attacked Obama's heritage. I'm going after McCain's policies. There is a huge difference. And I don't need Barack Obama or any other senators speak for me. And I don't speak for the Obama camp. But I can tell you that there are listeners out there across talk radio in America who are very concerned about John McCain's position, and I think I'm getting a lot of blog traffic supporting the fact that somebody is telling it like it is. The man is a warmonger.

Now, another thing I want to point out, John. Since 2001, on 10 different occasions, John McCain has voted against veteran's benefits. Now, this man has framed his campaign to be the war candidate. He brings up commercials about how he was in captivity in Vietnam. He portrays the idea to the American people that he is a big supporter of the military. He has kicked the veterans to the side of the road like road kill with his votes. You can check it out. But of course, most Americans don't find out how senators vote.

ROBERTS: Now, the McCain had been calling on Obama to condemn your remarks. But yesterday aboard his campaign plane, he seemed to back off a little bit on this idea of condemnation. Here's what he had to say.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's satisfactory that -- the statement by his campaign. And I hope we can keep these things to a minimum. I know that as we talked earlier many times, it's a free country. Everybody has the right to say what they want to say.... And a lot of the rhetoric gets heated in American politics. But Americans want a respectful campaign.

ROBERTS: As we said at the top, it is hardly a week goes by that a supporter or a surrogate doesn't say something that the campaign has to repudiate in some fashion. What about this idea, as John McCain is talking about, about holding a respectful campaign and where does the word ‘warmonger’ fit into that?

SCHULTZ: Well, his policies fit the description. Warmonger is a label. It is not a personal shot at John McCain. And I think that sound bite you just played by John McCain goes to show that he wants this story to go away. I think that this label of being a warmonger is really going to stick and it's really also going to bring to the forefront that we're still about this war. And we are spending billions of dollars. We have no end in sight. He wants an open-ended policy. He wants to continue what Bush has done. I'm sorry, John, but the label sticks. He is a warmonger.

ROBERTS: What time are you going to be talking about this on the radio, Ed?

SCHULTZ: I'm on from noon to 3, WWRL in New York City. And also, on hundred other stations across America. And believe me, the listeners are on point with this.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll be listening. Ed Schultz, I have been on your program several times. It's good to have you on ours this morning. Thanks for coming on.

SCHULTZ: You bet, John. Thank you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center