[Update, 3:05 pm: Transcript of Toobin's remarks added below.]
For two straight days, CNN repeated liberal rumors about Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s political record – rumors that had already been debunked by their own correspondents, as well as the respected FactCheck.org, a group led by former CNN reporter Brooks Jackson.
During Monday evening’s Election Center program, CNN’s senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin claimed that Palin "wants to ban all abortions," despite a September 2 report by his own network which included a quote from the Alaska governor that she is "pro-life... [w]ith the exception of a doctor's determination that the mother's life would end if the pregnancy continued." Toobin also claimed that Palin "wants to treat -- to have creationism taught in public schools." This isn’t the entire story. A FactCheck.org report released on Monday, which aimed to refute "dubious Internet postings and mass e-mail messages making claims about McCain's running mate," clarified that Palin "supports teaching creationism alongside evolution, though she has not actively pursued such a policy as governor."
Less than ten hours later, during Tuesday’s American Morning, correspondent Jessica Yellin, in a report purporting to give the "facts" about Palin’s fiscal record at the beginning of the 6 am hour of the program, stated that "Palin has used her line-item veto to cut funds for special interest programs called earmarks, but Democrats criticize her for slashing programs, even for people with disabilities, a group she's vowed to defend." Yellin, like Toobin, didn’t tell the whole story. The same FactCheck.org report began by stating that Palin "did not cut funding for special needs education in Alaska by 62 percent. She didn't cut it at all. In fact, she tripled per-pupil funding over just three year." The report cited CNN’s Soledad O’Brien’s use of the supposed 62 percent figure on September 4 as an example of how far these "dubious Internet postings and mass e-mail messages" had gone.
The FactCheck.org report, titled "Sliming Palin," included transcript of O’Brien citing the 62 percent figure to McCain campaign spokesperson Nicolle Wallace. During the interview segment, O’Brien went further than merely citing the figure. She pressed Wallace on the matter, and went so far to ask if Palin would "completely contradict what she did as governor when it comes to special needs?"
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: One are that has gotten, certainly, people sending to me a lot of e-mails is the question about, as governor, what she did with the special needs budget, which I'm sure you're aware, she cut significantly -- 62 percent, I think, is the number from when she came into office. As a woman who is now a mother to a special needs child -- and I think she actually has a nephew which is autistic as well -- how much of a problem is this going to be as she tries to navigate both sides of that issue?
NICOLLE WALLACE: Well, you're -- you're a woman who does it all and so is she, and I think that when she is in the White House -- and her message last night was that -- that if she and Senator McCain have the privilege and honor of serving in the White House, that -- that special needs, the special needs advocates in the community will have someone in the White House who will not only listen and fight for them, but who knows exactly what every parent of a special needs child is going through.
O'BRIEN: But those -- those advocates have said -- those advocates have actually said the opposite of that. Those advocates have said, as a woman who is now a mother of a special needs child, she's not fighting -- she's cut the budget by 62 percent since she came into office, and doesn't that show a contradiction?
WALLACE: Well, she put down a marker last night that -- you know, I've spent some time with her over the last five days, and this is a woman who is true to her word. So she put down the marker last night, and no one in this country should doubt anything that she said. I mean, she means what she says and she says what she means. I think we saw that in many, many, many instances of her speech last night.
O'BRIEN: So you think she'll completely contradict what she did as governor when it comes to special needs?
WALLACE: Soledad, I think she's a woman of her word, and I think that when she said last night that the special needs communities and moms and dads of special needs kids will have an advocate in the White House, she meant what she said.
O'BRIEN: We will see. Nicolle Wallace is a McCain spokesperson. Nice to see you, Nicolle. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.
The transcript of Toobin’s remarks from Monday’s Election Center program:
CAMPBELL BROWN: ...Democrats gunning now for Sarah Palin, who's shown enough star power to lift John McCain up in the polls. We want to go back to our panel, Bay Buchanan, Roland Martin, and Jeffrey Toobin, and Jeff, this is important, because we know women voters are key to winning this election. If John McCain can increase the number of women supporting him, he can beat Barack Obama here. Some people wondering whether Hillary Clinton should be the one to take on Sarah Palin, whether she could be a real weapon for Barack Obama. But her former communications director Howard Wolfson wrote in The New Republic today that people are 'just jonesing for a catfight,' in his words, 'and it ain't going to happen.' But why couldn't Hillary Clinton be the one to go after Palin? Does she just not want to get mucked up in all this?
JEFFREY TOOBIN: Well, I think it is a terrible idea to assign this to Hillary Clinton. I think Hillary Clinton is a major national figure. She should be dealing with John McCain, dealing with the issues. Yes, she can deal with Palin in the same limited way. But I just think --
BROWN: But if you -- isn't the threat here -- I mean, look what has energized and excited Republicans -- Sarah Palin. So, if you're a Democrat, aren't you saying, well, this is our real problem? Who do we send to deal with this?
TOOBIN: Maybe I'm naive, but I think, if Hillary Clinton talks about the issues that matter to women -- if she's talking about the fact that Palin wants to ban all abortions, wants to treat -- to have creationism taught in public schools, if that -- those are the issues she should be talking about. But the idea of setting, you know, the Democratic woman against the Republican woman -- I think it's demeaning to Hillary Clinton and it's not a good idea.