Scarborough Parrots Harry Reid's Faulty Claim ‘We Don’t Have a Secretary of Defense in Place’

On today’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough repeated the fib that our country is currently operating without a secretary of defense. After playing a clip of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) explaining the Republican ill will toward nominee Chuck Hagel, Scarborough unleashed his venom:

You know... for the 66,000 troops currently serving in Afghanistan and for the families all across America this morning, I'm sure they're glad to know that we don't have a secretary of defense in place and we're not going to because of a seven-year-old political grudge.

As NewsBusters noted yesterday, that’s just not true. A senior Defense Department official told us that current secretary Leon Panetta will in fact remain in office until his successor is both confirmed and sworn in. Other media outlets like Foreign Policy magazine have reported similarly.

Scarborough’s lie (or was he simply misinformed?) mirrors the information peddled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the Senate floor yesterday morning. The Nevada Democrat had claimed that, as of noon Eastern time on Valentine's Day, the Office of Secretary of Defense would be vacated. The Pentagon has refuted that claim, with a Panetta staffer telling NewsBusters the current secretary will stay on until his successor is both "confirmed and sworn in."

That particular untruth may have added sensationalism to Scarborough’s anti-Republican rant, but it did nothing to help his credibility as an honest commentator. 

Below is a transcript of the segment:

 

MIKA: Joe, Senator John McCain offered a different -- and this is -- actually, I felt better after I heard this -- he offered a different rationale for the Republican opposition. It's personal. It's one that dates back to the Bush presidency.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Oh, okay.

JOHN MCCAIN: There's a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly. At one point said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover, said that the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which is nonsense. And was very anti his own party and people. People don't forget that. You can disagree, but if you're disagreeable, then people don't forget that.

SCARBOROUGH: You know, Richard Haass, for the 66,000 troops currently serving in Afghanistan and for the families all across America this morning, I'm sure they're glad to know that we don't have a secretary of defense in place and we're not going to because of a seven-year-old political grudge. Forget about sequestration. Forget about all the cuts. There are men and women on the ground in Afghanistan today fighting and possibly dying for this country, and they don't have a secretary of defense running the Pentagon because of a six or seven-year-old grudge? Really?

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.