On 'Hardball,' NBC's Norah O'Donnell Laughs At Santorum, New WMD Revelations

In the closing minutes of MSNBC's "Hardball" on Thursday night, guest host Norah O'Donnell was wrapping up with anti-war liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and anti-war paleoconservative Pat Buchanan. (That should not qualify in any studio as a balanced left-right panel on the war.) MRC's Geoff Dickens noted that O'Donnell couldn't maintain much objectivity as they discussed conservative Sen. Rick Santorum and the new declassified document showing American forces have found 500 WMDs, sarin and mustard gas, in Iraq. Both columnists pounded Santorum -- and O'Donnell laughed at the liberal's gibes, repeatedly.

O'Donnell began the segment by playing a clip of Santorum speaking out:

"Now, that was the Senator Santorum on the Senate floor yesterday. Let me ask both of you, do you think, that if had we found weapons of mass destruction, that the White House would allow Senator Rick Santorum to announce that we’d found them?"

Eugene Robinson: "It sounds pretty unlikely to me. I really don’t think so."

[O’Donnell laughs]

Pat Buchanan: "Karl Rove would have announced that. But you know what the Pentagon..."

O’Donnell: "That’s right. What the heck is going on, and what is Rick Santorum doing on the Senate floor saying, ‘we found the weapons of mass destruction?’"

Buchanan: "Here’s what the Pentagon says and what I guess what is true, you probably found 500 artillery shells which were used for chemical weapons, that were predated the Gulf War and they’re lying around out there and they were not activated. The Senator said however that Saddam had used them between the Gulf War and this war, and this’s no evidence that that has happened. I think unless the senator has some information nobody else has got, he’s got a little bit of a credibility problem."

Robinson: "The, the chief weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, said today that these are in fact munitions, shells essentially predated..."

O’Donnell: "Not weapons of mass destruction."

Robinson: "Not weapons of mass destruction and certainly not any more. They predate the Gulf War. The, the, the agents inside the gases inside or the chemicals inside, degrade over time. So you, I mean you wouldn’t want to, you know, like go banging on one with a hammer at this point. That could be..."

[O’Donnell laughs]

Robinson: "...that could be bad. But other than they’re not gonna hurt you at this point."

O’Donnell: "Well here’s..."

Buchanan: "It’s like those shells that are buried up in Spring Valley. You’ve heard about those haven’t you?"

O’Donnell: "I have, I have. Spring Valley is here in Washington."

Buchanan: "World War I stuff, right?"

O’Donnell: "The big question, of course, is why would Republican Senator Rick Santorum announce that we found the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Here’s what Congresswoman Jane Harman said."

[Rep. Jane Harman: "I think it is a bit suspicious that this information is being rolled out the night before the Iraq debate in the Senate by a senator who is extremely endangered in a close political race, and I’m very disappointed because what it leads me to believe is our intelligence community has not learned the lessons, that hyping, cherry picking, letting its information be politicized is not good for American security."]

O’Donnell: "Pat, let me ask you, Senator Rick Santorum is in a difficult Senate race."

Buchanan: "He’s down 18 points in one poll, which is extraordinary for a senator that is as experienced and well known as he is and he’s in a very rough fight. I don’t know if Miss Harman is right, but I don’t doubt, but who ever gave this information to the senator, I think, I think the senator ought to get on the phone to him unless he’s got something that I don`t know, because this sure doesn’t sound like it’s gonna stand up."

O’Donnell: "Eugene, this is the kind of statement in Washington that can become very, obviously, explosive, and very damaging."

Robinson: "I think so, I think that this will come back to haunt him. I think it will stick with him, you know. There are times when desperation makes sense as a political strategy."

[O’Donnell laughs]

Robinson: "If you’re 18 down in the polls, you know, it, it may seem to make sense at the time, but you can see that clip being played over and over again by opponents and by other Democrats."

Buchanan: "‘Santorum’s WMDs.’ He, if I were him, I’d get the Pentagon on the phone and say, ‘Look you guys,’ whoever told him this, ‘look, you guys back me up, you’re the ones that gave me this stuff.’ I don’t think he made that up on the floor, somebody told him this obviously and he went ahead with it, that’s my guess."

O’Donnell: "Well of course, they did, they found some old munitions. I mean they did find 500 old munitions, that’s what the military’s saying, but they are saying they’re not weapons of mass destruction, they were, they contain dangerous gases etc. from..."

Robinson: "Silence, silence from the White House is deafening on, on this today."

Buchanan: "Yeah."

Robinson: "And the Pentagon has essentially pulled the rug out from under him by saying, ‘Well, you know, not exactly.’ So I think, I think this, this episode is..."

O’Donnell: "Well, I’m sitting in this chair again tomorrow night..."

Buchanan: "I think..."

O’Donnell: "I’m sitting here again tomorrow night. I have a feeling we’re gonna be talking about it and you’re gonna be talking with Chris next week."

Buchanan: "You should get, you should get Rick Santorum on. You should invite him on, you should invite him on."

O’Donnell: "We’re working on it. We will do that."

Robinson: "Ask him to bring one of those weapons of..."

[O’Donnell laughs]

O’Donnell: "We, we did invite him on tonight. He had a commitment. So we’ll go back at him. Thank you, Pat Buchanan and Gene Robinson."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis