Fact Checking the Sunday Shows

January 18, 2010 9:32 am ET

On yesterday's political talk shows, a vast majority of the time was rightly spent discussing the human tragedies following the disastrous earthquake in Haiti.  However, the calamity did not stop Sen. Mitch McConnell from further perpetuating the false rightwing talking point that Americans oppose health care reform, or former Bush advisor Karen Hughes from falsely implying the Obama administration wasn't obtaining intelligence from detained terrorists.

Fox News Sunday

CLAIM: Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell falsely claimed the American people oppose health care reform.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: [On the health care bill] I think it's stoppable because the American people are literally screaming at us, "please don't pass it."

BRIT HUME, HOST: They've been screaming for awhile.


HUME: What about whether you can stop it in the Senate.

MCCONNELL: Well, we're gonna do everything we can to defeat this bill. The American people are asking us to defeat this bill. They're hollering at us, "please defeat this bill." I'm still hoping that at some point some Democrat is gonna say, "I don't buy, any longer, this arrogant notion that we ought to ignore out constituents and pass it no matter what they think." It is perfectly clear, if it's unpopular in Massachusetts, it's unpopular everywhere, the American people don't want us to pass this bill.

FACT: Americans desperately want reform.  A majority of Americans support the current bill or, like many Democrats, want the bill to go even further.  Contrary to Sen. McConnell's assertion, less than a third of the public believes the bill goes too far.

  • Poll: Americans Support Current Bill, Want It Strengthened. CBS News released a telling poll on January 11, 2010.  Regarding extending coverage to the uninsured, the poll showed that 57% of Americans support the current plan or want it stronger - only 32% believe it goes too far.  On controlling health care costs, 60% support the plan or want it to go even further - only 24% think it goes too far.  And concerning new regulations on health insurance companies, 61% support the plan or want it stronger - only 27% believe it goes too far.

Meet the Press

CLAIM: Former Bush advisor Karen Hughes falsely implied the Obama administration has not interrogated the suspect in the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.

KAREN HUGHES, FMR. BUSH ADVISOR: I do think President Obama has made some decisions that have been ill-advised in the area of national security. For example, the decision to try the Christmas Day, the al Qaeda operative who came here to engage in an act of war against our country on Christmas Day in civilian courts is a mistake.  He's someone who was trained in the training camps in Yemen, he might have knowledge of other pending attacks against our country. He should have been interrogated legally and designated as an enemy combatant.

DAVID GREGORY, HOST: He did provide a good deal of information just being interrogated by existing methods.

HUGHES: Well, he could have, you think...

GREGORY: He was, he provided a lot of information so far...

HUGHES: I hope so. But again, I think it's a mistake to take someone, we have to be very honest about what is at stake in this war against al Qaeda.

FACT: The Obama administration has aggressively questioned Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and obtained vast amounts of actionable intelligence. As reported by Reuters:

A Nigerian charged in the incident, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, spent months in Yemen and told investigators he had trained with al Qaeda militants who took refuge there to plot attacks against Americans.

The White House says he is already providing useful information. "Abdulmutallab spent a number of hours with FBI investigators in which we gleaned usable actionable intelligence," spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday.


That could be valuable in light of reports that Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up a transatlantic airliner as it approached Detroit, told investigators after he was captured that more attackers like him were on the way.

"We are continuing to look at ways that we can extract that information from him," Obama's top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said on Sunday. "I think we have to assume that there are others out there."

CLAIM: Former Bush advisor Karen Hughes falsely claimed Richard Reid, the infamous "shoe bomber," was "was not sent here by Al Qaeda to engage in an act of war against our country."

HUGHES: We have to be very honest about what is at stake in this war against al Qaeda.

JOHN PODESTA (CEO, Center for American Progress): That's exactly what the Bush administration did with Mr. Reeves [sic], the shoe bomber, who was -- in very similar circumstances, was traveling to the United States.

HUGHES: The circumstances weren't similar. He was not sent here by Al Qaeda to engage in an act of war against our country. It was not a similar situation.

FACT: Richard Reid had ties to al Qaeda, pledged allegiance Osama bin Laden, and claimed to be "at war" with the United States.

Two of the counts against Reid said "[at] various times relevant to this count, Richard Colvin Reid received training from Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan." On January 16, 2002, a grand jury indicted Reid on eight counts related to terrorism, including "attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against a national of the United States," and "attempted homicide of a national of the United States outside the United States." For those two charges, the indictment states:

1. At all times relevant to this count brought under Title 18, United States Code, Chapter 113B--Terrorism, Al-Qaeda was a designated foreign terrorist organization pursuant to 8 U.S.C. §1189.

2. At various times relevant to this count, Richard Colvin Reid received training from Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The Bush administration's FBI Director reportedly said FBI believed "an al Qaeda bomb maker" made Reid's bomb. In a May 2002 speech before the National Association of District Attorneys, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III reportedly said that the FBI believed that ''an Al Qaeda bomb maker'' made Reid's shoe bomb.

Reid: I "admit my allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah." According to CNN transcripts from Reid's January 30, 2003, sentencing hearing, Reid said: "I further admit my allegiance to Osama bin Laden," and "I am at war with your country." He added:

REID: With regards to what you said about killing innocent people, I will say one thing. Your government has killed 2 million children in Iraq. If you want to think about something, against 2 million, I don't see no comparison.

Your government has sponsored the rape and torture of Muslims in the prisons of Egypt and Turkey and Syria and Jordan with their money and with their weapons. I don't know, see what I done as being equal to rape and to torture, or to the deaths of the two million children in Iraq.

 Reid: "I am at war with your country." Reid further stated:

REID: So, for this reason, I think I ought not apologize for my actions. I am at war with your country. I'm at war with them not for personal reasons but because they have murdered more than, so many children and they have oppressed my religion and they have oppressed people for no reason except that they say we believe in Allah.