Last Tuesday, we pointed out comments made by Sen. Hillary Clinton to an Arab newspaper, blasting the Bush administration.
She said of the Bush administration: “Their stubbornness and arrogance is breathtaking. And, as a result, we continue to go down a path that I think is fraught with horrible dangers, especially for the young men and women serving in Iraq, but also for Iraqis, for the stability of the region.”
Her complaints were published by Arab newspapers and repeated across the Middle East.
I reminded the senator that she and other public figures have to be extremely careful about what they say to the press while our troops are in the middle of a Fallujah firefight. For the most part, Senator Clinton has been responsible with her words since 9/11. But early Wednesday morning, Ms. Clinton‘s office began calling our staff and the MSNBC President Rick Kaplan claiming the statements we reported last night were never made by the senator.
At about 10 a.m. ET., we got an angry phone call from her office demanding an apology and a retraction. They said she never spoke to the Arab press, she never criticized the president, and, in fact, never did the interview at all.
Our producers immediately double-checked our sources and we tracked down the reporter who did the interview with Senator Clinton. By noon, we found out that the interview did take place. Then, they insisted that the interview that she had was with a freelance journalist, and not the Arab paper that eventually ran her story. It was established that the interview was conducted in New York.
The senator's press secretary then started to back down. By 4:30 p.m., the senator‘s representatives admitted that she had done the interview. She did know the reporter was writing to an international audience, and she did criticize the president.
That line of reasoning proves my point even more: When we are in the midst of a war, what is whispered to any reporter will surely be shouted from the mountains across the Arab world.
That‘s why Senators Clinton, Kennedy, and Kerry — and especially President Bush — have to be extraordinarily careful in the words they employ. The World War II adage still proves true today: “Loose lips sink ships.” More importantly, they can demoralize our men and women in uniform, and indirectly give comfort to the enemy.