ABC anchor Charles Gibson on Friday night suggested the Rudy Giuliani campaign's New York Times ad, not Monday's “General Betray Us” ad from MoveOn.org ad to which the Giuliani ad responded, meant “a fierce new political fight...got even nastier today.” Gibson did acknowledge: “It started with a single newspaper ad targeting General David Petraeus, as the war's top commander reported to Congress this week. And it has snowballed very quickly.” Jake Tapper's subsequent story recounted how the MoveOn ad “accusing General Petraeus of becoming 'General Betray Us'” was “paid for by influential, in-your-face liberal group MoveOn.org.” But Tapper's piece contained only three elements which occurred on Friday and thus could be what Gibson was referring to -- video scanning over Giuliani's “own counter-ad in today's New York Times,” this soundbite from Giuliani: “MoveOn.org, which is well known for its character assassination of Republicans, decided to participate in character assassination of an American General in time of war. This is unprecedented” and, in the very last sentence, Tapper reported how MoveOn has “decided in newspaper ads and on TV to accuse supporters of the Iraq war of betraying the nation.”
The big type at the top of Giuliani's full-page ad quoted Hillary Clinton: “The willing suspension of disbelief.” The key line below: “Who should America listen to...A decorated soldier's commitment to defending America, or Hillary Clinton's commitment to defending MoveOn.org?” How is the comment from Giuliani about an activist group that struck first and ad copy critical of a candidate in a political contest “nastier” than MoveOn's first-strike attack on an Army General running a war? “GENERAL PETRAEUS OR GENERAL BETRAY US? Cooking the Books for the White House,” read big type in MoveOn's ad (PDF of it).
Maybe Gibson intended to describe both ads as “nasty,” but ABC didn't label MoveOn's ad as “nasty” on Monday night, the day it ran in the New York Times, and General David Petraeus appeared before two House committees meeting jointly. On the September 10 World News, reporter Jonathan Karl related:
War critics inside and outside the hearing room attacked Petraeus, saying he had manipulated statistics -- failing, for example, include many killings in his calculation of ethnic violence. The anti-war group MoveOn.org went further, accusing the General of cooking the books for the White House. Petraeus faced that criticism head-on.
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the September 14 story on ABC's World News:
CHARLES GIBSON: The war in Iraq is the focus of a fierce new political fight in this country, one that got even nastier today. It started with a single newspaper ad targeting General David Petraeus, as the war's top commander reported to Congress this week. And it has snowballed very quickly. Here's our senior political correspondent, Jake Tapper.
JAKE TAPPER: It was an in-your-face full-page ad in the New York Times, accusing General Petraeus of becoming “General Betray Us” by allegedly not being honest in his testimony before Congress, paid for by influential, in-your-face liberal group MoveOn.org, and condemned by Republicans during those hearings.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-FL), AT MONDAY'S HEARING: Calling this man of honor and courage "General Betray Us" in a full-page ad in the New York Times is outrageous and it is deplorable.
TAPPER: Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani took out his own counter-ad in today's New York Times.
RUDY GIULIANI: MoveOn.org, which is well known for its character assassination of Republicans, decided to participate in character assassination of an American general in time of war. This is unprecedented.
TAPPER: Despite calls by Republicans to condemn the ad:
FRED THOMPSON: To disavow this libel against this brave American.
TAPPER: Not one of the Democratic presidential candidates has done so.
MARK HALPERIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Most of the Democrats running for President are not going to rush to speak out against MoveOn. They're simply too powerful. They play too big a role in the Democratic nominating process.
TAPPER: Some Democrats on Capitol Hill disapprove of MoveOn.org's tactics.
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: I would have preferred that they not do such and ad.
TAPPER: That's at least partly because the ad allowed Republicans to talk about the rhetoric of war opponents instead of failures in Iraq. MoveOn.org thrives on pressuring Democrats, today instructing Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to vote against any funding for the war without a timeline for withdrawal.
ELI PARISER, MOVEON.ORG EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: We're responsible to our 3 million members who want to see an end to this war, like most Americans do. And that's, you know, how we make the decisions about what we do.
TAPPER, OVER NEW ANTI-BUSH AD: And they've decided in newspaper ads and on TV to accuse supporters of the Iraq war of betraying the nation, hoping they influence more than they offend. Jake Tapper, ABC News, Washington.