CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin appeared on Thursday’s Newsroom and Situation Room programs to explain how "in no way did I intend to misquote" from a recent article by National Review’s Byron York: "This exchange aired just once in the 6 pm hour, and as soon as the National Review brought it to our attention at 7:05, we immediately realized the context could be misconstrued. We cut that portion of the interview. It never aired again." Griffin also mentioned how he had "since called Byron York and his editor Rich Lowry, explained what happened, and told them both that I regret any harm this may have brought."
In an interview excerpt aired on Tuesday's Situation Room (NB post with video), Griffin had told Sarah Palin: “The National Review had a story saying that, you know, 'I can't tell if Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, or all of the above.'” In fact, York was mocking media coverage of Palin: “Watching press coverage of the Republican candidate for Vice President, it's sometimes hard to decide whether Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward or -- well, all of the above."
Griffin first appeared seven minutes into the 2 pm Eastern hour of Newsroom. Anchor Kyra Phillips asked the correspondent about the criticism he had received over the misquotation. He played a clip of the question, and explained the impression he had of the interview overall. He then played the initial exchange he had with Governor Palin over the "botched" quote, and most of her answer.
Phillips then gave her take on the exchange, that "she [Palin] was jumping in, you were trying to finish, kind of explain the whole quote. But you were just being a gentleman and letting her finish her answer." Griffin replied, "Well, you know, you try to get a little rapport going. Now, look, she asked me for the author’s name and...I couldn’t remember Byron York’s name....But, I wanted to keep the interview moving. So, I got to the heart...of York’s article...which is -- you’re a successful governor. Why aren't you getting that message out, which she answered." He then gave his explanation on how "in no way did I intend to misquote the National Review," and how this exchange only aired the one initial time.
Griffin then read the official CNN statement to National Review about the misquotation:
GRIFFIN: We sent a statement to the National Review in an e-mail explaining what had happened, that we had, in fact, cut the question from any further airings. Here’s what it says: ‘Drew was trying to express what Byron York was saying, but he didn’t finish his thought and inadvertently left the impression that it was York's view, rather than a commentary on how the candidate had been portrayed by others. We do not plan to re-air that portion of the interview.’
Phillips concluded the segment by adding her commentary on general criticism of the media: "Bottom line: we go to journalism school. We should graduate not only with a diploma, but with a big target our forehead because no matter what we say during a political season -- and you’re rushed and it’s tight time, there’s always going to be people out there that are going to criticize." When Griffin replied that he hoped "that clears it up," Phillips answered by making an odd reference to a liberal group that supports Obama: "Well, I hope it does, too. Let's move -- MoveOn.org, okay? Thanks, Drew."
The investigative correspondent returned almost 5 hours later, near the end of the 6 pm Eastern hour of The Situation Room, and gave a shorter version of the explanation he gave to Phillips:
WOLF BLITZER: Some controversy over an interview that the Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin gave. She gave it to our Drew Griffin -- he interviewed the governor this week. You saw it here in The Situation Room. Drew, you -- as you know, you’re being criticized for one question that you asked Governor Palin. Tell our viewers what the issue is.
DREW GRIFFIN: Wolf, the issue is really the setup to a question in that 25-minute interview. First, I want you to hear what this is all about. Here's the question.
GRIFFIN (from taped interview with Sarah Palin): Governor, you’ve been mocked in the press. The press has been pretty hard on you. The Democrats have been pretty hard on you. But also, some conservatives have been pretty hard on you as well. The National Review had a story saying that, you know, I can't tell if Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, or all of the above.
GRIFFIN: (on-camera): It’s a conservative magazine and the author, Byron York -- here is what York wrote: ‘Watching press coverage of the Republican candidate for vice president, it's sometimes hard to decide whether Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward or -- or well, all of the above.’ Unfortunately, my question -- I botched it. I misquoted York by using the word ‘I’ instead of reading his direct quote, which I had in front of me, which attributes the statement to the media. I thought it was a very good article, Wolf. I was going to get it -- use it to get the governor to answer the question why her, you know, successful governing record in Alaska wasn't getting out. She had no trouble answering that question, and in no way did I intend to misquote the National Review. The exchange aired just once in your show, Wolf, and as soon as the National Review brought it to our attention at 7:05, we immediately realized the context could be misconstrued, and we cut that portion of the interview. It never aired again. We also sent a statement directly to the National Review explaining what happened, and that we do not plan to run it again. And I since called Byron York and his editor Rich Lowry, explained what happened, and told them both that I regret any harm this may have brought. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Drew Griffin reporting for us.