Franken Denies Joking About Rove and Libby Being Executed for Plame Affair

March 15th, 2008 1:42 AM
On October 22, 2005, my colleague Brent Baker reported Al Franken's disturbing joke to "Late Show" host David Letterman concerning Scooter Libby and Karl Rove being executed for their involvement in the Valerie Plame Wilson affair.

Almost two and a half years later, during an interview on CNN's "American Morning" Friday, Kiran Chetry asked the comedian turned Democrat senate candidate about this exchange.

When Franken had the gall to declare, "I didn't even say that in a joking manner," Chetry challenged him in a way that all media members should whenever a politician on either side of the aisle is so obviously disingenuous (video available here, h/t NBer Woody Boyd):

KIRAN CHETRY, ANCHOR: You said some things about Karl Rove, and Scooter Libby, saying they should be executed for treason because...

AL FRANKEN (D), MINN. SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I did not say that, Kiran.

CHETRY: In a joking manner, in a satirical way?

FRANKEN: No. I didn't even say that in a joking manner.

CHETRY: What did you say?

FRANKEN: I was on David Letterman's show, and he asked me, this is like the day after it was revealed that they had outed, participated in the outing of Valerie Plame and he asked me what's going to happen to him. And I said that President George H.W. Bush before he was president was director of the CIA. And George H.W. Bush said that outing a CIA agent was treason. I said, David, you know what the penalty is for treason. And David asked me what was going to happen to them. I said, so I guess they might be executed which I'm against. I'm against the death penalty. And I'm afraid that Cheney and Bush might be involved in some way, and so we should pass a constitutional amendment to ban the execution of a sitting president, because that would be very demoralizing to the American people. This was, you know -- this is exactly what the Republican party is doing.

CHETRY: Well, this is a - CBS night show quote, just so we're clear, if you say, you were joking around with David Letterman, as a comedian, too. And so basically what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going be executed because outing a CIA agent is treason. Then said you went on to say we should never, ever, ever execute a sitting president. All I'm saying is, when you say things like that in the past, and you're running, obviously those things come up.

FRANKEN: What you said was that I advocated the execution.

CHETRY: I didn't say advocated. I didn't actually say you advocated. I'm just talking about when you say things in the past that can be perceived as divisive, how to you then come together and say, you know what I can be a senator for everyone in the state?

FRANKEN: Because people know the difference between being a satirist and the whole point of that was to show that outing a CIA agent is serious. That's what a satirist does. A satirist points out what is actually serious, and -- but, you know, the trick here is they are going to be taking things out of context, and you're right. The Republican party in Minnesota said that I advocated the execution. Of those guys. And I wasn't. And it was very clear, the Letterman audience and anyone who saw that, and, if -- this is just ridiculous. We should be talking about foreclosures on homes. We should be talking about gas prices. We should be talking about loss of jobs, and that's what I'm going to do.

For the record, the video and audio of what really happened on CBS's "Late Show" in October 2005 are available here: Excerpt #1: Real or Windows Media and MP3 audio. Excerpt #2: Real or Windows Media and MP3 audio.

Brava, Kiran. Brava.