Elsewhere on this site, I detail the run-in I had with GOP pundit Brad Blakeman last week. During a joint MSNBC appearance, Blakeman misrepresented why George W. Bush launched the Iraq War, claiming Bush did so because Saddam Hussen had refused to allow weapons inspections. On air, I noted this was completely wrong—UN weapons inspectors were in Iraq before the war—and tried to bet him $1,000 on this point. Two days later, Blakeman used the Fox News website to blast me and MSNBC anchor David Shuster and misrepresented the bet. That is, he was twice ensnared in his own web of false spin. But don't take my word for it. On Friday afternoon, Shuster, who moderated that segment, weighed in and pronounced an unambiguous verdict. Here's his take:
We love vigorous debates and discussions on this program. But facts are important. And so, in my notebook item today, I'd like to settle a dispute over facts that came up earlier this week. Two of my guests, David Corn and Brad Blakeman got into a heated argument over a crucial part of the 2003 run-up to the Iraq war.
Blakeman: President Bush did not bring us into this war because of W-M-D. He brought us into this war.
Blakeman: Because Saddam Hussein failed to allow inspections of the sites the UN demanded be inspected.
Corn: Brad, you are absolutely wrong. The inspectors were in for months before the war.
Blakeman: Come on David.
Corn: I'll bet you a thousand dollars. A thousand dollars the inspectors were there.
Brad Blakeman did not take him up on the bet. And that was wise because a dozen newspaper accounts from 2003, three colleagues at fact-check organizations, and even my office mate Pat Buchanan agree the facts are indisputable and that David Corn was right. UN inspectors were in Iraq and got unfettered access to whatever site they wanted from November 27,2002, until March 18, 2003.
Here's a photo from a March 2003 inspection of the Al Rashid missile site southeast of Baghdad.
The reason the inspectors left Iraq, as USA Today reported at the time, is because the Bush administration told the UN team on March 17 to pull out "for their own safety." The war started March 20.
It's clear the Bush administration, at the time, thought Saddam Hussein was playing games because the inspectors weren't finding anything. But as we know, that's because there was nothing to find. There were no WMDs in Iraq.
For a guest to claim on our air we went to war because the inspectors weren't allowed to various sites and because the inspectors weren't allowed in Iraq in 2003—that is false.
Let this be a lesson to everyone that comes on this program. Facts matter. The truth matters. And as long as I am your host, I'll do everything possible to give you, the viewer, reporting and debates based on the facts, no matter where it may lead us.
Now can Shuster collect the thousand bucks for me?