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CBS Face The Nation Host John Dickerson On The San Bernardino Terrorist Attack

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The audio:

12-03hhs-dickerson

The transcript:

HH: I’m joined by John Dickerson of CBS’ Face The Nation. John, I’m animated. I’ll be on CNN later tonight, because I do not believe the media is covering this as a terrorist attack, which it is obviously, and instead doing a disservice to all those who died in a terrorist attack by doing anything but discussing it as a terrorist attack. Your reaction?

JD: So I’ve been on a plane for the last few hours. So they’re not covering it as a terrorist attack? I thought that it had been confirmed that there were links between the shooters and extremist teachings and the rest of it?

HH: It is slowly turned over the last hour to beginning to confront the reality of it. Those contacts have been leaked out, but not confirmed officially. And all day, it’s been a gun control issue, and all last night, it was a gun control issue. And in fact, most of the online chatter is about gun control. Well, let me play for you, for example, Congressman Adam Schiff with Wolf Blitzer earlier today:

AS: I’m tired of the moments of silence. I’d like to have us have some moments of action on the House floor, take up things like universal background checks, like a prohibition on assault weapons and extended ammunition clips, like dealing with this intersection of seriously mentally ill people with ready access to firearms. These are things we can do. And I’m sure, Wolf, people are going to point out well, if we had done some of those things, it may not have helped prevent San Bernardino, and maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not. But it would prevent many of these attacks.

HH: So John Dickerson, Adam Schiff is never going to win the spelling bee, and we in California know that. But that is truly an idiotic, we should do things that wouldn’t have any impact whatsoever on the terrorist attacks of yesterday.

JD: Well, I think that, just as a purely tactical matter, it seems to me it does undermine the argument if it has nothing to do with the fact at hand. And it would seem to give evidence to those who would say that any time there’s one of these massacres or tragedies that those who would seek to restrict gun ownership seek a pretext right away, facts be darned, for their argument. And I just think restraint, I’m a fan of restraint in all of this conversation until we find out and know what’s going on. And it seems to me that that just weakens the argument. I did note that Hillary Clinton, who had at first been talking about it as a gun control issue just recently, I think, talked about it as an act of terrorism.

HH: That’s very recent. I haven’t seen that. Her first four tweets, one yesterday and three today, were gun control tweets. And now, the narrative has changed, because they had 5,000 rounds of ammunition and a bomb factory in their house. There’s never been a workplace violence incident that I can recall, and I can’t find any with a husband and a wife involved, and planning, and IED’s and all, and the guy went to Mecca and married his wife in Saudi Arabia and made trips to Pakistan, and had ties. John Dickerson, I don’t have any confidence in the government telling, I really don’t, I’m sad to say this. I have no confidence in the government telling us the truth about this. Do you?

JD: Yeah, I do by the end of the day. I think it’s dangerous to mistake the fog of the first rounds of this with a programmatic effort to keep people in the dark. I think you know, all those facts that you know lead a picture to, you know, paint a picture that suggests that this is a radicalized person, and my assumption is that the pattern will continue, and that’s the picture that will emerge over the next few days.

HH: Two questions for you. How did his brother-in-law end up on a press conference with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles last night, and where does he worship? These are two questions that have not been answered today. Doesn’t that seem to you to be that the journalists are afraid of being accuse of Islamophobia, and so they are staying far away from obvious questions?

JD: I don’t know. I haven’t, I don’t know what the answers to those questions are. I don’t know, I haven’t really been, as I say, I’ve been on a plane, so I haven’t really been following what the, you know, I’ve been following the coverage in the sense that you know, the connection to radicalism that seems to have come out this afternoon, so I don’t really know who’s asking what of whom. I was surprised that his relations seemed to think that Farook didn’t have, you know, that this is a surprise to them. I don’t know whether that’s going to turn out to be true in the end or what, but that was one piece of data that I thought was surprising.

HH: How are you going to cover a terrorist attack on Sunday? And will it be wall to wall as would have happened after 9/11?

JD: Yeah, I mean, it will be, it will certainly be a major part of our conversation with our guests. You know, and as we find out more about the specifics of the circumstance here, what visa did the wife come in on, you know, it would be basically the way we’d cover any of these late-breaking events, the same way we covered the attacks in Paris, what does it mean in the specifics of the case, what are the implications for policy, what does this do to the conversation in the presidential campaigns. And so we’ll be addressing all of those issues.

HH: Now John, I know you’re not the grand poobah of CBS News, and so I don’t hold you responsible for everything that CBS News does. But earlier this week, I was talking about the fact that CBS ran a, CBS News.com, ran a story about the victims about an hour south of here where I’m broadcasting today from Colorado Christian University at the Planned Parenthood shooting, and in the course of that very long story, in the 34th paragraph, I counted them, the CBS report said Republican politicians continued to talk about the now-discredited Planned Parenthood videos. Those videos are not discredited. That’s an editorial judgment. Why would someone, how does that get past an editor? They’re controversial, they’re disputed, but they’re not discredited.

JD: Yeah, I haven’t seen the story you’re talking about, so I don’t know, but I guess, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know what the writer was, what they were trying to say. I think they, maybe it was just a sloppy characterization of the editing techniques that are used in the video that are not, you know, that are used to make a point and are not necessarily the ones you would use in, say, a news package. And the claims, I guess, that have been made about the videos are slightly different than what they actually show. Perhaps, that’s what they were trying to do. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the piece.

HH: Do you think they’re discredited?

JD: I think that they are, I think that they are made in such a way to make an emotional point, and that there’s a thumb on the scale in the way things are presented. Things are presented to appear as if they were taking place in Planned Parenthood. They may not have been. Footage from other places have been dropped in. I think that they are, they’re propaganda. And so that doesn’t discredit them. They’re from a point of view. I think to the extent that anything has been a mismatch is maybe the claims that have been made about them, but I don’t know. Discredited, I don’t know exactly what that would refer to.

HH: Well, discredited is to take a side on the dispute as to their efficacy and importance. I think they’re very important. I think they make a very powerful and true point that Planned Parenthood was selling baby parts, and I’ve defended that on Meet the Press last week, and I’ll say it forever. They prove that. Now they do use controversial editing technique and implanting non-original material into the videos. I know all of the critiques of them. But the Planned Parenthood narrative is they’re discredited. The right to life narrative is they’re not. And news organizations, I don’t think, should be using the word discredited. I think you just agreed with me in a roundabout way. But what’s now going to happen is the Colorado Springs shooting is a loner shooting. I was on your set after the Mother Emmanuel massacre, which was a terrorist incident, a domestic terrorist incident, that involved ideology like yesterday’s is a domestic terrorist incident. They’re all different, John, but it’s important, don’t you think, that they all be distinguished from one another?

JD: Yeah, oh, I think that’s absolutely right. I mean, I think that the distinction is what’s crucial in all of those instances. I couldn’t agree more.

HH: So are you hopeful, then, that the American media will speak bluntly about this, or my fear that it’s not political correctness. It’s much more insidious. It’s fear. They’re afraid of Islamists. I think that’s actually what’s going on in American media.

JD: I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I haven’t really seen the evidence of that. But I mean, I don’t think there’s any, I think there will, I think restraint on the part, I mean, I could have certainly imagined this going the other way, depending on how the facts go.

HH: Oh, Lawrence O’Donnell once admitted to me on this show that he was afraid to cover Islam. He didn’t want his head chopped off. And I think that actually is now seeping into every news organization worldwide.

JD: Huh, I don’t know. I mean, there’s definitely been no shortage of the link between Islamic terrorists and Charlie Hebdo, and the Paris shootings, and so I mean there’s been wall to wall coverage of those things. So if people were afraid, there’s doing a terrible job of it.

HH: Yeah, but they’re abroad. Those people are abroad. It’s the ones at home. We’ll continue to cover it, John Dickerson. We’ll watch Face The Nation on Sunday, thanks for joining me, safe travels.

End of interview.

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