Yesterday on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace said the following to Kerry advisor Bob Shrum:

Bob, I want you to answer one of my questions, though. Let’s go back to this question of bin Laden and fighting the war on terror.

Has Kerry been consistent about that whole action and the way in which the bin Laden issue in Tora Bora was handled?

The reason I ask is, back when it was happening, in real time, in December of 2001, he was asked about the question of letting Afghan warlords try to capture bin Laden. And this is what he had to say: “It is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively, and we should continue to do it that way.”

And this raises the question that the Republicans have been talking about throughout this campaign: Doesn’t John Kerry jump and have it whichever way suits him at that particular time?

Well, doesn’t he, Bob? I mean, we’ve got the evidence.

There’s just one problem, though — the quote Wallace uses as proof of Kerry flip-flopping on “the bin Laden issue” seems to have been deliberately taken out of context. Let’s go to the transcript of the December 14, 2001 episode of “Larry King Live”:

Caller: Hello. Yes, I would like to ask the panel why they don’t use napalm or flamethrowers on those tunnels and caves up there in Afghanistan?

King: Senator Kerry?

Caller: My golly, I think they could smoke him out.

King: Senator Kerry?

Kerry: Well, I think it depends on where you are tactically. They may well be doing that at some point in time. But for the moment, what we are doing, I think, is having its impact and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively and we should continue to do it that way.

So Kerry said he thought we should continue to refrain from using napalm or flamethrowers in the tunnels and caves of Afghanistan.

That’s it.

When Wallace says Kerry “was asked about the question of letting Afghan warlords try to capture bin Laden,” he’s misleading viewers. One could (very) creatively extrapolate from Kerry’s comments here and elsewhere in the interview that, at the time, he agreed with each and every facet of the Bush administration’s Afghanistan policy — after all, partisans like Wallace and Charles Krauthammer already have.

But given what’s actually in the transcript, that’s a logical jump no serious journalist should make.

Brian Montopoli

If you'd like to help CJR and win a chance at one of 10 free print subscriptions, take a brief survey for us here.

Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.