Sen. Ted Cruz confronts Chuck Hagel on 2009 Al Jazeera interview

January 31, 2013

Using charts and video clips from a 2009 interview with Al Jazeera English, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sought to highlight concerns with previous statements–, or perhaps the lack thereof, made by Chuck Hagel during appearances on the international news channel.

Departing from the normal format at Senate hearings, Cruz had the committee staff play a clip of Hagel’'s appearance on an Al Jazeera call-in program, during which a caller suggested that Israel had committed war crimes. During his response to the question, Hagel did not anything to refute the caller’s statement.

"Do you think the nation of Israel has committed war crimes?" Cruz asked Hagel after the clip was played.

"No I do not, senator. I’'d want to look at the full context of the interview, but to answer your question, no," Hagel said.

Next, Cruz played another clip from the same program, where the host read a reader e-mail suggesting that the United States has served as the world’'s “bully.” Again, Hagel did not explicitly refute the comment.

"Do you think it’'s appropriate for the chief civilian leader of the U.S. military forces to agree with the statement that both the perception and the reality is that the United States is the world’s bully?" Cruz asked Hagel.

"I think my comment was it's a relevant and good observation," Hagel said. "I don't think I said that I agree with it."

The two briefly sparred over the semantics and context of the clip, with Cruz concluding that Hagel’'s actions in the interview were "not the conduct one would expect of a secretary of defense."

After Cruz'’s questions, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) asked Cruz's staff to transcribe the interview clips in their entirety so they could be included in the formal record of the hearing.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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Ed O'Keefe · January 31, 2013