2:59 p.m. September 22, 2013

Shadowy Like A Fox

Kucinich demands transparency over Syria, neglects to mention his relationship with Assad.

Twenty days ago I interviewed former Ohio congressman and current Fox News contributor, Dennis Kucinich, for NSFWCORP. The interview date was moved up at Kucinich's suggestion due to the unfolding situation in Syria. At the time, you will recall, it looked likely that the United States was about to repeat the mistakes it made in 2003 with Iraq, and Kucinich was eager to talk about his frustration with President Obama's handling of the crisis.

During our conversation on August 31, Kucinich did not mention that he had ever met Bashar Al Assad. Nor can I find any reference whatsoever to Kucinich having a relationship with Assad as the events in Syria developed. And yet, earlier this week, Michael Clemente, Fox News' executive vice president of news, said, "On Saturday, September 7th… Dennis Kucinich advised me that he believed he could secure an interview with…Assad, whom he had met on previous occasions." Sure enough, a 2011 piece by the Atlantic quotes a Tweet by CNN reporter Hala Gorani who "Ran into Dennis Kucinich in [Damascus]. Told me he's on fact-finding mission. Met w Assad for 3 hrs yest. Wouldn't elaborate."

In all of Kucinich's appearances on Fox News to discuss Syria prior to this week, he did not once refer to a personal connection to Assad.

During our interviews, Kucinich stayed focused on a few topics: classified briefings (he thought they should stop being held); whether striking Syria without Congressional approval was constitutional (he thought blatantly not); and the concept of humanitarian war ("senseless"). Kucinich also touched on what he saw as another instance of government relying on flawed intelligence:

"…I watched Secretary of State Kerry's presentation yesterday, and the fundamental flaw in the logic of the administration is there isn't any definitive proof that Assad knew about the chemical weapons or caused it [the attacks on Syrian citizens] to happen. Secretary of State Kerry basically charged that, and the intelligence which they're relying on - if anybody looks at the news accounts about it, in terms of the discussion between two Syrian military officials that was overheard or intercepted - the context of it appears to be them denying that either had anything to do with initiating an attack."

On September 6 Kucinich appeared on Fox News' "Studio B with Shepherd Smith" to warn of "shadowy interests behind the scenes who don't care about our country." Given Kucinich once again failed to mention his own connections with Assad, it's worth wondering how he differentiates the words "shadowy" and "interest" from "undisclosed" and "relationship," especially when Kucinich is so strongly advocating a non-aggression policy towards his old pal Assad.

And so to the interview itself. Kucinich, clad in a striped, carnation-pink tie, begins by bringing up the United Nations' chemical weapon report, "my colleague (emphasis mine), Greg Palkot, will be discussing that with you in a moment…" But first: "I wanted to talk to you about major developments in the chemical weapons plan, which has been agreed to by the US and the Russian government… Do you agree with this plan to secure and to eventually destroy the chemical weapons?"

Why thank you for asking, Dennis. "Last week we joined the international agreement of preventing the chemical WMD," Assad replied. "And part of this agreement - the main part - is not to manufacture these armaments; not to store and not to use - of course, not to distribute - and part of it is to get rid of those materials, the chemical materials. So, of course when we are part, now, of this agreement, we have to agree on that chapter."

Asked by Kucinich why he was just agreeing to this now, Assad said that in 2003, Syria approached the UN with a proposal to have "a WMD-free zone in the Middle East," but the United States opposed it.

Kucinich then brought up claims by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry that Assad was "lying" about not having chemical weapons. "That's their words, not mine," Kucinich emphasized. Assad responded that Obama and Kerry's claims were a "blatant lie" because, according to him, he never said he never had chemical weapons.

The interview was, simply put, weird, especially when presented as journalism. In his statement, Fox's Michael Clemente was quick to reassure viewers that "Kucinich was not there in the capacity of a journalist nor was he representing Fox News in that role." Yet, while questioning Assad about Syria's chemical weapons, Kucinich asked, "Would you be ready to let our (again, emphasis mine) Fox News cameras have access to some of the chemical weapons sites so that the American people will be able to see for themselves? Is that possible?" Assad says that is not the president's decision to make.

After ten minutes and thirty seconds, Kucinich turned the interview over to Greg Palkot, who had been sitting awkwardly beside him from the start.

Fox is notorious for making up its own rules, but claiming that Kucinich isn't a Fox News representative, as he tries to negotiate access for Fox news, on television, is impressively disingenuous even by their standards. It is perhaps not quite as disingenuous, though, as Kucinich concealing his "shadowy" relationship with Assad while berating political rivals for not being straight with the American people.

Dennis Kucinich did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Editor's note: The author updated the article shortly after publication to include reference to Hala Gorani's sighting of Kucinich in Damascus in 2011.