"We're Not Going to Let Our Campaign be Dictated by Fact-Checkers"

Friday, August 31, 2012


John Sununu (Getty)

This week, a Romney pollster responded to several critical fact-checks of a campaign ad by saying "we're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers." Brooke talks to former New Hampshire governor and former White House Chief of Staff John Sununu about the ad and the institution of fact-checking.

Jenny Scheinman - A Ride With Polly Jean


John Sununu

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [50]

Jack from Portland, Oregon

Mr. Sununu, I am quite happy to inform you (overjoyed, actually) that no—despite your petulant protestation as you ran away from the interview—we did NOT lose in November, your candidate did.
President Obama (and American ideals) won. Good day sir.

Nov. 26 2012 12:45 AM

If he were half a man he would apologize to Brooke. He was beyond rude. When President Obama won re-election one of the first things I thought of was was Sununu's dimwitted comment from this OTM broadcast. Seriously, apologize to Brooke, you twit!

Nov. 12 2012 06:28 AM

So basically the GAO has issued a report stating that John Sununu's accusations that the Obama administration had over stepped their bounds were correct.



Sadly, Brooke couldn't even be bothered to acknowledge that possibility.

Sep. 24 2012 10:44 PM

There is no democratic surrogate that would act like that! Even if interviewed by Glenn Beck and Fox and Friends at the same time on their most mendacious of days! Not that I am a huge fan of all of them, but I truly can not think of anyone of the top surrogates on the Obama team who would be so grumpy, combative, and dismissive (no matter who is doing the interview). they do interviews like this constantly and then have the audacity to wonder why people think they are so outta touch!?!

Sep. 12 2012 12:14 PM
Bill from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Brooke, excellent work on this. Please give us more of this kind of interview.

Sep. 09 2012 09:49 AM

What century does Mr. Sununu live in? He doesn't want waivers for states that allow internet job searching? I'll bet when he opens his newspaper, it still has Help Wanted ads listed under Men and Women...or at least that's what he sees.

Sep. 07 2012 06:37 PM
Eric from Colorado

Regarding Charles's comment about the length of the interview, I am assuming that there must have been a great deal more at the beginning during which Brooke certainly said terrible and personal things to Mr. Sununu to make him so angry. Surely, he cannot just be that angry of a man, right? Right?

Also, regarding the earlier comment about hissing and wailing about Ryan's faux marathon time, as someone who busted his *** to try to break a 4-hour marathon, this is the one fib that just cannot be tolerated!

Sep. 07 2012 02:12 AM

I was distressed by the interview because Ms. Gladstone didn't seem to know the rationale for these waivers-- that whatever methods a state uses, the result must meet or exceed the required employment numbers. President Clinton restated this in his speech last night. Mr. Sununu seemed to be saying that granting the waivers by itself amounted to 'gutting' the work requirement. My impression was that Ms. Gladstone didn't really challenge him on that assertion.

Sep. 06 2012 05:50 PM

One additional curiosity; since so many commenters here have remarked about what a combative interview it was, and how intemperate John Sununu appeared (to them) to be, I was wondering how long the actual unedited interview was. By my count, we heard 4:57 of Sununu with Brooke. Is that how long Brooke spoke with Sununu? Less than five minutes? What was edited out?

Sep. 05 2012 08:44 PM

The introduction to this story included Brooke Gladstone's representation that OTM tried to contact someone -- anyone -- in the Romney campaign to do this interview. And that when you were roundly turned down, the OTM staff turned to John Sununu as a campaign-surrogate.

I was just curious; did you try to reach Robert Rector? Rector has just posted this rather comprehensive response in the National Review Online:


Sep. 05 2012 03:50 PM
John Heenehan from Madison, NJ

The grumpy John Sununu didn’t give much time for fact-checking during his rant. But even his attempt to end the interview – “I’ve enjoyed being on the air” – would likely be rated pants on fire.
Aside from the charming (by comparison) Clint Eastwood, the “tell” for when speaker after speaker at the Republican convention was lying quickly became evident: Their lips moved.

Sep. 04 2012 10:59 PM
Rafael from Baltimore, MD

Wow! Mr. Sununu could have brought the vitriol down a notch or two. He sounded almost apoplectic when he was challenged on the semantics of the commercial. Granted, Mr. Sununu has always been pugnacious and in your face, an older version of Rahm Emmanuel on the other side of the aisle but instead of the arguments are what I make of them line of attack, why not make the point that a political commercial is a different beast? Make the argument that this type of medium requires you to quickly make your point through and you need dramatic wording instead of semantic nitpicking.

Sep. 04 2012 09:36 PM
Chet Stevens

I was really shocked at his behavior. The Republicans of today seem nothing like what I remember. Republican In Rage Only maybe?

Sep. 04 2012 06:28 PM
Quasimotor from Yonkers, NY

I am a conservative media-maker who never misses an OTM. I completely enjoyed the verbal battle between John Sununu and Ms. Gladstone.

Had anyone been listening with a non-biased frame of mind, the verdict on this piece was that Mr. Sununu more than adequately proved that Mr. Obama is gutting the intent of the bi-partisan welfare reforms and that Ms. Gladstone would have her audience believe otherwise. Mr. Sununu - whom your loyal listeners describe here (in violation of your websites guidelines I might add) as "childish" "bully," a " fat, arrogant, self-righteous walking sphincter" (that last comment has since been removed for violating site guidelines) - skillfully demonstrated on two occasions, Ms. Gladstone's attempts to spin the story in Mr. Obama's favor.

Bias is expected on NPR, but extreme bias - the refusal to ever acknowledge any fault with a fellow traveler - is difficult to defend. Ms. Gladstone is to be congratulated for giving it a try and for being fair enough to include it in her edit of the show. As for me, this time, the announcer should have concluded the usual credits with, "...and edited by (pregnant pause) John Sununu."

Sep. 04 2012 01:27 PM

Why did OTM and Brooke Gladstone pick John Sunnunu for this story? If it is a meta-journalism story, why go to someone who is a political operative like Sunnunu?

Why not go to one of the journalists who have been doing some very intelligent, careful, exhaustive criticism of the entire "fact check" meme?

You at OTM set this up as "Facts versus Republicans," when in fact the debate is "Liberal media divisions that have set themselves up as 'Fact Check' entities, versus their critics in conservative media."

In trying to ridicule the notion of a liberal media, you succeeded in proving John Sunnunu's point.

Sep. 04 2012 08:36 AM
chuckr47 from Portland OR

My respects to John Cook the only commenter who has done a modicum of research into the actual issue. I would be happy to exchange ideas with you. To all the others who support Gladstone's smug snarky agenda, and attacking the messenger I submit that you are not relevant to the discourse. Your time is better spent hissing and wailing about Ryan's marathon time as I suggested in my previous post.
John while I agree the use of "gut the welfare program" is a totally inaccurate sound bite, I still feel that Romney in principle is correct. I've done a little more reading beyond "factcheck.org" and see huge doorways for abuse, if these waivers are implemented. ie waste of my tax dollars. States do not like the burden and cost of verifying employment, and so are happy to be able to funnel the unemployed into less expensive avenues.

Sep. 03 2012 05:38 PM
Ed P from Pittsburgh

I suggest that Democrats should do everything in their power to keep people like Sununu and others of his ilk on the live interview circuit. That way, everyone in the USA will be able to see what true bullies and distorters of the truth they really are. Irrespective of their own political leanings, people like Brooke Gladstone & Soledad O'Brien have done the American people a great service by revealing the type of egregious behavior and disregard for the truth that is tolerated by those who are not even considered the most extreme members of the GOP. My message to Sununu: keep it up; you're only aiding & abetting the opposition by revealing what a total jerk you and your buddies are.

Sep. 03 2012 02:20 PM

Brooke did a nice professional job of giving Sununu lots of 'rope to hang himself with.' The more he ranted, the more he alienated the listeners- as is clear from the comments below. My only suggestion is that Brooke should have given him even more time to let him continue his insulting meltdown even more.
His aggressive, obnoxious treatment of Brooke shows that he is no gentleman (I'm shocked that a state like NH actually elected him.) He also twists the 'facts' to support his arguments- which appears to be the entire GOP's game plan for this election cycle.
Clearly he is the GOP's attack dog on many issues. He pulled the same stunt on Brian Lehrer's show on WNYC. If you'd like a good laugh, you can listen to him...and read the listener feedback...here: wnyc.org/shows/bl/2012/aug/28/republican-convention-coverage-part-1/

Sep. 03 2012 09:07 AM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

The intensity of John Sununu's reaction indicates all we need to know about what he is saying. He is a liar who has been caught.

Sep. 03 2012 06:46 AM
John Cook

John Sununu is living in the past. His main assertion - that the welfare law was written to forbid states from changing the work requirement - may well be true. But things are very different than they were when the law was written. The near meltdown of the economy, thanks in large part to the Republicans, has dramatically increased the need for welfare. There are many who are willing to work who can't, so for the President to give the STATES the ability to modify the work requirement is reasonable. And speaking of the states, I wonder how the Tea Party feels about Sununu? His admission that HE WAS THERE when the big, bad government intentionally wrote laws so states couldn't modify them ... treasonous. Good thing you WEREN'T there Brooke!

Sep. 03 2012 01:32 AM

I used to work for a "boss" that behaved similarly to Sununu. Back then, I looked up "bully" in a dictionary and there he was, at least visually in my head! Now I can replace that image with one of John Sununu. It is quite puzzling that the "live free or die" state elected such an ideologue as Governor. It is less surprising that Sununu is comfortable in his current role. It seems "bully" is now a badge of honor in the Republican game plan.

Sep. 02 2012 10:37 PM

Why give Sununu oxygen? Why? Just lhis political career die it slow death under the rock that he has been living.

Sep. 02 2012 09:58 PM

Sununu's transparent Breitbart tactics: attack any critic as partisan. Fact-checkers are "liberal press" when they criticize him. Brooke and NPR are "liberal press" if they question this tactic. Politicians without scruples justify these lies to serve "a larger truth". The larger truth is that politicians like these will do literally anything to win.


Sep. 02 2012 09:02 PM

I am surprised at the people, though definitely the minority, who are supporting Mr. Sununu's behavior. Whatever your persuasion his bellicose, uncivil behavior should be anathema to all.

Sep. 02 2012 08:42 PM

Sadly, I'm inclined to think Sununu's belligerence was premeditated.

Ms. Gladstone, I admire your composure in the face of such childishness. What a shame our political system has been so corrupted by his ilk.

Sep. 02 2012 06:55 PM

Hey there,

To fully enjoy the following comments, please make sure that you complete eating those vegan delights before reading. Also make sure that smart car is in the park and locked position.

....Those that feel Gov. Sununu was a bully because of the way he articulated his side of the argument with the snickering sounds in the background of the host, need to remember the following...(just keep telling yourselves these TRUTHS)

...Romney killed a woman
...Romney IS a felon
...There are really 57 staes, or maybe 59, hell lets just round it to 60
...Romney HATES women
...Romney doesn't really know what contraception is
...Code Pink is a sympathetic organization
...Planned Parenthood WASNT founded by someone who adored the idea of population control
...If it wasnt for ACORN, felons wouldn't get to vote
...There's nothing wrong with drawing a line between Mao and Mother Teresa
...The WORD is the WORD
...Romney hates clean air and water
...Obama really did manage to bring down the level of the seas
...$250,000 really is a billion
...You didn't build that business
...There will still be the same amount of doctors practicing after Medicare drops the compensation for doctors to $5

You may now start your smart car and finish your organic veggies.

Sep. 02 2012 06:16 PM

Your show today started out with a good bit poking fun at CNN for a useless "truth" crawl running under Paul Ryan's lie-filled speech. I'm sad to say, but Brooke's interview with John Sununu later in the same show just as badly needed a good truth crawl -- and just as sadly, got a poor one. While I admire Brooke, Sununu ate her for lunch in this interview. His comments, in addition to being insulting, were at least as much filled with lies as those in Ryan's speech. But Brooke was unable or ill-equipped to handle the lies.

Brooke inadvertently made the point of the piece - that the media isn't good at handling lies - by letting the aggressive Sununu's blizzard of lies stand. I'd expect better from you guys. If you're bringing the lion into the den, be able to handle him. I'm hoping OTM runs a "truth" piece next week to correct all the Sununu lies that Brooke failed to correct in real time for your listeners.

Sep. 02 2012 05:57 PM

Chuckr47: Right-wingers believe that NPR seems to lean to the left only because they get closer to the TRUTH than conservatives care to hear, and because they don't have lying, bloviating bullies like Limbaugh and Hannity and O'Reilly wasting their airtime. Many people think that NPR actually leans to the right. They tend to bend over backwards trying to appease the right, and serious research shows that they have more conservative voices on the air than liberal voices. I frequently hear them interviewing Republicans without then airing an interview with a Democrat to tell another side of the story, and also no analysis by one of their on-air people to give meaningful context to whatever spin and lies the Republican usually tells.

(It's interesting to me that so many commenters here have called Sununu a bully. I recently came to the realization that that's what Republicans really ARE, generally speaking. They do an awful lot of bullying on a regular basis, using ridicule, taunting, lying, and brutishness to make their point or get their way.)

Back to Sununu: I am disappointed but not surprised that OTM didn't have anyone on the air after Sununu to tell the TRUTH about this issue. I don't care if Sununu made a fool of himself. There are many people listening, despite what NPR might like to believe, who are not very smart, or are not very well-informed, and they will buy what Sununu said.

Sep. 02 2012 05:17 PM

Wow. Sununu: what a juvenile little punk. Lying little punk's not even capable of having a conversation. It would have been nice to have a chance to ask him about Repugnicans' rampant hypocrisy with regard to states' rights, which they claim is so dear to them (you would never get the question in. He's too childish to listen)....time after time they demonstrate they really couldn't care less about states rights, which are broadened by the Obama approach to welfare.... they're just nasty, whiny little hypocrites.

Sep. 02 2012 04:36 PM
robert bristow-johnson from Burlington Vermont

this is like an anti-social bully complaining that someone is pointing out that he's an anti-social bully.

if you make and air an attack ad, if you have *any* brains whatsoever, you must expect that the content of the attack ad will be scrutinized.

the alternative is that you think the world revolves around you and that you expect that you are above the level of scrutiny you apply to everyone else.

Sep. 02 2012 04:10 PM
robert bristow-johnson from Burlington Vermont

this is like an anti-social bully complaining that someone is pointing out that he's an anti-social bully.

if you make and air an attack ad, if you have *any* brains whatsoever, you must expect that the content of the attack ad will be scrutinized.

the alternative is that you think the world revolves around you and that you expect that you are above the level of scrutiny you apply to everyone else.

Sep. 02 2012 04:09 PM

Wow! Sununu completely lost it! He didn't even listen to what you were saying, Brooke! This is just so typical of Republican politicians -- they are in their own universe -- eg, talking to chairs! They are just so so strange anymore.
Thank you Brooke for showing us what is really going on with these Republican politicians!

Sep. 02 2012 03:25 PM
Joseph Aman


Sununu was perhaps the most combative, disrespectful guest I have ever heard on NPR. Thank you Brook Gladstone for tolerating Sununu's childish behavior.

Sep. 02 2012 12:03 PM
Ascend (of Asheville) from Asheville, NC

You guys are behind the curve on political reporting. You need to go ahead and hire some ferocious attack dog journalist to do those segments for you, so the rest of you can preserve your dignity and urbane sophistication.
The whole time I was listening to that would-be interview, I was coaching from my car, "Get Him!"
I'm available for that work if you like. They don't call me Ascend of Asheville for nothing.

Sep. 02 2012 11:56 AM
Louis from Jersey Shore

Can't you kids take a jokester!

Sep. 02 2012 10:14 AM
seldoc from Rhode Island

Mr. Sununu plucked a shred of truth from a fabric of lies and twisted it beyond recognition through a combination of bluster, bullying and bull then concluded with a mindless attack on President Obama, Ms. Gladstone and NPR. What a sad and sorry piece of work he is. He's a disgrace to himself, his party and his supporters.

Sep. 02 2012 09:08 AM
chuckr47 from Portland OR

Interesting that not one comment addressed the actual issue. A simple Google check, lays the facts out just as Sununu did. Did he imply that NPR (gasp) leans left? That's old news. They have carried the water for Democrats for years and are but one step down from the NYT. Gladstone acting as Obama's handmaid of the day, got it "handed" to her as she deserved. She and the Dem campaign tried to reduce a slightly complex issue down to a sound bite. Study what actually was done, and you'll see that Romney is right. Go back to hissing and wailing about Ryan's marathon time!

Sep. 02 2012 03:24 AM
Jim Riley

Despite his allegedly genius-level IQ, Sununu doesn't seem too savvy about the media. You'd think just about anyone would know that NPR isn't an outlet where channelling Rush Limbaugh will capture listeners' votes. Brooke Gladstone's admirable restraint just made his bluster seem all the sillier. Way to win hearts and minds, Governor!

Sep. 01 2012 09:44 PM
Jim Jordan from Lebanon, OH

Wow. This was a stunning interview. I would love to know what off-air insult Brooke made to Sununu's mother that made him act like such a rude jackass in the interview. Sununu's association of NPR employees with Obama drones ranks up there with the nonsense from Todd Akin. Nobody needs to speak poorly of a politician. The politicians just need to open their own mouths.

Sep. 01 2012 07:35 PM
Eisenhower Republican from Gettysburg

Thank you, Brooke, for enduring the abuse of this condescending bully. His arguments are ludicrously flimsy, and his pomposity is truly amazing. The implication that you, or NPR, are biased, and by extension the suggestion that the truth is only found on right-wing-friendly outlets like Fox, was interesting, and revealing. Thanks for getting in that last question after he started trying to move on and cut you off.

Sep. 01 2012 06:11 PM
Michael Pettengill from merrimack, nh

I have an on the media question for on the media:

Is the media responsible for seeking the higher "truth" or consistency of "fact bias"?

Does media have the role of providing the view from 10,000 feet?

John Sununu was defending "to the death" a principle that welfare policy must be "dictated from Washington" and that there is no room for "States Rights" or "laboratory of States". Obama was criticized for waivers from NCLB which were framed with Race to the Top as rewarding local innovation without invoking the dog whistle "no dictates from Washington" et al memes.

And Mitt Romney has promised that "on day one, he would issue waivers to the States to repeal?gut?end? Obamacare" on the basis health care policy should be left to the States. Of course, each State is supposed to send their health care plans to implement the expanded insurance coverage to their State residents, and only after the States do not will Washington setup exchanges in those States.

If Romney-Ryan were totally:
- State policy must be dictated from Washington
- no waivers should ever be granted because Washington must dictate
- no waivers ever
that would perhaps justify the "hardline" of Sununu and others, but instead the standard and principles change as required to attack Obama.

Should Brooke or the media in general take the "10,000 foot view", or am I just a liberal with my leftist fact reasoning ideology?

Sep. 01 2012 01:54 PM
Mary Horvath

Did Sununu assert that Republicans win most elections? He is just a horrible bully.

Sep. 01 2012 01:45 PM

Isn't the real story this week about how claims of "code words" and "dog whistles" make fact checking obsolete since now media narratives and/or big lies can be woven out of whole cloth by delving into a speaker's subconscious and selectively interpreting once innocuous words and phrases as something sinister? Sometimes that analysis may be insightfully plausible while other times it may be maliciously delusional, but who decides?

Despite the conceits of the fact checkers, the news media and politicians they all seem to be creating more mythology than clarity as they become mired in one "Rashomon" donnybrook after another.
Anyone really interested in a particular claim or accusation must do their own homework and research bypassing the processed media filter and it's unwanted political additives as much as possible.

Sep. 01 2012 11:45 AM

People are clearly frustrated with the fact-checking "industry" because people are recognizing what philosophers like Michael Polanyi and others have noticed – that there is rarely a "brute fact," but rather, all facts are interpreted.

As an example, Glenn Kessler fact-checked Romney's speech before he gave it. Really! Does that expose some bias?


Or when Kessler gave two Pinocchios to an ad that claimed that Obama never went to Israel – which he admits is true – but says it's mostly false because many other presidents didn't, and he visited other Arab nations (though not Israel).


The point is, many of these fact-checkers that have sprung up in the post-swiftboat era, want to deconstruct the facts with context. THEIR context. On both sides.

Please give some time to Jon Cassidy's piece on this, and I think you'll (gulp) get some context for Sununu's frustration:

Sep. 01 2012 10:41 AM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

Oh P Seree, the GOP plans to fix the country…fix it back to the Gilded Age 2.0. It's not a surprise that Sununu got all hot and puffy when being confronted with facts. He's a bully who follows the old GOP tactic of repeating the same old lie long enough, it becomes a "fact." Some favorite gems: Gore invented the Internet, Reagan defeated the Soviet Union and only Nixon could go to China.

Sep. 01 2012 10:35 AM

Would it have been off topic for Brooke to ask Sunnunu, "Are you saying that it is never ok for a President to issue a waiver? And if not, under what circumstances is it ok?"

Sep. 01 2012 07:37 AM

Sununu is a piece of work! I'm sorry you subjected yourself to that bully. His antics are nothing but childish attempts to evade responsibility to answer to completely reasonable questions and challenges to the assertions in their ads and political rhetoric. Pointing fingers of liberal bias to the press and abruptly hanging up the phone....he may as well have punched you in the gut and run away while shouting "Nuh uh! Did not!" I commend journalists like you, Brooke, and Soledad O'Brien, too, who won't let him walk away from the tough questions...though he really did run away at the end there. Coward.

These tactics are really problematic for a functional democracy....the whole thing. It's disingenuous, deceitful, and most of all exhausting. I can't stomach the rhetoric. I'm afraid their counting on that.

Sep. 01 2012 12:18 AM
P Seree

This gives the impression that GOP is out to win the election as a childish revenge rather than, as they have claimed, to fix the country.

Aug. 31 2012 11:12 PM
Paul Heckbert from Pittsburgh, PA

I've never listened carefully to John Sununu before. He's really awful, isn't he?

Aug. 31 2012 09:27 PM
John E. Riutta from Scappoose, Oregon

Methinks Mr. Sununu doth protest too much.

Aug. 31 2012 08:36 PM

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