Durbin Gitmo Debate

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," June 16, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Hi, everybody. This is "The Big Story." I'm John Gibson.

A senator who compared the actions of American soldiers at Guantanamo Bay (search) to some of the most despised regimes ever is refusing to apologize.

Here's what Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin (search) said about our treatment of detainees a couple of days ago on the Senate floor.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: If I read this to you and didn't tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have happened by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime.


GIBSON: Those comments sparking all kinds of outrage and calls for Senator Durbin to apologize. But he says the White House should be the one saying sorry.

Joining us now, former radio talk show host and former chair of the California Democratic Party Bill Press.



GIBSON: Should Durbin apologize?

PRESS: I don't think Dick Durbin should apologize. If you read what Dick Durbin read on the Senate floor first, he read an e-mail from an FBI agent who was sent down to Guantanamo Bay to investigate conditions there. I won't read the whole thing. I've got it here.

GIBSON: Well, no, I've got it here, too.

PRESS: Right. And he...

GIBSON: They were chained hand and foot in a fetal position.


GIBSON: They had urinated or defecated on themselves. The air conditioning was cold. They were shivering.


GIBSON: Pol Pot killed 1.3 million people, one-third of his country. The Soviet gulags were responsible for 50 million deaths. And the Nazis, we know all about that.

Once again, should Durbin apologize, Bill?

PRESS: Dick Durbin should not apologize.

The question Dick Durbin asked when you read about that entire e-mail and you read about the treatment of those prisoners, and if you didn't — if he didn't tell you there was an FBI agent that was describing something and just ask, who did this, none of us would say, Americans did this. That treatment is wrong, John. It is wrong. And it's important that we know about it.

GIBSON: It may be a little excessive, but this is what — this is what Democrats have been doing, Bill. They have been overstating the case over and over.

To compare Guantanamo Bay to Pol Pot (search) is outrageous.


GIBSON: To compare it to the Soviet gulags is off the charts. And, Bill, you're the only Democrat that would come out today and defend him.

PRESS: Well, I'm proud to be here. And let me tell you what. I'm not here to defend torture. You can defend torture if you want. Senator George Allen, who is coming up next, can defend torture. I think we all should say that happened by a few — what was done by a few bad apples at Abu Ghraib, what was done by a few bad apples at Guantanamo Bay, on the orders, by the way, a policy written in the White House and the Bush administration...


GIBSON: Have you or Dick Durbin ever attacked the Zarqawi guys who cut off heads?


PRESS: Oh, come on. That's ridiculous.

GIBSON: Did anybody speak out — no, but come on.


GIBSON: There's no sense of proportion in this debate, Bill, none at all.

PRESS: You show me one Democrat that's defended Al Qaeda (search). You show me one Democrat that's defended Zarqawi.

GIBSON: No, I am — I'm looking for somebody to condemn those things.

PRESS: Listen, that was a cheap shot.


GIBSON: I want to see somebody to keep this in proportion.

PRESS: No, no, no.

I want to hear George Bush, I want to hear you, I want to hear Dick Cheney (search) condemn the mistreatment, the abuse, the torture of prisoners by our troops at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

GIBSON: Bill, are you telling me that the way they treated the 20th hijacker, the guy who was going to fly a plane into the Capitol Building, are you telling me that that was torture that was unreasonable that shouldn't have been done?

PRESS: What I'm telling you is that we have a serious problem. We have a serious image problem around the world, because we are not treating, deliberately not treating people according to international standards and according to the Geneva Conventions (search).

Now, we can deny that. We can wish it away. We can attack the Democrats. That just makes the problem worse. You know what? This is not a partisan issue, John. You know that Senator Mel Martinez has said it is un-American what we're doing to people in Guantanamo Bay. We should shut it — we should shut it down.

GIBSON: I'll tell you what I think un-American is, overstating the case. It isn't Pol Pot. It isn't the gulags. It isn't the Nazis.

PRESS: Don't attack Dick Durbin. Talk to the administration. Why do they have this policy? The Supreme Court of the United States...


GIBSON: Bill Press, there's an earthquake in Los Angeles. I've got to run.

PRESS: You got it.

GIBSON: But thanks a lot, Bill Press. We appreciate it.

PRESS: Good to be here.

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