"Deadline: White house" host Nicolle Wallace compared White House press briefings to propaganda in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during her show Friday.
Wallace and the panelists agreed Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not give satisfactory answers about an aide’s joke about Sen. John McCain’s health. NBC News reporter Kristen Welker had asked whether President Donald Trump bears responsibility for the comment, reported to have come from aide Kelly Sadler, but Sanders declined to elaborate and Wallace was incensed.
"I don't know the difference anymore between Baghdad Bob and Sarah Sanders," Wallace said, referring to Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, the former Iraqi information minister. Al-Sahhaf gained notoriety during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when he assured people that Iraqi forces were winning the war.
Analyst John Heilemann said he does not know the difference between Sanders and al-Sahhaf and commended White House reporters’ valor in dealing with the "horror show" of White House briefings.
"They do valiant work every day trying to get some semblance of truth or to at least expose the hypocrisy and lies, the Baghdad Bob-ness of it from the podium," he said about White House reporters. "They have more fortitude than I have."
"I would slit my throat after two of those briefings if I had to sit in that room every day," he added.
Former Republican campaign manager and MSNBC analyst Steve Schmidt said Sanders actually compares unfavorably to al-Sahhaf because she is Trump’s "accomplice."
"I'll tell you the difference between Sarah Sanders and Baghdad Bob. If Baghdad Bob didn't say what Saddam Hussein wanted him to say, Baghdad Bob would have been shot," Schmidt said. "Sarah Sanders is lying of her own volition, she stands up there a willful participant. Baghdad Bob was a hostage. Sarah Sanders is an accomplice."
He went on to argue that the whole White House political operation was serving a "debased administration" and was happy with "hurting America" just to exploit their power.
Both Wallace and Schmidt worked for McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008. Schmidt was a top campaign strategist while Wallace was a senior adviser, although she admitted later that she did not even vote for him.
Reports say Sadler joked in a private meeting that the White House did not need to worry about McCain opposing Trump's nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel, because the senator is close to dying. McCain has terminal brain cancer.