Hannity distorts article to hit media for crediting Obama in rescue

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Misconstruing a Politico article, Sean Hannity criticized the media for giving President Obama credit for authorizing the use of lethal force against Somali pirates.

During the April 13 edition of his Fox News program, Sean Hannity disparaged the media for giving President Obama credit for authorizing the use of lethal force against Somali pirates when, according to Hannity, Obama "was legally required to sign on to this. There was no great decision here, in other words." Hannity stated: "So in -- so I'm seeing the media praise him or overly praise him for something he legally was told by his team he had to do. So the slobbering love affair continues." Hannity based his claim on an April 12 Politico article, which reported: "Obama's involvement in the decision to authorize lethal force was legally required, officials said, because it was a hostage situation, not combat, and unrelated to the already authorized U.S. effort against Al Qaeda and other terror groups, officials said." However, contrary to Hannity's reading of the article, the Politico reported that Obama's authorization was required before lethal force could be utilized, not that Obama had no choice but to authorize the use of force.

Indeed, during an April 12 Department of Defense news briefing, Central Command Vice Adm. William Gortney noted that "[o]ur authority came ... directly from the president." An April 13 Department of Defense statement similarly noted that "two groups of military operators were involved in the rescue -- one based in the region and one based in the United States -- with each requiring separate authority from President Barack Obama. 'And the approval was given virtually immediately in both cases,' [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates said."

From the April 12 Politico article:

Obama's involvement in the decision to authorize lethal force was legally required, officials said, because it was a hostage situation, not combat, and unrelated to the already authorized U.S. effort against Al Qaeda and other terror groups, officials said.

"It's not a combat operation, so the lawyers wanted to ensure this was done right," said a second defense official.

From the April 12 Department of Defense news briefing:

REPORTER: Admiral, Justine again from FOX, it's been reported that the order to take action came from President Obama. Is that accurate, did the order come from the top, and would you say that action was needed because the ship was getting closer to shore? Was that also another reason that the timing was now for this rescue effort?

GORTNEY: Our authority came, you're correct, our authorities came directly from the president.

And the number one authority for incidents if we were going to respond was if the captain's life was in immediate danger. And that is the situation in which our sailors acted.

REPORTER: A couple questions, first of all, a question follow-up on that one. But that was a standing authority from the president. He wasn't on the phone with the skipper of the Bainbridge saying, oh, yeah, go ahead and at that time shot.

GORTNEY: Correct. That's correct. Yes.

From the April 13 Department of Defense statement:

The U.S. military's rescue of a kidnapped American ship captain yesterday was "textbook," but the issue of piracy is likely to worsen in the absence of a systemic solution, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

Off the Somali coast yesterday, U.S. special operations snipers on the USS Bainbridge shot and killed three pirates who had held hostage the captain of the Maersk-Alabama cargo ship on a lifeboat for five days. Military officials said Capt. Richard Phillips' life was in imminent danger at the time of his rescue.

"It was textbook," Gates said of the operation. "They were patient. They got the right people and the right equipment in place, and then did what they do."

Gates, speaking at the Marine Corps War College here, said two groups of military operators were involved in the rescue -- one based in the region and one based in the United States -- with each requiring separate authority from President Barack Obama. "And the approval was given virtually immediately in both cases," Gates said.

From the April 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: Well, first of all, there are some new emerging details tonight. I found buried deep within the Politico article on the topic is that Obama's involvement in the decision to use lethal force -- and maybe you know more than I do -- was legally required, officials said, because it was a hostage situation, not combat, and unrelated to the already authorized U.S. effort against Al Qaeda and other terror groups?

RALPH PETERS (columnist): Actually, Sean, you just put your finger on it. We're treating it like a law enforcement issue. We have 3,000 years of history of dealing with pirates in Western civilization. And it was never a law enforcement issue. It's always been a military issue, and only military solutions ever worked.

You know, we think we stand apart from history; we don't. Whether it's Al Qaeda or pirates -- look, let's stop pretending these guys deserve their Miranda rights. When they take American hostages, threaten to kill Americans, try to kill Americans, or do kill Americans, it's time for our military to be permitted to do what we have it for, for God's sake.

HANNITY: Yeah. Let me go through one issue here, and I think this is really important. Could you imagine, you know, being that far away from the pirates -- and this is a long distance -- you've got sniper fire; you literally have three guys you've got to take out at once. You've got, obviously, the high seas, and you've got to factor in -- in terms of bullet movement -- you've got to factor in the wind that would blow at a certain distance.

I can't even imagine the skill level that would be needed for something like that.

PETERS: Yeah, Sean, for duffers like you and me when it comes to marksmanship, it is hard to imagine, but I cannot stress enough, these guys train constantly. I mean, they -- when they're not fighting, they are training. And for them, I would say that although -- obviously -- the adrenaline was flowing, this was what they're trained to do. It wasn't as challenging for them as it would be for any other human beings on Earth.

HANNITY: Well, let me ask you this, because I want to get back to the issue of President Obama here for just a second. If -- it could be that he just allowed the military to use force or, as we're pointing out, it may have been his legal -- he had no legal option. That was necessary under the law. But the question is here, you know, why -- the only question would be if he didn't allow the use of force.

As far as I'm concerned, this would be standard operating procedure --

PETERS: Yeah.

HANNITY: -- and it seems like the media wants to hold him up and say that this was Obama's decision, et cetera, et cetera, and I don't see that this is extraordinary in any way. If there's Americans being held hostage, and we've got a shot, you take the shot, you save your hostage.

PETERS: Yeah. And I was actually very disappointed that President Obama didn't come out and say, look, we're going to take a firm stand against piracy. Now we didn't want to endanger Captain Phillips' life. But he needed to lead. The campaign is over.

The guy needed to lead, and instead what I saw was sort of the hand of Rahm Emanuel at work. He set it up so that if the military operation had been a disaster, he wouldn't have got the blame; but it succeeded, so he gets the credit.

So, again, look, I want our president to do well, but it's time to lead.

HANNITY: Yeah.

PETERS: And leading against pirates doesn't mean killing three pirates and taking one hostage. It means going in, cleaning out the layers, hitting them so hard that the survivors are stunned forever.

We can't do this like Bill Clinton -- pin prick them a couple of times and hope the pirates -- or in Clinton's case, Al Qaeda -- just goes away. These threats don't just go away.

[...]

HANNITY: And in "Your America" tonight, President Obama remained out of the public eye this weekend as the standoff with the pirates unfolded, but now that Captain Richard Phillips has been successfully rescued, the president has decided to step in front of the spotlight and even take some credit for authorizing the mission.

And here with reaction is the author of A Slobbering Love Affair, Fox News contributor Bernie Goldberg.

Bernie, it's interesting. I noticed this right out of the box. And that was that they were very noncommittal, and then as soon as the success came in, you know, according to reports, it was Rahm Emanuel racing to take credit, which is the opposite of the way Captain Phillips handled it.

Your thoughts.

GOLDBERG: Well, first of all, I think it was smart for the president not to say anything while these -- while the hostage was being held. If, God forbid, something happened to the captain, that would lessen the stature of the president. And if, God forbid, the president said something provocative and they killed the captain, there'd be a lot of critics blaming Barack Obama for that.

But there's another issue that troubles me about this, Sean, and it troubles me a lot. You remember when liberals wouldn't give George Bush credit for anything?

HANNITY: Yup.

GOLDBERG: If he came up with a cure for cancer, they wouldn't have given him credit for that. And I'm sorry, Sean, I see that on the right now.

[...]

HANNITY: I don't want you to misunderstand, but there's an important point here is -- I think it was very different. There was an orchestrated effort for them to go out there and take credit for this. And that's according to reports.

In other words, they wanted the credit. I think you're right. I think he should have stayed silent. But what we've now discovered is, according to the Politico, is that, in fact, he was legally required to sign on to this. There was no great decision here, in other words.

So in other words -- so I'm seeing the media praise him or overly praise him for something he legally was told by his team he had to do. So the slobbering love affair continues, in other words.

GOLDBERG: Right. Yeah, I agree with that. But, Sean, let me ask you: Were you shocked when you found out that they were gambling in the back room at Rick's Cafe? I mean, of course the media is going to bend over backwards and see things in the best light for the person that they wanted to be president.

I'm not surprised by that. All I'm saying is -- I'll criticize the media -- but what I'm saying is the right has to stop behaving like the --

HANNITY: All right. But wait -- but --

GOLDBERG: -- left used to behave with George Bush.

HANNITY: You have to show me where -- I guess, by definition, if he's -- if I'm discovering here that legally he had to do it, and his PR team led by "Rahmbo" Emanuel are out there, you know, grabbing credit when the captain is saying, I'm just the byline in the story. I'm saying, wait a minute, there seems to be something wrong and that that whole story is not being told.

Look, he didn't stop it because he couldn't stop it, apparently, Bernie. So where does he get the credit here?

GOLDBERG: Well, he gets -- if you want to use the word "credit," I'll use that word.

HANNITY: They're grabbing credit.

GOLDBERG: He gets the credit because -- because he was the commander in chief, it happened on his watch, that's the way it goes in the real world of politics. If something bad happened here, and thank God it didn't --

HANNITY: Thank God.

[...]

HANNITY: Let me add one thing to this point, and I promise I'll give you the last word, and I'm not going to interrupt you. But from the Politico it says, "Obama's involvement in the decision was legally required, officials said, because it was a hostage situation, not combat, and unrelated to the already authorized U.S. effort against Al Qaeda."

So, I guess the point is, if it's already something he has to do, that does add a different dimension, doesn't it, Bernie?

GOLDBERG: OK, well if -- yes, again, but I don't know -- it seems to me a commander in chief can say don't shoot those fellows, they're young men -- and then we could criticize him. The commander in chief could say send some food over to them, they must be hungry -- then we could criticize him.

I just think -- I think if you want to spend your time, Sean, looking at what he might do in the area of foreign policy and national security, absolutely 100 percent legitimate, and I'm probably going to be on your side on that.

This is -- this seems to me petty. The criticism here seems to be petty.

HANNITY: Well, look, Bernie, you're --

GOLDBERG: That's my position.

HANNITY: -- you're entitled to your opinion. But the only thing I'm saying here is I think the way the captain handled the credit by saying I'm a byline, these Navy SEALs saved my life -- I think it was classier than racing to the cameras, you know, and your PR people, and trying to convince the world you were responsible for something that you may not have even had an option in is a big difference.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.