FLASHBACK: Conservative Media Repeatedly Attacked Obama's Commitment To Fighting Terrorism

››› ››› SOLANGE UWIMANA

In the wake of President Obama's announcement that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan, Media Matters looks back at conservative media who attacked his commitment to fighting terrorism. Since his election in 2008, right-wing media figures have repeatedly suggested that Obama is weak on terror and that he is not serious about defending America from terrorism threats.

Fox News Has A History Of Attacking Obama As Weak On Terror

Fox News' Sammon: In Not Using "Terrorism" Or Any Of Its Variants, Obama Showed "He Has Taken Us Off A War Footing As A Nation." In June 2009, shortly after Obama delivered his much-anticipated speech in Cairo regarding America's relationship with the Muslim world, Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon sent an email to Fox staff pointing out that Obama did not use "the words 'terror,' 'terrorist' or 'terrorism.' " Sammon's "cursory check" quickly became the editorial focus for Fox News journalists covering Obama's speech, and was repeated (in some instances almost verbatim) by the network's hosts. Sammon himself appeared on Fox shortly after sending the email and claimed that Obama, in not using "terrorism" or any of its variants, showed that "he has taken us off a war footing as a nation." [Media Matters, 2/8/11]

Beck Distorted Obama Administration's Language On Terrorism To Paint Obama As Soft On Terror. Fox News' Glenn Beck made a series of false claims regarding language the Obama administration uses to describe terrorism in order to cast Obama as weak in fighting terrorists. Beck falsely claimed that the administration avoids using terms like "terrorism" and "war on terror"; that the administration removed the label "enemy combatant" so that such people could not be held in jail; that the war on terror must be referred to as the "overseas contingency operation." Beck also distorted Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan's remarks on jihad. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 7/19/10, via Media Matters]

Hannity: "Obama Is Weak. He's An Appeaser." On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said of current Justice Department lawyers who previously represented or advocated for terror suspects, "They represented Al Qaeda. Now they work for us." Hannity later said, "If you're going to work in our Justice Department ... and you represented Al Qaeda, I want to know who you are." Hannity also stated, "Obama is weak. He's an appeaser. Obama is making this country and every citizen vulnerable to attack." [Fox News, Hannity, 3/3/10, via Media Matters]

Palin: Obama's "Fundamental Approach To Terrorism Is Fatally Flawed." In a Facebook post criticizing Obama's position on national security matters, former Fox News contributor Sarah Palin wrote:

President Obama's meeting with his top national security advisers does nothing to change the fact that his fundamental approach to terrorism is fatally flawed. We are at war with radical Islamic extremists and treating this threat as a law enforcement issue is dangerous for our nation's security.

[...]

President Obama was right to change his policy and decide to send no more detainees to Yemen where they can be free to rejoin their war on America. Now he must back off his reckless plan to close Guantanamo, begin treating terrorists as wartime enemies not suspects alleged to have committed crimes, and recognize that the real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor. [Facebook, 1/5/10]

Fox's Cupp Falsely Claimed Obama, Napolitano Won't Use The Word "Terrorist." On Fox News, contributor S.E. Cupp falsely claimed that Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano "won't even say 'terrorist,' " suggesting that Obama and his administration are weak on terror. From the July 14, 2010, edition of Fox News' Hannity:

JUAN WILLIAMS (Fox News contributor): You never want to acknowledge when the guy does something that actually takes on the terrorists.

HANNITY: When he does something well.

CUPP: He won't even say "terrorist." And Janet Napolitano won't say the word either, which is the very reason her office exists. Homeland Security exists because of terrorism, and she won't even say the word.

HANNITY: How about -- how about -- what is it about this reluctance to utter the words, "There is a war on terror," instead of "man-caused disaster," "overseas contingency operation"? I still don't get it. [Fox News, Hannity, 7/14/10, via Media Matters]

Fox Guest Berntsen: Obama's "Performance Has Been Weak In National Security." Fox & Friends hosted former CIA official Gary Berntsen to discuss Obama's efforts on terrorism and whether the president had "sa[id] enough" about national security in his 2010 State of the Union speech. Berntsen said that "his performance has been weak in national security, and therefore, his speech was weak"; that Obama's statements on North Korea and Iran were "ridiculous"; and he criticized Obama's withdrawal plan for Afghanistan as premature. Berntsen gave Obama a "D" for national security. Berntsen opined that Obama had been on a "charm offensive" regarding national security and foreign policy, adding, "[T]he Iranians will be detonating nuclear devices, and he'll still be talking about sanctions." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/28/10, via Media Matters]

Right-Wing Media Routinely Suggest Obama Isn't Serious About Defending America

Hannity: With Brennan As Adviser, It's "No Wonder [Obama] Is Having Such A Big Problem Facing Up To Our Enemies." Criticizing Brennan for his statement that jihad is a "legitimate tenet of Islam," Hannity said that Brennan, "who is becoming notorious for his absurd statements about the war on terror," was "at it again." After airing a portion of Brennan's comments, Hannity commented that "with this kind of adviser, no wonder the Anointed One is having such a big problem facing up to our enemies." During a later segment, Hannity said that "this is one of the most frightening things we could have a national security adviser ever say" and that Brennan "should be fired for his ignorance." [Fox News, Hannity, 5/27/10, via Media Matters]

O'Reilly: "There's No Hard Evidence To Suggest" Obama Is "Down With The Global Justice Jihad." From the April 2, 2009, edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Is President Obama selling out America? That is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo."

[...]

O'REILLY: Some conservative pundits actually believe President Obama is a star chamber guy, a man who secretly wants to turn America into a progressive country modeled on western Europe. Also, they think he wants to lessen the power of America and sign up for a one world combine of governance. In the past, that kind of thinking was labeled loony, but that's changing.

[...]

O'REILLY: Key question -- where does Barack Obama stand? Are the right wing pundits correct? Is he down with the global justice jihad? There's no hard evidence to suggest that he is, but he has not repudiated the false vision either. Until President Obama does, speculation will rage. And that is the Memo. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/2/09, accessed via Nexis]

Kilmeade Falsely Accused Obama Of Neglecting Fight Against Terrorism. On Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade falsely suggested that Obama isn't serious about fighting terrorism because he is "reaching out" to the Muslim world, and because Obama has said that America is not at war with Islam. Frequent Fox News guest Michael Scheuer, who appeared on the show to comment, also suggested "the federal government really doesn't take" terrorism "very seriously." From the segment:

SCHEUER: The New York Police Department, the Washington Police Department, are basically beaten in all directions. They work themselves to death, but the federal government really doesn't take this very seriously. Mr. Obama has ruled out the use of 'Islamist' and 'Islamic' and 'jihad' as if that's going to help the problem. The United States is at war with an increasing portion of the Muslim world. And until we accept that and figure out a way to defend ourselves, it's a downhill struggle no matter how good the police are.

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): So that brings me to Walid Phares. Walid, if you're still there. We are at war but yet right now our approach is reaching out, learn more about us, we're not trying to fight you, we're not at war with Islam. Is that a different message than the reality? [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 5/4/10, via Media Matters]

Carlson: "Let's Face It," "When It Comes To Terror" The White House's "Tone" Is "Not Quite That Serious." On the January 8, 2010 edition of Fox & Friends, Gretchen Carlson asked political analyst Doug Schoen about the "tone ... specifically in the White House right now when it comes to terror" and whether there is "a war waging behind the scenes between the CIA and the White House." After Schoen said that "there is no clear division of responsibilities or plan to deal with the inevitable conflicts," Carlson added, "Is that why everyone felt comfortable being on vacation, because the tone -- let's face it -- is not quite that serious?" [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 1/8/10, via Media Matters]

Palin: Obama "Reflects A World View That Is Out Of Touch With The Enemy That We Face." In a speech delivered at the National Tea Party Convention, former Fox News contributor Sarah Palin repeatedly suggested Obama was "out of touch" with the threat posed by terrorism, adding that Obama's "misguided thinking" on foreign policy has resulted in more threats. From her February 6, 2010, speech:

PALIN: Let me say, too, it's not politicizing our security to discuss our concerns because Americans deserve to know the truth about the threats that we face and what the administration is or isn't doing about them. So let's talk about them. New terms used like "overseas contingency operation" instead of the word "war." That reflects a world view that is out of touch with the enemy that we face. We can't spin our way out of this threat. It is one thing to call a pay raise a job created or saved. It is quite another to call the devastation that a homicide bomber can inflict a "manmade disaster." I just say, come on, Washington, if no where else, national security, that is one place where you've got to call it like it is.

[...]

PALIN: It's that same kind of misguided thinking that is seen throughout the administration's foreign policy decisions. Our president spent a year reaching out to hostile regimes, writing personal letters to dangerous dictators and apologizing for America, and what do we have to show for that? Here's what we have to show. North Korea tested nuclear weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles. [CNN Transcripts, 2/6/10]

Calling Obama "Post-American," Bolton Blamed "Risk Of Continuing Global Terrorism" On "Obama Approach." From a December 2009 discussion of Obama's Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

LAURA INGRAHAM (guest host): One thing he said during the speech is America cannot act alone.

BOLTON: You took the quote I had underlined right here.

INGRAHAM: Oh, mind meld here.

BOLTON: Let me just say --

INGRAHAM: That jumped out at me when he said that.

BOLTON: Yeah, he didn't say it's imprudent for America to act alone, or America should have allies, or we're better --

INGRAHAM: Right, which is fine.

BOLTON: He said we cannot act. That's fundamentally wrong.

But it reflects, I think, what's basically his mindset, which is he is post-American. He is against nuclear proliferation. He is against belligerent war. He just wants to resolve it through the framework of the United Nations. And that's what the real problem is. That's why North Korea and Iran continue to pursue their nuclear programs. That's why we have the risk of continuing global terrorism.

Because the Obama approach isn't going to work. And because he says a nice thing about America every once in a while, doesn't change the fundamental philosophy at work in his brain. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 12/11/09, via Media Matters]

Scheuer: Obama "Obviously Does Not Care" About "Protecting Americans." On the August 28, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends, Scheuer said:

SCHEUER: The real problem, Brian - is the morale is obviously bad but clearly, for the CIA now to be answering to a president, for the first time I think a sitting president who has given aid and comfort to the enemy, both psychologically and materially, it's a very distressing thing because ultimately the agency is responsible for protecting Americans. The President obviously does not care. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/28/09, via Media Matters]

Scheuer On Obama: "When It Comes To Defending America, He's Generally Pretty Quiet." During the December 1, 2010, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly asked Scheuer: "Were you surprised the president hasn't said anything about Wikileaks?" Scheuer replied: "No, I think the president has a pretty -- established a pretty good record of not talking about things that would defend America. He and Holder have been very good at criticizing Americans about how we've lost our moral compass. He always has time to talk about has-been Burmese journalists and Chinese writers you never hear of, but when it comes to defending America, Bill, he's generally pretty quiet." [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 12/1/10, via Media Matters]

Scheuer: Democratic Administrations Give "Aid And Comfort To The Enemy." During an August 31, 2009, appearance on Fox News' The Live Desk, Scheuer said of Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to appoint a prosecutor to investigate past CIA interrogation tactics:

SCHEUER: I have to say that, you know, the CIA is pretty much an apolitical organization. You follow the instructions of the president. But on the issue of terrorism, especially on the issue of Islamic terrorism, the agency has grown pretty used to Democratic administrations who are both anti-agency and in many senses, pro-terrorist. Mr. Clinton could have ended this problem in 1997, 1998. He chose not to. He of course never listened to Mr. [James] Woolsey, his DCI [Director of Central Intelligence]. And Mr. Holder and Mr. Obama cone from the Democratic generation that hate the agency.

[...]

SCHEUER: Of course it makes us less safe. It's aid and comfort to the enemy. No matter how the investigation works out, Al Qaeda and its allies have now -- are now aware that the President of the United States is trying to neuter the intelligence service in the world that has done the most damage to Al Qaeda. I don't know if it's permissible to do the happy dance in Islam, but once they heard Holder's announcement, those boys in the caves were doing the happy dance. [Fox News, The Live Desk, 8/31/09, via Media Matters]

Tammy Bruce: Obama "Perhaps Secretly Wishes This Nation To Be Harmed ... His Mother Certainly Did." On her radio show, Tammy Bruce repeatedly referred to Obama as "Urkel" while responding to events in North Korea, suggesting that Obama "secretly wishes this nation to be harmed." From the show:

BRUCE: Now, remember, "Urkel," in all of his complaining about North Korea, said there's gonna be a -- they better not. What exactly do you think this guy's gonna do? Unless and here's perhaps what we have. There's gonna have to be a point where our military -- I know there's other people out there. I kind of vaguely remember, even though we're not hearing from Congress. I do vaguely remember that we have a military and a military infrastructure.

Now maybe I'm naïve of thinking that the military's gonna be able to keep a really bad thing from happening if "Urkel" does not have the courage -- or even perhaps secretly wishes this nation to be harmed. I wouldn't put that past him. His mother certainly did. His friends certainly do. Why would he be out of that loop? I'm just looking at the facts as we know them.

Friends with a man who took action and delivered bombs that exploded to harm the American people. Spiritual mentor father-figure who hates this country and wants it damned. A wife who has never been proud of this country, but then says she was only when her husband got something. A mother who reviled this nation. And a father who came here simply to -- I guess to get a piece of something and then left. You think that the result of all of that environmental influence is a man who loves this country? Come on! [Talk Radio Network, The Tammy Bruce Show, 6/18/09, via Media Matters]

LV Review-Journal Publisher Suggested Obama Not "Tough About Keeping America Safe." In a Las Vegas Review-Journal column claiming that "the two cases of domestic terrorism since 9/11" happened "on Obama's watch," publisher Sherman Frederick wrote:

If this is what it takes to wake up Obama to the evils of this world, then he learned an easy lesson. But tell that to the personnel who lost their lives to terrorism at Fort Hood.

Then, as now, the Obama administration fails to swiftly acknowledge the threat. They demur in describing our enemy as radical Muslims. They plan to close the offshore prison for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and transfer the prisoners to the United States. They give the enemy combatants who killed more than 3,000 people on 9/11 the privilege of a civilian federal trial in New York City when a military tribunal is more appropriate. And for three days our president failed to address his people directly on Abdulmutallab's failed effort to blow up a commercial flight over Detroit on Christmas Day. All of this on top of President Obama's noticeable refusal to characterize our struggle as a "war" on "terror."

In the wake of fierce criticism, Obama now talks tough about keeping America safe. But in the two cases of domestic terrorism since 9/11 -- both on Obama's watch -- red flags flew aplenty. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 1/3/10]

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