Recently, conservative media have been pushing for Israel or the United States to launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, in some cases justifying an attack by claiming that Iran is on the verge of acquiring a nuclear weapon. In the context of Fox's efforts to beat the drums of war, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland distorted comments by Secretary of Defense and former CIA director Leon Panetta to claim that "Iran will have a nuclear weapon in a year or sooner." (Panetta actually said, "The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon.")
Contrary to what conservatives claim, however, there are significant questions about whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all. Indeed, 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates found no conclusive evidence that Iran is even trying to build a bomb. In January 31 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reiterated the fact that the U.S. intelligence committee does not have evidence to say that Iran is trying to build a bomb.
But there is another good reason to have some skepticism when conservatives warn that Iran is on the verge of having a nuclear weapon: they have been warning that Iran is months, a year, or at most two years away from the bomb for years. Here are some examples:
Following the Obama administration's announcement of an overhauled defense strategy that will guide cuts in defense spending, the right-wing media have claimed President Obama is "weakening national security" and marking a "new milestone" in "America's strategic retreat." But experts have said that the proposed plan is fiscally responsible while remaining "the world's most dominant military."
From the December 16 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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Following the Justice Department's announcement that an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States has been foiled, right-wing media called for the bombing of Iran. Indeed, conservative media figures have repeatedly endorsed military action against Iran and other countries.
On the August 11 edition of Fox News' Red Eye, panelists called children who appeared in a video produced by a coalition of progressive groups "a bunch of dorks" and "little bastards."
After airing the video -- part of the "Contract for the American Dream" campaign - Fox News contributor KT McFarland said, "These kids are a bunch of dorks." Later, a co-panelist, comedian Joe DeVito, stated of the children, "Those little bastards are making me so angry."
Previously, Fox News called the video "indoctrinat[ion]" and "Kiddie Propaganda."
From the August 11 edition of Fox News' Red Eye:
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Fox News has recently tried to spin GOP voter dissatisfaction with the 2012 presidential field by suggesting it is a manufactured Democratic talking point designed to "handicap" the candidates, when, in fact, polling has consistently shown Republicans are dissatisfied with the GOP field. This spin comes as Fox is investing a significant amount of resources into promoting the GOP presidential candidates.
The conservative media are suggesting that former President Bush deserves more credit than President Obama for the death of Osama bin Laden. This is in stark contrast to their usual attacks that Obama is responsible for things that are happening during his presidency, including those tied to Bush-era policies like the Gulf oil spill, the weak economy, and the nation's deficit problems.
Right-wing media outlets have seized on leaked excerpts of Bob Woodward's upcoming book to suggest that President Obama has followed a strategy in Afghanistan that his generals think is folly. In fact, top Pentagon personnel, including Gen. David Petraeus, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have stated that they agree with Obama's Afghanistan strategy.
From the May 5 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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The right-wing media narrative that the Obama administration endangered security by giving Miranda rights to alleged attempted Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is falling apart. Contrary to claims based on unnamed sources in the right-wing media, Obama administration officials agree that Abdulmutallab gave valuable intelligence during his first interrogation and that Abdulmutallab has begun divulging intelligence again.
Appearing on Fox News' Studio B with Shepard Smith to discuss Iran's nuclear capabilities, K.T. McFarland, former Republican senatorial candidate, Reagan administration spokesperson, and host of FoxNews.com's "Defcon 3" insisted that President Obama has "said nothing" on pro-democracy protesters in Iran. In fact President Obama specifically spoke about Iranian dissidents and condemned the violence on December 28, 2009.
From Obama's Dec. 28, 2009 comments:
Before I leave, let me also briefly address the events that have taken place over the last few days in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries, and even death.
For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days. And each time that has happened, the world has watched with deep admiration for the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people who are part of Iran's great and enduring civilization.
What's taking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It's about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life for themselves. And the decision of Iran's leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away.
As I said in Oslo, it's telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.
Along with all free nations, the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people.
We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I'm confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.
McFarland could have even found these comments on... FoxNews.com.
Rightwing media outlets have distorted testimony by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair to buttress their false claims that the decision to process alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab through the civilian criminal justice system prevented his interrogation and has made the United States less safe. In fact, in remarks Blair later stated were "misconstrued," he stated that an interrogation team that is not actually operational "should have" been "invoke[d]" with regard to Abdulmutallab, and in a subsequent statement, Blair said that the FBI interrogated Abdulmutallab and "received important intelligence."