George Will's Fact Check On Obama's SOTU Speech Falls Short

Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

Syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor George Will inaccurately criticized President Obama's 2014 State of the Union address for supposedly using the term "al-Qaida's core leadership" as a subtle change in language from the previous year, showing that his efforts against the terrorist organization have stalled. But a simple fact check shows Obama's statement on Tuesday regarding al Qaeda is almost identical to his 2013 speech.

During the January 29 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Will accused Obama of substituting the more general language used to describe his efforts to fight the entire al Qaeda organization in his 2013 State of the Union address for less encompassing language only targeting "al Qaeda's core leadership" in his 2014 speech:

WILL: [L]isten to how the language has changed. One year ago in the State of the Union, the president said "[t]he organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self." He didn't use the word "al Qaeda." It has a name, why didn't he use it? Because we were on the way to last night, where we now talk about core al Qaeda. "[W]e've put al-Qaida's core leadership on a path to defeat." It turns out, that the devil is in the adjective -- core leadership. And the more they use it, the less informative this gets.

But Obama explicitly mentioned his efforts to defeat the "core" of al Qaeda in both speeches. From President Obama's 2013 address:

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us.  Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda.  


Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. It's true, different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged -- from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa.  The threat these groups pose is evolving. 

Obama echoed these remarks in his 2014 State of the Union address:

The fact is that danger remains. While we've put al-Qaida's core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. 

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