Fox's credibility gap with its terrorism experts

Following the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight, Fox News has repeatedly discussed terrorism with analysts who have proved themselves not credible to discuss American foreign policy by making false or outrageous statements about foreign policy or terrorism. For example, Fox hosted Stephen Hayes, whose false comments about a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda had to be corrected by the Pentagon; Michael Scheuer, who said that “the only chance we have” is for Osama bin Laden to “detonate a major weapon” in the United States; Ralph Peters, who previously said on Fox News that if the soldier the Taliban captured had deserted his post, then “the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles”; and Judith Miller, who reported a series of stories on Saddam Hussein's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction that the Times later corrected in an editor's note.

Fox featured Michael Scheuer, who has claimed “the only chance we have” is for bin Laden to “detonate a major weapon” in U.S.

Scheuer: “The only chance we have as a country right now is” for bin Laden to “detonate a major weapon” in U.S. Scheuer, whom Fox News hosted on December 28, 2009, and January 7 to discuss the attempted bombing of the Northwest Airlines flight and the response of the Obama administration, previously said during an appearance on Glenn Beck, “The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.” [Glenn Beck, 6/30/09]

Scheuer has repeatedly made outrageous comments about the Obama administration. Scheuer previously suggested that President Obama is guilty of treason, stated that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel wants terrorists to attack the United States, and asserted that the Obama administration is “pro-terrorist.”

Fox featured Stephen Hayes, who repeatedly made dubious claims that Iraq was “connected” to Al Qaeda

Hayes “has made a career out of pretending Saddam and Al Qaeda were in league.” Hayes has repeatedly claimed on TV, in The Weekly Standard, and in his book The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America, that Iraq was connected to Al Qaeda. Spencer Ackerman wrote that Hayes “has made a career out of pretending Saddam and Al Qaeda were in league to attack the United States”:

Hayes, in the Standard, has made a career out of pretending Saddam and Al Qaeda were in league to attack the United States. He published a book - tellingly wafer-thin and with large type in its hardcover edition - called “The Connection.” One infamous piece even suggested that Saddam might have aided the 9/11 attack. Hayes can be relied on to provide a farrago of speciousness every time new information emerges refuting his deceptive thesis. Unsurprisingly, [former Vice President Dick] Cheney has repeatedly praised Hayes's work, telling Fox News, “I think Steve Hayes has done an effective job in his article of laying out a lot of those connections.”

Hayes falsely cited 1998 bin Laden indictment as proof that Clinton administration had “connected” Iraq, Al Qaeda. Hayes, who appeared on the January 8 edition of Hannity, previously cited the Department of Justice's 1998 indictment of bin Laden on charges of conspiring to attack the United States as evidence that the Clinton administration had “connected Saddam [Hussein] and Al Qaeda.” While the original indictment did refer to an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection, then-assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Patrick J. Fitzgerald specifically removed from a subsequent indictment of bin Laden -- which superseded the original indictment -- the reference to an Iraq-Al Qaeda link after failing to substantiate that such a relationship existed.

The Pentagon called Hayes' assertion that “a top secret U.S. government memorandum” concluded that Hussein and bin Laden had an “operational relationship” “inaccurate.” In an article in The Weekly Standard's November 24, 2003, issue, Hayes asserted that “a top secret U.S. government memorandum” -- which Hayes identified as a memorandum produced by former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith -- concluded that Saddam and bin Laden “had an operational relationship.” Hayes wrote of the memo: “Much of the evidence is detailed, conclusive, and corroborated by multiple sources.” In a January 9, 2004, interview with Denver's Rocky Mountain News, Cheney cited Hayes' article, claiming that "[i]t goes through and lays out in some detail, based on an assessment that was done by the Department of Defense and was forwarded to the Senate Intelligence Committee some weeks ago." Cheney added: “That's your best source of information.” Following the publication of Hayes' article, the Pentagon released a statement asserting that "[n]ews reports" about the memo “are inaccurate” and that the portion of the memo to which Hayes' article referred “was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, and it drew no conclusions.”

Fox featured Judith Miller, who wrote a series of articles on Iraq's WMDs that led to The New York Times apologizing for its reporting

Miller's series of articles on the now-debunked claim that Saddam had WMDs forced NY Times to apologize for its coverage. Fox News contributor Judith Miller appears regularly as a Fox News contributor. As Franklin Foer wrote for New York magazine:

During the winter of 2001 and throughout 2002, Miller produced a series of stunning stories about Saddam Hussein's ambition and capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, based largely on information provided by [Ahmad Chalabi] and his allies -- almost all of which have turned out to be stunningly inaccurate.

Indeed, although the Times did not identify Miller by name, it did publish an editor's note in May 2004 apologizing for its coverage of the existence of WMDs in Iraq, particularly articles based on the assertions of Chalabi and other Iraqi defectors:

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged -- or failed to emerge.

The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on “regime change” in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks. (The most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi, has been named as an occasional source in Times articles since at least 1991, and has introduced reporters to other exiles. He became a favorite of hard-liners within the Bush administration and a paid broker of information from Iraqi exiles, until his payments were cut off last week.) Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations -- in particular, this one.

Fox featured Con Coughlin, who repeatedly advanced discredited claim that 9-11 “mastermind” was trained in Iraq

Coughlin repeatedly advanced since-discredited charge that Saddam was connected to 9-11. Coughlin, who appeared on the January 7 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk, repeatedly advanced the claim, while reporting for the Daily Telegraph in 2003, that the Iraqi coalition government uncovered a letter proving that “Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad.” However, Newsweek later reported the letter was “likely a forgery,” that Coughlin “acknowledged that he could not prove the authenticity of the document,” and the Telegraph articles were “apparently written with a political purpose: to bolster Bush administration claims of a connection between Al Qaeda and Sadaam's regime.” From Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball's December 17, 2003, Newsweek article:

Coughlin's account was picked up by newspapers around the world and was cited the next day by New York Times columnist William Safire. But U.S. officials and a leading Iraqi document expert tell NEWSWEEK that the document is most likely a forgery -- part of a thriving new trade in dubious Iraqi documents that has cropped up in the wake of the collapse of Saddam's regime.


The Telegraph story was apparently written with a political purpose: to bolster Bush administration claims of a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam's regime. The paper described a “handwritten memo” that was supposedly sent to Saddam Hussein by Tahir JalilHabbush al-Tikriti, chief of Iraqi intelligence at the time. It describes a three-day “work program” that Atta had undertaken in Baghdad under the tutelage of notorious Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, who lived in the Iraqi capital until his death under suspicious circumstances in August 2002.


The problem with this, say U.S. law enforcement officials, is that the FBI has compiled a highly detailed time line for Atta's movements throughout the spring and summer of 2001 based on a mountain of documentary evidence, including airline records, ATM withdrawals and hotel receipts. Those records show Atta crisscrossing the United States during this period--making only one overseas trip, an 11-day visit to Spain that didn't begin until six days after the date of the Iraqi memo.

Fox featured Bo Dietl, who has a history of calling for racial profiling and making outrageous comments about Muslims

Dietl has repeatedly spoken out in favor of racial profiling. Bo Dietl, who has repeatedly appeared on Fox Business' Imus in the Morning to discuss the attempted bombing, previously appeared on the August 7, 2007, edition of Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto and asserted: “We know there's a war by fundamentalists and terrorists to kill us. So we have to be able to profile. And I'm sorry, if I see two guys that look like Aba Daba Doo and Aba Daba Dah, I'm gonna pull 'em over, and I wanna find out what you're doing.” Dietl previously told Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini, leader of the Islamic Center of America, the “facts of life:” “If you're on a plane with me ... you'll be looked at a little ... more carefully than me.” He has also called for more racial profiling in “your 7-Elevens” and for law enforcement to “go out to the Muslim communities.”

Dietl suggested that in the event of a nuclear attack by Muslims, U.S. should threaten to bomb Islam's “most religious places.” On Bill O'Reilly's radio show, Dietl asserted that if a Muslim detonated a nuclear bomb in the U.S: “you think the president of the United States would make a statement if there's another nuclear bomb, we're going to bomb Mecca, we're gonna bomb the most religious places. This is a holy war.” [The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 7/22/05]

Dietl on Muslim “fanatics” fighting a “God war:” “When you have eight children, you can let two of 'em go get blown up because you always got six more.” On Imus in the Morning, Dietl decried the “influxitation [sic] of the Muslim Empire that's taking over Europe,” suggested the United States should “make a parking lot out of Damascus,” and claimed that “every Muslim family is told to have six to eight children.” Dietl added that Muslim fanatics are willing to “let two of them go get blown up because you always got six more.” [Imus in the Morning, 7/24/07]

Dietl referred to Arabs as “hamel humpers,” suggested Bush threaten Saudi Arabia with F-16s. While discussing the rising price of gasoline on the May 12, 2008, edition of ABC Radio Networks' Imus in the Morning, Dietl said that “there should be a congressional investigation ... into all these former presidents,” before asking: “What kind of money is being influxitated [sic] into their libaries [sic]? I'm talking about this guy sitting across from me, Bill Clinton. They have hundreds of millions of dollars that were pumped in there from these Aba Daba Doos over there in the Middle East, controlling the oil. Right now in the Middle East, you've got Saudi Arabia, who's got their finger. Why doesn't Fredo [President Bush] get on his Air Force One, fly over to Riyadh, get those little hamel humpers over there, sit 'em down, and say, 'Look, we got our F-16s --' ” Host Don Imus interrupted Dietl and said: “It's, uh, 'camel humpers.' ” [Imus in the Morning, 5/12/08]

Dietl claimed that Muslim Turks are “overpopuliz[ing],” that “radical Muslims” “want to wipe you out or transfer you into being a radical Muslim. On Your World, Dietl asserted: ”Look at what is going on in Germany. You have 15 million Turks there, Muslim Turks. You've got Muslim families that are told they have to have six to eight children. They want to overpopulize [sic]. Remember the Ottoman Empire, 500 years ago? Let's go to the real source of the problem here. You cannot live with these radical Muslims. They don't want to coexist. They want to wipe you out or transfer you into being a radical Muslim. That's ... what this whole thing is." Dietl later predicted that “Iran is going to stay kind of mute” in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict because it recognizes that “America is the strongest army there is on the Earth, and that we could go into Syria, into Damascus -- Damascus, and make a parking lot out of that tomorrow.” [Your World, 7/21/06]

Fox featured Steve Emerson, who was previously discredited by FAIR, and who called for racial profiling

Emerson: Because of complaints “by the, quote, Islamic civil rights groups” government “stopped basically profiling.” Author Steven Emerson said on the December 26, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends, “Remember, there have been so many complaints about, quote, profiling by the, quote, Islamic civil rights groups that they stopped basically profiling. And that basically led to not putting [the suspect in the attempted Northwest Airlines bombing, Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab] onto a terrorist watch list.” According to a 1999 Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) report titled "Steve Emerson's Crusade," Emerson's “priority is not so much news as it is an unrelenting attack against Arabs and Muslims,” and he has a history of “pushing questionable stories”:

Emerson's willingness to push an extremely thin story--with potentially explosive consequences--is also consistent with the lengthy list of mistakes and distortions that mar his credentials as an expert on terrorism.


A New York Times review (5/19/91) of his 1991 book Terrorist chided that it was “marred by factual errors ... and by a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias.” His 1994 PBS video, Jihad in America (11/94), was faulted for bigotry and misrepresentations -- veteran reporter Robert Friedman (The Nation, 5/15/95) accused Emerson of "creating mass hysteria against American Arabs.


Emerson's most notorious gaffe was his claim that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing showed “a Middle Eastern trait” because it “was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.” (CBS News, 4/19/95) Afterward, news organizations appeared less interested in Emerson's pronouncements. A CBS contract expired and wasn't renewed. Emerson had been a regular source and occasional writer for the Washington Post; his name doesn't turn up once in Post archives after Jan. 1, 1996. USA Today mentioned Emerson a dozen times before September 1996, none after.

“He's poison,” says investigative author Seymour Hersh, when asked about how Emerson is perceived by fellow journalists."

Fox contributor Dick Morris asserted that with Obama, "[t]hose crazies in Montana who say, 'We're going to kill ATF agents because the U.N.'s going to take over' -- well, they're beginning to have a case"

Morris: "Those crazies in Montana who say, 'We're going to kill ATF agents because the U.N.'s going to take over' -- well, they're beginning to have a case." Fox News contributor Dick Morris has repeatedly appeared on Fox to discuss the Obama administration's handling of the attempted bombing of the Northwest Airlines flight; Morris previously asserted that because Obama's policies are “internationalist, ... [t]hose crazies in Montana who say, 'We're going to kill ATF agents because the U.N.'s going to take over' -- well, they're beginning to have a case” [Your World, 3/31/09]

Morris has previously made outrageous comments about the Obama's “anti-American” tendencies. Morris has previously claimed that Obama “delay[ed] the decision to commit troops to Afghanistan ... because he wanted [the Nobel Peace] Prize,” stated that if “you're an enemy of America,” Obama's “in bed with you,” asserted that Obama's “foreign policy can only be described as anti-American,” and questioned during the 2008 campaign whether Obama was a “sleeper agent.”

Fox featured “Gunny” Bob Newman, who has called for Muslim immigrants to wear a “GPS tracking bracelet at all times”

Newman called for Muslim immigrants to have to “wear a GPS tracking bracelet.” “Gunny” Bob Newman, senior fellow at the Rocky Mountain Foundation, has repeatedly appeared on Fox to discuss the attempted bombing and previously called for all Muslim immigrants to the United States to “be required by law to wear a GPS tracking bracelet at all times.” [The Gunny Bob Show, 5/8/07]

Newman has a history of outrageous comments. Newman also previously questioned whether Obama's visit to a concentration camp was somehow to blame for the shooting of a guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in June 2009; called Obama a “sick freak” who was sanctioning “eugenics” as practiced by “those of the Third Reich”; and, after stating that Obama is a “classically trained Marxist,” and suggested that under Obama's leadership, the United States might become “a socialist state, with all-powerful government that subjugates the people.”

Fox featured Ralph Peters, who has said if captured soldier was a deserter, “the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles”

Peters asserted If soldier held by Taliban is a deserter, “the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.” Peters, who repeatedly appeared on Fox News to discuss the attempted bombing, asserted of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban in June 2009 and appeared in two Taliban propaganda videos: “We know this private is a liar, we're not sure if he's a deserter.” Peters added that if he is a deserter, “the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.” NBC's Jim Miklaszewski subsequently reported that the Pentagon said Peters' comments “could endanger” the captured soldier. [America's News HQ, 7/19/09]

Peters has also made a number of incendiary comments about terrorism and Islam. Peters previously asserted of the Fort Hood shooting: “It's clear that the problem is Islam,” claimed that the Fort Hood shooter was a “protected species” who was “running around in his little Islamist play suit,” and stated that he is “sick of hearing that Islam is a religion of peace” because he hasn't “seen a lot of Southern Baptist suicide bombers.”