On January 3, the Trump administration launched a drone strike that assassinated one of Iran’s leading military commanders, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad, Iraq. The move drew swift condemnation and concern from both Democrats and Republicans over whether escalation at this level could lead to more instability in the region or even a potential war with Iran.
Fox News has responded by attacking Democrats and mainstream media figures who are questioning the consequences of the strike, suggesting critics are un-American, desperate to hate the president, or even siding with Iranian terrorists. (Fox News is not, though, lashing out at far-right critics of U.S. military actions even as those critics get disproportionate attention.)
The U.S. strike that killed Soleimani represents a major escalation in the region, as the general was a powerful figure in Iran and many in the country view him as a heroic figure. Tensions continued to escalate following the strike, as Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of “harsh revenge” and President Donald Trump responded by threatening to bomb Iranian cultural sites -- a potential war crime. Thousands attended Soleimani’s funeral procession in Iran, leading to a stampede that resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people.
The Trump administration has offered little transparency about why it chose to kill Soleimani at this moment, providing only vague justifications that Iran was planning an “imminent attack” on Americans. (Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to pivot from that claim during interviews on Sunday news shows.)
The Trump administration’s promise that this dramatic escalation was based on classified evidence is reminiscent of the George W. Bush administration’s insistence that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was justified because of supposed weapons of mass destruction -- a justification that, it was later revealed, was largely based on lies and misrepresentations. Additionally, it was only one month ago that The Washington Post released a trove of documents showing that U.S. officials across multiple administrations “failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”
The doubts about going to another war in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan wars is compounded by the fact that Trump has lied thousands of times during his presidency, and his administration’s policy regarding Iran has been largely inconsistent and represents no clear strategy.
Despite the myriad reasons Americans would have to question or express concerns about the Trump administration's credibility when it comes to Iran, Fox News has gone on the offensive, attacking Democrats and the media and seizing on Soleimani’s dark record as the architect of Iran’s modern military operations, which have resulted in the deaths of American service members in Iraq.
Many on Fox have smeared critics of Trump’s Iran policy as anti-American, choosing to side with terrorists over giving Trump “a victory lap” -- though notably, Fox primetime host Tucker Carlson has remained free from criticism by the network, despite being one of Trump's strongest critics regarding the Iran strike. Some have insisted that Democrats and the media accurately reporting that Soleimani was revered by many in Iran are “praising” him and have claimed that Democrats are choosing to ignore Soleimani’s record as a “savage” and “the most dangerous man in the world.” (In reality, many Democrats who have criticized the Trump administration still acknowledged that Soleimani committed hateful acts against the U.S.) Fox personalities have also chastised critics for not sufficiently praising Trump, insisting that Soleimani’s military record justifies any potential consequences that may arise from his death.
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs said, “As President Trump carries out his responsibilities to protect and defend America, statements by many of the radical Dems suggest they are more aligned with Iranian interests than those of the United States.” Dobbs also claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave “outrageous support of a dead Iranian terrorist” that was parroted by other Democrats. Dobbs concluded that the Democrats, “without hesitation, chose to defend evil and criticize President Trump’s decision to destroy evil.”
Dobbs later said that it’s “clear” that Democrats are criticizing Trump’s decision because “the radical Dems in the swamp … mean to overthrow this president. That’s all that this is about.”
On Fox Nation’s Deep Dive, Trump 2020 campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson, Fox host Steve Hilton, and Fox contributors Jason Chaffetz and Tomi Lahren attacked anyone who criticized the U.S. strike. Chaffetz asked “how these Democrats can look themselves in the mirror -- they put their own personal political interest above and beyond our military, the men and women who serve,” and claimed that it’s “disgusting to see these Democrats almost rooting harder for the Iranian interests than they are American interests,” which the panel agreed with.
Fox host Sean Hannity said that killing Soleimani was a “huge success” and claimed the media and the Democratic party are “distraught” before launching into a segment he called “how to deal with the world’s most evil terrorists for dummies.” Hannity also chastised “the Democrats and the stupid commentators on TV and the media mob” for the “whining and the complaining” about the strike.
Hannity later hosted former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who is now on the board of defense contractor Boeing (though Hannity didn’t disclose it). Haley claimed, “The only ones that are mourning the loss of Soleimani are our Democrat leadership and Democrat presidential candidates. No one else in the world.” Haley concluded, “We need to be completely behind the president.”
On Fox “news”-side program America’s Newsroom, Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich said that “Democrats could take the high road here and the pro-America road and say it is a good thing” that Trump killed Soleimani. When Fox contributor Richard Fowler mentioned that the U.S. has been in wars where “men and women are still dying today because of faulty intelligence, because of a lack of strategy, Pavlich responded: “They had the right intelligence. … You are not entitled to seeing it because people like you don’t believe in intelligence.”
Also appearing on America’s Newsroom, Fox News senior strategic analyst Jack Keane said, “I’m actually appalled that people think there’s something wrong with taking this guy down given what he’s done.” He concluded that the strike was “as justified as anything could possibly be.”
On Fox & Friends Weekend, Fox contributor Mike Huckabee accused Democrats and the media of “mourning [Soleimani’s] death like he’s some kind of hero,” insisting that Soleimani “makes Charles Manson look like a Franciscan monk.” Huckabee concluded that “the president ought to be applauded” and suggested that Trump’s critics want “a loser country, a patsy, a country that always apologizes for being strong.” Later, Huckabee and the co-hosts attacked Warren for identifying Trump’s threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites as a war crime.
On Fox & Friends, Fox contributor Dan Bongino said that criticism of the strike from some Democrats and the media is an “abomination” that “makes you seriously ask the question: What team are you on?” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt suggested that the media were spreading the “Democratic message” by supposedly “praising” Soleimani when they report that he was revered in Iran.
On Fox & Friends, Earhardt criticized Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for suggesting the attack made the U.S. less safe, parroting retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata’s analysis that the Democrats’ response “goes to show how ridiculous our divide is, that they support Soleimani over the president’s decision.”