After the Trump administration unexpectedly announced on Sunday that it would pull American troops out of northern Syria where U.S.-allied Kurdish forces have borne the brunt of fighting against the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS), multiple right-wing commentators appeared on Fox News and Fox Business to defend the move as Trump fulfilling a 2016 campaign promise. The Trump administration move came as Turkey has openly announced its plans to attack the Kurdish forces.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham made the announcement following a phone call between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stating, “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”
The Associated Press characterized Trump’s decision as “essentially abandoning Kurdish fighters who fought alongside American forces in the yearslong battle to defeat Islamic State militants.” According to The New York Times, Trump “had given his endorsement for a Turkish military operation that would sweep away American-backed Kurdish forces near the border in Syria.” Trump later denied he was supportive of the Turkish operation.
Some congressional Republicans have criticized Trump’s decision, calling it “a major blunder,” “an impulsive decision,” “terribly unwise,” and “a betrayal.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urged the president to “reverse this dangerous decision.” Brett McGurk, Trump’s former special envoy to the anti-IS coalition, said: “This looks to be another reckless decision made without deliberation or consultation following a call with a foreign leader. The White House statement bears no relation to facts on the ground. If implemented, it will significantly increase risk to our personnel, as well as hasten ISIS’s resurgence.”
On Twitter, multiple journalists noted that Trump owns a major property in Istanbul, with some pointing to a 2012 tweet by presidential daughter Ivanka Trump thanking Turkey’s president for joining her in the launch of Trump Towers there. HuffPost reported that financial disclosures show the president had earned at least $1 million from the towers since he became president. HuffPost also noted that when Trump was asked in a 2015 interview how he would handle Turkey and Syria if he became president, he replied, “I have a little conflict of interest ‘cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul. … It’s called Trump Towers.”
When Fox News covered Trump’s decision on Monday, some figures criticized the president for abandoning the Kurdish forces. But many others expressed support for Trump’s betrayal of American allies. While Fox’s prime-time host Tucker Carlson, who often promotes white supremacist talking points, applauded the move with a blatantly racist comment, calling Syria a “Middle Eastern tar pit,” most others claimed that Trump was fulfilling a campaign promise to “pull us out of these wars.”
Fox host Laura Ingraham: “He said he was going to pull us out of these wars. He’s doing what he said he was going to do. People voted for that.”
Fox Business guest Corey Lewandowski: “He made a pledge to bring our troops home, he has to do that. It’s the right thing to do.”
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs: “The president is right. History will prove him right. And he campaigned on this.”
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy: “I think the president is doing exactly what he wants to because he has made from the get-go, very clear campaign promise … to end, you know, wars in other countries.”