Late last week, President Donald Trump introduced another apparent lie to justify his assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, saying Soleimani was plotting to attack four U.S. embassies. When Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he didn’t see any intelligence that four embassies were being targeted, some in the Rupert Murdoch right-wing media empire claimed Esper had backed up Trump’s claim, while others noted that he was contradicting the president.
The Trump administration had already been facing questions over its dubious claim that the U.S. killed Soleimani because he was plotting an “imminent” attack against the U.S. Members of Congress had also derided the administration for the briefing it gave to justify the assassination, with lawmakers saying officials provided no evidence. And then later last week, Trump first claimed that Soleimani was plotting to attack one American embassy, then embellished his statement to claim multiple embassies were under threat, before finally telling Fox News on Friday: “I can reveal I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies.”
On Sunday, Esper clearly contradicted Trump’s claim when he appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation. When asked if there wasn’t any specific piece of evidence to indicate four embassies were under threat, he said, “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies.” On CNN, Esper said, “There was intelligence that there was an intent to target the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.” Despite Esper’s admission that there was no intelligence to support Trump’s claim, he said during both appearances that Trump “believed” four embassies were under threat and that he shared the president’s assumption.
Murdoch-owned outlets couldn’t agree on what Esper did.
Despite Esper’s contradiction, the New York Post and Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt emphasized that the defense secretary had backed Trump up:
Meanwhile, Fox senior White House correspondent John Roberts and Fox’s Kat Timpf, focused on Esper’s specific statement about intelligence, noting that it contradicted the president.
The Wall Street Journal presented Esper's quotes within a piece about the administration defending killing Soleimani.
Fox News, meanwhile, has also been covering for Trump on this issue in other ways, from repeating a debunked administration talking point to moving the goalposts on justifying the strike on Soleimani.