Right-Wing Media Abandon Facts To Support Trump’s Call For Waterboarding

Several right-wing media figures defended presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s reiterated call for waterboarding and “much worse” techniques to combat terror after terrorists carried out an attack on Istanbul’s largest airport. Journalists and others well-versed in national security, terrorism, and interrogation tactics have called waterboarding ineffective and chided Trump for proposing we “stoop to [terrorists’] level” of using brutal tactics.

Trump Reiterates His Proposal To Use Waterboarding Against Terrorists

USA Today: After Istanbul Airport Attack, Trump “Redeploy[s] Aggressive Rhetoric,” Calling For Waterboarding. USA Today reported on June 29 that “Donald Trump is redeploying aggressive rhetoric toward counter-terrorism in the wake of the Istanbul airport attack, talking about waterboarding and ‘much worse’ techniques”:

Donald Trump is redeploying aggressive rhetoric toward counter-terrorism in the wake of the Istanbul airport attack, talking about waterboarding and “much worse” techniques.

“We have to fight so viciously and violently because we're dealing with violent people,” Trump told supporters during a Tuesday night rally at the Ohio University Eastern Campus.

He also said, “we have to fight fire with fire,” and "we better get smart ... and we better get tough — or we are not going to have much of a country left.”


The Obama administration banned waterboarding as an interrogation technique for terrorist suspects, calling it an illegal form of torture.

During his presidential campaign, Trump has called for targeting killings of family members of known terrorists, another proposal that critics have called illegal under international law. [USA Today, 6/29/16]

Right-Wing Media Defend Trump’s Proposal To Use Waterboarding To Interrogate Terrorists

Fox’s Pete Hegseth Says ISIS Thinks The U.S. Is “Weak” For Not Waterboarding. Fox commentators Pete Hegseth and Ben Collins both agreed with Trump’s comments about waterboarding. They claimed that ruling out waterboarding “reduces our ability” and makes the U.S. seem “weak,” “unwilling to do what’s necessary,” and lacking the stomach for the fight. From the June 29 edition of Fox News’ The Real Story:

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (HOST): Obviously, this is something that is an issue of contention. You've served in the military, you're aware of waterboarding, all of that. Senator McCain coming out strongly against it, saying it's not who we are as Americans. Donald Trump saying we're dealing with savages here. We’ve got to be able to rise up to the fight.

BEN COLLINS: And certainly, not to take absolutely anything away from the time John McCain spent as a P.O.W. I have the utmost respect. I can't even begin to contemplate that. That said, I think removing waterboarding as a technique, just as a full stop to say take it out, I think that's a bad idea because it’s a technique. You know, some people you can motivate for money to give you the information, some people the threat of pain, you know, and perhaps waterboarding and pain. But each detainee or the person you want to get this information from, they have a different motivation, so taking it out, I think it just reduces our ability, and that's bad thing.

GUILFOYLE: Alright, Pete, so Ben’s saying we still want to leave that as a table as an available means, a recourse to be able to extract information. And so much of this is about trying to prevent these terror attacks like we saw in Turkey and real-time intelligence gathering from those that we might be able to capture or detain to prevent these actions.

PETE HEGSETH: Ben's right, and in the past we've gotten real-time intelligence from waterboarding and important intelligence that led us, frankly, partly to Osama bin Laden. I'm with Ben. I have immense amount of respect for Senator McCain. I can't even imagine what he went through, and I have respect for his position as a result. But in this particular case, I'm with Donald Trump. Our values -- we can maintain our values while still ruthlessly going after ISIS, because they don’t look at us and say, “Oh, they’re torturers” or “they’re terrible.” When ISIS looks at us, they think we're weak. They think we’re unwilling to do what’s necessary. They don't think we have the stomach for the fight. So we will never torture for torture's sake, but we better use enhanced interrogation techniques to include waterboarding if we are to have the gut and the stomach to see through this fight. We're going to need that intelligence, especially in a world where they're hitting us in soft targets across the globe. So he's right. [Fox News, The Real Story, 6/29/16]

Fox's Eric Bolling Mocks Those Who Oppose Waterboarding: “God Forbid We Splash Some Water On A Terrorist’s Face.” While discussing Trump’s “tough” rhetoric on combatting terrorism, Fox’s Eric Bolling mocked co-host Julie Roginsky for her opposition to waterboarding, sarcastically saying, “God forbid we waterboard. God forbid we splash some water on a terrorist’s face.” From the June 29 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered:

JULIE ROGINSKY (CO-HOST): They may be hungry for it, but I also think you want to see it backed up with action. And when you have Donald Trump tweeting out, essentially saying these are people who are beheading westerners and we should fight fire with fire,  which a lot of people took to say we should do waterboarding and worse, endorsing torture. There are plenty of Republicans --

ERIC BOLLING: God forbid we waterboard. God forbid we splash some water on a terrorist’s face to get some information. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/29/16]

CNN Trump Supporter Calls Waterboarding “Putting Someone In A Bit Of Discomfort To Extract Information.” CNN contributor and Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany downplayed waterboarding, calling the torture method “a bit of discomfort” and justifying its use by saying, “I'm not sure that it's punitive so much as saying that we need to be strong.” From the June 30 edition of CNN's New Day:

ALISYN CAMEROTA: This is the point, is that it's actually not -- what the FBI director has said, Robert Mueller, is that it actually has not been effective. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and gave erroneous information.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY: But here's the thing. A lot of people would dispute that take on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, because here's the thing. He only started speaking at all after he was waterboarded that many times. And many people would say that he pointed to the importance of the courier that led us to Osama bin Laden. He didn't give the name, no, but he did highlight the importance of this man.

CAMEROTA: I think the point is that what Donald Trump is talking about is punitive. He's talking about it as punishment -- they behead us, we should waterboard them -- but not talking about whether it's effective for actual intelligence.

MCENANY: But I'm not sure that it's punitive so much as saying that we need to be strong. The fact that in this country we're not willing to put someone in some form of discomfort, be it sleep deprivation, which many argue is what broke KSM. To not use that mechanism or not even talk about it, not have it as a tool on the table. We are trying to thwart terrorist attacks. We don't want 49 to die in Orlando. We don't want 14 to die in San Bernardino.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

MCENANY: If it means putting someone in a bit of discomfort to extract information, I think most of the nation would say that's OK within the bounds of the law. [CNN, New Day, 6/30/16]

Fox’s Angela McGlowan: “I’m With Donald, You Should Waterboard Them.” Fox News contributor Angela McGlowan argued that “some of our allies sees America right now as being weak” and said she was on board with Trump’s proposal to waterboard terrorists. From the June 30 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now:

ANGELA MCGLOWAN: I'm for stopping the terrorists by any means necessary, so I think they're both right. You do need diplomacy dealing with our allies in which some of our allies sees America right now as being weak because of the failed policies of the Obama administration but I am, again, I do not have any sympathy for terrorists because they don't have any sympathy for the infidels. So both are right, and I'm with Donald, you should waterboard them. [Fox News, Happening Now, 6/30/15]

Laura Ingraham Echoes Trump: Not Responding The Way Terrorists Respond Is “Going To Hamper Us.” Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham chided those who are against waterboarding, claiming that “we don’t respond the way [terrorists] respond” and that’s  “going to hamper us in our response to terror.” From the June 29 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group’s The Laura Ingraham Show:

LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): These are people, these are animals. Well, actually I don’t even like to say they’re animals. Animals don’t do this -- animals don’t indiscriminately kill. So when you say they’re animals, they’re not animals. They are evil. It is sheer evil.


They’ll die for their causes. And meanwhile, we turn ourself inside and out, ourselves inside and out over waterboarding, and “Oh, how could we have done this.” Trump actually addressed the waterboarding question yesterday. And again, he’s kind of freelancing in his speech. You know, he freelances in his speech, he said, “Look, we’re not tough enough. We don’t respond the way they respond, so we’re always, we’re going to be politically correct.” That’s going to hamper us in our response to terror. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 6/29/16]

Experts And Journalists Explain That Waterboarding Is Ineffective And Counterproductive

CNN’s Ali Velshi Slams Trump's Torture Proposal And Explains That Waterboarding Is Ineffective. On CNN, seasoned journalist Ali Velshi, who has covered Middle East conflicts, explained that in the past, “the only usable information they got out of interrogations was when they were not waterboarding.” CNN’s Chris Cuomo also noted that “one advantage over these people [ISIS] is that they are perceived as savages and you are not.” From the June 29 edition of CNN’s New Day:

ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): So they both put out statements, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And I just want to read one sentence from each that are the crux of their arguments, so we can just say the contradiction here. He put out this statement, and in it he says, “We must take steps now to protect America from terrorists.” So, not specific. But, you know, just saying we should be strong against terrorists. Then she puts out a statement and the crux of which is, “We must deepen our cooperation with our allies and partners in the Middle East and Europe to take on this threat.” OK, a little bit more specific, but again, not exactly how we are going to fight terror, Ali.

ALI VELSHI: No and, ultimately, Donald Trump's lack of specificity on being “tough” and “something really bad” is kind of like his “huge and amazing,” none of which a campaign or a presidency makes. The bottom line, and I've done a good deal of studying on how ISIS works, it's very different from Al Qaeda, first of all. Secondly, Ali Soufan has been very clear, if you read his book The Black Banners, much of which has been redacted by the CIA, he speaks specifically about the only usable information they got out of interrogations was when they were not waterboarding.

CAMEROTA: But people will say anything when they're being tortured is the thinking.

VELSHI: Correct. And fundamentally, this is -- the reason it's not like Al Qaeda is because it has a lot of money. They recruit people. They pay them. Most of them are part of an apocalyptic cult, but some of them are unemployed youth from Western Europe who get a few hundred dollars a week by working for ISIS. So if you undercut them financially, and the way you do that is you get to Qatar, you get to Kuwait, you get to the Gulf countries, you put pressure on Saudi Arabia, what we're doing.

CAMEROTA: So why aren't the candidates spelling that out?

VELSHI: Because Donald Trump doesn't enjoy specificity, and Hillary Clinton understands you can't go and spit on your allies while you're trying to get their help.

CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): But Ali, let's look at two sides of that proposition. One is he's going to get pushback from the military about we should match tactics. Not only is it a philosophical conversation about do you want to match the savagery of your enemy -- that's your one advantage over these people is that they are perceived as savages and you are not.

VELSHI: That is correct, yeah. [CNN, New Day, 6/29/16]

On CNN, Former FBI And CIA Official Condemns Trump's Call For Torturing Terror Suspects. Former FBI and CIA official Philip Mudd said he “bristle[s]” at the idea of waterboarding again and explained that no CIA official would carry out an order to waterboard. From the June 29 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360:

ANDERSON COOPER (HOST): Let me just ask you about when Donald Trump talks about waterboarding, as a way basically to do something about terrorism. What do you -- as somebody who has worked for the FBI and CIA, what do you think?

PHILIP MUDD: I bristle.

COOPER: You bristle?

MUDD: I bristle. In the midst of a political season, let's have a reality check. In August of 2002, the Department of Justice authorized waterboarding and nine other procedures we called “interrogation techniques.” The White House was aware, the Senate was briefed. Fifteen  years later, a president says that's torture, a Department of Justice says we won't do it, and the Senate issues a report that says you violated American values. If any president, Democrat or Republican, wants to return to waterboarding, I got a couple questions. Number one, you'd better find a CIA officer who will do it, cause I don't know any.

COOPER: Really?

MUDD: Number two -- I do not know any. Not because they think what we did was wrong, but because there ain't no learning the second kick of the mule. We're not doing it again. Number two, you better find an attorney general who will once again, after one president called this torture, determine that it’s legal, and then go out to the American people and say, “Once again, we're going to try it,” while the CIA says, “We ain't doing it.” [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 6/29/16]

CNN Global Affairs Analyst Says Trump Proposing Torture Is “Exactly What ISIS Wants.” CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier explained that bringing up things like waterboarding is “the exact opposite of what security officials want to see when they're trying to rob the ranks of ISIS,” and former FBI and CIA official Philip Mudd criticized Trump’s proposal, emphasizing the need to learn from the past failures with waterboarding. From the June 30 edition of CNN’s New Day:

CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): Now, how does this play out in the election here? People are afraid, they don't want to see more of these attacks. It seems from the indicia of the information about what's going on that ISIS is not on the run. And then that leads to, well what do we do? And you'll hear Donald Trump, he's getting a lot of enthusiasm around him. Why am I not mentioning Clinton? Because she's not espousing anything different than what's being done right now. Trump is. He's saying, ”They play dirty, we are soft and weak.” Waterboarding he uses as just one example. Now, this gets the sour face from Phil Mudd. Why? They're chopping off our heads -- it’s a projection of strength. Why don't we project the similar type of strength?

PHILIP MUDD: Let me hold my temper here, Chris. Let me be clear. In the fiction of a political campaign, let's have a realistic conversation. In 2002, the CIA got authorization from the Department of Justice to interrogate prisoners with techniques including waterboarding. The Senate was advised, the White House supported this. Years later, we have a president of the United States -- I'm not disagreeing with what he says, it's a fact -- he referred to this as torture. The Department of Justice says we should never do this again, and the Senate issues a report castigating people like me for doing things that were approved 15 years ago. In the midst of this, you have president that says, “I'm going to ask CIA people to do this again.” You know what they're going to say? No.


KIMBERLY DOZIER: It is exactly what ISIS wants. When you go on the ground, anywhere in the Middle East and you bring up things like the torture at Abu Ghraib, waterboarding, black sites, that becomes a cause celeb that ISIS and other militant groups use to recruit. So it is the exact opposite of what security officials want to see when they're trying to rob the ranks of ISIS, not add to them.

CUOMO: But does that really get you anywhere that's satisfactory, that's satisfying, because they chop people's heads off. They make films of slicing people's heads off. So that's what works for them. The question is are we not doing things that work equally well for us because we're living under this illusion of moral superiority.

MUDD: That's not the question my colleagues would have if they faced this question from a President Trump or any other president. They're going to say, “We learned this lesson.” The next president's going to come in and say not only did what you do be considered as torture, they're going to say maybe you're subject to a lawsuit. I've got friends now who are subjects to lawsuits for what they did then. They're going say, the next president's going to return to saying, “This is torture, we're not doing it.” It is not about what ISIS wants, it's about learning the lessons of the past 15 years. [CNN, New Day, 6/30/16]

Newsweek: “Science Shows That Torture Doesn’t Work And Is Counterproductive.” Rupert Stone wrote an article for Newsweek that cited various research showing that the CIA’s “harsh methods failed to glean any intelligence not available through softer tactics.” Other sources that Stone cited found that “torture and coercion are, at best, ineffective means of gathering intelligence” and, at worst, they produce “false information by harming those areas of the brain associated with memory.” From the May 8 article:

His views have been vindicated by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which concluded in the executive summary of its 6,000-page study of the CIA program, released in December 2014, that the agency’s harsh methods failed to glean any intelligence not available through softer tactics. However, the CIA has disputed the Senate’s findings, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has vowed to reinstate torture if elected. Trump has been particularly raucous in his support for brutal interrogation, urging that Salah Abdeslam, apprehended as a suspect in the November 2015 attacks in Paris, be waterboarded.

Meanwhile, compelling scientific evidence is emerging that torture and coercion are, at best, ineffective means of gathering intelligence. Worse, as Shane O’Mara, a professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College Dublin, wrote in a recent book, Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation, torture can produce false information by harming those areas of the brain associated with memory. O’Mara marshals a large amount of scientific literature to make his point. In one important experiment from 2006, psychiatrist Charles Morgan and colleagues subjected a group of special operations soldiers to prisoner-of-war conditions (including food and sleep deprivation and temperature extremes). [Newsweek, 5/8/16]

The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood: ISIS “Is Happy To Play The Savagery Game … That Doesn’t Mean We Should Stoop To Their Level.” Journalist Graeme Wood, the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, responded to Trump’s comments about waterboarding by saying that “ISIS is very happy to play the savagery game. That's where they excel.” He also debunked the argument that not using torture makes the U.S. look weak, explaining that ISIS’ “general view” on an “all-out war” with the U.S. is “bring it on.” From the June 29 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:

JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): I actually think that will be appealing beyond the base for many Americans. You look at the numbers in support of drone warfare -- the increase of drone warfare, despite the civilians that were killed. When the United States sees itself under attack, you can go all the way back to Dresden and World War II and see that nuance is not always United States' play. I am curious, though, how Donald Trump's words and how Hillary Clinton's words are read internationally and also by, let's say groups like ISIS.

GRAEME WOOD: A group like ISIS is very happy to play the savagery game. That's where they excel. It's true that they are laughing at us, but, of course, that doesn't mean we need stoop to their level, and if they want us to say that the United States is --

SCARBOROUGH: Do they see us as weak?

WOOD: They do, but --

SCARBOROUGH: Do they see us as Osama bin Laden saw us after Somalia as a paper tiger that is unwilling to play rough and do what it takes to win?

WOOD: I think the nature of the weakness that they see in us is a bit different from what bin Laden saw. They see us as simply, we don't have God on our side; they do. So they think that if there is an all-out war and there’s a fight between the United States and the Islamic State, it's going to look really good for the Islamic State. So “bring it on,” I think, is their general view of things. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 6/29/16]