Fox News and fake news purveyors praise Trump’s North Korea threat that experts call irresponsible

Fox News and fake news purveyors praise Trump’s North Korea threat that experts call irresponsible

››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & ZACHARY PLEAT

Various Fox News personalities and fake news purveyors are praising President Donald Trump’s statement that he would unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea should Kim Jong Un’s regime endanger American interests. While pro-Trump media are thrilled with the president’s threat, nuclear experts have explained that “threats from the US will only increase tensions” on the Korean Peninsula, where, should war accidentally break out amid heightened tensions, armed conflict would likely cause “hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly in South Korea.”


Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Trump threatens North Korea with “fire and fury” from the United States

NY Times: Trump “ad-libbed” a threat “to unleash ‘fire and fury’ against North Korea if it endangered the United States.” According to The New York Times, after reports that the North Korean regime had successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead that could potentially be delivered to the United States on an intercontinental ballistic missile, President Donald Trump threatened “to unleash ‘fire and fury’ against North Korea if it endangered the United States.” According to subsequent reporting from the Times, the president “had not run the specific language” by his top advisers before issuing the “inflammatory” statement. [The New York Times, 8/8/17, 8/9/17]

Fox News and fake news purveyors praised Trump’s “spot on” statement

Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade: Trump was “right on target” with his rhetoric about North Korea. In his first reaction to Trump’s North Korea statement while he guest hosted Fox News’ The Specialists, Brian Kilmeade said, “I sense that this is the beginning of the interaction where this is where we should take this. This is where we should take the rhetoric. This is where we should take -- this is the message we need to send.” The next morning, Kilmeade said Trump’s statement on North Korea was “right on target.” From the August 9 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): It was yesterday, what was supposed to be an opioid conference when a sound bite came out, which was not carried live, of the president of the United States responding to the latest threats from North Korea and people were taken aback by the rhetoric. I believe it was right on target. After almost from the day the president became president-elect, North Korea has been in our face. They seem to be wanting this confrontation, and yesterday the president had reached his limit. [Fox News, The Fox News Specialists, 8/8/17; Fox & Friends, 8/9/17]

Fox's Oliver North: Trump’s statement was “spot on.” On the August 8 edition of Hannity, Fox's Oliver North said Trump’s statement was based on intelligence that North Korea “already has a nuclear weapon and the means of delivering it on our homeland, is an existential threat, and his remarks were spot on.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/8/17]

Fox regular Brad Blakeman: “I think the president is right to use every tool in the toolbox, including and not excluding a military option.” During a discussion about Trump’s statement, Fox regular Brad Blakeman said that “it’s now time for action to be taken” and that Trump “is right to use every tool in the toolbox, including and not excluding a military option.” From the August 8 edition of Shepard Smith Reporting:

JON SCOTT (GUEST HOST): Brad, you have been a presidential adviser. How would you advise the president to handle this one?

BRAD BLAKEMAN: I think you have to go toe-to-toe with China and with North Korea. You have to galvanize our allies and say we have probably reached the point of no return in the threats made by North Korea, as now matched by their actions, their ability to do that which they say they want to do. And that is to destroy America and South Korea. We cannot let that stand. The last eight years under Obama of apology and appeasement brought us to this point. It's now time for action to be taken. No more six-party talks. I think the president is right to use every tool in the toolbox, including and not excluding a military option, because right now we are at the point where it's now verifiable that they have the weapons to match their threats. We cannot let that stand. [Fox News, Shepard Smith Reporting, 8/8/17]

Fox News contributor John Bolton: “I thought” the president’s threats to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea “were entirely appropriate remarks.” Fox News contributor and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton argued that Trump’s threats against Kim Jong Un’s regime “were entirely appropriate remarks,” adding, “The one thing that may get China’s attention” is talking about “looking very seriously at a military option” on the Korean Peninsula. From the August 9 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

JOHN BOLTON: We've had 25 years of efforts at negotiations, carrots and sticks with the North Koreans to change their behavior, to get them to give up the nuclear program. We've failed for 25 years. There is zero evidence that today, in year 26, it's going to be any different. I think we're past that point, tragically. Trump has inherited a very dangerous situation. That's what he's coping with.

Could I just say a word on his comments about fire and fury? I don't know what went on in the White House to get him to say that, but I thought they were entirely appropriate remarks. For too long, we've heard American political leaders say, "All options are on the table." They say it in a deep voice, very slowly. Nobody cares about that anymore. I think what Trump did was say to the principal audience, which is North Korea and China, this is a qualitatively different situation for the United States and we're putting you on notice that we're looking really seriously at a military option. I think that's the one thing that may get China's attention in particular. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/9/17]

Fox’s The Five panel: Trump’s threats against North Korea are “refreshing” because the US “always” uses “rational, conceptual terms,” and “being unpredictable … is a big asset.” Fox host Greg Gutfeld called Trump’s threat against North Korea “refreshing,” comparing his words to anti-American rallies in Iran where “they burn [American] flags” and chant “death to America.” Gutfeld concluded, “It’s kind of nice to actually use their language and see what happens.” Gutfeld’s co-host Jesse Watters went on to chastise former President Barack Obama’s “fluffy” and “diplomatic tones” in dealing with North Korea during his tenure, arguing that, by comparison, “Trump being unpredictable, I think, is a big asset.” From the August 9 edition of Fox News’ The Five:

GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): Jesse, I think it's refreshing. For the longest time, we're always the rational -- like we use rational, conceptual terms. In Iran, they burn the flags. And everywhere else they're marching the streets, "Death to America." It's kind of nice to actually use their language and see what happens.

JESSE WATTERS (CO-HOST): Right. Trump was speaking in language the North Koreans can understand. Strong, military terminology. Obama's fluffy talk? What did that result in? The North Koreans nuked up, they fired off more missiles under -- more than any other president in U.S. history. They accelerated their nuclear program while Obama was speaking deliberately with very diplomatic tones.

[...]

Trump being unpredictable, I think, is a big asset. I think, before, the North Koreans knew what President Obama was going to do, which was going to be nothing. Now there's a new sheriff in town, and I think the language is directed at not only North Korea, but also China. [Fox News, The Five, 8/9/17]

Fake news purveyor Liberty Writers: Trump’s statement “projected the strength and resilience we voted on Trump for in the first place.” Fake news purveyor Liberty Writers, which has been called out in the past by the fact-checking website Snopes for writing a false story about a Trump rally’s crowd size, praised Trump’s statement, writing that it “projected the strength and resilience we voted on Trump for in the first place.” From the August 8 piece:

North Korea must have really thought they were hot sh*t today when the report leaked that they have miniaturized nukes. Hell, it even led Kim to make a promise to attack America…BAD MOVE.

[...]

The President’s official statement to the media projected the strength and resilience we voted on Trump for in the first place[.]

[...]

What North Korea is doing right now is both wrong and dangerous. They are threatening to nuke our West Coast cities. This is no minor threat. We have tried negotiations, we have tried sanctions. Hell, we tried it all.

Now is the time for action. They need to either stand down or watch as their military burns to ashes and their castles crumble to dust. Share this out if you think America WILL beat North Korea. [Liberty Writers, 8/8/17, 10/11/16; Snopes, 10/12/16]

Fake news purveyor Conservative Tribune: North Korea’s ICBM tests “required the kind of full-throated response Trump delivered.” Fake news purveyor Conservative Tribune, which PolitiFact criticized for a “highly misleading” post about departing President Barack Obama in December, praised Trump’s statement as a “full-throated response” that it said was necessary after North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests:

Trump’s announcement followed word in the mainstream media that the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that the North Koreans have successfully produced a nuclear warhead word that can be loaded onto its ballistic missile arsenal.

The intelligence community “assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles,” the assessment states, according to The Washington Post.

Of course, the world has long known that North Korea has nuclear weapons – it has conducted five nuclear tests since 2006.

And given that the country has conducted two ICBM launches this summer, the news that it was capable of producing a nuclear weapon that could be used in tandem with an ICBM to produce an actual threat to the United States was only a matter of time.

But it still required the kind of full-throated response Trump delivered from New Jersey on Tuesday.

When former President Barack Obama walked away from his own “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, he started a chain reaction of U.S. weakness that has led directly to some of the biggest problems the country is facing on the world state – Russian international meddling, a seemingly endless refugee crisis, a terrorist-supporting Iran.

Trump drew a red line on Tuesday against more North Korean threats to the United States.

Given that the Hermit Kingdom now appears able to at least contemplate carrying out such threats, it’s a red line that will have to mean what it says. [Conservative Tribune, 8/8/17; Media Matters, 7/24/17; PolitiFact, 12/14/16]

Security and nuclear proliferation experts blasted Trump’s “irresponsible” statement

William Perry, secretary of defense in the Clinton administration:

[Twitter, 8/8/17]

Jon Wolfsthal, former special assistant to Obama on arms control and nonproliferation:

[Twitter, 8/8/17, 8/8/17]

Arms Control Association’s Kelsey Davenport:

[Twitter, 8/8/17, 8/8/17]

Nuclear scientist and proliferation expert Siegfried Hecker: "The president's statements exacerbate" concerns of “stumbling into an inadvertent nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.” According to Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a nuclear proliferation expert, Trump’s statements only “exacerbate” concerns of potentially “stumbling into an inadvertent nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.” From an August 8 Politico article:

President Donald Trump's warning Tuesday that North Korea "will be met with fire and fury" if it continues its saber rattling sparked new fears that the standoff over the regime's advancing nuclear and missile programs could devolve into a shooting war.

The seemingly off-the-cuff broadside also reignited concerns raised during the presidential campaign that Trump's tough rhetoric, including his previous calls to build up the American nuclear arsenal, could be dangerously destabilizing.

"The greatest North Korean threat we face is not from a nuclear-tipped missile hitting the U.S. mainland but from Washington stumbling into an inadvertent nuclear war on the Korean peninsula," Siegfried Hecker, a former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and a nuclear expert who has visited North Korea seven times since 2004, said in an email.

"The president's statements exacerbate" such concerns, Hecker said. [Politico, 8/8/17]

Ploughshares Fund’s Joe Cirincione: “This is probably the worst way a president can handle a threat like this. … You do not want to play nuclear chicken with North Korea.” Nuclear expert Joe Cirincione, president of the global security foundation the Ploughshares Fund, called the Trump’s comments on North Korea “probably the worst way a president can handle a threat like this.” Cirincione said that it’s deeply troubling to have “two insecure, inexperienced, impulsive leaders in control of a vast amount of destructive force squaring off in the most heavily militarized area on earth.” Furthermore, Cirincione noted, to the North Korean regime, Trump’s comments are viewed “as justification of their worst fears: that that whole point of the United States is to eliminate Kim Jong Un.” From the August 8 edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show:

JOE CIRINCIONE: This is probably the worst way a president could handle a threat like this. You want to be strong, you want to be calm, you want to be resolute, you want to be in sync with your allies. You do not want to play nuclear chicken with North Korea. This is -- the seriousness of this situation could not be overestimated, not because North Korea can hit us in a bolt-out-of-the-blue attack that could take out Los Angeles or Seattle. No. What you're worried about is that you have two insecure, inexperienced, impulsive leaders in control of a vast amount of destructive force squaring off in the most heavily militarized area on earth.

A conventional war could kill hundreds of thousands of South Koreans in the first few hours. A full-out conflict could kill millions, could devastate South Korea, removing the 11th largest economy on earth. And the danger is not that either leader would necessarily intentionally start such a war, but that they could stumble into it. A miscalculation, a miscommunication, a misunderstanding. A shooting incident could quickly escalate. Look at what North Korea just did. They just threatened Guam hours after the president of the United States said that if you threaten us again you'll be met with fire and fury. They're blowing through this president's red lines like tissue paper. What is Trump going to do now?

[...]

RACHEL MADDOW (HOST): Is there something to be said for him speaking their language? Is there anything that we know about how they might hear that type of language that has never, ever been uttered by an American president in the modern era toward North Koreans over anything?

CIRINCIONE: Right. They see it as justification of their worst fears: that that whole point of the United States is to eliminate Kim Jong Un. They’re very narcissistic in their own way. They think the whole world revolves around them. So when the president threatens them like that, they go, “See, we told you so,” and what do they do? They accelerate their military programs. Look, years of sanctions, of isolation, of threats, of ignoring them hasn't worked at all. That has not stopped their program. It's sped it up. The only thing that has worked is negotiations.

We froze their plutonium program for eight years with an agreement. We froze their missile program for eight years with an agreement. But when we don't talk to them, they speed it up, and when you threaten them, they just stiffen. They feel that they have to be tougher than you are back. So that's a chicken game that you can't win, and that's what the problem is. What if Donald Trump decides that he doesn't like the maneuvers that North Korea’s undertaking. We’re about to have joint U.S. and South Korean exercises at the end of August. What if the North Koreans decide that that is actually a pretext for a pre-emptive attack on them and so they mobilize, the U.S. then responds, somebody fires something, and bang, it's off to the races and the most catastrophic war we've seen. We've been at war for 16 years in the Middle East and North Africa. We think we know war. We don't know this war. We don't know what a Korean war would look like. The president’s right about that. A Korean war would be one unlike anyone has seen since the end of World War II. [MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/8/17]

Experts say war on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic

Secretary of Defense James Mattis: “A conflict in North Korea … would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”

[Twitter, 5/28/17]

CNN’s Zachary Cohen: “There is no easy military solution to the crisis and several of the options potentially under consideration could risk thousands of lives.” According to CNN’s Zachary Cohen, a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula would most likely cause “hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly in South Korea.” He explained that while increasing the American military presence in the region is “another option” for the Trump administration, “to date, military chest thumping has proven to have little effect in deterring North Korea's nuclear ambitions” and advocating for “regime change in North Korea [has] also only further inflamed tensions.” From CNN.com’s August 2 article:

The Trump administration has said it's ready to unleash American military might to back its diplomacy when it comes to preventing North Korea from developing a nuclear missile capable of hitting the United States.

But there is no easy military solution to the crisis and several of the options potentially under consideration could risk thousands of lives.

[...]

While all war game scenarios show the US winning a military confrontation, that victory could come at the cost of hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly in South Korea where millions of innocent people -- and nearly 30,000 US troops -- are already in range of North Korea's current missile capabilities.

[...]

Increasing its military presence in the peninsula through shows of force is another option for the Trump administration but to date, military chest thumping has proven to have little effect in deterring North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Suggestions that the US could force a regime change in North Korea have also only further inflamed tensions. [CNN.com, 8/2/17]

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