Media figures and outlets have repeatedly pushed the myth, or allowed Donald Trump to push the myth, that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. There is no evidence to support this claim and February reporting from BuzzFeed News showed Trump voiced support “for invading Iraq” in 2002 and termed it a “tremendous success” after the invasion began.
BuzzFeed: “The Media Keeps Letting Trump Get Away With His Iraq Lie”
BuzzFeed Editor-In-Chief Ben Smith: “Media Can’t Seem To Dispel, Or Even Challenge” The Fiction Of Trump’s Iraq Lie. Smith criticized media outlets who have allowed Trump to falsely claim that he opposed the Iraq War, noting that in February BuzzFeed had uncovered audio of Trump saying before the invasion that he supported it and calling it a “tremendous success” the day after U.S. forces invaded. From his May 3 article:
Donald Trump did not oppose the invasion of Iraq. Further, there’s no evidence that he’s ever been a “dove” — and a great deal that he’s been an impulsive supporter of military intervention around the world.
We know this because BuzzFeed News’ intrepid Andrew Kaczynski unearthed an audio recording of him saying he supported it. You can listen to it above. The audio quality is clear.
In the recording, made on Sept. 11, 2002, when it mattered, Howard Stern asked Trump whether he supported the invasion. His answer: “Yeah, I guess so.” On the war’s first day, he called it a “tremendous success from a military standpoint.”
It was the most recent in a series of belligerent statements about Iraq. In 2000, he opined at length in his book how U.S. airstrikes did nothing to stop Iraq’s WMD programs and said it “is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion” in the context of a new war. He said many times in the late 1990s and early 2000s that George H.W. Bush should have toppled Saddam during the Gulf War.
Trump’s opinions during that period have all the force and thoughtfulness of a man who isn’t paying much attention and whose opinion doesn’t matter. His support for the war is also totally unambiguous.
And yet, since Kaczynski found the audio recordings, most of the leading American media organizations have either repeated Trump’s lie or allowed him to deliver it unchallenged. [BuzzFeed, 5/3/16]
FactCheck.Org: “There Is No Evidence" Trump "Spoke Against The War Before It Started.” FactCheck.org has reported that it and its fellow fact-checking institutes were unable to confirm that Trump publicly voiced opposition to the Iraq invasion:
There is no evidence that we could find, however, that he spoke against the war before it started, although we did find he expressed early concerns about the cost and direction of the war a few months after it started.
Others have looked, but no one else — including PolitiFact and the Washington Post Fact Checker — has been able to find any evidence to support his claims, either. [FactCheck.org, 2/19/16]
Interviewers Frequently Allow Trump To Push His Iraq Lie Unchallenged
Trump At NBC Town Hall: “I Was Against The War In Iraq.” In response to a question from a town hall participant on ISIS at an NBC Today town hall, Trump said, “I was against the war in Iraq," adding “I was so strong against Iraq.” Co-host Matt Lauer followed up by asking if Trump had a “comprehensive plan” for what to do after he bombs “the you know what out of ISIS,” but said nothing about his Iraq war remarks:
TOWN HALL PARTICIPANT: In regards to ISIS, I sincerely appreciate the aggressive stance you want to take with them. And my question, how do we avoid the pitfalls of the past, in part, by getting involved yet again in this perpetual state of war with no end in sight?
DONALD TRUMP: That is such an important question. You know, I was against the war in Iraq. I said you don't go in. You're going to destabilize the Middle East. I was so strong against Iraq. We went in. We made a terrible mistake in going in. Then we got out the wrong way. ISIS, as a matter of fact, was created because of the way we got out and because of the bad moves we made even while we were there. But we now have to do something. We have to knock the hell out of them. We're going to get them out. We're going to help. We're going to get the countries in that region to put up their manpower or they've got big problems. And a lot of that’s going to be leadership. But we do have to get rid of ISIS. We are going to make it impossible for ISIS to survive. They're cutting off heads. They're drowning people in steel cages. It's like medieval times. I've never seen anything like it. Nobody’s ever seen anything like it. So we are going to get rid of ISIS.
And by the way, speaking of that, our military’s been decimated with cuts and everything else. We're going to rebuild our military. It’s going to be bigger, better, stronger than ever before. Hopefully we don't have to use it. But the one place we will be using it is to get rid of ISIS. Great question. Thank you.
TOWN HALL PARTICIPANT: Thank you sir.
MATT LAUER (CO-HOST): Just to make sure I'm clear here, you're going to bomb the you know what out of ISIS. But you have a comprehensive plan for what to do in that region afterward? [NBC, Today, 4/21/16]
Trump On Bloomberg News: “People Wanted To Go Into Iraq, I Didn’t.” During the March 23 edition of Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect, which is re-aired on MSNBC, hosts Mark Halperin and John Heilemann aired a pre-recorded interview in which Trump asserted that he was “very much against” the war in Iraq. Instead of offering push back, Heilemann followed up about Trump’s position on the use of nuclear weapons against ISIS:
DONALD TRUMP: I was very much against the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton wanted to do it. Hillary Clinton would be such a bad president, she doesn’t have the strength, she doesn’t have the stamina, to be president or to be a good president. People wanted to go into Iraq, I didn’t. So I’m supposed to be the one, they’re all saying oh, oh he’ll use -- I would probably be the last to use it. But I have to say this --
JOHN HEILEMANN (CO-HOST): You’d probably be the last to use nuclear weapons against ISIS? So you would rule in the possibility of using nuclear weapons against ISIS?
TRUMP: Well, I’m never going to rule anything out. [MSNBC, With All Due Respect, 3/23/16]
Trump At CNN Town Hall: “I Was Against The War In Iraq.” During a March 29 CNN town hall, Trump told a questioner, “I was against the war in Iraq. OK? I am not a fast trigger.” Following Trump’s answer, host Anderson Cooper asked Trump to respond to the part of the question that dealt with “protecting the rights of minority [religious] groups,” failing to push back on Trump’s Iraq claim:
DONALD TRUMP: We have to be extremely strong with ISIS. We have to wipe ISIS off the face of the earth so fast, and so violently, we have no choice, we have no choice. And, I was against the war in Iraq. OK? I am not a fast trigger. I'm exactly the opposite of that. We should have never gone in, it destabilized the Middle East. But I will tell you this, we got out, Obama got us out very badly. Instead of leaving some troops, instead of giving a date, instead of, you know, with the exact time, I would say this though -- we have no choice but to look at that. We have to be very, very vigilant. Very smart, and frankly, Brian, we have to be very, very tough because it's only going to get worse. Thousands of people are being allowed into this country over short periods of time, coming supposedly from Syria, we have no idea who they are, we have no idea where is their paperwork. They have no paperwork; they have no identification. They're coming into this country and it's going to be a big, big problem.
ANDERSON COOPER (HOST): The other, though, part of Lieutenant Murphy's question was about protecting the rights of minority groups, of Muslims, of Sikhs, of Jews, and others inside the United States. [CNN, CNN Town Hall, 3/29/16]
Trump On MSNBC's Morning Joe: “As A Civilian, I Was Totally Against [The War].” During the May 4 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough let Donald Trump hype that he was against the war “as a civilian.” Trump continued to call the war “one of the worst decisions in the history” of the country:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): The great irony is, and we’ve said this Mika, we've said this before, we're actually going to go into a general election where you have the Democratic candidate that's going to support interventionist policies more than the Republican nominee.
MIKA BREZINSKI (CO-HOST): It seems that way.
DONALD TRUMP: Well, folks, figure this, a guy like Krauthammer, I watched him last night, and he was talking about Trump would be, may be quick temperamentally. He's the one that was pushing for years the war in Iraq, which was a total disaster and I didn't want to do it. As a civilian I was totally against it. Should have never,one of the worst decisions in the history of our country, by the way, perhaps the worst. And then they talk about me with temperament. We need a strong temperament right now. The world is laughing at us. We need a very strong temperament.
BREZINSKI: So let’s look ahead to the general, yesterday Andrea Mitchell asked Hillary Clinton if she thought you were unqualified to be commander in chief. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 5/4/16]
Trump To Fox's Chris Wallace In February: “I Was Against” The Iraq War “At The Beginning.” During the February 21 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, Trump told host Chris Wallace “I was against [the Iraq War] at the beginning,” claiming “Joe Scarborough can show you that because fortunately he found a clip.” Wallace did not address Trump’s claim, saying instead, “The issue was whether or not we were lied into war”:
DONALD TRUMP: Well, you know, that was the case where Anderson [Cooper] -- and I don't blame him at all, but we were talking at the same time. The case of the war, the war in Iraq was a disaster. And by the way, I was against it at the beginning. And Joe Scarborough can show you that because fortunately he found a clip. But the fact that I said they had a successful military operation, maybe it might have been successful as an opening operation, but I was opposed to the war. The war in Iraq was a disaster, OK? It may have been the worst decision ever made, ever made by our country. OK? That's how bad it was.
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): But, sir, respectfully, I mean, that wasn't the issue. The issue was whether or not we were lied into war. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 2/21/16]
Trump To Fox's Chris Wallace In March: “I Was Against The War In Iraq … I’m One That Said Don’t Go In.” During the March 13 edition of Fox News Sunday, Trump told Wallace “I, whether you like it or not, I was against the war in Iraq, OK? I'm one that said don't go in.” Rather than respond to Trump’s claim, Wallace transitioned to a question about Trump University:
DONALD TRUMP: But, look, let me tell you something, I, whether you like it or not, I was against the war in Iraq, OK? I'm one that said don't go in. You're going to destabilize the Middle East. I was totally right about that. So I'm not like this big war hawk. But now, you have people chopping off heads, you have people drowning, 40 and 50 people in steel cages at a time, Chris, and now, we have to do something. And the reason we have to do it is because of the power of weaponry. They're looking to get weapons, and they're looking to acquire weapons that are going to be very, very horrible for our country if they ever do it.
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Mr. Trump --
TRUMP: And we have to eradicate these people.
WALLACE: I have two final questions I want to ask you. Trump University, I don't have to tell you, has become something of an issue in the campaign trail with some former students saying it's a scam. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 3/13/16]
Trump To Fox's Eric Bolling: “I'm The One That Didn't Want To Go Into Iraq From The Beginning.” During the March 31 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, Trump told guest host Eric Bolling that he was “the one that didn't want to go into Iraq from the beginning.” Bolling didn’t address Trump’s claim, asking instead why he wouldn’t take bombing Europe off the table:
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don't want to take cards off the table. I’d never do that. The last person to press that button would be me. Hey, I'm the one that didn't want to go into Iraq from the beginning. The last person that wants to play the nuclear card, believe me, is me. But you can never take cards off the table, either from a moral stand -- from any standpoint, and certainly from a negotiating standpoint.
ERIC BOLLING (HOST): Hey Donald, I understand the not taking the cards off the table for ISIS or Islamic terror. But when Chris expanded to Europe, what about that? [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor,3/31/16]
Trump To CBS’s Dickerson: “I Said I Don’t Want To Go Into Iraq, And I Said That A Long Time Ago.” During the April 3 edition of CBS’ Face The Nation, Trump asserted that he said “I don’t want to go into Iraq … a long time ago.” did not offer push back, and moved on to questioning Trump about whether he had been studying policy issues:
JOHN DICKERSON (HOST): Let me ask you about the abortion question which you explained the hypothetical nature of it and also your answer on the spread of nuclear weapons. You said you were against proliferation but then you said you seem to be OK with South Korea or Japan maybe be getting one.
DONALD TRUMP: It's totally misquoted.
DICKERSON: Well people are still confused.
TRUMP: I love -- I know they're confused, and they shouldn't be, because all they have to do is watch. And I spoke with Anderson Cooper, and I spoke to Chris, I spoke to all of them, and I spoke to The New York Times. And I thought it was very good piece in The New York Times. Look, nuclear is a horror story. I would be probably the last to even think about using it. People say, you promised never, ever to use it. You can't do a thing like that, you have to have cards on the table. But nuclear is a horror show, just like I said I don't want to go into Iraq, and I said that a long time ago. I wasn’t the war hawk, there were a lot of other people. Nuclear is a disaster. With that being said, we are taking care, and if you look into NATO as an example. We are funding and taking care disproportionately of the costs of many countries. Many, many countries that are taking us for a ride. We have to do something with NATO. When it comes to nuclear, you are going to have to ask yourself at what point and at what cost do we continue to protect Japan and Germany, and many other countries. Now, they're not paying for this protection in anywhere near what it's costing us. We owe $19 trillion. At what point do they get involved and they say, we have to pay more money for this kind of protection? Now, at some point they may have to protect themselves. Do I like that? Not particularly. But we cannot afford it as a country. John, we owe $19 trillion, going to $21 trillion because of the horrible omnibus budget, which was a horror show. We cannot continue to do this.
DICKERSON: When people looked at your answer on abortion, on proliferation, they got the sense you were just winging it on policy issues -- [CBS, Face the Nation, 4/3/16]
Trump Tells Fox's Sean Hannity “I Was Against The War In Iraq Right From The Beginning.” During the April 13 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, Trump told host Sean Hannity, “I was against the war in Iraq right from the beginning.” Hannity, rather than address Trump’s claim, lauded Trump for bringing up issues, like terrorism in Brussels, “ahead of time”:
DONALD TRUMP: I don't want to put people -- we've spent probably, if you add it up, probably $5 trillion over there. In the meantime, our country is falling apart, our infrastructure is falling apartment. I was against the war in Iraq right from the beginning. But you shouldn't have gotten out the way they got out. When you look at Obama --
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Take the oil and let them pay for --
TRUMP: I said take the oil. I said take the oil. I wrote about Osama bin Laden, I wrote about Osama bin Laden in a book that was published two years before the World Trade Center came down.
HANNITY: And you talked about Brussels ahead of time. [Fox News, Hannity, 4/13/16]
Trump To Fox's Greta Van Susteren: “I Said -- And You Know This Because I Have Been Saying This To You For Years -- Don’t Go Into Iraq.” During a town hall on the April 27 edition of Fox News’ On The Record, Trump told host Greta Van Susteren, “I said -- and you know this because I have been saying this to you for years -- don’t go into Iraq.” Van Susteren didn’t address his claim and moved on to the issue of nuclear weapons:
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN (HOST): Is there a point now that you consider necessary, if you were the oval office now and president would you be deploying any troops in any place?
DONALD TRUMP: Well I think what -- yes, to me, when I heard the other day I heard President Obama say the single greatest threat to our country is global warming. And I said, is he serious? Was he being serious? And the big threat we have is global warming but it’s of the nuclear variety. That's the biggest threat we have. That is the single biggest threat we have. And frankly, if it weren't for that capability and the incredible power of weaponry today, I would have been out of there a long time. I said -- and you know this because I have been saying this to you for years -- don't go into Iraq. Don't go into Iraq because we totally destroyed the balance of power. We destroyed the whole equilibrium of the Middle East and now Iran is taking over the Middle East, and it's terrible. If we didn't do anything in the last 15 years, if we just forgot the Middle East was there, we would be in such great shape today by comparison to what we’ve done, with the migration, with people pouring into our country, which is Obama's fault in all fairness, because we are taking tens of thousands of people into the United States. We have no idea, Greta, who they are. There is no documentation. There is no paperwork. But victory to me is victory. If we go into fight, we have to fight to win and get it over with, fast.
VAN SUSTEREN: You brought up -- you brought up the issue of nuclear weapons. [Fox News Channel, On the Record, 4/27/16]
Trump To Fox's Hannity: “I Was Always Against The War In Iraq.” During the May 2 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, Trump reiterated that he was “always against the war in Iraq” when asked how he would defeat ISIS as president. Host Sean Hannity didn’t address Trump’s claim, instead asking him if he would be able to get other Middle Eastern countries to put boots on the ground:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I’ll agree with you, I think things have gotten much worse, precipitously worse especially under Obama pulling out early after we had invested so much time, energy, life, blood, and American treasure. How do you win that battle if you’re not going to put people on the ground?
DONALD TRUMP: So our military has become very depleted. We give tremendous amounts of munitions and everything to people that we think are allies and one shot's fired in the air and they drop their equipment and they run, okay? And the enemy ends up picking up our equipment. But our military is totally depleted and it's exhausted and it shouldn't be that way. We're going to build up our military. We have to take out ISIS. We'll do it in conjunction with others. But we're going to have to take out ISIS. They're chopping on heads. And you remember, look, I've been doing this a long time with you. I was always against the war in Iraq. I said it's going to totally destabilize the Middle East. And that’s what it's done. It's a disaster. But we were there. And Obama, the way as you just said, the way he got us out of that was also, it was catastrophic what he did because he should have left troops back. And I've been saying keep the oil. If we’re going to leave, keep the oil. But we're going to have to take out ISIS, we have no choice.
HANNITY: Can you get the Saudis to fight? Can you get the Jordanians and the Egyptians to put their boots on the ground considering it's right in their backyard?
TRUMP: They're going to have to. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/2/16]
Media Figures And Reporters Have Also Pushed Trump’s Iraq Myth Themselves
NY Times: Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech “Remind[ed] His Audience That He Had Opposed The Iraq War.” In an April 27 piece recapping Trump’s foreign policy speech, the Times’ Mark Landler and Ashley Parker wrote Trump was “reminding his audience that he had opposed the Iraq war.” At no point did the article push back on Trump’s claim:
Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, pledged a major buildup of the military, the swift destruction of the Islamic State and the rejection of trade deals that he said tied the nation’s hands. But he also pointedly rejected the nation-building of the George W. Bush administration, reminding his audience that he had opposed the Iraq war. [The New York Times, 4/27/16]
Washington Post: Trump “Claims He Always Opposed” The Iraq War. In a March 22 piece noting what a potential Trump versus Hillary Clinton matchup could look like, The Washington Post’s James Hohmann wrote Trump could “dampen enthusiasm for Clinton by emphasizing her vote for the war in Iraq in 2002, which he claims he always opposed.” The article did not include pushback to Trump’s claim:
The dueling speeches offered a taste of what the debate on global issues could look like this fall. Clinton would defend her support for the U.S. policy in Libya in the face of Trump attacks, for instance. Trump might pledge not to put more boots on the ground in Iraq, while Clinton – who understands that words have consequences – would keep her options open.
This would be a surreal debate for Bernie Sanders’s supporters to watch. It’s hard to imagine many anti-war protestors ultimately casting ballots for The Donald. But perhaps he could dampen enthusiasm for Clinton by emphasizing her vote for the war in Iraq in 2002, which he claims he always opposed. [The Washington Post, 3/22/16]
NY Times: “Trump Loudly Proclaims His Opposition To The Iraq War.” In an April 24 piece that claimed that Hillary Clinton is more hawkish than Trump, The New York Times’ Mark Landler wrote that Trump “loudly proclaims his opposition to the Iraq War”:
Neither Trump nor Cruz favors major new deployments of American soldiers to Iraq and Syria (nor, for that matter, does Clinton). If anything, both are more skeptical than Clinton about intervention and more circumspect than she about maintaining the nation’s post-World War II military commitments. Trump loudly proclaims his opposition to the Iraq War. He wants the United States to spend less to underwrite NATO and has talked about withdrawing the American security umbrella from Asia, even if that means Japan and South Korea would acquire nuclear weapons to defend themselves. Cruz, unlike Clinton, opposed aiding the Syrian rebels in 2014. He once supported Pentagon budget constraints advocated by his isolationist colleague, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Thus might the general election present voters with an unfamiliar choice: a Democratic hawk versus a Republican reluctant warrior. [The New York Times, 4/24/16]
NY Times’ Maureen Dowd: Trump “Thought The Invasion Of Iraq Was A Stupid Idea.” In an April 30 piece contrasting Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s foreign policy views, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote “The prime example of commander-in-chief judgment Trump offers is the fact that, like Obama, he thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea”:
On some foreign policy issues, the roles are reversed for the candidates and their parties. It’s Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove.
Just as Barack Obama seemed the more feminized candidate in 2008 because of his talk-it-out management style, his antiwar platform and his delicate eating habits, always watching his figure, so now, in some ways, Trump seems less macho than Hillary.
He has a tender ego, pouty tweets, needy temperament and obsession with hand sanitizer, whereas she is so tough and combat-hardened, she’s known by her staff as “the Warrior.”
The prime example of commander-in-chief judgment Trump offers is the fact that, like Obama, he thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea. [The New York Times, 4/30/16]
Sean Hannity: Trump Was “Against The War From The Beginning.” During an interview with Trump on the February 18 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, Hannity said to Trump, “You were against the war from the beginning.” Trump agreed, responding, “Totally against the war”:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I played a tape for you on my radio show that other day. Bill Clinton gave a speech, he had been offered bin Laden, knew bin Laden was a threat.
DONALD TRUMP: Should have taken him out.
HANNITY: Should have taken him out. And also, even though you were against the war, and you and I had some debates at the time, you were against the war from the beginning.
DONALD TRUMP: Totally against the war. And you would know that because you and I have been doing this for a long time.
HANNITY: We just disagreed.
TRUMP: And you and I used to fight about it.
HANNITY: We used to fight about it.
TRUMP: And now you probably say Trump was sort of like right. [Fox News, Hannity, 2/18/16]
Lou Dobbs: “As We Know” Trump Opposed “The War In Iraq.” During the April 21 edition of Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs mentioned Trump’s upcoming foreign policy speech, and claimed “as we know” Trump “was opposed to the war in Iraq”:
LOU DOBBS (HOST): Donald Trump focusing, as he will next week in an extensive policy speech, on foreign policy, sharing his views as we know, that he was opposed to the war in Iraq. It’s going to be quite an interesting speech next week. [Fox Business Network, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 4/21/16]