Fox brings on discredited author Stephen Hayes to talk about Afghanistan

Hayes' false claims alleging a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were cited by Dick Cheney

Video file

Citation From the August 18, 2021, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom with Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino

DANA PERINO (ANCHOR): Steve, if I could start with you. At this point what you are looking at for the Biden administration is a complete undermining of two pillars of its foreign policy: one, being that America is back, because if you look at what our allies are saying right now, what our adversaries are thinking; but two, the emphasis on democracy. What do you think this means for the Biden administration? 

STEPHEN HAYES (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Yeah. It's an unmitigated disaster. I mean, the things that you are hearing from the president himself and from people speaking on his behalf are so at odds with reality. It's — it really would be laughable if it weren't so tragic. One of the most important things to remember here is, picking up on what Leon Panetta said, it's not just that Al Qaeda might have a safe haven if the Taliban assume full control of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has been working with the Taliban. Al Qaeda is inextricably linked to the Taliban. They share leadership, they share operations. Some of the Taliban prisoners that were released as a result of the February 2020 deal that the U.S. struck with the Taliban were, in fact, Al Qaeda. So I think it's a mistake to say we could be going back to a point where Al Qaeda can reestablish a safe haven. Al Qaeda has been operating in Afghanistan for a long time. And I think the fact that the Biden administration has so cavalierly, sort of, dismissed that and are now making threats against the Taliban if they provide a safe haven for Al Qaeda suggests that they don't understand what's going on on the ground at all. 

Dana Perino interviewing Stephen Hayes about Afghanistan would be laughable if it weren't so tragic. Perino, of course, was the White House press secretary under George W. Bush before joining Fox News and eventually rebranding as a “straight news” anchor during the day and a co-host of Fox's opinion show The Five in the early evening.

As we noted earlier this week about the Bush administration and Afghanistan:

Early on, the Bush administration made critical errors in both the military mission and political settlement of the Afghan constitution, leaving a quagmire that was then continued through the Obama and Trump administrations. In addition, the Bush White House was determined from the beginning to use the 9/11 attacks as a pivot to invading Iraq — while it also failed to capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, thus entrenching the United States deeper into a never-ending commitment.

Stephen Hayes played a critical role in all of this, with perhaps one of the worst books of the 21st century, The Connection. As we noted in 2013:

It was Hayes who “made a career out of pretending Saddam and Al Qaeda were in league to attack the United States.” His assertions in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq were based on the same shoddy and ideological blindness that exemplified his Benghazi reporting.

Well after the Defense Intelligence Agency had dismissed the notion that Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were working together, Hayes claimed in The Weekly Standard that government sources told him that evidence of this partnership was “detailed, conclusive, and corroborated by multiple sources.”

His reporting was ultimately cited by Vice President Dick Cheney as evidence of the linkage between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Ultimately Hayes wrote a book highlighting his false reporting titled The Connection: How Al Qaeda's Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America.

Writing in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose observed that “Hayes cannot bear to let his pet theory fall by the wayside, whether it is borne out by the facts or not” and compared The Connection to “the Dr. Seuss classic 'McElligot's Pool,' whose youthful protagonist refuses to accept that his favorite fishing hole contains no fish.”

Here's Simon Maloy on Hayes' track record in 2007:

Hayes has for years offered factually inaccurate and misleading support of Cheney and the Bush administration's foreign policy, particularly with regard to the Iraq war. Most recently, Hayes appeared on the July 22 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press and claimed that the July 17 release of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the terrorist threat to the United States “strengthens the basic case that the administration has been making that Al Qaeda remains a serious threat,” despite the fact that the NIE, as The New York Times reported, “concludes that the United States is losing ground on a number of fronts in the fight against Al Qaeda, and describes the terrorist organization as having significantly strengthened over the past two years.”

Media Matters also identified instances in which Hayes engaged in falsehoods and distortions in defense of Cheney and the administration's attempts to link Al Qaeda and Iraq. For example, on the December 9, 2005, edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Hayes defended Cheney's December 2001 claim that 9-11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. According to Hayes: “If you look at the front page of The New York Times in the days surrounding the vice president's claim, The New York Times was reporting the same thing.” But as Media Matters noted, even after the Times and numerous other news outlets subsequently reported in May 2002 the FBI and CIA's finding that “no evidence” existed to substantiate the claim, Cheney continued to raise the possibility of such a meeting.

You can find more on Hayes' history here and here.