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  • A Fox host lobbied Trump to pardon accused and convicted war criminals. Here's how Fox talked about the cases over the last six months.

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE & GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On May 18, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump is considering issuing pardons for several American military members convicted or accused of war crimes, including Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, former Blackwater contractor Nicholas Slatten, and a group Marine Corps snipers who were charged with desecrating the corpses of dead Taliban fighters. This news came mere weeks after Trump pardoned Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, who was convicted of “unpremeditated murder in a combat zone” after killing a man he suspected was responsible for an attack on American soldiers.

    After the Times’ piece came out, The Daily Beast reported that Fox News host Pete Hegseth had been lobbying Trump for months about the expected pardons. Hegseth tweeted out that article, adding “#FreeEddie #FreeMatt #FreeClint” -- the last a reference to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who “was convicted in 2013 of ordering the murder of two Afghan civilians who his own soldiers said posed no threat,” The Daily Beast noted. At no point did Media Matters identify Hegseth ever disclosing that he was privately lobbying Trump for pardons.

    In these cases:

    • Gallagher is charged with firing indiscriminately into crowds of civilians in Mosul, Iraq. Prosecutors say that Gallagher shot an elderly man carrying a jug of water and a girl wearing a flower-print hijab walking along a riverbank. Gallagher is also accused of fatally stabbing a teenage Islamic State fighter while another medic was tending to his wounds. A Twitter thread went viral about the charges against Gallagher, which were reported by members of his Navy SEAL team.

    • Golsteyn is charged with the murder of an alleged Taliban bomb maker in Afghanistan in 2010. Army Times reported, “Golsteyn allegedly told CIA interviewers [in 2011] that he and another soldier took the alleged bomb-maker off base, shot him and buried his remains. He also allegedly told the interviewers that on the night of the killing, he and two other soldiers dug up the body and burned it in a trash pit on base.” Golsteyn was “cleared of a law of armed conflict violation,” but an Army board found his conduct unbecoming of an officer. The Army then reopened the case after Golsteyn in 2016 told Fox News’ Special Report that he killed the man.

    • Lorance was found guilty in 2013 of second-degree murder of two civilians in Afghanistan. According to The Washington Post, the charging document against Lorance “accuses him of impeding the investigation by asking a soldier to falsely state in the incident report that the platoon could not examine the slain Afghans’ bodies because locals removed them shortly after the shooting.” The New York Times subsequently reported that nine members of his platoon testified against him at his trial, and several of them contradicted Lorance’s testimony in interviews. One of his subordinates told the Times that Lorance “was just so aggressive. One of the first things he said to us was, we are going to go in Gestapo-style with night raids, pull people out of houses, make them afraid of us.” Adam Linehan wrote in a 2017 op-ed in Task & Purpose that members of Lorance’s platoon testified that Lorance asked them to shoot a young child who attempted to retrieve the bodies; Linehan also noted, “When people like [retired Army Lt. Col. Allen] West and Sean Hannity, who has also been one of Lorance’s most vociferous supporters, declare that Lorance is innocent, they are also leveling an insidious accusation at the nine American soldiers whose testimonies helped put him behind bars.”

    • Slatten is a former security contractor with the Blackwater mercenary company who was found guilty of first-degree murder in December 2018 for his role in the September 2007 massacre of unarmed Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad, by several Blackwater employees. Fourteen Iraqis were killed and a further 18 were wounded in the unprovoked massacre, which prosecutors said Slatten initiated by being the first to fire. Slatten’s conviction was a long time in coming, with the first charges against him and other Blackwater members thrown out in 2009. The case was later picked up with new evidence and Slatten was convicted of murder in 2014. An appeals court overturned this first conviction and ordered a new trial for Slatten, which initially ended in a mistrial. According to prosecutors, Slatten had told members of his team that Iraqi “people’s lives are not worth anything” and “they’re not even humans, they are animals.” He also expressed no remorse for the killings in a September 2017 interview with USA Today, saying that the only massacre was “a massacre of justice” against him and calling himself “a POW in my own country.”

    Trump has previously given pardons following pleas on Fox News. In fact, the lawyer for the recipient of one of Trump’s earliest pardons even credited a Fox-centric strategy for the eventual pardon.

    Below is coverage from the last six months by Fox News figures of these cases in which Trump is reportedly considering pardons. Trump has tweeted about at least one of these segments, even tagging Hegseth.

    May 2019

    On the May 19 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Pete Hegseth aggressively endorsed potential pardons for Gallagher, Golsteyn, and Lorance, claiming that “these are the good guys.”

    • The conversation included Fox & Friends Weekend co-hosts Ed Henry, Jedediah Bila, and Hegseth.

    • Hegseth argued that the three service members “made tough calls on a moment’s notice” and are “not war criminals. They're warriors who have now been accused of certain things that are under review.” Hegseth also added that it’s “very heartening” to him that the president might pardon them.

    • Hegseth also deadnamed whistleblower Chelsea Manning, referring to her with her birth name rather than her affirming name. Like misgendering, which is labeling someone “as a gender other than one that a person identifies with,” deadnaming is a disrespectful practice that invalidates a trans person’s identity.

    On the May 14 edition, America’s Newsroom hosted Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, who argued that her husband “has endured a lot of suffering at the hands of the military and the United States government.”​

    During the May 14 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade expressed remorse about Gallagher’s trial because he is a “Navy SEAL who has already given so much to this country,” and co-host Ainsley Earhardt called him “a decorated hero” who “served our country.”

    • Kilmeade, Earhardt, and co-host Steve Doocy discussed Gallagher’s case.

    • While describing the Gallagher case, Kilmeade minimized the accusations, simply saying that during “his ninth tour, he got in some trouble -- got in some legal trouble.”

    • Kilmeade also commended Gallagher for having “sacrificed so much time away from his family” and serving eight tours.

    Earlier on the May 14 edition of Fox & Friends, Gallagher’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, accused prosecutors of withholding evidence.

    • Kilmeade said that “it must be painful within the military community to prosecute somebody that’s given so much to this country whether there was misconduct or not,” but he argued that Gallagher has been “brutally” treated and condemned prosecutors for “trying to take down one their own.”

    On the May 7 edition of Fox and Friends, Fox host Pete Hegseth defended Behenna after his pardon, claiming “they knew” the man Behenna killed was “the guy that killed the two Americans” but just “didn’t have enough evidence.”

    • Hegseth discussed Behenna’s case with Fox & Friends co-hosts Earhardt, Doocy, and Kilmeade.

    • Hegseth claimed that “ultimately, this is a platoon leader trying to keep his guys safe,” and said Behenna shouldn’t have gotten any prison time.

    • Hegseth complained that “the Army overprosecutes” war crimes and brought up Lorance, Golsteyn, and Gallagher as other examples, saying it was “wonderful” that the president is considering pardons.

    • Hegseth again deadnamed whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

    April 2019

    On the April 27 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Hegseth questioned whether charging military personnel for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice may show a lack of “understanding the complexity of combat.”

    • Hegseth mentioned that military personnel are facing charges for their alleged misconduct while interviewing a war veteran who became a journalist.

    • Hegseth said: “There’s a lot of complex cases -- we cover them on the show. Matt Golsteyn, a Green Beret who’s facing charges; Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who‘s facing charges. Is there -- you know, are we not fully understanding the complexity of combat in some of those cases?”

    On the April 25 edition of Premiere Radio Network’s The Sean Hannity Show, Gallagher’s brother pleaded for donations to his defense fund and argued that he should not be tried for war crimes. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) compared Gallagher’s prosecution to the “corrupt” courts going after Trump.

    • Hannity interviewed Gallagher's brother Sean and then discussed the case with Hunter.

    • Hannity: “When you get to the actual investigations, a lot of it sounds like SEAL talk, maybe the best equivalent would be locker room talk.”

    • Hannity mockingly read The New York Times’ description of Galagher’s crimes, which included “stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death, picking off school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost, indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.”

    • Sean Gallagher then came on to defend his brother and ask for donations. He made his case by saying that “either you believe that this country is worth fighting for, and you want men to go kill bad men oversees, or you don’t. If you do, then Eddie is a hero.” He also said that we should “send all the lawyers to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    • Sean Gallagher said the “system is broken.” He also said that the charges against his brother are “political” and meant to “send a message” and that they’re throwing “Eddie under the bus.”

    On the April 13 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Henry asked why “our American heroes” are “falling victim now to military prosecutors.” The on-screen chyron read: “The prosecution of America’s heroes.”

    • The segment included co-hosts Henry and Hegseth as well as guest Don Brown, who is a member of Lorance’s defense team.

    • Hegseth started the interview by saying that when he was in combat, he “had to make some of the very same decisions [as Lorance did] at the split moment. … Yet he’s charged with murder. Why?” In response, Brown said the “rules of engagement” changed under former President Barack Obama and now they “favor the Taliban over Americans.”

    • Brown chastised the “left-wing military justice system” and called on Trump “to take action.” He asserted that Lorance is “guilty of nothing except for being a red-blooded American patriot.”

    • Brown also deadnamed whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

    On the April 12 edition of Fox News @ Night, anchor Shannon Bream’s guest, a retired U.S. Marine Corps bomb technician, complained about the cases.

    • Bream’s guest during the segment was Johnny Joey Jones, a retired U.S. Marine Corps bomb technician.

    • Without mentioning the men by name, Jones mentioned “two high-profile cases of a Navy SEAL and, I believe, an Army Ranger or Green Beret on trial,” saying that they are on trial “even with storied and honored careers.”

    • Jones complained about the “idea that we need someone else to hold our men and women accountable,” referring to the United States’ laws regarding charging troops convicted of war crimes. He added, “That doesn’t sit well with us, and especially when we’re the ones out trying to enforce some sort of justice in the world for the things that have happened to our country.”

    On the April 12 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, anchor Sandra Smith hosted Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, who made a direct appeal to Trump.

    • Smith hosted guests Andrea Gallagher and Nine Line Apparel CEO Tyler Merritt

    • Merritt claimed there is a video with exculpatory evidence; he said Gallagher is fighting “a giant.” He continued: “If this crime was committed in Chicago, maybe he would be free and at home with his family. But we allow people to create and incite race riots, but they’re found not guilty. And you have an individual, a Navy SEAL, where you just watch the video, he is not guilty.”

    • Smith listed restrictions on Gallagher and asked his wife how hard it is for her family. She said, “It’s tantamount to confinement. … In civilian terms, it’s obstruction of justice.”

    • Gallagher said: “I just want to let the president know he is being lied to. There is corruption from the top down involved in this. … We have been tortured endlessly. … We need the president to take a good hard look.”

    On the April 2 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity downplayed accusations made against Gallagher, characterizing his actions as “a mistake” and blaming Obama’s “rules of engagement.”

    • Hannity interviewed Don Brown, a member of Lorance’s legal team, and played clips of Lorance’s mother pleading with Obama to pardon her son.

    • Hannity complained that “we’re going to send men and women out to fight for our country and ... then we’re going to try them if they make a split-second decision.” He asked why anybody would want to fight for our country “under these rules.” He sarcastically added, “Appreciate you serving our country. Sorry you made a mistake.”

    • Later in the same show, he again framed alleged war crimes by saying the perpetrators had to “make a split-second decision” and complaining that “men and women in the battle field that are being second guessed.” He also claimed to have new evidence that exonerates Lorance. Hannity asserted that Lorance is “not guilty of anything” and asked Brown if the president is aware of Lorance’s case. Brown responded that he knows “a guy named Sean Hannity who could walk it over there to him.”

    March 2019

    On the March 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Kilmeade interviewed Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, and brother, Sean, who complained that Gallagher’s treatment “is abhorrent” especially after he “fought for our country bravely and steadfastly.”

    • Kilmeade asked Andrea Gallagher what her husband’s life is like and noted that he had been kept in a “prison for sexual offenders.” Kilmeade also expressed outrage that Gallagher had been “forced to go over these hurdles” in preparing for the trial.

    • Kilmeade complimented Andrea and Sean Gallagher for being “two fighters on the outside” making sure Edward Gallagher is released and added that he “hopefully [has] one in the White House.”

    On the March 29 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Jillian Mele discussed Gallagher’s case with Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who said that he took an interest about the case after it appeared on Fox News, and had since met with Sean and Andrea Gallagher several times. Both Mele and Norman extensively praised Edward Gallagher.

    • Right Wing Watch has since reported that Norman told Breitbart radio that he spoke with Trump shortly after the March 29 appearance on Fox.

    On the March 22 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts interviewed Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a former Navy SEAL who argued that Gallagher’s treatment by federal officials “doesn’t seem like the proper way to treat somebody who served our country for so long.”

    • Crenshaw was discussing Gallagher’s case with co-host Doocy and guest co-hosts Henry and Bila.

    February 2019

    On a February 26 edition of Fox Nation's Deep Dive, the panel defended Gallagher and criticized the military's rules of engagement.

    • The panel included The Wall Street Journal's James Freeman, Fox host Hegseth, Fox contributor Judith Miller, and former Navy SEAL Rob O'Neill.

    • When Hegseth was confronted with the possibility that people in the military want the laws of war to be followed, Hegseth responded that “if only our enemies ever followed any laws at all.” He added that in war, leaders have to make a “tough call” and that he chooses to give guys like Gallagher the “benefit of the doubt.”

    • O'Neill criticized the Navy SEALs who testified against Gallagher, calling it “disgusting” to “see someone else on the same team testify against someone in combat.”

    On the February 14 edition of The Story, host Martha MacCallum reported on recent updates on Goldsteyn’s case, interviewing Goldsteyn’s attorney, Phillip Stackhouse.

    On the February 13 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Kilmeade introduced the segment on Goldsteyn by saying he went from “former military hero and decorated Green Beret to enemy of the state.”

    • The segment featured Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a lawmaker looking into the case, and Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Hegseth. The segment also included a pre-recorded interview between Hegseth and Goldsteyn and his wife, Julie.

    • Hunter reduced Goldsteyn’s alleged conduct to simply “killing bad guys the wrong way.” Hunter chastised what he called “compassionate combat” in which the government wants the troops “to kill the bad guys but in the right way, meaning they want us to kill guys compassionately and only under the rules of engagement that they say to.”

    • Co-host Earhardt expressed shock that a person can be tried for making a “mistake” and killing “a bad guy.” Hegseth claimed that he had to engage in “catch-and-release” practices while overseas to adhere to Obama’s rules of engagement.

    On the February 11 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, anchor Bill Hemmer mentioned a prior Fox interview of Golsteyn before interviewing Gallagher’s brother Sean.

    • Sean Gallagher said that “while the details are different” in the cases of Gallagher and Golsteyn, “the absurdity of the system is just the same.” He also said there was no evidence against his brother.

    • Hemmer brought up Sean Gallagher’s FoxNews.com op-ed from February 7 in which he made a direct appeal to Trump to intervene.

    • Sean Gallagher attacked the Navy SEALs who reported the crime in the first place.

    On the February 8 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Kilmeade hosted Sean Gallagher to defend his brother Edward, mentioning a FoxNews.com op-ed in which Sean asked Trump to intervene in the case.

    • Opening the interview, Sean Gallagher said, “We need the intervention of the president of the United States.”

    • Kilmeade said, “You have to wonder what’s happening here, because you would think in the military they would understand what your brother and others are up against. … It’s the battlefield. Isn’t the goal to kill ISIS?”

    • Sean Gallagher compared charges against his brother to charges against Trump, saying both were frivolous.

    • Kilmeade added, “The president doesn’t usually let these things go by without commenting, so hopefully he weighs in and steps up and will do a lot of good for a lot of people.”

    On the February 6 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, reporter Lucas Tomlinson mentioned an anonymous Navy SEAL officer he spoke with who blamed “millennial SEALs” for the charges against Gallagher.

    January 2019

    On the January 4 edition of The Story, Fox played a clip of a Navy SEAL complimenting Gallagher and interviewed Gallagher’s brother Sean, who argued that accusations against Edward from within the SEALs come from “a couple of malcontents.”

    • Host Martha MacCallum discussed the case with Sean Gallagher and Edward Gallagher’s lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse.

    • Sean Gallagher claimed that the accusations against his brother are false and come from Navy SEALs who were upset after Edward Gallagher reprimanded them.

    • Sean Gallagher also argued that the “overzealous, out-of-control prosecution” is trying to “make a career out of taking down a Navy SEAL.”

    On the January 4 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Doocy complimented Edward Gallagher’s “extraordinary Navy SEAL resume” and explained that Gallagher told his brother that his last tour “was like a Game of Thrones situation.”

    • Sean Gallagher repeated his contention that the accusations against his brother stem from SEALs unhappy with how he treated them.

    • Sean Gallagher also argued, “There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that clears my brother, that exonerates him from all of these charges.”

    December 2018

    On the December 19 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, guest host Dan Bongino discussed the Golsteyn case with Golsteyn’s wife, Julie, and his father, Jerry.

    • Bongino used their appearance to complain that former POW Bowe Bergdahl’s family appeared in the Rose Garden with Obama.

    • Julie Golsteyn said that her husband was “under fire for doing his job.”

    • Jerry Golsteyn complained about “a group of people, sitting in an office somewhere, … decide that you did the right or wrong thing.”

    On the December 18 edition of Hannity, guest host Jeanine Pirro downplayed a murder charge against Golsteyn, and both her guests stated that Golsteyn had been right to kill a man in Afghanistan he suspected of being a bomb maker.

    • Pirro downplayed the charges against Golsteyn as “killing the enemy under circumstances that apparently his superiors don’t like.”

    • Both of Pirro’s guests, Fox military analyst David Hunt and retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, said that Golsteyn was right to kill a man in Afghanistan he suspected of being a bomb maker. Hunt said: “Absolutely. I’d have done it and do it again.”

    On December 17, Fox & Friends encouraged Trump to interfere in the case against Golsteyn.

    • The segment featured Rep.-elect Michael Waltz (R-FL).

    • Kilmeade introduced the segment by describing Golsteyn as “a once-decorated war hero who fought for our country overseas, now a suspected war criminal and a murderer.”

    • Waltz said that the U.S. is putting troops in an “impossible situation,” adding, “We’ve set these guys up for failure with the rules of engagement as they stand.” Earhardt added that Golsteyn “said he was defending Americans” and that “he had to kill him to defend his own people.” Waltz then brought up “the power of pardon,” referring to Trump’s earlier tweets promising to review Golsteyn’s case.

    On December 16, Fox & Friends Weekend warned of the “very dangerous precedent” set by prosecuting Golsteyn for premeditated murder.

    • Co-host Henry said prosecutors were “jumping on” an “American war hero” for being “honest and transparent.”

    • Fellow co-host Hegseth complained that Golsteyn was still charged with murder despite unrelated actions earning him “a Silver Star, potentially even a Distinguished Service Cross, which is one step below the Medal of Honor,” and he claimed Golsteyn's alleged war crime was due to a lack of “paperwork” and a “catch-and-release” policy with terrorists.

    • Co-host Bila said she heard from “a lot” of “outraged” members of the military who told her that “you have to be able to defend these people who stand up for us” and decried the “very dangerous precedent” set by Golsteyn’s prosecution.

    Also on the December 16 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, Golsteyn’s wife, Julie, said, “It is time for someone in Army leadership” to “step in and do the right thing” for her husband.

    • Opening the interview, co-host Hegseth said, “Thank you for your husband's service, thank you for your service.” Hegseth said he wanted to make sure that Julie Golsteyn knew “that we express that gratitude to you and your husband.”

    • After questioning whether the homicide Golsteyn is accused of was “cold-blooded murder,” Hegseth also agreed with Julie Golsteyn’s claim that the prosecution was “so disgusting” and claimed that “the rules of war get twisted” by “political leaders” so that “war heroes are being prosecuted like criminals.”

    • Julie Golsteyn said her husband “was lucky enough to survive war and has come home to be ripped apart by his own government and the Army leadership. So it is extremely disappointing and absolutely reprehensible what they have done to him … and it would be laughable, if it wasn't so serious and disgusting."

    • Julie Golsteyn also claimed her husband “did not confess to murder on television. He actually went on to Bret Baier to be an advocate for other men like Clint Lorance who are in prison for doing their jobs."

    On the December 4 edition of Fox host Sean Hannity’s radio show, Gallagher’s brother Sean dismissed the allegations against him as “concocted” “fabrications.”

    • Sean Gallagher claimed his brother's fellow SEALs “concocted these stories” of the murder of an ISIS prisoner because they didn’t like how he operated the platoon and said that the allegations were “fabrications.”

    Research by Bobby Lewis, Zachary Pleat, Brendan Karet, Alex Walker, John Whitehouse, and Tyler Monroe. Video by John Kerr.

  • Tucker Carlson's descent into white supremacy: A timeline

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Since the early days of his tenure as a Fox prime-time host, Tucker Carlson’s unabashed championing of white grievances earned him the accolades of neo-Nazis, who praised him as a “one man gas chamber” and complimented the way he “lampshad[ed] Jews on national television.” While Carlson claims to have nothing in common with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, he constantly echoes their talking points on his show and was very reluctant to condemn white supremacists following their deadly 2017 demonstration in Charlottesville, VA. In fact, Carlson’s racist roots can be traced back more than a decade.

    Here’s a timeline of the public devolution of Tucker Carlson’s thinly veiled racism into full-throated white supremacy (this list will be continually updated):