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On Sunday, July 22, President Donald Trump tweeted another bellicose threat of war, this time against Iran. In discussions about the president’s tweets, some media outlets prominently featured Iraq War boosters.
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
Though, collectively, these figures were hardly as pro-military action as they were in 2003 in their support for the Iraq War (some even harshly criticized the president’s posturing), the prominence of such boosters in the conversation betrays one of the media’s long-running, barely-acknowledged failures: The same voices that helped the Bush administration lie its way into the "the single worst foreign policy decision in American history" are still, for some reason, considered important voices on foreign policy.
Former press secretary for President George W. Bush Ari Fleischer appeared on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom to urge the United States to destabilize Iranian society in order to trigger regime change.
Steve Doocy, co-host of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, said that the Iranian “people are really hacked (sic) off, they don’t really like the corruption, they don’t like the leadership, they want something new, and now this,” referring to Trump’s tweet.
On Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, senior strategic analyst retired Gen. Jack Keane, who was the a strong advocate of Bush’s troop “surge” strategy in Iraq, hailed Trump for having “absolutely reset the table [away] from coddling Iran” as soon as he was inaugurated and framed the tweet -- which he called a “policy decision” -- as a continuation of this trend.
On CNN’s New Day, global affairs analyst Max Boot commented that Trump “belongs in a padded cell” for his tweet and was “predictable” for “gin[ning] up a threat of war with Iran” to shield himself from embarrassment over the Helsinki summit.
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough commented that Trump was “screaming about the Republican (sic) Guard and his threat to wipe out Iran,” and suggested that the threat against Iran was a tactic to distract from the news that, among others, the FBI possessed recordings of the president talking with his former attorney Michael Cohen about payments to a former playboy model.
Fox’s senior political analyst Brit Hume predicted that Trump’s broader posture against Iran, from exiting the nuclear deal to Sunday’s tweet, indicated that his administration “is attempting to overthrow the government or attempting to get regime change” in Iran, even though Trump officials “will not say” so.
On CNN Newsroom, military analyst Rick Francona, who was previously part of a military analyst program set up by the Pentagon to sell the Iraq War, warned that “if you start poking the eye of the Iranians” as Trump’s tweet did, “they’re liable to push back,” and the resulting situation “will ratchet out of control very quickly.”
National security adviser John Bolton, hired directly off of Fox News, underlined the president's threat with a statement that said: “If Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before.”
In an unusual development, many right-wing media figures have criticized President Donald Trump for throwing the U.S. intelligence community under the bus during a July 16 appearance with Russian President Vladimir Putin by refusing to affirm its conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. While it’s uncommon to see typically sycophantic figures rebuking the president, this criticism is particularly surprising given right-wing media’s own history of encouraging Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community for just that finding.
During the press conference in Helsinki after his one-on-one meeting with the Russian president, Trump touted Putin’s denial of interfering in the U.S. elections and claimed he doesn’t “see any reason why” Russia would have meddled. Many right-wing media figures were displeased with this response and rebuked the president’s behavior:
Fox’s Newt Gingrich: “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected—-immediately.”
Fox News analyst Jack Keane: “That’s alarming that the president would not stand behind that entire intelligence community and judicial process and back them up a hundred percent.” Keane also stated: “To stand there on a world stage and appease Russia in disfavor to our intelligence community was a thing that shocked me."
Fox’s Trish Regan: “This was clearly not [President Trump's] best performance. ... He should have defended us. He should have defended his own intelligence community."
Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera tweeted: Trump “seems to distrust & despise @HillaryClinton & #SpecialCounsel more than he distrusts& despises #Russia & #GRU He also didn’t embrace our own intelligence community, which says Russia is guilty of meddling.”
Fox News analyst Brit Hume: “Trump, finally asked whom he believes on Russia interference, gives a vague and rambling non-answer, with renewed complaints about Hillary’s server. Says he trusts US intel but made clear he takes Putin’s denials seriously. Lame response, to say the least.”
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade: said that “When Newt Gingrich, when Gen. Jack Keane, when [Chairman of American Conservative Union] Matt Schlapp say the president fell short and made our intelligence apparatus look bad, I think it’s time to pay attention.” He also claimed that Trump “fell short” in Helsinki.
Townhall’s Guy Benson: Trump’s response to the question if he believes U.S. intel or Putin was an “atrocious, humiliating answer.”
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York: “Concerning Trump's newser remarks specifically on Trump-Russia affair: Appalling.”
Right-wing media’s apparent shock at the president’s actions, however, is itself laughable, given Trump’s history of attacking the U.S. intelligence community over the Russia investigation, and right-wing media’s own war against intelligence officials. Right-wing media have spent years besmirching the intelligence community to protect Trump and undermine the Russia investigation, often pushing outlandish conspiracy theories about a “secret society” and attempted “coups,” or else aggressively targeting individual officials in order to delegitimize intelligence findings that might hurt Trump. There is plenty to scrutinize the intelligence community over, but it is wildly hypocritical that right-wing media are finding Trump’s rhetoric about the Russia investigation “appalling.” After all, he probably got it from them.
Network figures say Haspel was “simply following orders”
Gina Haspel’s March 13 nomination as CIA director is reviving the debate about torture, and Fox News is defending her role in the agency’s George W. Bush-era program by insisting that she was “simply following orders” and should not be held responsible for her contributions to the torturing of detainees.
Haspel, who became the agency’s acting director on April 26 after a long tenure there, oversaw a secret CIA prison in Thailand where suspected terrorists were detained and tortured, including one man who was waterboarded three times. Haspel was also “a strong advocate” for destroying tapes of CIA torture sessions, The New York Times reported, a stance Haspel herself reiterated in her confirmation hearing.
As debate swirled about Haspel’s involvement in torture leading up to her confirmation hearing, Fox News took the lead in providing media cover for her. Several Fox personalities have zeroed in on some variation of the argument that “she was just following orders” -- a defense made infamous by multiple high-ranking Nazi officials who attempted to defend themselves during the Nuremberg trials.
aka "the Nuremberg defense"... https://t.co/krQUoxwUzc
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) May 7, 2018
In addition to insisting that Haspel was merely following orders, Fox personalities have defended her nomination by suggesting that being tortured is similar to having a difficult job, and that Haspel would make a good TV “hero” for running a secret CIA prison as a woman. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade even suggested Haspel refuse to “apologize for the Americans who are alive today and were not burned alive or had their heads cut off” thanks to torture.
Haspel’s apparent predilection to follow orders is especially worrisome given that Trump has repeatedly threatened to bring back torture. In Trump’s first days in office, a White House draft order called for a review and possible reopening of CIA “black site” prisons. In his first presidential TV interview, Trump said of waterboarding, "Absolutely I feel it works," adding that America has to "fight fire with fire." During the campaign, Trump infamously called for America to kill the families of terrorists, which would violate the Geneva Conventions. Trump said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding," and also called for America to “broaden” the laws prohibiting torture in order to “beat the savages.” And while some, like former CIA Director Michael Hayden, are saying that Haspel will stand up to Trump, her record shows otherwise.
Video by Miles Le
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Jack Keane urged funding for a General Dynamics project -- without disclosing that he's on defense contractor's board of directors
Retired Gen. John “Jack” Keane, one of Fox News’ go-to military analysts, has repeatedly hammered home a message to viewers: The United States military needs more money to buy ships and vehicles. Left unsaid is that Keane is on the board of directors for General Dynamics, a defense contractor that receives significant revenue building those combat machines for the military.
General Dynamics is a U.S.-based defense contractor that received roughly $19.7 billion in defense industry revenue in 2016 (sixth overall). According to the company’s most recent proxy statement, Keane received $257,884 in compensation (including “stock awards”) in 2016. The company produces ground vehicles such as the Stryker combat vehicle and Abrams tank, and it builds numerous naval ships through Bath Iron Works.
General Dynamics stated in its 2016 annual report that “60 percent of our consolidated revenue in 2016 was from the U.S. government” and warned that “decreases in U.S. government defense spending or changes in spending allocation or priorities could result in one or more of our programs being reduced, delayed or terminated, which could impact our financial performance.”
Keane frequently uses his Fox News gig to push for increased defense spending without disclosing his role with General Dynamics. Here are just a few of those appearances just this year:
Keane appeared on the August 29 edition of Mornings with Maria and was asked about military readiness. He said the country is militarily ready, but the Chinese, Russians, and Iranians “know that our military capability has been significantly degraded, because we have not been invested in it for a number of years.” Guest host Dagen McDowell responded by stating that it falls on Congress to increase defense spending.
Keane appeared on a July 23 segment on America’s News HQ in which he advocated increased military spending and said the military needs to buy “new equipment.” Keane then specifically mentioned that there are “five ships” in the House budget that should be funded -- a reference to a fiscal 2018 proposal to add, as Reuters noted, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer "made by General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc and a total of three Littoral Combat Ships built by Lockheed Martin and Australia’s Austal Ltd.”
JACK KEANE: What has to take place -- we need to put money into operation and maintenance accounts so that we can train properly, train our pilots, we can keep our equipment up. That money has to be in there and it is. That’s number one. Then we have to get future readiness, which is buying new equipment. That’s future readiness. There’s five ships, for example, in the House’s budget. There’s missile defense as well. That has got to be there.
Keane also urged funding for more missile defense -- General Dynamics also works on missile defense systems. FoxNews.com headlined the segment: “Gen. Jack Keane on why defense spending increase is needed”).
On the July 17 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Keane said in a taped report by correspondent Peter Doocy that “we don't have enough ships. We don't have enough tanks. We don’t have enough soldiers. And now we’re spending money on studies for climate change around the world in the Department of Defense. It makes no sense whatsoever.”
During a June 27 appearance on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria, Keane said that President Donald Trump's budget "is only 3 percent above the forecasted budget" that President Barack Obama "had recommended, and that is totally inadequate.”
FoxNews.com quoted Keane in a February 28 article stating of a proposed military budget: “I think more money is absolutely necessary." He added: "Our viewers need to understand how seriously depleted our military has been over the past couple of years – we don’t have the credible deterrent we used to have.”
He has been a frequent offender over the years when it comes to transparency. Media Matters noted in April that Keane regularly appeared on Fox to praise President Trump for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles against Syria without disclosing that General Dynamics develops technology for launching those weapons.
He recently praised Trump for his decision to increase troops in Afghanistan and for the way he delivered the message, claiming that the country “finally got a commander-in-chief who speaks honestly.” General Dynamics has received numerous military contracts related to Afghanistan.
Fox News hosts and pundits lauded President Donald Trump’s speech calling for an increase in American troop presence in Afghanistan calling it “a great speech” delivered “perfectly.”
Similar Media Support Helped Enable Iraq War
After President Donald Trump launched airstrikes against Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in that country, media figures from across the political spectrum praised his “beautiful” attack, with many also linking the action to the growing threat that another country -- North Korea -- poses to the United States. Effusive media support of military conflict was a key precursor to the Iraq War; the danger of such uncritically hawkish commentary has multiplied under Trump, who sources policy ideas -- and defenses for his conduct -- directly from media.
Fox News has been hiding a major financial conflict of interest of one of its most frequent analysts on the United States’ missile strike against Syria.
Fox News military analyst and retired U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane has regularly appeared on the channel in the past several days to praise President Donald Trump for launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airbase that reportedly housed warplanes that carried out chemical attacks against civilians. But Fox and Keane have repeatedly failed to disclose that Keane is on the board of directors of General Dynamics -- an aerospace and defense company that develops technology for launching Tomahawk missiles.
General Dynamics is a U.S.-based company that received roughly $19 billion in defense industry revenue in 2015. Keane has been on its board of directors since 2004 and, according to the company’s most recent proxy statement, received $257,884 in compensation (including “stock awards”) in 2016.
According to Fortune writer Jen Wieczner, on the first day of trading following the strike on Syria, shares of defense industry stocks -- including General Dynamics -- collectively gained “nearly $5 billion in market value as soon as they began trading, even as the broader market fell.” She also noted that General Dynamics “makes technology used to fire Tomahawk missiles” and the company’s stock “is up 14%” since Trump was elected.
General Dynamics has long ties to Raytheon, which “makes the Tomahawk missiles used in the air strikes on Syria by the United States.” General Dynamics stated in a 2010 press release that the company “has been producing the [composite capsule launch system] structures for Raytheon since the late 1980s.” According to the company’s ordnance and tactical systems business unit website, it manufactures “numerous critical metal components for the tomahawk missile program.”
Keane has appeared on numerous Fox News programs to discuss Syria in the past several days without the network disclosing his financial conflict of interest.
For instance, Keane appeared on the April 6 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, during which he praised the U.S. military’s ability to use cruise missiles in a then-hypothetical strike, stating: “It would be standoff cruise missiles delivered from surface and subsurface ships. We would not have to fly a single airplane into Syria. We would not have to deal with Russian missile defense or Syrian missile defense.”
Following the missile launch, he appeared on shows like Hannity, Fox & Friends, Shepard Smith Reporting, The First 100 Days, and America’s News HQ and praised President Trump for showing “strong, responsible, and moral leadership.”
Keane’s biography on Fox News’ website also makes no mention of his ties to General Dynamics.
In 2013, the Public Accountability Initiative criticized Keane and other military analysts for routinely failing to disclose their ties to defense contractors and other firms while discussing Syria. The nonprofit noted that Keane has also been “a venture partner of SCP Partners, a defense-focused investment firm.” The Washington Post quoted then-Fox News executive vice president Michael Clemente stating of Keane: “We generally disclose contacts when our judgment is that it’s journalistically germane to the story.”
President Obama on February 23 announced plans to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Right-wing media responded with misinformation, bringing up a debunked recidivism statistic, claiming that the prison is no longer used for propaganda or recruiting efforts, and saying the president is undermining Congress' concerns about housing detainees in facilities in the United States.