Fox News is what they are at this point: a 24 hour in-kind contribution to the Donald Trump campaign. It’s no coincidence that after a debate that he is universally regarded to have lost – even by a pollster Breitbart commissioned to tell their audience that Trump had won – Trump ran immediately through the spin room and into the welcoming arms of Sean Hannity, on whom he had repeatedly relied upon for support of the assertion that there was a person who could confirm that he was opposed to the Iraq War before it started.
See, Trump has decided to stake the future of his campaign on a point that almost no one cares about substantively: the demonstrably false assertion that Trump was publicly opposed to the Iraq War before it started. An especially tall order given that he specifically did offer an endorsement (if an admittedly flippant one) on the Howard Stern show in 2002.
We need spend no time on the claim that Trump told Sean Hannity in private repeatedly that he was opposed to the war. The collection of things Hannity would not say in defense of Trump is a null set, and everyone on planet earth knows it, including both Trump and Hannity.
But the Fox News Network has been busy trying to create an alternative narrative on Trump’s behalf: that former Fox News (and current Fox Business Network) host Neil Cavuto “unearthed” video of a Trump appearance on his program in 2003 in which Trump supposedly opposed the Iraq War on Cavuto’s program before the war started. Here, indeed, is how Fox News’ website describes the flavor of water they are currently carrying for Trump:
So the first thing you should do is, indeed, “check yourself” – by which I assume they mean “check FOR yourself.” Watch the video. It is not, at all, a video of Trump opposing the Iraq War. It is a video of Trump saying that Bush should decide whether to attack or not. That’s literally what he says, that’s his whole point. There is no way a reasonable person can read the whole context of Trump’s statement and conclude that he is staking out a firm (or even flexible) position opposed to the Iraq War – he is saying Bush should hurry up and decide what to do about Iraq so he can get back to thinking about the Economy. In the course of his rambling, pointless rant, he certainly does say “Maybe he shouldn’t do it yet,” but he does that as part of a litany of balancing factors for Bush to weigh, not his own opinion about what should or shouldn’t happen.
People who can speak English and aren’t professional required to defend literally everything Trump says or does clearly understand that. And it absolutely beggars the imagination that there are people who see “Yeah I guess so” as not an endorsement of the war in Iraq but who at the same time see “Maybe he shouldn’t do it yet” (out of context) as a slam dunk clear opposition to the Iraq War.
I mean, the subject of the conversation wasn’t even whether the Iraq War should happen or not. It was “how much time should the President spend on the Iraq War versus the economy?” The question, “should the Iraq War happen” never even really came up. All Trump said was that Bush shouldn’t keep wasting decision time on it, that he should do it or not do it.
But here’s where Fox News gets really dishonest. See, this is not a “new” or “unearthed” clip at all. In fact, it was widely known to exist when this issue arose in February and in fact was one of the points of proof Trump offered back in February as to prove that he was against the war. Here, for example, is factcheck.org commenting on Trump’s use of this exact clip as a defense:
Jan. 28, 2003: Trump appears on Fox Business’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” on the night ofPresident Bush’s State of the Union address. Trump says he expects to hear “a lot of talk about Iraq and the problems,” and the economy. He urges Bush to make a decision on Iraq. “Either you attack or you don’t attack,” he says. But he offers no opinion on what Bush should do.
See also Politifact, U.S. News and World Report, the Washington Post, Politico… I could go on almost literally all day. The point is, this exchange between Trump and Cavuto has been reported on and rehashed in exhausting detail by virtually every news outlet on the planet before Neil Cavuto “unearthed” it post debate with all the flair and righteous condemnation of Perry Mason extracting a dramatic courtroom confession.
There’s something disgustingly perfect about this entire sorry episode, from Fox News’ perspective. First, they get to act like they are riding in on a white knight to Trump’s defense, to the gleeful delight of their catheter-hungry audience. Second, they get to themselves be part of the story and yet again pretend to be the exclusive purveyor of material that is allegedly helpful to Trump – even though in reality they are in fact about the last news outlet on earth to cover their own reporting.
It’s just that the other outlets didn’t lie about what this clip contained, so they are correct that the vast majority of Trump supporters are hearing about this clip for the first time.
UPDATE: Hey! You know who else covered Trump making these remarks on Neil Cavuto? Neil Cavuto. Back in February. And what he said at the time is pretty hilarious compared to what he is saying now.
Watch, as Fox News says, for yourself:
Trump & Fox News cited 01/2003 Cavuto intvw re Iraq “opposition” but this 02/2016 clip shows Cavuto saying otherwise https://t.co/oLK2n8LHaw
— Michelle Ye Hee Lee (@myhlee) September 27, 2016