If President Trump was watching Fox News at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday night, he got a violently mixed messages on his order to assassinate Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, national hero, and scourge of U.S. forces.
Sean Hannity called into his own show to tell guest host Jason Chaffetz that the killing of Soleimani was "a huge victory and total leadership by the president" and "the opposite of what happened in Benghazi." Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) channeled Ronald Reagan and praised Trump's "peace through strength." Oliver North, Karl Rove, and Ari Flesischer also lauded Trump's decision.
Earlier, fellow host Tucker Carlson saw neither peace nor strength in Trump's actions. He blamed "official Washington," though, and suggested Trump had been "out-maneuvered" by more hawkish advisers who might be pushing America "toward war despite what the president wants."
"There's been virtually no debate or even discussion about this, but America appears to be lumbering toward a new Middle East war," Carlson said. "The very people demanding action against Iran tonight" are "liars, and they don't care about you, they don't care about your kids, they're reckless and incompetent. And you should keep all of that in mind as war with Iran looms closer tonight." Trump, he added, "doesn't seek war and he's wary of it, particularly in an election year." When his guest, Curt Mills of The American Conservative, said war with Iran "would be twice as bad" as the Iraq War and "if Trump does this, he's cooked," Carlson sadly concurred: "I think that's right."
Media Matters' Matt Gertz pointed out that Hannity has always been more "bellicose" than Carlson on Iran, and both men informally advise Trump off-air as well as on-air. And "if you pay attention to the impact the Fox News Cabinet has on the president," he tweeted Thursday night, "Tucker Carlson has been off for the holidays the past few days as tensions with Iran mounted." Coincidence? Maybe. But on such twists does the fate of our world turn. Peter Weber
Fox & Friends may have been at the root of President Trump's racist tweets directed at four Democratic congresswomen last week.
A report from The Washington Post, which relied on information from 26 White House aides, advisers, and lawmakers, details how even Trump's own top aides believed he did not understand the political ramifications of what he had done last Sunday when he tweeted that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) should "go back" to the "places from which they came."
It turns out that Trump was reportedly watching Fox & Friends, one of his favorite shows, after waking up in the morning when he decided it would be a good idea to "elevate" the congresswomen, whom he reportedly believes make good political foils.
Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway reportedly then had to explain to the president why the tweets had caused such stirring outrage throughout Washington and the media landscape.
While it's unclear what specifically about the show's segment on the congresswomen might have inspired the particular sentiment behind the tweets, it looks like another potential example of the reputed influence the cable news network has on the president's opinions. Read more about the fallout of Trump's tweets at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell
After the White House signaled earlier this week that Trump would likely back away from his demand for $5 billion in border wall funding to prevent a partial government shutdown, the president on Thursday afternoon said the demand is back on. He's refusing to sign a stopgap spending bill that would prevent a shutdown because it doesn't have the border wall funding he has demanded.
This comes after Trump was being hammered within conservative media for seeming open to passing the bill without wall funding in it. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter was particularly harsh on Wednesday, suggesting Trump may have "scammed the American people" and theorizing his campaign pledge to build the wall was a lie. Trump, clearly, saw her comments, as he unfollowed her on Twitter shortly after.
She was hardly alone. As pointed out by CNN's Oliver Darcy, Breitbart declared Wednesday that Trump had caved on the wall, while Drudge Report ran with the headline "Trump in Retreat." Rush Limbaugh was similarly frustrated, saying per The Hillthat if Trump signs the stopgap spending bill, he "gets nothing and the Democrats get everything."
On Fox News, the assessment wasn't any less dire. The hosts of Fox & Friends on Wednesday described the "stunning turn of events," with host Steve Doocy saying, "Democrats will win everything they want," per The Daily Beast. This was the sentiment all over the network, and a panelist during an Outnumbered segment Thursday concluded, "The president is getting steamrolled," per Mediaite.
This all seems to have really gotten to Trump. CNN's Kaitlan Collins reported earlier on Thursday that the president was becoming "very sensitive" to criticism in the conservative media. His decision not to sign the Senate bill came hours later. Brendan Morrow