Sean Hannity is lashing out at President Bill Clinton for not moving forward with a 1998 missile strike aimed at Osama Bin Laden that the military thought was likely to fail. But that same year, Hannity actually attacked Clinton for approving a different mission to kill bin Laden, claiming he was trying to distract from Monica Lewinsky.
SkyNews Australia recently aired audio of President Clinton stating in a speech shortly before the September 11, 2001 attacks that he "nearly got" bin Laden with a proposed December 1998 cruise missile strike in Kandahar, Afghanistan, but decided not to approve the attack because it would have killed hundreds of innocent Afghans.
Clinton's comments were no revelation -- the 9-11 Commission Report detailed how intelligence and military leaders recommended against the strike, citing significant flaws that included up to 300 civilian casualties, the possible destruction of a nearby mosque, and low likelihood of killing bin Laden.
But on the July 31 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity responded to the audio by lashing out at Clinton, saying that the former president "didn't do it and look what happened to this country as a result just one day later. America changed forever on 9/11/2001. What Bill Clinton didn't seem to understand on September 10, 2001, he had a chance to prevent that day of infamy from ever happening."
Hannity's comments stand in stark contrast to his reaction in August 1998, when the Clinton administration responded to al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by launching cruise missiles at the terrorist group's camps in Afghanistan, "probably" missing Bin Laden himself "by a few hours." Hannity responded at the time by criticizing Clinton, suggesting that the attack may have been an effort to distract the American people from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Hannity repeatedly referenced "Wag The Dog," a 1997 film in which presidential advisers fabricate a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal.
On his August 20, 1998 program -- just hours after the strikes -- Hannity repeatedly asked his guests if they "see a 'Wag the Dog' scenario here." He went on to explain, "I do a radio show here in New York, and this story broke about 2:00, and I was on the air at 3:00, and every line was jammed and every person was saying the same thing, that in their minds, they're thinking the scenario is 'Wag the Dog,' divert attention away from the crisis that is going on in Washington."
Hannity went on to explicitly state that the timing of the attacks was due to "political motivation" (via Nexis):
HANNITY: Congressman, FOX News has learned that the president was presented with the military option going back to August the 12th. The president did not take that option at that time. As a matter of fact, it been done for political motivation.
And I only raise the question because, in part, look at what the president put the nation through for seven and a half months. Look at the president that let his wife and all his supporters lie for him. Look at a president who looked the American people in the eye -- and who could imagine a scenario like this -- wagging their finger at them and said, "I want you to listen to me. I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky."
There is no moral authority any longer, Mr. Congressman.
According to the 9-11 Commission, the eight-day delay between when Clinton was first briefed on the Pentagon plans for strikes on August 12 and their execution was due to "considerable debate" over which targets would be hit and the need to inform congressional and international leaders. Ironically, the report also concluded that "the 'wag the dog' slur" was one of several factors that "likely had a cumulative effect on future decisions about the use of force against" bin Laden.
This would not be the last time that Hannity would criticize efforts to stop bin Laden. He was one of many conservatives who criticized then-Sen. Barack Obama by mischaracterizing Obama's campaign trail statement that he would act unilaterally if he received "actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets." As president, with the strong support of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama approved just such a mission, which resulted in bin Laden's death.