Hannity falsely suggested that Obama "attack[ed] our troops as murderers"

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

On Hannity & Colmes, during a segment highlighting Barack Obama's August 13 remark that "[w]e've got to get the job done there [in Afghanistan] and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians," an on-screen graphic read: "Obama criticizes U.S. troops for 'air-raiding villages and killing civilians.' " During the show, co-host Sean Hannity asserted that Obama was "slamming the troops," and later suggested that Obama had "attack[ed] our troops as murderers." In fact, Obama expressed support for increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan so the U.S. military is not so reliant on airstrikes in the region.

On the August 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, during a segment on Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) August 13 remark that "[w]e've got to get the job done there [in Afghanistan] and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there," an on-screen graphic read: "Obama criticizes U.S. troops for 'air-raiding villages and killing civilians.' " Earlier in the show, co-host Sean Hannity teased the segment by asserting that Obama was "slamming U.S. troops" and, during the segment, suggested that Obama had "attack[ed] our troops as murderers." In fact, as the video clip aired before the segment indicated, Obama did not "attack[] our troops as murderers" in the statement, nor did he "criticize[]" them; rather, he expressed support for increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan so the U.S. military is not so reliant on airstrikes in the region. As Media Matters for America noted in response to Hannity's earlier mischaracterization of Obama's comments, U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan -- and accounts of resulting civilian casualties -- have been widely reported in the media and have reportedly provoked criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a British commander stationed there. Additionally, as the Associated Press reported in a "Fact Check" responding to conservative attacks on Obama, "Western forces have been killing civilians at a faster rate than the insurgents." Further, in a July 7 article on NATO and U.S. airstrikes reported to have killed more than 100 Afghan civilians, Reuters cited the assessment of military analysts that "a shortage of ground troops means commanders often turn to air power."

Also during the segment, Fox News contributor and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) asserted: "[I]f you look at the statement made by [Obama's] press secretary afterwards, which was very clear, saying that the policy of this administration is to bomb civilians. What he -- what his press secretary and, obviously, in conjunction with that, what Barack Obama are doing, is saying that we are targeting civilians, which is against the Geneva Convention, which says that our troops are war criminals." Santorum was presumably referring to an August 14 article in the Nashua Telegraph which originally reported: "[Obama] Campaign spokesman Reid Cherlin said Obama was not endorsing the current Bush policy, which consists solely of air raids and bombing of civilians." However, the article has since been updated -- without a correction -- and now reads: "Campaign spokesman Reid Cherlin said Obama was not endorsing the current Bush policy in Afghanistan." Both versions of the article also quote Cherlin saying, "Senator Obama believes that the Bush administration sent our troops to fight on the wrong battlefield and that we've got to make sure we have the resources and troop strength in Afghanistan to root out al-Qaida and counter the threat posed by the Taliban. ... Right now, that's not happening.'' Nowhere in either version is Cherlin quoted saying that "the policy of this administration is to bomb civilians," as Santorum asserted.

The on-screen graphic shown throughout the Hannity & Colmes segment on Obama's August 13 comments:

Earlier in the show, Hannity teased the segment by asserting that Obama was "slamming U.S. troops." During the segment, guest co-host Kirsten Powers stated that the August 13 comments have "caused Senator Barack Obama nothing but trouble," adding "I think that this was obviously a sloppy thing to say." Powers continued, "But it's very hard for me to believe that he was really attacking the troops, which is now what all the Republicans were saying. I mean, it seems pretty clear, even President Bush has talked about how badly he feels about all the civilians that are being killed in Afghanistan. And this is not in dispute." Hannity then referred to Obama's remarks as "disgusting" and "despicable," and said to Democratic strategist Michael Brown: "What is it about your party that you lecture us how much you support the military, and every time we turn around, you embolden the enemy and stab these guys in the back and defend it?" Later, in response to Brown's assertion that Republicans "continue[] to defend a flawed policy," Hannity asserted, in reference to Obama's statement: "You're a broken record. That's how you defend attacking our troops as murderers?"

From the August 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

HANNITY: And Obama's comments slamming U.S. troops: it continues to haunt the presidential contender. When is the apology coming? We're going to look at some of the damage this may do to his campaign, straight ahead.

[...]

OBAMA [video clip]: We've got to get the job done there. And that requires us to have enough troops that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there.

POWERS: Welcome back to Hannity & Colmes. I'm Kirsten Powers, sitting in for Alan [Colmes] tonight. That was the comment that's caused Senator Barack Obama nothing but trouble. Joining us now is Democratic strategist Michael Brown and former senator and Fox News contributor Rick Santorum. Thank you for being with us. Senator, I think that this was obviously a sloppy thing to say. And I am not afraid to criticize Democrats and in fact have been somewhat critical of Obama on some of his other foreign policy statements.

But it's very hard for me to believe that he was really attacking the troops, which is now what all the Republicans were saying. I mean, it seems pretty clear -- even President Bush has talked about how badly he feels about all the civilians that are being killed in Afghanistan. I mean, this is not in dispute.

SANTORUM: Certainly, civilians are being killed. Unfortunately, that's one of the consequences of war. The civilians get killed. But you look at his statement -- if you look at the statement made by his press secretary afterwards, which was very clear, saying that the policy of this administration is to bomb civilians. What he -- what his press secretary and, obviously, in conjunction with that, what Barack Obama are doing is saying that we are targeting civilians, which is against the Geneva Convention, which says that our troops are war criminals. Calling our troops war criminals is not a way to move forward, in my opinion, to say that I'm worthy of being the commander in chief of this country. And that's what he did today and yesterday.

POWERS: I completely agree with the fact that you shouldn't be calling them war criminals. I don't think that's what he did. Michael, I want to bring you in. I mean, is this how you heard what he was saying?

BROWN: Of course not. And I think the senator knows that. The senator's good, though. He's looking at his Republican talking points, and he's following them line by line. And so he's doing a good job with that.

[...]

POWERS: I want to just go to the substance of what he was talking about, what was going on in Afghanistan. I mean, what he's talking about is that there has -- there has been a disproportionate number of civilians killed. And it's not just that civilians are being killed. And I think that this is an issue that certainly is worth raising.

SANTORUM: Well, it certainly is worth raising. But you notice that there was no response to what -- to defend what Barack Obama said. What he said was not well-honed. What he said was not a substantive policy. What he said was just trying to take a cheap shot at our president and take a cheap shot at the -- at the effort being put forth by our troops. And again, that's been sort of part and parcel of the Democratic attack, is just go after the activities that are going on there in a very difficult situation, offer no credible alternative but to cut and run, which is what the major candidates on the Democratic side are doing --

BROWN: But Senator --

SANTORUM: -- and calling our -- in this case, calling our --

BROWN: Senator --

[crosstalk]

HANNITY: Hold on. Michael Brown, you know what? The senator is far too nice a person here. What he said is disgusting, despicable. He said our troops are just air-raiding villages and killing civilians. He said that about American soldiers. Just like Dick Durbin compared them to Nazis. Just like John Kerry said that they're terrorizing women and children in the dark of night. And just like John Murtha said they're killing innocent civilians. What is it about your party that you lecture us how much you support the military?

BROWN: Sean, what is it -- Sean, what is it about your party that they're --

HANNITY: And every time we turn around, you embolden the enemy and stab these guys in the back and defend it?

BROWN: Sean, what is it -- what is it about your party -- what is it about your party that continues to defend a flawed policy when --

HANNITY: You're a broken record.

BROWN: -- the safest way to protect our troops --

HANNITY: That's how you defend attacking our troops as murderers?

[...]

BROWN: And you're talking -- you're talking about -- you're talking about a broken record, when the best defense you have to this flawed policy is that no one wants to defend the troops on the Democratic side?

HANNITY: Let me tell you something. What he said is despicable --

BROWN: It's not true, and it's irresponsible that you say that. We all care about the troops.

HANNITY: -- and if you had an ounce of intellectual honesty and integrity, you should defend our brave men and women that are risking their lives for your freedom --

BROWN: Sean, we are --

HANNITY: -- and being called murderers.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.