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In the wake of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner crash, Fox News has rushed to conveniently rewrite history to disparage President Obama by drawing false comparisons to former President Ronald Reagan's response to a 1983 attack on a Korean airliner. The reactions of many Fox figures praising Reagan stood in stark contrast with that of Fox's Chris Wallace, who accurately noted Reagan's apparent reluctance to cut short his vacation in order to address the issue.
A Malaysia Airlines jetliner exploded and crashed on July 17, carrying 298 people. The New York Times reported the plane was allegedly shot down by what "American officials described as a Russian-made antiaircraft missile," adding that the crash elevated tensions between Ukraine and Russia over the insurgency in eastern Ukraine "into a new international crisis." Obama addressed the event on July 18, calling the deaths of innocent people an "outrage of unspeakable proportions."
On the heels of the plane explosion, Fox News has rushed to disparage Obama for continuing his planned fundraising trip in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, drawing comparisons to Reagan's initial response to a Korean Air passenger jet downed by the Soviet Union in 1983.
In fact, Reagan initially sent aides to respond to the attack on the airliner, waiting four days before delivering the speech condemning the Soviet Union that is now being lauded by many pundits at Fox News.
Fox's Wallace pushed back against his network peers, noting that "sometimes the best thing presidents can do is nothing, to continue on." He continued, noting that Reagan had to be persuaded to leave his ranch and return to Washington for a speech that came four days after the attack (emphasis added):
WALLACE: I know there's like an immediate reaction, that you want to say he should have run back to Washington and gone back to the Situation Room. I know that a lot of folks at Fox here are saying that. As somebody who covered the White House and saw for six years Ronald Reagan in various situations, sometimes the best thing presidents can do is nothing, to continue on. If he had gone back to Washington and gone to the situation room -- first of all, there's not much he can do, we're not in control of the situation. And it would have dialed it up.
WALLACE: I was covering Ronald Reagan at that time. He was in Santa Barbara at his ranch when that happened, and quite frankly he didn't want to leave. And his advisers realized how terrible this looked, and eventually persuaded him he had to fly back to Washington and had to give this speech to the nation, but it did take him four days.
Nevertheless, his colleagues praised Reagan's response as an example of ideal leadership in contrast with Obama's. On the July 17 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly connected the July 17 tragedy to the 1983 Korean airliner crash, highlighting Reagan's speech in response and noting in comparison that Obama has "been accused of 'leading from behind.' " Fox contributor Chris Stirewalt compared Reagan's response to Obama's, saying Reagan's response made Americans feel "reassured and resolute," and Kelly echoed that Obama's response "makes him look unconnected and makes a lot of Americans feel unrepresented."