Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ
There is no Donald Trump lie better-documented than his constantly repeated falsehood that he opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. During last night’s debate, he was pummeled on the issue by moderator Lester Holt and numerous fact-checkers. Dutifully doing damage control for the Republican nominee, Fox News is now trying to obscure the record, claiming that “history backs The Donald.”
As numerous fact-checkers have noted, contrary to his claims that he was “totally against the war in Iraq” from the beginning, in 2002, more than six months before the invasion of Iraq, Trump was asked by radio host Howard Stern if he was “for invading Iraq.” He responded, “Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
Trump struggled to explain why he keeps lying about this during the September 26 debate as Holt repeatedly pointed out that he had originally supported the war. At one point, Trump claimed that he had done “an interview with [Fox News anchor] Neil Cavuto” which he claimed vindicated him.
But the Cavuto interview in question has been reviewed by numerous fact-checkers that concluded it did not support his claims to be against the war. Fox News, on the other hand, is ready and willing to use the interview to clear Trump of a months-long campaign of lies.
An unbylined FoxNews.com article claimed Trump was right, reporting that the January 2003 interview “backs up Trump on Iraq War opposition”:
After all the clamor for moderators to fact-check the candidates during Monday night's presidential debate, Donald Trump flipped the script on Lester Holt by rejecting his assertion Trump backed the war in Iraq - and history backs The Donald.
Cavuto himself picked up the thread post-debate on Fox Business Network, unearthing the clip Trump referenced, from January 28, 2003 – Nearly two months before the Iraq War began on March 20. In the video, Cavuto asks Trump how much time President Bush should spend on the economy vs. on Iraq.
“Well, I’m starting to think that people are much more focused now on the economy,” Trump said. “They’re getting a little bit tired of hearing ‘We’re going in, we’re not going in.’ Whatever happened to the days of Douglas MacArthur? Either do it or don’t do it.”
Trump continued: “Perhaps he shouldn’t be doing it yet. And perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations.”
Fox’s article ignores that Trump’s comments came three months after the war was authorized; that Trump did not explicitly say he opposed the invasion during that interview; or that Trump again did not say that he opposed the invasion in a subsequent interview with Cavuto in March 2003, after the war began, when he said that it “looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint.”
BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski called the Fox article “embarrassing” and “complete bullshit,” noting that fact-checkers had reviewed the “unearth[ed]” clip and concluded that it did not support Trump’s claims, while Fox had framed it “exactly how Trump wanted you to.” Indeed:
CNN has reported that Trump “never said [the war] should not be undertaken” during the Cavuto interview, adding, “It wasn't until August 2004 -- 17 months after the invasion began and the war was being widely criticized -- that Trump came out fully against the war.” CNN concluded that Trump had lied about being against the war from the start.
Factcheck.org noted that Trump “offers no opinion on what Bush should do” during the January 2003 Cavuto interview, concluding that there is “no evidence” Trump fought against the invasion.
The Washington Post FactChecker blog has repeatedly referenced the Cavuto quote, noting that Trump did not take a position on the invasion during that interview and frequently criticizing Trump’s claims about opposing the war from the beginning as “bogus.”
PolitiFact pointed out that Trump “didn’t speak against going to war” during the Cavuto interview, concluding that Trump’s claims about opposing the war are false.
Only Fox News is willing to claim that the Cavuto interview “backs The Donald.” That’s not surprising given their months-long campaign in support of Trump.