On Wednesday afternoon, Fox News’s Gretchen Carlson focused on portraying the Obama administration as weak-kneed and out of touch in its response to the massacre in Paris. After interviewing pundit Ari Fleischer, who served as a principal spokesman for President George W. Bush’s global war on terror, Carlson went with a familiar script:
“It is what it is. It, meaning terrorism. Terrorism is what it is,” Carlson said. “So why does the administration continue to have such a problem telling the American people and the rest of the world just that? Is that a disservice to all of us? In some way giving us a false sense of security? That since our own leaders don’t see any of these attacks as terrorism right away, neither should we?”
The problem is, her premise was plain false. Earlier in the day, Secretary of State John Kerry described the attacks as an “act of terror” in direct, forceful terms. “The murderers dared proclaim, ‘Charlie Hebdo is dead.’ But make no mistake: They are wrong,” Kerry said. “The freedom of expression that it represented is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror.”
Also prior to Carlson’s commentary, a statement from President Obama was equally clear on this point:
I strongly condemn the horrific shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that has reportedly killed 12 people. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrorist attack and the people of France at this difficult time. France is America’s oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world. Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended. France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers. We are in touch with French officials and I have directed my Administration to provide any assistance needed to help bring these terrorists to justice.
We’ve seen this script before, of course, when Fox News, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and other conservatives obsessively criticized the Obama White House over the deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in 2012. The argument was that the president didn’t call the Benghazi attack “terrorism” quickly enough (before quickly morphing into a conspiracy theory about a massive cover-up of some sort). That was despite the fact that Obama had used the phrase “act of terror” three times in the initial aftermath to describe the attack on the consulate.
In Wednesday’s segment Carlson also went on to insinuate that Obama’s policy of releasing prisoners from Guantánamo Bay may lead to a Paris-like attack in the US: “Keep in mind this administration is more concerned about executive actions for manufacturing and even climate control today, and releasing Gitmo detainees,” she said. “We now know many of those detainees go back to join the jihad. So at this crucial moment, after a horrific attack on one of our allies, will politics continue to trump the reality… In the last few months we’ve seen terrorism hit Australia, Canada, and now France. Will the United States once again be next?”