By Steve Contorno and Lauren Carroll
President Obama will have allies if he decides to expand airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group to targets in Syria, vowed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power on Sunday.
Appearing on three network news shows, Power touted international support for Obama’s war strategy ahead of his Wednesday address to the U.N. General Assembly. But Power would not say which countries have voiced support for airstrikes in Syria when pressed by the moderators, including This Week’s George Stephanopoulos, who noted “not even Great Britain has said they’re going to join the airstrikes.”
“I will make you a prediction, George, which is that we will not do the airstrikes alone—if the president decides to do the airstrikes,” Power said.
Her message of increased military power did not please the progressive wing of the Sunday pundit class. Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of liberal magazine The Nation, said the media and administration are over-hyping the Islamic State threat to war-weary Americans.
“There’s a barbarism and a gruesomeness to the videotapes which have moved the American people at this stage to support strikes,” vanden Heuvel said on This Week, “but the support for ground troops is not there. The support is very thin.”
PunditFact wanted to examine polls on Americans’ attitudes toward airstrikes against the Islamic State compared to all-out ground troops. Is support for the latter as thin as she says?
We rate her comment Half True.
As vanden Heuvel said, there’s significant majority support for airstrikes. According to a CNN poll published September 8, 76 percent of Americans backed additional airstrikes against the Islamic State, and just 23 percent opposed. The results were consistent with several recent polls.
What’s important to note is there was majority support for airstrikes in other polls of Americans before the journalists’ beheadings. A Washington Post/ABC poll from August 13-17 found majority support, 54 percent, for airstrikes against the Islamic State. That poll was conducted before August 19, when the Islamic State released footage of a Sunni insurgent beheading American journalist James Foley.
So it’s not as if the beheading mobilized Americans to come around to the idea of airstrikes.
In addition, it is a stretch to say support for ground troops is “not there” or “very thin. Even though it is a minority opinion, at least two polls—one from CNN, one from Huffington Post/YouGov—show one-third of Americans support the idea.
Also on Sunday, the news shows continued to discuss the performance of National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, who in a Friday press conference reiterated that he “got it wrong on a number of levels” in his discipline of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
Goodell will keep his job in spite of his missteps, said conservative columnist George Will on Fox News Sunday, because Americans can’t quit their love for the game.
“Last week’s three most-viewed television programs were Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, and Monday Night Football,” he said. “And money talks, and it will continue to talk. And this will pass over, and football will go on its merry way.”PunditFact rates his claim True.Data compiled from Nielsen, a research company that tracks consumer patterns, show that eight of the top 10 broadcast and cable shows were football games and pregame analysis for the week of September 8-14. This is the most recent week available, and it’s the same one that started off with TMZ releasing elevator footage of Rice’s punch.
Technically, ESPN’s Monday Night Football game between the New York Giants and Detroit Lions placed No. 5, not No. 3—beaten out by pregame shows on CBS and NBC. But Will’s point holds, especially since NFL games and analysis shows will continue to dominate the rankings as the season goes on, said Marc Berman, editor in chief of TV Media Insights, in an interview with PunditFact.In the 2013-14 season, NBC’s Sunday Night Football was the most watched prime time show, with 21.7 million average viewers, according to Nielsen. ESPN’s Monday Night Football was the No. 1 most viewed cable television show in 2013.Recent scandals involving NFL standouts like Rice and Adrian Peterson can’t make even a small dent in this trend because of football’s widespread popularity, Berman said.“Football will outlive all of us,” he said.Katie Sanders contributed to this report. Read the full fact-checks at PunditFact.com.