Fox News anchor Leland Vittert on Thursday seemed to repeatedly suggest to Defense Secretary Mark Esper that the U.S. should consider military action against Iran, comparing the Middle East regime to schoolyard bullies who only understand a “punch in the nose.”
Amid flaring tensions that culminated with Iran-backed militia and protesters storming the U.S. Embassy in Iraq earlier this week, Esper announced that the U.S. will deploy hundreds of soldiers to the area. He also warned on Thursday that Iran may be planning more attacks on the United States in the Middle East.
During an appearance on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Esper reiterated President Donald Trump’s message that the United States will issue a “severe response” if Iran continues with its “bad behavior” in the region, adding that it was “time that Iran started acting like a normal country.”
“It’s a long list of bad behavior, and I’m glad you brought that up,” Vittert, filling in for anchor Bill Hemmer, replied. “It’s like a sandbox in grade school. Sometimes bullies don’t understand sanctions, tough talk, deployment, airstrikes against proxies. Bullies understand a punch in the nose.”
“Is there a time that the Iranian bullies and the ayatollahs need a punch in the nose to their leadership, that goes beyond merely sanctions and rhetoric?” Vittert further asked.
After the defense secretary said he wouldn’t speculate on the next steps while insisting that “we retain the right of self-defense” and that America needs to “stand up to Iran,” Vittert pressed Esper again on the need for military action.
“I get the demand, sir, but it appears the Iranian regime is not really listening,” the Fox anchor said. “They still have [hostage] Robert Levinson. As you noted, they attacked the Saudi oil facilities and there was not a military response. They shot down the U.S. drone, and there was not a military response rate. So far there’s only been a military response against their militia in Iraq. Is the idea here that only the loss of U.S. life will result in a U.S. military response?”
Esper responded that the international community needs to come together to help the United States with its “maximum pressure campaign” and that it’s time for Iran to sit down and talk. Moments later, Vittert again brought up a military response, noting there were past instances when Iran backed down amid American military action in the region.
“Are you worried that the only way they will back down this time and act like a normal country is with an overwhelming U.S. military action?” Vittert wondered, prompting Esper to answer, “Well, it’s up to them to decide.”