Suddenly, it appears the U.S. intelligence community is back in good standing over at Fox News.
Since Trump’s election, an inescapably common refrain of the president and his biggest boosters in conservative media has been to rail against the “deep state.” The Russian election interference probe, they’ve repeatedly said, was nothing more than a coup or disinformation campaign perpetrated by the anti-Trump intelligence community.
Over the past 24 hours, however, incessant Fox griping over “deep state” suddenly went quiet, replaced by sober pleas that—when it comes to the info allegedly justifying Trump’s ordered airstrike killing Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani—the U.S. intelligence community’s findings should be heeded and taken seriously as unimpeachably correct information.
Immediately after the Pentagon confirmed U.S. responsibility for the strike, claiming it “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” Fox News host Sean Hannity—perhaps the most well-known “deep state” critic in media—heaped praise upon the intelligence community.
“The ability of the military, our intelligence community, the State Department, and the president making the call, very quickly, you know, understood that the Iranian forces on the ground bore a direct threat to the American people,” said Hannity, calling into his own show on Thursday night. “Once the intelligence was confirmed, once the understanding that they were there to sow the discord and discontent, the president acted as quickly as possible, taking out this top general.”
“But I will say the big headline is, this is a huge victory for American intelligence, a huge victory for our military, a huge victory for the State Department, and a huge victory and total leadership by the president,” the primetime host, who has spent more than two years and countless on-air segments railing against shadowy “deep state” intelligence, concluded.
By Friday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went even further than the Pentagon, saying that it was necessary to take out Soleimani as it disrupted an “imminent attack,” adding that “the risk doing nothing was enormous” and the “intelligence community made that assessment and President Trump acted decisively last night.”
Following Pompeo’s assertions, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade—who last month chastised a Daily Beast writer for not asking Lisa Page about a deep-state conspiracy theory—openly defended and applauded the intelligence community.
After Fox News star Geraldo Rivera sarcastically noted the “U.S. intelligence has been excellent since 2003 when we invaded Iraq, disrupted the entire region, for no real reason,” he told Kilmeade not to “start cheering this on” while claiming his colleague “never met a war you didn’t like.”
“I will cheer it on. I am elated,” Kilmeade exclaimed, adding that it’s “not true” that he loves war.
During a later appearance on Fox News’ The Daily Briefing, host Dana Perino—a former Bush White House press secretary—repeatedly claimed an attack was “imminent,” asking Kilmeade what the consequences would have been if Trump didn’t act.
“What everyone is missing, it's not our choice,” the Fox & Friends host replied. “These things are happening. It's how we react to what is happening.”
Kilmeade—no longer skeptical of intelligence officials—also insisted that the president didn’t need to brief Congress before killing the Iranian leader because he needed to act quickly due to the information obtained.
“But if you want him to get congressional approval over a strike that is time sensitive when an attack is imminent and he landed at the airport? Are you kidding me?” Kilmeade huffed.
During Friday’s broadcast of Fox Business Network’s Varney and Co., anchor Stuart Varney also seemed a bit amnesiac over his previous missives against the intelligence community. Despite claiming in the past that the “deep state” was trying to undermine Trump’s presidency, the pro-Trump host credulously touted Pompeo’s “imminent attack” claim throughout his show.
“That’s what Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, told Fox News earlier this morning, that there was an imminent attack and the president ordered the killing to stop that imminent attack,” Varney proclaimed at one point. “Good cause to do it.”
In a later segment, Fox & Friends Weekend host and unofficial Trump adviser Pete Hegseth—who once noted that the “American people didn’t vote for the Deep State”—also found newfound praise for the intel community, adding that Trump likely waited until the “intelligence lined up.”
A Fox News guest, however, seemed to reveal one of the biggest self-contradictions.
Former Trump adviser Christian Whiton lamented Friday on Fox News’ Outnumbered Overtime that it is “really sad” that Democrats “aren’t willing to give our president and our military the benefit of the doubt in a crisis.”
A few weeks ago, though, Whiton gave no such benefit of the doubt to a member of both the military and intelligence community. During an interview with Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, Whiton called former National Security Council member and impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman a “deep state crybaby” who “poured himself into an Army outfit to go and frankly speak contemptuous things against the commander-in-chief.”