Like Frankenstein, Fox News disclaimed a monster of its own making this morning.
Here’s how it went down.
Fox & Friend’s Gretchen Carlson welcomed viewers just after seven this morning: “Lots coming up in the next two hours. We will talk about the Al Qaeda threat. Over the weekend there was a report out saying that, hey, definitely an attack is coming to the West. Colonel Brian Hunt will weigh in on that.” (Cue that familiar generic footage of black-hooded men pointing a rocket-propelled grenade launcher directly at viewers and the on-screen caption: “THE NEXT ATTACK? A New Terror Warning.”)
Minutes later, (retired) Colonel Brian Hunt, Fox News’ military analyst, appeared above the caption “TERROR THREAT IMMINENT? Details of Attack Unclear” and had this exchange with Carlson and Friends:
Carlson: “We have this admiral, John Scott Redd, who said in a report over the weekend, yes, they are planning another major attack on the West. Probably specifically on the U.S. Your take on that?”
Hunt: “I think the admiral has got a little diarrhea of the mouth.”
Hunt: “He said ‘imminent attack.’ If you are the FBI, the CIA, the state or local police or anybody in the security business, what the hell does that mean? ‘Imminent attack ’ means now. That means the threat level should be right out the roof … It is disingenuous for a guy in his position to make those kind of remarks without any kind of backup. You can’t do anything with ‘imminent attack’ without knowing what we’re talking about.”
Fox & Friends’s Brian Kilmeade: “Yeah. Do we not go to work? Do we wear crash helmets? Do we wear miners’ caps? Who knows?”
The “report” they were discussing is an August 27th Newsweek.com interview with (retired) Vice Admiral John Scott Redd, head of the National Counterterrorism Center. Nowhere in the interview do the words “imminent attack” appear. The only place the word “imminent” appears is on Fox News’ own VERY SCARY CAPTION. And then again when Fox News’s Hunt attributes Fox News’s — and his own - words (“imminent” and “imminent attack”) to Redd and then calls Redd “disingenuous” for supposedly having said them.
The thing is, many people would consider Redd’s actual words scary enough — talk of the inevitability of another Al Qaeda attack on the West, new twists on the “it’s not a matter of if but when” theme. But the only suggestion that “when” is RIGHT NOW came from … Fox News.
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.
Another thing: Why, one wonders, would Fox News wait until today to notify viewers of something that came out, as Fox’s Carlson noted, “over the weekend” — especially when it is something Fox News apparently deemed INCREDIBLY URGENT? And how, by the way, can viewers be expected to focus on other scary stories of the day (Katrina, Craig) when “TERROR THREAT IMMINENT?”