As media outrage around the atrocities in Syria heats up and as our desperate-for-a-political-win president seems to be mulling the prospect of armed intervention in that country, it’s important to remember the role Fox News and other conservative media outlets played in the run-up to the catastrophically costly, geopolitically disastrous invasion of Iraq.
In a New York magazine profile of Fox News booker Laurie Luhn — who suffered 20 years of harassment and sexualized bullying at the hands of ousted Fox News CEO Roger Ailes — the former talent booker recalled her role in “selling” an invasion of Iraq to the American people.
“As she was promoted through the ranks at Fox, Luhn worked harder and harder to please Ailes,” wrote New York’s Gabriel Sherman, author of the Ailes biography The Loudest Voice in the Room. “She zealously promoted the network’s right-wing agenda.”
“I was very proud of the product. I was very proud of how we handled 9/11. Very proud of how we handled the run-up to the Iraq War,” Luhn recalled. “My job was to sell the war. I needed to get people on the air that were attractive and articulate and could convey the importance of this campaign. It was a drumbeat.”
Pres. George W. Bush’s press secretary Scott McClellan admitted after his resignation that the administration engaged in a “propaganda campaign” to sell the war to the U.S. public. From the summer of 2002 onward, McClellan said, the Bush administration manipulated the Iraq issue in a way that “almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option.”
“In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president’s advantage,” he said.
In the weeks ahead, after bombarding the public with images of gassed and murdered children and other civilians, the administration and its supporters may well attempt to gin up another push to war. President Donald Trump may see a foreign war as a means to shore up his record-breakingly low approval numbers and lasso back into the fold those Republicans — and Democrats — whose donor base is heavily made up of companies that stand to profit from a war.