How Fox News Reacts to Beheadings Under Obama vs. Bush


When militants beheads Americans overseas, Fox News sees it as a clear indictment of the sitting president. Unless that president is a Republican, in which case we all need to come together and support them.

Media Matter collected different Fox News analysts' responses to the recent Islamic State killings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. President Obama, you see, is a weak leader; his inability to stand up to threats abroad invites these tragedies and leaves him utterly unable to stand up for America.

And yet, when Americans Nick Berg and Paul Johnson were beheaded by militants in Iraq in 2004 (while George W. Bush was in office), Fox's pundits urged the country to stop its partisan bickering and line behind its leader.

Fox News now: Watch analyst K.T. McFarland, appearing on Gretchen Carlson's show earlier this week, say that Obama "stuck his head in the sand, and now we've seen two Americans have lost their heads."

Sean Hannity, meanwhile, was worried that the president's "radical indoctrination" was keeping him from responding to the Islamic State.

Maybe the most egregious commentator was Dick Cheney himself, who called Obama "weak and ineffective" in response to the beheadings while appearing on Hannity's show. "I think the danger is enormous, I don't think the president understands it," he said. "He is viewed as perhaps the weakest president in my lifetime."

Fox News then: Wow, imagine how harsh these guys must have been when a very similar situation occurred a decade ago. Here's Hannity laying into Bush after Berg and Johnson lost their lives: 

"Are we taking limited resources and the president and his cabinet have to spend all that time fighting politically when they ought to be focused in on World War III? It's time that we now unite a country, using this as the latest example that we have been warned."

Wait, that can't be right. That doesn't seem like anger at all — that seems like a call for civility and unity in the wake of tragedy. What about you, O'Reilly?

"We've got to stop with the partisan garbage, because that's what it is, and we've got to stop with the selfishness and understand that this is a war. This is something we have never faced before. And stop the grand standing. And the politicians who exploit this for partisan benefit on both sides have got to be voted out of office. We have got to unite." (emphasis added)

That's strange, because O'Reilly accused the current president of doing Americans a "great disservice" in his response to IS. One might even call it grand standing.

The message from Fox News is clear. A pair of beheadings is a tragedy not to be used as a political weapon, unless it happens on the other guy's watch. Supporting your president is the patriotic thing to do in times of crisis, unless that president is from the wrong political party. And the solution to all of this, per Cheney? When in doubt, go to war in the Middle East.