Fox News Greets Alleged Torture with Antics
Summary: Many on Fox News have greeted the release of Justice Department memos authorizing the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques with antics that mock the notion that these practices constitute torture.
Media Matters/Apr 23, 2009
Many on Fox News have greeted the release of several previously classified Department of Justice memos authorizing the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques with antics that mock the notion that these practices constitute torture. Glenn Beck faked tears to ridicule the notion of waterboarding as torture; host Bill O’Reilly told columnist Ellis Henican that “I would have dunked that guy in the water a thousand times to save your life”; and host Sean Hannity slammed a football down on the desk in front of him while saying, “[I]magine this is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s head. Dunk it in water so we can save American lives.”
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, Allen S. Keller, M.D., director of the Bellevue Hospital Center/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture, submitted written testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that stated that waterboarding can cause “[l]ong term effects includ[ing] panic attacks, depression and PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder],” and said it poses a “real risk of death.”
On the April 22 edition of his Fox News program, Glenn Beck gave mock sobs after noting that “[c]ritics of the Bush-approved [interrogation] methods have called them torture.” Later in the program, Beck played a clip from the current season of 24, in which Jack Bauer defends his use of torture in a congressional hearing, to support his argument that “the people who actually fight the wars need to be left alone to do their job and supported to do their job, and then stand by what they’ve done, no matter what the consequences are.” As Media Matters has noted, Beck, as well as Fox & Friends hosts Kilmeade and Steve Doocy, have previously cited the same 24 scene to defend torture.
While discussing potential torture prosecutions on the April 22 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly told Fox News contributor and Newsday columnist Ellis Henican: “I would have dunked that guy in the water a thousand times to save your life.” He later repeated: “To save your life, I would have dunked the guy in the water.” After Henican asked O’Reilly, “You’re coming out for torture now?” O’Reilly responded: “All right, Ellis, calm down.”
On the April 22 edition of Hannity, during a discussion of torture with guest Charles Grodin, Hannity said: “I don’t believe that waterboarding is torture.”
Grodin subsequently asked Hannity: “[W]ould you consent to be waterboarded?” Hannity replied: “Yes.” When Grodin asked the question again, Hannity repeatedly reaffirmed that he would do so, telling Grodin: “I’ll do it for charity. I’ll let you do it. I’ll do it for the troops’ families.” As Media Matters has noted, in 2006, Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan was waterboarded on-air, and concluded that the technique was “a pretty efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and then still have them alive and healthy within minutes.”
During the “Great American Panel” discussion on the April 22 edition of Hannity, Hannity held up a football and then slammed it down on the desk in front of him, saying: “You know what? I’m — this is — imagine this is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s head. Dunk it in water so we can save American lives. You bet.”
On the April 20 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said of reports that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times: “Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, I understand, was waterboarded 183 times. Did anyone care about that? Does anyone in America walk around going, ‘I’m really upset that the mastermind of 9-11 was waterboarded 183 times?’ ” Kilmeade added: “That makes me feel better.” After co-host Gretchen Carlson, playing “devil’s advocate,” stated that some might consider the treatment of Mohammed to be torture, Kilmeade said: “It’s unbelievable that people care more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, his health, than they would about future attacks that are being hatched on our country.”
From the April 22 edition of Fox News’ Glenn Beck:
BECK: And the national intelligence director, Dennis Blair, says tough interrogation tactics yielded, quote, “high-value information.” Critics of the Bush-approved methods have called them torture. And President Obama says that those tactics won’t be used on his watch.
But here is the one thing that people on both sides of the torture debate don’t seem to understand. This really isn’t about uncooperative suspects. This is about uncooperative politicians. Let’s look at the politicians for a while.
From the April 22 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
HANNITY: All right. Let me ask you — I’m never going to —
GRODIN: Well, you’re for torture, right?
HANNITY: I am for enhanced interrogation. I don’t believe that waterboarding is torture.
GRODIN: You’re not — but you don’t believe it’s torture. Have you ever been waterboarded?
HANNITY: No, but Ollie North has, and I talked to him about it.
GRODIN: And how — would you consent to be waterboarded —
GRODIN: — so we could get the truth out of you?
HANNITY: Yeah. Sure.
GRODIN: We can waterboard you?
GRODIN: Are you busy on Sunday?
HANNITY: I’ll do it for charity. I’ll let you do it.
GRODIN: I wouldn’t to do it.
HANNITY: I’ll do it for the troops’ families.
GRODIN: I wouldn’t do it. I’ll hand you a towel when you come out of the shower.
HANNITY: When I come out of the shower.