Shortly after news broke on Thursday evening that Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds military force, had been killed in a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad International Airport, multiple Fox News personalities—some who served in the Bush administration during the run-up to the Iraq War—celebrated the region-shaking assassination as a “huge intelligence and military victory.”
Leading off Fox News’ Hannity, guest host Jason Chaffetz noted that regular host Sean Hannity said sources close to President Donald Trump had told him the president directly ordered the strike after Soleimani was identified. The Pentagon would later confirm that the U.S. military killed the Iranian military chief.
“Sean’s sources have confirmed to him that the president made this call immediately after the Iranians were identified, in consultation with leaders from the intelligence community, the military, and the State Department,” Chaffetz said. “One source told Sean the president was adamant about protecting American interests and personnel within Iraq.”
Later on in the program, Hannity—who has been described as the president’s shadow chief of staff—called in to his show to provide further details and gush over the president’s decision.
“I confirmed this now with multiple sources and multiple departments—the president was told beyond any doubt that American lives in that embassy were at stake,” Hannity declared. “One person familiar that was in the room heard the president say our people will be protected. This will not be Benghazi. And—but there was a real clear and present danger to all of the Americans that were working inside of Baghdad.”
“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. It’s the opposite of what happened in Benghazi,” he added. “The exact opposite. And you know Benghazi, you investigated it.”
Hannity, meanwhile, was far from the only one on Fox’s prime-time programming to proclaim Soleimani’s killing as a cause for celebration. While experts warned that this is an “incredibly dangerous escalation” and “part of a bad trend,” Chaffetz insisted that this “was a proportional response, not overstepping the line, but doing what needed to be done.”
One of Chaffetz’s guests, Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), also claimed the airstrikes were a “proportional” response to the protests at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, adding that any concerns that this could lead to a war were unfounded.
“And for the critics who are going to say this is warmongering, no, this is peace through strength,” the GOP lawmaker asserted. “This is deterrence. This is what the Iranian regime understands. They’re emboldened by perceived weakness and they would continue their attack unless we took strong action and they’re deterred by strength and when we impose consequences.”
Fox & Friends weekend host Pete Hegseth, who also serves as an informal adviser to Trump, attempted to soothe any concerns that Soleimani’s death could lead to war while simultaneously trumpeting the move.
“Now they’re meeting Trump foreign policy, which is American lives come first. We’re not going to let your militias trash us,” Hegseth exclaimed. “At the same time, good luck trying to draw us into a war. We’ll let you kill each other before we put American troops in the middle.”
Throughout the night, Chaffetz welcomed on neo-conservatives from previous Republican administrations. Oliver North, of Iran-Contra fame, said the assassination of the Iranian leader means we have already “reduced the number of terror attacks dramatically” and that this is a “good thing for every American and every freedom-loving person in the Middle East.”
Two of the top salesmen of the Iraq War, Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer, also showed up. Rove, a Fox News contributor, labeled the strike a “major victory, not only for the United States of America, but also for the cause of stability in moderation in the Middle East.” Fleischer, who also works for Fox News, was even more optimistic about the attack.
“The Iranian people have been leading a revolution, a rebellion against their government knowing what dictatorship it is,” he said. “And I’m curious to see, they’re going to celebrate this as well.”
“I think it’s entirely possible this is going to be a catalyst inside Iran where the people celebrate this killing of Soleimani and puts pressure on the Iranian government to stop the terrorism, stop supporting all of the various terrorist movements it has around the world,” Fleischer concluded.
While Hannity’s show was completely centered on unabashed praise for the president in the wake of the airstrikes, Fox News host Tucker Carlson—who has previously advised the president against war with Iran—offered a dose of skepticism. Warning that “America appears to be lumbering towards a new Middle East war,” Carlson seemed to put the blame on any potential escalation on advisers surrounding Trump.
“We have to say, it’s one that officials in Washington wanted for decades. John Bolton has made it his life’s mission to start a war with Iran and Bolton might be getting his wish,” the prime-time host said of Trump’s former national security adviser.
As for the president, Carlson said that Trump is “wary” of war and was “elected on the promise that he’d avoid war except when absolutely necessary.”
“There are a lot of people around the city of Washington prepared for this, agitating for it,” Carlson continued. “Bolton is one of many. For an awfully long time. May he be outmaneuvered by that, and we might find ourselves moving towards war despite what the president wants?”