Establishment media broadcast unconfirmed falsehoods, offered praise for the Iranian authoritarian regime, and otherwise spent much of Tuesday night adding to the confusion surrounding Iranian airstrikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.
The Iranian government claimed it had shot “dozens” of ballistic missiles at the targets, calling them U.S. bases and primarily targeting the Al-Assad airbase in Iraq. President Donald Trump confirmed no American or Iraq casualties and negligible damage to American assets during the strikes.
While the news broke late Tuesday, however, some outlets breathlessly reported what was ultimately revealed to be misinformation from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S. designated terrorist organization, or simply fake news of unknown origin.
An American airstrike eliminated IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, an internationally sanctioned terrorist, last week. The Trump administration has repeatedly asserted Soleimani was engaged in planning imminent attacks on Americans.
MSNBC, for example, reported that it had received word of the elderly Ayatollah Ali Khamenei commanding the missile strikes personally and repeated the false Iranian claim that they had killed 30 American servicemen during a broadcast:
[Ayatollah] Khamenei was in the control center coordinating attacks. Iranian state media is claiming that 30 U.S. soldiers have been killed in this attack. This is not confirmed. This is just coming from Iranian media. But we have just stepped over the precipice. We have entered a very unpredictable time. We have to see what the response is going to be from the United States.
MSNBC is literally doing the work of the Iranians by airing completely unverified, untrustworthy Intel about US casualties
The Pentagon has not reported on any lives lost
Why would the Media air what is so blatantly Iranian propaganda?
Absolutely disgusting reporting pic.twitter.com/UvzBwWF2cX
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) January 8, 2020
The Washington Post also relayed the Iranian claim.
CNN, meanwhile, reported that President Donald Trump would address the nation on Tuesday night, citing two anonymous officials, and had yet to determine the time he would speak. The outlet then claimed that Trump had backed down from the remarks.
“This is not true – was never true – & no one even attempted to confirm with the press office before tweeting,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham clarified on Twitter.
This is not true – was never true – & no one even attempted to confirm with the press office before tweeting. In a race to be first to break news, the public once again falls victim to irresponsible “reporting” by @CNN @jeffzeleny @kaitlancollins https://t.co/7NdGlevoCO
— Stephanie Grisham (@PressSec) January 8, 2020
CNN’s Nic Robertson also praised Iran’s “smart diplomatic move” of bombing Iraqi bases:
Iran’s choice of target is significant. If it wanted to kill lots of American soldiers in Iraq there were easier bases to strike.
I’ve been to al-Asad airbase – it’s vast and it’s remote. Strikes there could find plenty of dead ground away from troop bunkers and would have little risk of civilian collateral killings.
Iraqi military commanders had been warned by Iran to stay away from US bases and US officials confirm their troops, too, had adequate warning to shelter from the attack.
Iran is trying to have its cake and eat it. Create the impression of a fearsome strike for domestic consumption without actually risking escalation.
So far, it’s working — soon after the ballistic missiles slammed into the base, President Trump tweeted “all is well,” “so far, so good.”
CNN also ran this headline: “Iran Defies Trump’s Wrath with Retaliatory Missile Attacks.”
“Iran’s defiant volley of ballistic missile attacks on Iraqi bases hosting American forces left President Donald Trump with a fateful choice before he addresses the nation Wednesday morning,” CNN reported.
Longtime media staple Geraldo Rivera was even more complimentary, urging Americans to “give Iranians credit” and circulating an unverified report that the Iranian missiles intended to fail to strike any American asset.
Give Iranians credit for their prudence last night. They missed on purpose.
Also praying there is no connection between what was going on last night with the missile strikes and the #ukraineplanecrash that killed 176 innocent passengers & crew.
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) January 8, 2020
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.