On Sunday, after Fox host Pete Hegseth distorted a quote from Barack Obama about Benghazi, guest Kris “Tonto” Paronto told viewers he wanted to “reach through the screen” and “just grab … and choke him.” Instead of challenging this threat of violence, Hegseth repeatedly assured his guest he understood such "sentiment."
During his speech on Friday, Obama ripped Republicans:
Handed out tax cuts without regard to deficits. Slashed the safety net wherever it could. Cast dozens of votes to take away health insurance from ordinary Americans. Embraced wild conspiracy theories, like those surrounding Benghazi, or my birth certificate.
Predictably, Fox didn’t want to discuss the parts about how Republicans have blown up the deficit, undermined people’s health insurance or the false birtherism promoted by Trump. So Fox seized on Obama’s comment about Benghazi and distorted it in order to (falsely) accuse him of calling the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, itself, a conspiracy theory.
Hegseth began by playing a clip of Obama’s actual words, then gaslighted viewers by saying, “You heard it. Benghazi a wild conspiracy.” A banner also dissembled: “OBAMA REFERS TO BENGHAZI AS ‘WILD CONSPIRACY.’”
Hegseth referred to Paronto as a “hero firing back” against Obama, then hinted for an attack by saying to him, “You hear those words, your reaction.”
“I honestly believe he thinks it didn’t happen,” Paronto claimed, without push back from Hegseth.
Paronto went on to say, “When that came across, I just wanted to reach through the screen and just grab him - grab him and choke him.”
Hegseth responded sympathetically: “Obviously, you’re channeling a great deal of frustration toward the former president.”
Later, Paronto said, “I wish I had that man [Obama] sitting in front of me right now , I really do, without his Secret Service, to be honest with you.” Paronto violently clapped his hands together and made a face like a snarling dog.
Hegseth cautioned Paronto on his choice of words. “Well, be careful with that because he’s a former president,” Hegseth said. There was no real disapproval indicated, however. If anything Hegseth validated the hostility when he said, “I understand your anger, I understand your sentiment.”
Recently, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott reportedly decreed that if something incendiary is said on a show, it is a producer’s job to tell the host to push back immediately.
It’s hard to think of anything more incendiary than a guest wishing he could inflict bodily harm on someone, especially a former president. But Donald Trump's favorite morning show and the host who's reportedly an informal adviser got a waiver.
See for yourself below, from the September 9, 2018 Fox & Friends.
(Updated to note that Hegseth has reportedly served as an informal adviser to Trump)
I will admit to being a bit confused. Pete Hegseth and Kris Paronto talk like Obama is saying Benghazi was a conspiracy theory. Well, not exactly. There really was an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. Nobody disputes that. The #Benghazi! conspiracy theory – or theories actually – is a series of dumbass myths dreamed up by the right-wing fever swamp implicating the Obama administration in being responsible for the deaths (e.g., not providing air support, not providing adequate security) and covering it up. #Benghazi! was investigated 7 times by Republicans in Congress who ironically debunked their own crackpot smears of the Obama administration. How could you forget that Pete?
So much hypocrisy topped off with Paronto lying with a straight face it’s Obama trying to rewrite the history of Benghazi. No, it’s right-wing shills like you and your buddy Pete rewriting history and who want to keep #Benghazi! alive as a talking point to spew right-wing agitprop to stir up your brain-dead base.